North Wales Power and Traction Co. Ltd

From Festipedia, hosted by the FR Heritage Group

The North Wales Power and Traction Co Ltd was registered on 31st July 1903 with the object of taking over the Portmadoc, Beddgelert and South Snowdon Railway and its powers, which included authority to build and operate a hydro-electricity generating station and transmission lines covering an area of 2,100 square miles of North Wales, consisting of the whole of Carnarvonshire, Merionethshire and Anglesey and a good deal of Denbighshire. It was the first such scheme to obtain the powers required an agreement with The Northern Counties Traction Co. Ltd which had sponsored the PBSSR Act in 1901, and consequently owned the powers to subscribe to the scheme.

The main movers in Power Co. were William Pilkington (of the glass firm), Joseph Beecham (later Sir Joseph Beecham,Bart ), son of the pills firm founder and father of the conductor. Apart from being businessmen they also controlled between them the St Helens Cable Co. Ltd with a built-in interest in avenues for their products. They had a clause put in the PBSSR construction contract insisting on their cables as first choice. There was also Duncan Mckecknie, founder of The United Alkali Co. Ltd. These three men had provided the funds in the form of share capital to the Northern Counties Co. to pay for the surveys etc. and legal expenses for the PBSSR Act, so they were able to control what the Northern Counties Co. did with its powers. Pilkington and Beecham also loaned the £10,000 Parliamentary Deposit required for the Act.

In the months leading up to the formation of NWPT agreements were obtained for the land required via James Tomkinson and Col. Henry Platt, some of it from Gwalia Ltd (a Company with somewhat similar plans for hydro-electricity in the area) which had gone into liquidation in 1901. Also one with the Northern Counties to pay that Company £36,000 for the right to subscribe to the PBSSR (which ensured that Beecham, Pilkington and Mckecknie would get a substantial amount of money back in return for their investment in the Power Co.). But the break-through came when Bruce Peebles & Co., which had recently acquired a licence for three phase electrical equipment from Ganz & Co. of Budapest, agreed to contribute £50,000 worth of the construction work in return for shares if they were given the contract, something this firm, looking to expand its business, did on a regular basis. This offer effectively provided a substantial part of the necessary capital, and the resulting underwriting agreement, which together with others from the men already mentioned, totalled the guaranteed minimum £170,000 out of the £270,000 in the prospectus, and the Company was able to go ahead with its formation and issue. Unfortunately the share issue was a flop, and the issue only raised the minimum £170,000, the underwriters being required to contribute most of the maximum they had agreed to. Consequently the Company was strapped for cash and forced to Mortgage its Eigiau Lake property designed as reserve water power. Overspending on the Power Station contributed to an inability to find enough funds to complete the railway. £50,000 of the capital went via the PBSSR in 1905 (thereby retaining control), the rest stayed in the NWPT's books, including the £10,000 required to acquire the Croesor Tramway from the Portmadoc, Croesor & Beddgelert Tram Rail Co. under the PBSSR Act.

Shortly after the NWPT started there was a change of plan (as contained within the PBSSR Act) in that the railway instead of keeping to the east following the Glaslyn to the south end of Lake Gwynant and South Snowdon Slate Quarries, the part from Aberglaslyn onwards was put on hold and it would turn left, and join the North Wales Narrow Gauge Railways operation which would be extended from Dinas into Carnarvon Harbour.

There were delays in the progress of the construction, notably in the autumn of 1905 when work stopped (at least in the Aberglaslyn area) and the men laid off because of complaints by the National Trust. Work restarted in the spring of 1906 after mediation between the parties by Lloyd George, then President of the Board of Trade.

Original NWP&T Co. Power station at Cwm Dyli, Nant Gwynant, still in use

The Power Station at Cwm Dyli opened for business in September 1906, its main customers being Oakely, Dinorwic and Pen-yr-orsedd Slate Quarries, but financial difficulties led to the cancellation of the contract with Bruce Peebles in 1907 with a £60,000 settlement. Bruce Peebles went into liquidation as a result (and was reconstructed). The completion of the railway, including the electrification the NWNGR and extension of that railway into Carnarvon stagnated. The evidence given in 1904 by James Rawlins, the NWPT Managing Director, for the Act of that year transferring the electrical powers from the PBSSR to the NWPT suggests the Promoters' main object was the acquisition of the electrical distribution powers, and promoting a railway was the only way to do that, which with subsequent financial difficulties helps to explain why the railway took a back seat, especially when coupled with construction problems. Electrical traction was in its infancy, and developing all the time; the Carnarvon Harbour Trustees were being obstructive.

The Eigiau property was sold to the Aluminium Corporation Ltd (ACL) who were to build a works there and power station there. Largely due to a sudden halving of aluminium prices the Corporation folded in 1908 within weeks of the factory starting production. This led to a reconstruction of the Company, the liquidators appointing Henry Joseph Jack as general manager and secretary of the new Corporation. The NWPT continued to make losses, accumulating to £86,379 by 1918, which together with an insufficient demand for electricity (probably made worse by the War), resulted in the ACL acquiring control. Jack, who had been made Managing Director of the ACL in 1915, became Managing Director of NWPT as well. (references in this wiki, and other sources, to "Dolgarrog People" mean Jack and the ACL). After writing off the losses, the Peebles settlement and debenture rights, in an asset revaluation, the Company started to make modest profits. In 1919/20, ALC acquired control of the NWNGR, and in 1921 the Festiniog Railway. In early 1922 the PBSSR powers were sold to the Welsh Highland Railway (Light Railway) Co. with Jack at the helm. Shortly after the NWPT changed its name to the North Wales Power Co. Ltd and continued generating power at the Cwm Dyli Power Station. The Company was nationalised in 1948.

The above is an abbreviated summary of the Power Co. aspects of the PBSSR scheme detailed in the Welsh Highland Heritage Group Journal No. 33 September 2006 and No. 34 December 2006. Author: Michael Bishop

For a history of the NWPT Co's electrical activities see the article "Hydro Electrical Power in North Wales 1880-1948" in the Journal of the Newcomen Society Vol 69 No 2 1997/98.

The actual title of North Wales Power And Traction Company Ltd has been quoted slightly differently in different publications (although this is its correct form). It is assumed from the dates and people involved, they are the same company

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