In December 1966 a group of Talyllyn Railway Preservation Society members from the East Midlands formed what became The Corris Railway Society, with four goals:
- to preserve what remained of the line
- to research its history
- to open a museum to display relics and photographs
- to look into the possibility of reopening a section of the original route to passengers
Visible signs of their activity came with the opening of the first stage of the Corris Railway Museum in 1970, using the remaining buildings of Corris Station – the block which once housed the stables and road vehicle store. A “demonstration track” was laid at the south end of the Station Yard, adjacent to the Museum, in 1971, but bureaucratic obstacles prevented it initially reaching more than a few hundred yards.
In 1981, Maespoeth engine shed and yard (about three-quarters of a mile from Corris) was returned to the Railway after being used by the Forestry Commission, and the Society has steadily transformed it back into a well-equipped engine shed and workshop.
Approval for reinstatement of track to connect Corris and Maespoeth was finally received in 1984, and in 1985 the Society celebrated by running the “First Train Back To Corris” after a break of thirty-seven years. This was headed by diesel locomotive No. 5 hauling a train of skip waggons
That “First Train” ran over lightly-laid construction industry track, and following the acquisition of heavier rail from a number of sources, plus the necessary sleepers and ballast, the line was upgraded to passenger standards, and also extended a short distance south of Maespoeth to provide storage space for rolling stock. Maespoeth Yard was transformed, with the clearance of the Forestry Commission’s access ramp providing much-needed siding space, and the installation of platforms for the first time ever – it had not previously been used as a passenger station. Please note that it is not possible to join or leave trains at the Junction as there is no public access from the adjacent A487 trunk road.
In 1996 a steam loco returned to Corris for the first time since 1948, when No.4 was loaned from the Talyllyn Railway to mark its 75th birthday, and hauled demonstration trains between Maespoeth and Corris. However, as legal formalities were not then completed, it was not possible for passengers to travel on the trains. This was the start of a project to have a 21st century version of No. 4 built for service on the revived Corris. After a decade of fund raising and various problems the new Tattoo class loco No. 7 entered service in 2005 and has worked the greater majority of passenger and charter trains since. Participants in the Your Railway For the Day experiences get the chance to drive and fire the locomotive.
While the railway was physically re-appearing, the Society had a long and tortuous struggle with the local planning authorities to achieve agreement on the reconstruction of a sufficient length of line to provide long-term viability. Happily most of the outstanding issues have now been resolved, and the railway is moving steadily towards achieving the necessary legal documents, in the form of a Transport & Works Order, to permit the extension of the line a further one-and-a-half miles to the proposed new southern terminus at Tan-y-Coed. Work has begun on extending the line southwards from Maespoeth Junction but this involves construction of a new embankment due to the loss of part of the original trackbed. The pace of this depends on available material that is permitted for use in the Snowdonia National Park area, construction machinery also being available and windows of dry weather.
In the summer of 2002, the Corris Railway resumed passenger services after a seventy-two year hiatus. Following a successful inspection from H.M. Railway Inspectorate on March 15th, and the obtaining of permission to operate from the body holding the residuary powers of the British Railways Board, the first scheduled fare-paying passenger train left Corris Station at 11 a.m. on Monday June 3rd. Until the arrival and entry into traffic of No. 7 these were worked by diesel locomotive No. 6.
On Saturday 7th June 2003 the railway staged its formal Grand Re-Opening Ceremony, featuring a very special guest – the 125-year-old original Corris steam locomotive No.3, returned from its new home on the Talyllyn Railway, complete with a Corris heritage train made up of an original bogie carriage, coal waggon and brake van. No.3 ran passenger services every weekend in June before returning to Tywyn. The Corris Railway is very grateful to the Talyllyn Railway for the loan of the loco and rolling stock, which helped to make the occasion extra-special for all involved. Following the arrival of No. 7, fund raising commenced towards the construction of Corris No. 10 which will be a 21st century version of the 1878 Falcon locos of which No. 3 is the sole survivor.
An unavoidable problem in the Dulas Valley is the prevailing weather. The Valley is beautiful but annual rainfall is high and the recreated, volunteer built, carriages and waggons suffered badly from outdoor storage. Space in the loco shed at Maespoeth Junction is limited. As a result between 2006 and 2009 the volunteers constructed a large carriage shed at the Junction which provides dry storage and increased workshop place. Subsequently a separate waggon shelter was constructed.
Until 2022 trains had to be propelled in one direction as there was no facility for locos to run around their trains at Corris station. The station layout has been modified and the run round is made possible by the installation of a traverser, an unusual feature. Again much of the work was done by volunteers.
The task of historical research has not been forgotten. A great deal of original research has been undertaken into the history of the railway, quarries and district, with the long-term aim of publishing a comprehensive history. A concise history, containing much new information, was published in 1988 under the title “A Return to Corris – the continuing history of the Corris Railway”. A Journal, free to members and on sale to the public, includes articles on many aspects of the history of the railway and district, as new areas are researched. This is published periodically and back copies can be purchased from our online shop.
The Corris has no paid staff. It is not quite true that the volunteers range from 8 to 80 but there is a wide range of ages involved and more hands are always welcome.