It was four decades ago that works to improve the A487 Dolgellau – Machynlleth road saw removal of part of the trackbed of the former Corris Railway, closed in 1948, and left a costly problem for the present day revival of the oldest narrow gauge railway in Mid Wales. Although the Corris trackbed is largely intact southwards of Maespoeth Junction there is a need to build a new embankment including a bridge over the Nant Goedwig stream to allow the Southern Extension of the line to regain the original route.
The embankment will be some 440 metres in length and will need to be steeply sided as part of flood protection in the valley of the river Dulas. Many years of work has had to be carried out to obtain various permissions and licences ahead of work commencing and work has been carried out as resources and suitable materials have come to hand. Sections of new embankment have been built but a gap of some 300 metres remains to be filled together with the construction of the bridge over the Goedwig.
A major step forward took place at the end of March when a quantity of suitable material to extend the embankment was located near Dolgellau. Also a local contractor with the required plant and machinery was available and able to work within the current Government restrictions. Construction of the next portion of the Southern Extension has therefore started. It is intended that some of the rock will be used to create gabions (baskets filled with stone) to support the base of the embankment.
Corris Railway Chairman Richard Hamilton-Foyn explained that although this is very welcome progress there is still plenty to do before trains can travel over the new section of line which includes gradients of up to 1 in 30. This will be a good test for the Corris’ steam engines “Tattoo” No. 7 and, when it is complete, “Falcon” No. 10. “We have built up financial reserves for the Southern Extension and thank the many people who have supported us with donations over the years. Although these reserves amount to a six figure sum the present works are costing at least £70,000 and that means that most of our funds will have been spent with more very costly work, including the bridge, still to be done.”
Richard continued “Although this is not the largest proposed extension in the world of heritage railways it is very important for the future revival of the Corris Railway and will take us a good way towards our next target of doubling the length of our operating line. Our ultimate aim is to extend southwards at least as far as the Centre for Alternative Technology. This will provide a splendidly scenic journey along one of the most attractive valleys in Mid Wales with steep gradients and riverside scenery. It will also provide a valuable transport link between the various attractions in the Dulas Valley. We already maintain the former Corris Railway station at Esgairgeiliog and it awaits its first trains since 1948. We now need assistance to get there.”
Donations for the Southern Extension and, if necessary, to help the Railway through the current crisis can be made via the Corris Railway website www.corris.co.uk or cheques payable to Corris Railway can be sent to Corris Railway, Station Yard, Corris, Machynlleth, Powys, SY20 9SH.
As with the other British Heritage Railways the Corris Railway has had to suspend its operations, maintenance and restoration work pending the lifting of the lockdown and movement restrictions. On the plus side there has been progress on two of its major projects namely the Southern Extension of the line beyond Maespoeth Junction and the new steam locomotive, “Falcon” 0-4-2ST No. 10.
As its workforce is entirely voluntary the Railway has not had to meet staff wages during the enforced lockdown and with no trains moving and no activity in the workshops or at trackside some costs including coal, fuel and utilities have been greatly reduced. However there are others to be met, often overlooked or unrealised by enthusiasts and passengers, including insurance payments and licensing of online tools such as accountancy packages. With no fares being paid and no retail sales apart from the Corris’ online shop these costs do eat into reserves. In addition, at a time when communication with Society members is crucial, there are the costs of producing the quarterly “Corris-Pondent” magazine. The Railway will also need to have finance available in its general funds ready to cover costs of restarting operations as restrictions ease.
The enforced shut down has been frustrating for the Corris workforce and membership. This is particularly so as materials have been sourced from Dolgellau for another phase of construction of the Southern Extension works, which will see the operating line extending further along the Dulas Valley from Maespoeth Junction, and work is planned with £70,000 earmarked for the start of embankment earthworks. Considerably more will have to be raised, however, for this part of the revival of the oldest narrow gauge railway in Mid Wales.
Continued support for the target of £44,000 to complete the bottom half of new steam locomotive “Falcon” No. 10 at the workshops of Alan Keef Ltd near Ross on Wye has brought that stage of construction into clear sight with less than £14,000 left to raise. Stainless steel for and some work on the loco’s smokebox as an early stage of the “top half” has been costed at a further £1,000.
Fund raising towards to the next stage of construction of the new Corris station was also progressing, the plan there including a new track plan with a traverser and new platform.
Some work has continued away from the Railway in members’home workshops including manufacture of components for the next carriage due to enter traffic, number 23. Hopefully this will take matters forward when access to the carriage shed at Maespoeth Junction is possible once again.
Donations towards the Corris General Fund, which will assist with the continuing costs during the shutdown and the eventual resumption of operations, and also for the works on the Southern Extension can be made via Paypal by using one of the links below:
The Southern Extension
The Falcon Locomotive