Rebuilding the Welsh Highland Railway

Phase 3: Waunfawr to Rhyd Ddu, 2000-3

This large section of the site details how the line from Waunfawr to Rhyd Ddu was rebuilt; the general route description is on a separate page.

Will past photographic contributors to this website, and to this phase of construction, please refer to the annoucement on this page.

The Way Ahead: the Phase 2/3 border at Waunfawr
with RRM trollies poised for the push South

delAugust 2003: The inaugural train arrives at Rhyd Ddu.

Phase 3 pages:

The main aim of this part of the site is to bring you a thorough account of Phase 3 of the Welsh Highland Railway Project; the links above will take you to illustrated pages detailing the work done on different sections and other aspects of the railway. This was a massive, ambitious and complex stage of the WHR Project, so we make no apologies for the fact that there is a lot of information to take in, especially for the newcomer.

Hint: if you want to search for information about particular keyword topics or locations, use the site's powerful internal search engine.

[Construction maps] [Contracts] [Track] [Other sites] [Top]

Construction Maps

Route map, Opening Day August 18th 2003 ( J.C. Sreeves) - will open in a separate window.
In addition to construction numbers for bridges (as shown on the earlier versions) it also shows their new
numbering in kilometres from Caernarfon plus 20km - e.g. Castell Cidwm bridge is 34.57, meaning 14.57km.

Previous versions: [Oct 17th 2000] [Nov 16th 2000] [Nov 28th 2000] [Jan 3rd 2001] [Mar 19th 2001] [Apr 19th 2001] [May 1st 2001] [May 14th 2001] [May 29th 2001] [June 25th 2001] [July 24th 2001] [Sept 17th 2001] [Oct 19th 2001] [Oct 30th 2001] [Nov 5th 2001] [Nov 19th 2001] [Nov 26th 2001] [Dec 17th 2001] [Jan 8th 2002] [Feb 14th 2002] [Feb 25th 2002] [March 4th 2002] [March 12th 2002] [March 25th 2002] [April 10th 2002] [April 23rd 2002] [April 29th 2002] [May 7th 2002] [May 20th 2002] [May 31st 2002] [June 10th 2002] [June 24th 2002] [July 1st 2002] [August 12th 2002] [August 27th 2002] [September 2nd 2002] [September 10th 2002] [September 22nd 2002] [September 30th 2002] [October 8th 2002] [October 15th 2002] [October 21st 2002] [October 31st 2002] [November 4th 2002] [November 12th 2002] [November 18th 2002] [November 25th 2002] [December 2nd 2002] [December 24th 2002] [January 2nd 2003] [January 13th 2003] [January 22nd 2003] [January 27th 2003] [February 11th 2003] [February 17th 2003] [February 26th 2003] [ March 10th 2003] [ March 17th 2003] [ March 25th 2003] [ March 31st 2003] [April 7th 2003] [April 14th 2003] [April 22nd 2003] [April 29th 2003] [May 6th 2003] [May 12th 2003] [May 19th 2003] [May 29th 2003] [June 6th 2003] [June 16th 2003] [June 23rd 2003] [June 30th 2003] [July 7th 2003] [July 14th 2003] [July 21st 2003] [July 25th 2003]

(MS Internet Explorer 6 users: to view the maps properly, click the expand button which should appear over the lower right corner of a map graphic, if your browser has compressed it to fit on a single screen)

The map shows construction notations for bridges, culverts etc. in the format which became familiar during Phase 2 - for instance the Betws Garmon river bridge was UB51 (UB = underbridge), and the bridge carrying the road over the line at Castell Cidwm was OB71 (OB = overbridge). The numbers were based on a construction sequence starting at Dinas, which included lesser features such as cross drains.

You can get an idea of the linear positions of the places mentioned in this section of the site from this annotated Phase 3 Gradient Profile (mapping J.C. Sreeves) - will open in a new window for comparison with the route map and/or other pages.

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Following the successful pattern of Phase 2, the work preparing the trackbed to Rhyd Ddu was broken down into a number of contracts. Refurbishment of, and alterations to bridges and their approaches were contracted out. Geographical divisions between contracts are shown on the route map linked to above.

Welsh Highland Light Railway Limited Manager Roland Doyle appointed a Civil Engineer to both run the direct Civils projects and act as Resident Engineer for outside contract work on Phase 3. Also, Posford Duvivier (Caernarfon office) were retained as civil engineering consultants.

This left about 8.5 km of trackbed with associated culverts, fencing, draining, etc. Welsh Highland Light Railway Limited undertook 3.9 km itself, using hired labour and plant, plus volunteer support. This comprised two sections, the first from Waunfawr to Betws Garmon station site (Contract 3B), and at the other end of Phase 3, from Castell Cidwm to the throat of Rhyd Ddu Station.This section (Contract 3E) was divided into two parts, either side of Glan yr Afon Bridge.

The intervening stretch was divided into two parts. Contract 3A ran from Betws Garmon station site through Bryn Gloch caravan park, to the river crossing at Cae Hywel. The remaining section, past Betws Garmon village and Plas y Nant to Castell Cidwm, was contracted out as Contract 3C, which also included discrete contracts for Glan yr Afon Bridge (Contract 3C-2) and Rhyd Ddu Station (3C-3).

Bridge works were contracted out in three parcels. They added new types of bridge to those already tackled between Caernarfon and Waunfawr. There are three road overbridges which needed extra depth won to suit the rolling stock, as achieved on Phase 2 (A4085 at Pont Betws [OB53] , farm access track at Nant Mill [OB62], A4085 at the 1877 Quellyn terminus site at Castell Cidwm [OB71]), plus one new overbridge at Bryn Gloch caravan park (OB54), replacing an original too narrow to allow caravans to pass above the railway. There were originally three river underbridges (all crossing the Afon Gwyrfai) between Betws Garmon and Plas y Nant, which were not up to the loads the line will carry. The first one (UB51 Betws Garmon) has been completely replaced, but the remaining two (UB56 Cae Hywel and UB64 Plas y Nant) have been refurbished and strengthened, incorporating much of the original ironwork.

The largest civil engineering feature is the spectacular Glan yr Afon Bridge (UB95), which has been refurbished. It had been known for some time that the bearings at one end of the bridge (allowing for expansion and contraction) had seized, and that they required refurbishment and strengthening. In addition the span (carried on two massive girders, apparently custom-built) required strengthening to carry the heaviest loads it may be required to carry in future.

The Phase 3 contract split was as follows:

Contract From* To* Location Client Planning Supervisor Principal Contractor
Waunfawr - Betws Garmon FR WHLR Ltd WHLR Ltd
Betws Garmon - Cae Hywel (UB56) WHLR Ltd Posford Duvivier Jones Brothers
Cae Hywel - just past Castell Cidwm WHLR Ltd Posford Duvivier Jones Brothers
Castell Cidwm - Glan yr Afon FR WHLR Ltd WHLR Ltd
Glan yr Afon Bridge WHLR Ltd Posford Duvivier Jones Brothers
Glan yr Afon - Rhyd Ddu North FR WHLR Ltd WHLR Ltd
Rhyd Ddu Station WHLR Ltd Posford Duvivier Jones Brothers

* Expressed in metres from Dinas - the figures also given as chainages during construction, e.g. "CH6950".

Contract 3A was started by contractors Triact, but owing to pressure of work upon this firm, the remainder was completed by Jones Bros. of Ruthin.

In early 2002 Contract 3C underwent Value Engineering process, to engineer out as much of the risk as possible and keep costs down. It was announced on May 22nd 2002 that Contract 3C had been let to Jones Brothers of Ruthin, who were already completing Contract 3A, and who were also one of the major Phase 2 contractors. Within the period of this contract there were various stage completions when sections were handed over to WHLR Ltd for tracklaying.

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Tracklaying by WHLR Ltd staff and volunteers used track materials from South Africa, as on Phases 1 and 2. The closed Umzinto-Donnybrook line, source of previous consignments, had been lifted in its entirety by contractors. This served in part as a precaution against theft of saleable metal, which is common in South Africa. See this report from the Natal Witness. Track components were delivered in a number of shipments to avoid the need for large-scale storage; though as early as mid-April 2001 an impressive quantity of track components was stockpiled at Dinas.

Some 13,500 sleepers with fastening kits were purchased, which in addition to about 2,000 left in stock from previous purchases were enough to reach Rhyd Ddu. Also, all the remaining Donnybrook fishplates (to the distinctive South African "High Inertia" pattern) were bought, enough to reach beyond Beddgelert. New rail was rolled in South Africa for Phase 3, to the same pattern as used to date (30kg per metre, in 18 metre lengths), enabling the use of common interchangeable parts with the track already laid from Caernarfon to Waunfawr. No more actual rail was available from Donnybrook as it had now all been resold either abroad or within South Africa itself, where there is a considerable market for this type of rail in the mining industry. Delivery of the first four hundred lengths of brand new rail to Waunfawr took place during the last week of April 2001.

The rails were supplied pre-drilled for the fitting of fishplates.

Points were pre-assembled at Dinas, ready to be dropped into position at loops and sidings. The modifications needed to the South African components involved a slight adjustment to gauge and settings for wheel profile, and are far more painstaking and laborious than the casual observer may appreciate. By the start of December 2002 three sets of points were complete, two for Plas y Nant loop and one for Rhyd Ddu.

A further consignment of 640 new rails was shipped from South Africa on August 9th 2002, and was delivered on September 19th via Bristol docks. This represented all the rail needed to complete Phase 3. Initial delivery was to Waunfawr and Rhyd Ddu, though stocks were moved to intermediate sites as the relevant sections were released for tracklaying.

Unfortunately, about 50% of the rails coming from South Africa in this shipment were bent, owing to inappropriate lifting in South Africa. Fortunately, the shipper's insurance covered the rectification of this problem and so Jan Woods of WHLR Ltd arranged for the offending rails to be re-rolled at a specialist company in the Midlands. At New Year 2003 one third of the offending rails had already been re-rolled and were awaiting delivery back to site. The first were laid at Snowdon Ranger in February 2003. The various rail stores were restocked with the re-rolled rails as consignments arrived back at the railway; this process was complete by the start of May.

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See also:

Phase 3 pages:

 Back to WHR Project homepage or the Waunfawr to Rhyd Ddu route description
Authored by Ben Fisher; last updated November 15th, 2012 by Laurence Armstrong