Phase 3 pages:
Plas y Nant - Castell Cidwm
Plas y Nant Loop/Siding
South of UB64, the pile of rubbish deposited on the trackbed in 1999 was finally removed as the contractors established their Plas y Nant work site in July 2002. In mid-August the contractors were at work widening the formation for the new passing loop; the Railway had acquired additional land alongside the trackbed to allow this feature to be created.
The four pictures below (Jan Woods, WHLR Ltd) show the widened formation in late September, with work in progress on culvert headwalls.
By the middle of October, a ballast dump had been established at the site of the old Plas y Nant Halt. A rail store was established at the Plas y Nant compound in the third week of October.
The turnout for the southern end of the loop was delivered from Dinas at the end of December, ahead of completion of the ballasting of the loop formation, which would have blocked vehicular access for delivering this item to where it will be needed.
Chris Price's picture below shows one of the rail stacks at Plas y Nant on April 5th 2003, restocked with re-rolled rails after rectification work in Wolverhampton (see the introductory Phase 3 page for an explanation).
Additional deliveries of ballast were made to the southern end of the loop formation in the following week; boggy ground at this point had needed consolidation. By April 26th, the formation was ballasted most but not quite all the way back to the Plas y Nant compound, and the turnout had been placed in position on the formation at the southern end of the loop. By May 10th ballasting was complete as far as the more southerly of the rail stores, leaving just a short gap through the site compound to the bridge. This gap was ballasted by the 18th. Sleeper bundles were laid out in the usual pattern along the stretch from here to the OB71 site (see below), marking the last step of the contractor's work before handover to WHLR Ltd for tracklaying.
The turnout for the northern end of the loop was in place on the formation by May 25th. Tracklaying at this end of the loop began at the end of May, representing the start of tracklaying on the last major section of Phase 3 still without rails.
Several panels were laid along the western road of the loop, reaching about half its length when seen below.
This length of track was joined to that reaching north across UB64 in the week starting June 23rd, allowing rails from the Plas y Nant store to be worked north to close the gaps at Cae Hywel and then Betws Garmon. The FR's Hunslet diesel Harold had been delivered to Plas y Nant at the start of May, but then spent some weeks "shedded" under OB62 suffering from a starting fault. With this rectified, the loco is seen ticking over at Plas y Nant on June 27th, coupled to a pair of loaded RRMs.
Five lengths of track were laid on the eastern loop road at the start of July. It has been decided that the loop will not be completed until it is needed for operational purposes, so the eastern line is a siding for the time being. Having at least a siding available was important for the final phase of construction with the ballast train at work in this area, as a siding allowed changeover of the relative positions of the hopper train, the tamper, and the ballast plough. Plas y Nant is the only place with a turnout between the operating railway's loops at Waunfawr and Rhyd Ddu Stations.
Dolgarrog and Taxi 2 are seen below on the siding on July 18th, having worked through from the Castell Cidwm - Rhyd Ddu section following the completion of tracklaying through OB71 the previous evening. This left the main line clear for the HMRI inspection train comprising Harold and the DZ wagon.
South of Plas y Nant
Beyond the loop site, the railway curves away from the road around a hillock, beyond which passengers are first treated to the spectacular views of Snowdon which then continue for some miles ahead. There is a rock cutting at this point, from which the Railway emerges to run almost straight to OB71 (see below), with the northern end of Llyn Cwellyn alongside. Roger Dick's pictures below show various points along this stretch on March 26th 2003, with sleeper bundles laid out for tracklaying on the ballasted section, which then extended to the start of the OB71 work site.
By the second week in July tracklaying was at the point where the third picture above had been taken from, on the approach to Ty'n Weirglodd Isaf cutting. "Team Wylfa" completed enough rail clips to complete Phase 3 tracklaying on the evening of July 8th.
On July 9th track had been laid round the corner through the cutting, and was almost at the limit of the ballast approaching the OB71 site.
Jim Comerford's picture below gives an overview of much of this section. The southern end of the loop formation is in the foreground, then the trackbed disappears behind the outcrop. It can then be picked out again in front of the Castell Cidwm Hotel, as it approaches the partly hidden OB71. The compound and rail stack at Snowdon Ranger are visible in the middle distance.
Dave Waldren's picture below was taken on board the last works train to operate before public opening, returning to Rhyd Ddu behind Dolgarrog at Ty'n Weirglodd Isaf cutting.
OB71 is the A4085 road overbridge near the Castell Cidwm hotel, and stands a few yards before the southern end of Jones Bros's Contract 3C-1. This is the last of the NWNGR-pattern arched overbridges which has been refurbished and underpinned. Work began here as an isolated site in mid-October 2002. Drainage was improved as the first stage of these works, with diesel pumps in operation on both sides of the bridge; however pumping was abandoned when extremely heavy rain flooded the site to some depth in early November. By the middle of the month the flooding had cleared (though the site remained muddy), and linear access to the site had been gained from the Plas y Nant end, which had previously been fenced off across the trackbed.
By November 23rd Jones Bros had made quick progress, levelling the trackbed through Ty'n Weirglodd cutting towards the OB71 site.
The formation through the cutting was ballasted in the first week of work after the Christmas-New Year break.
Difficult ground conditions at the bridge led to some rethinking of the methods to be applied to the lowering and underpinning of the structure. Also, excavation of the northern approach encountered solid rock, impeding not only the lowered approach but also the new drainage ditch being created to drain the route through OB71. Significant progress was made with lowering the northern approach in the run up to Christmas, with the lowered formation and new drainage on that side well advanced, including removal of the obstructing rock.
By January 11th 2003 there was also evidence of activity on the other side of the bridge, with marker posts in place, and the ground immediately south of the bridge marked out for excavation.
By mid-February a large excavation had been made across the trackbed south of the bridge, for a water main needing to be placed deeper under the lowered trackbed than before, together with further excavation of the trackbed under the bridge. The ice visible in the excavation serves as a reminder of the adverse conditions faced during such work in Winter.
The arrival of Spring - with a spell of very good weather - saw significant progress at OB71, with continued drainage works to the north of the bridge, and the excavation of the trackbed down to the required depth to the south, as seen below on March 22nd. This work had left an underground power cable temporarily suspended across the trackbed.
Further progress had been made by March 26th, as seen in Roger Dick's pictures below.
To the south of the bridge, the initial trench seen in the picture above taken on March 22nd was developed in the following days into a neat reprofiling of the cutting, which now looks not too different from its original form, though without the widened formation and scattering of slate waste which marked this as the site of the temporary goods-only terminus of 1877.
Jan Woods' picture below shows the underpinning on April 17th. The picture is taken from the south side of the bridge, and shows how the underpinning was done in two sections (as the track is on a slight curve here), that nearer the camera being in place.
A fortnight later, the base was in place on the other side, and the cores for the supports on that side were in place ready for casting, as seen in Roger Dick's picture below left.
Even with the underpinning done, vertical clearances through OB71 are relatively tight. Therefore the rails were laid on steel baseplates bolted directly to the concrete floor, which required the drilling of sixty holes. As of June 25th these special plates were to hand at Dinas, and they were painted the following weekend. At the start of July, tracklaying from the south crossed the boundary from the Castell Cidwm - Snowdon Ranger section and entered the Castell Cidwm cutting, as seen below on July 2nd; ballast had been laid immediately prior to laying the track seen here; the trackbed contract split can be made out where the lighter fresh ballast meets the more weathered ballast to the south.
By the end of the week the ballast bed on this side of the bridge had been completed right up to the concrete plinth under the bridge.
While this work was under way, staff from Celtest Ltd of Bangor (a specialist concrete firm) were at work under the bridge arch.
By July 9th the work under the bridge appeared almost complete, with holes drilled for fitting the special track baseplates, and surveying under way for laying ballast through the northern end of the cutting to reach the bridge; ballasting could not be done while Celtest needed vehicular access along this short section from the level crossing with the trackway leading from the road to the Llyn Cwellyn sluice gates. Once this stage was past, a short length of ballast was laid on the north side of the bridge - with geotextile underneath (as on the other side of the bridge) to guard against any future water problems at this once very damp spot - and the baseplates were fitted on July 13th.
On July 16th the northern cutting had been ballasted, with a very short final gap at the crossing past the end of the cutting, and tracklaying was being completed on the southern side. When the pictures below were taken rails had been clipped to their baseplates under the bridge on the southern side (right-hand picture), but not yet right the way through the bridge (there is a rail joint under the arch).
Track was completed under the bridge and through the northern cutting the following day. Clive Briscoe's pictures (first row below) show the final joint in the WHR main line from Waunfawr to Rhyd Ddu being made, with the fishplates tightened at 20.10. At 20.30 the first train ran through OB71 - WHR(P)'s Taxi 2 and the DZ wagon came from Rhyd Ddu, meeting the FR's Harold.
Jan Woods's pictures below were taken on the same occasion.
The area is seen below the following day.
The tamper had worked south to this area by July 26th, as seen below. The timberwork at crossings intended to stop cattle wandering onto the track is designed for easy temporary removal to allow tamping to be done.
Phase 3 pages:
Plas y Nant - Castell Cidwm