Tan y Bwlch
|Tan y Bwlch|
The platform at Tan y Bwlch
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Coordinates: Tan y Bwlch (English: Under the Pass) is the principal intermediate station of the Ffestiniog Railway. It is 434ft (132m) above sea level and 7 miles 35 chains (11.97km) from Porthmadog.[route 1][wikipedia 1] It opened in 1873, replacing the earlier station at Hafod y Llyn.
The revived railway was reopened to Tan y Bwlch in 1958 and the station has since developed into an attractive stopping point for passengers with a cafe and children's playground being popular attractions.
Early days[edit source]
On the 26th of February 1833 a ceremony was held at what is now the top end of Tan y Bwlch station to commemorate the commencement of construction of the Festiniog Railway. The first stone was laid by William Oakeley who was presented with a commemorative silver trowel by Henry Archer. The ceremony was attended by several hundred people and occasioned by flags, bands and gunfire.
From 1865 until 1873 the only regular passing station for trains was at the former horse stage at Hafod y Llyn, which opened for passengers on 6 January 1865. It was about 7 miles from Portmadoc, and horses were changed there from 1836 to 1863. It had no road access and the site was very narrow, hence the desire to replace it by a new and more spacious station.
Before 1854, there was a level crossing for the Maentwrog-Llanfrothen road which passed between the present café and the later road bridge. In that year the road was diverted to go under the new bridge, the cast-iron girders of which were, according to the legend upon them, cast at Boston Lodge, a remarkable achievement at that date.
The station in use[edit source]
A new station at Tan y Bwlch was officially opened in July 1873, but recent evidence suggests it was probably in use the year before. Following the opening of the station the former level crossing was replaced by a footbridge. The new station at Tan y Bwlch was the principal passing station from its opening until it closed to passengers on 15th September 1939.
Passenger service to Tan y Bwlch was resumed on 5th April 1958. The official re-opening was on 23rd May 1958 by Sir Reginald Wilson, President of the Institute of Transport and Chairman of the Eastern Area Board of the British Transport Commission.
Station Facilities[edit source]
|Stamp - old company Parcels|
|Issue No.||old company Parcels|
The station retains the original wooden station building, ex Hafod y Llyn (c.1873-4) on the up side. This building houses the station office with the machines for the electric train staff as well as a waiting room. The 1873 station building, having been restored, was entered for a railway heritage competition and evoked the classic response from one of the judges 'Not very 1930s, is it?'.
On the opposite (down) side of the line is the station house. The station house was constructed as a waiting room in 1895-96 and replaced a large open-sided shelter. The waiting room was rebuilt in 1910 as a house for the station master.
A stone-built goods shed was added in 1883. The shed was originally accessed from a siding between the two loop lines. The crossing of the goods line and the up line was not exactly as shown on the diagram, but was a switched diamond with all four blades worked by a weighted hand lever adjacent, which also operated a point indicator immediately above the bridge. There is a picture in FR Heritage Journal no 129, p25. The goods shed building now serves as a shop and café and has been extended to accommodate kitchens, a store and passenger amenities. Nearby there is a good little children's playground (2009). For information on this building see Tan y Bwlch Goods Shed/Cafe.
For a while in the early 20th century, at least two coin-operated entertainment machines appeared outside the station. These were known as mutoscopes, and were provided by the North Wales Mutoscope Co. Pre-dating the cinema, they provided a moving-picture experience for a single viewer and were popular at the time, particularly the 'What the Butler Saw' variety.
Adjacent to the station house is a 1960s concrete block signal box, which was intended to house a full mechanical signalling installation which was never found necessary. It now houses the relays for the automatic colour-light signals and is not normally staffed.
Tan y Bwlch has a large handsome 1980s stone-built water tank with two water pipes with six-inch pull valves to feed both ends of a Fairlie in two minutes. The original, smaller, tank of which the stone plinth stands nearby, had a four-inch pipe and took five minutes to fill the Fairlie. The fitting of larger valves here has knocked three minutes off the journey time!
There are now two footbridges on the station. The northerly one is on the site of the 19th century original and like its predecessor serves a public footpath (formerly a Roman road) but does not provide access to the island platform. The old bridge was removed in 1933 and a new bridge in the original location was installed in 2012, courtesy of a generous sponsor. The original bridge was wooden (braced with iron truss rods), but due to a necessary increase of span the new one has concealed steelwork. The original bridge crossed where the formation was narrowest, where the middle (Goods) line crossed the Up line, south of the platform areas then in use. Now the island platform extends past this point to accommodate the much longer passenger trains now operated, hence the longer span of the new bridge. The southern bridge was completed in 1971 (adapted from an ex-BR bridge) to provide access to the island platform when that was put in, and had to be at the end of the platform as there would be insufficient platform width to pass beside the stairs. It also serves the footpath and was refurbished in 2012 and again in 2020.
The Station Environs[edit source]
The area became more densely wooded in the 20th century, but recently the trees have been thinned out, restoring some of the views of the hills. The nearby nature trail to Llyn Mair shows all manner of wonders. Note Bewick swans on the lake in winter and buzzards circling in the thermals in the summer.
Station Staff[edit source]
In March 1912 the station staff comprised only of Owen David Morgan, Station Master and John J. Jones as Porter.
In June 1920 the station staff was H. D. Jones, Station Master and William Evans, Porter.
In June 1923 Jones was "temporarily" transferred to Beddgelert to man the WHR station there but was never allowed to return. There followed a period without anyone in charge for any length of time until Will Jones became "Porter in Charge" in September 1925 and Bessie Jones joined him in the station house on their marriage in 1929. It appears that Bessie then became a sort of volunteer unpaid Station Mistress and Will went back to working on the PW. Bessie made some money by selling postcards of the station and refreshments. The couple lived there until retirement in 1968. Will was followed as stationmaster by John Harrison from 1969 to 1978.
Tan y Bwlch between 1873 and 1875.Double Fairlie James Spooner in original condition on a down train and one of the England Engines on the up train using the original wood-clad water tank. The station building has a ticket window and on the right hand side is a gentleman's toilet. In the distance there are the white painted wooden steps leading to the signal and top points. The middle road was used for goods wagons for Tan-y-Bwlch. In early days these were marshalled between the loco and the passenger stock, so it was simple to detach them during the station stop and put them in the middle road. After the trains had gone they would be gravitated down the station, over a diamond crossing with the up line, and into the goods sidings.
An 1890s photochrom image of Tan y Bwlch. The crew of typical down train of the period stand proudly beside their charge Double Fairlie Livingston Thompson, in 1895-6, as an up train receives attention. The twin smoke trails, seen just beyond the ticket office, indicate that the Up service is also hauled by a double engine. The small wooden building to the right of the station served as a refreshment kiosk: perhaps the driver of the Oakeley Arms Hotel's horse-drawn carriage has just 'wet his whistle'. 'The Barn', on the left, served as a passenger shelter before being replaced by the Station House. By this date the locos and passenger stock had been fitted with vacuum brake, and as a consequence goods stock had to be marshalled behind the carriages as seen here. The middle road was taken out of use and the diamond replaced by a trailing turnout from the Up line into the goods yard.
This view shows Tan y Bwlch with an Up train hauled by single Fairlie 'Taliesin' approaching. c 1900 - 1910. A pen and ink drawing by Michael Seymour taken from the above photo has formed the 'masthead' for the FR Heritage Group Journal since its inception. The original footbridge can be seen but the Up line has been moved closer to the Down since removal of the middle road. The platform areas were not defined in any way.
Car Park[edit source]
There is space for about 25 vehicles at this station. The area is only rough gravel, and there are no marked bays.
For general details see here
Situated off a minor road, the B4410, this station has an island platform which is mainly accessed by a footbridge. However, there is a flat crossing with a gate into the car park half way along the platform. Please note this facility is not available when there is a train in the platform, so please arrive early if you wish to join here
There is a small café which is open at busy times. There is ramped access into the café and a designated table for wheelchair users close to the door. There are also tables and seating outside, some of which are under cover. The toilets are outside and to the left of the café entrance. There is a small step into the Ladies’ and the Gentlemen’s toilets. The accessible toilet has level access and also contains nappy changing facilities.