Phase 3: Waunfawr to Rhyd Ddu, 2000-3

Aberglaslyn


Phase 3 pages:
 
Aberglaslyn


Map of the Aberglaslyn works ( J.C. Sreeves) - will open in a separate window.

Phase 3 reached the boundary of the Snowdonia National Park at Bryn Gloch, immediately to the south of the Betws Garmon bridges. It was a condition of the Welsh Highland Railway Order 1999 that reconstruction within the Park could not begin until rock stabilisation work was completed and approved at the Aberglaslyn Pass, beyond Beddgelert. So although Aberglaslyn is some miles beyond Rhyd Ddu, the work done there forms an integral part of the story of Phase 3.

This work included raising an existing retaining wall to reduce the risk of rockfalls onto the line, and some work (rockbolting, shotcreting [spraying liquid concrete onto certain rock surfaces within the tunnel bores] etc) within two of the three Aberglaslyn tunnels. The Rock & Tunnel repair contract was awarded to Colin Jones (Rock Engineering) Ltd of Porthmadog - a company well known for this type of work and much respected in the area. The contract value was approximately 200,000. Consultants Ove Arup, who surveyed Aberglaslyn during the Transport & Works approval process, oversaw the job as consultants. Work started in early November 2000, and as of Nov. 23rd the shotcreting was largely complete, and work was starting on raising the retaining wall. By mid-December the wall work was well advanced, and the result as inconspicuous as had been hoped.

In addition to the main retaining wall work seen above at the Beddgelert end of the longest tunnel, the contractors also repaired the wall before the first short tunnel, raising its height slightly; the alteration was done so as to blend in almost imperceptibly.

At the far end of the longest (280m) tunnel (where it emerges into Cwm Bychan, at the site of the former Aberglaslyn Halt), rockbolting was also done in the short approach cutting for stabilisation purposes. The contractor consolidated the eroded trackbed across the Cwm Bychan underbridge to allow vehicular access along the trackbed; the consolidation work is apparent in the two pictures below.

The photos below show the consolidated trackbed between the Nantmor cutting and the tunnel mouth in late February 2001, in use for contract access.


The Aberglaslyn works were completed during March 2001, and the contractor moved off site. Approval of these works then unlocked authorisation for work on Phase 3 to proceed into the National Park. Representatives of the Snowdonia National Park Authority visited the Aberglaslyn works regularly during the contract. A report was submitted to the SNPA's planning committee in late January 2001, where it was agreed that all committee members would take part in a subsequent visit to Aberglaslyn to view the work carried out, and that there would also be a site visit to the Phase 3 route leading into the National Park, and to the Rhyd Ddu station site. A representative of the Countryside Commission for Wales was to be invited to the visit to the Rhyd Ddu area to explain the CCW's views on relevant wildlife issues. However, the SNPA postponed meetings for a time in view of the outbreak of Foot and Mouth disease, including a planning committee meeting which was due to consider approval of the Aberglaslyn works and other Phase 3 planning matters on March 7th. The meeting, and approval of the Aberglaslyn works, was rescheduled for April 4th. At the same meeting, the SNPA also granted approval for the appearances of railway structures etc between Bryn Gloch (the National Park boundary) and Rhyd Ddu.

Peter Johnson's picture above shows the interior of the long tunnel, lit by the contractor's floodlights, early in 2001. The relatively small areas of completed shotcreting are visible.

Stewart MacFarlane's pictures below show the high quality of the retaining wall work as it approached completion. From left to right, they show the Beddgelert end of the first short tunnel, scaffolding adjacent to the mouth of the middle tunnel, and a mobile crane by the main retaining wall. The upper area of lighter stone (which should quickly weather to match) represents the extra height which has been added, and the wires above this are intended to help protect the railway further against any rockfalls.


The Bryn y Felin Footbridge

A second contract at Aberglaslyn, not part of the works needed to secure approval of rebuilding the Railway through the National Park, has seen the building of a new footbridge across the Glaslyn. This has restored access lost when the original Bryn y Felin railway bridge was closed on safety grounds several years ago; however despite the barriers, "unofficial" use continued until removal of the unsafe bridge in 1999. The footbridge is just to the Beddgelert (upstream) side of the site where the new railway bridge will eventually go, and is a separate structure. Planning permission for the works at Aberglaslyn was granted by the Snowdonia National Park Authority in mid-October 2000; both the SNPA and landowner the National Trust agreed to contribute to the cost of the footbridge in partnership with the railway; other contributors were the Countryside Commission for Wales, the Environment Agency, and Beddgelert Community Council. The start of construction was first put on hold by Foot & Mouth restrictions on access to the site in 2001. The construction contract was let, like the rockface and tunnel works, to local contractor Colin Jones (Rock Engineering) Ltd. The bridge reconnects a popular circular walk from Beddgelert, and is accessible for wheelchair users.

The construction of the footbridge was then delayed for financial reasons. By April 2002 estimated costs had risen from the original 63,000 to 88,370. This was as a result of a request to Gwynedd Council to adopt the new bridge as a Public Right of Way, which was agreed; however to gain adoption the new bridge would have to conform to more stringent Bridge Code specifications, requiring a redesign. Commitments were sought from the various bodies contributing to the planned bridge, to meet the higher costs; for instance the SNPA agreed to increase its contribution by 5,000 of the 25,370 shortfall. The report of the November 2002 meeting of Beddgelert Community Council stated that the remaining shortfall was the subject of a grant application to Adfywio (Rural Recovery for Tourism Fund). This was successful. In November 2002, landowner the National Trust was building improved paths leading to the footbridge site; the one on the east bank of the river uses the abortive alignment of the Portmadoc, Beddgelert & South Snowdon Railway.

In February 2003 contractors finally moved in to start work on the footbridge, establishing a work base on the WHR trackbed on the Beddgelert side, where the cutting rising from the road bridge meets the road. The photo below shows progress with clearance work for the western abutment of the footbridge (the ground in this area had already been disturbed during the NT's path works); the abutments of the old railway bridge are visible on the right.

The bridge beams were delivered in March, and were stored on the trackbed; as a popular path crosses at this point, a temporary walkway was installed across the beams. These steel beams have a gentle vertical curve, making for an attractive very shallow arch. The cores of the abutments were cast in the first days of April, and can be seen below with the shuttering still in place.

The beams were craned into place on April 10th, and are seen below the next day in Tom Bowen's pictures.

The contractors made rapid progress assembling the wooden deck and handrails in the next few days, and although not yet entirely complete, the bridge was in use at Easter.

This was only a temporary opening as more work remained to be done; Chris Price's picture below shows the western abutment on April 28th, with the approach ramp re-excavated.

When seen below at Midsummer the bridge was open again. The abutments had been clad with stone, with additional stone-clad wing walls on the upstream side, and with breeze block walls, rendered on the sides facing the river but not yet clad, running between the abutments of the pedestrian and railway bridges.


Phase 3 pages:
 
Aberglaslyn

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Authored by Ben Fisher; last updated June 22nd, 2003