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.