Nantlle Railway

Gauge: 3ft 6in (1.06m)


Collection Objects

NumberRailwayObject TypeDescriptionImage
TYWRM:NAN002Nantlle Railwayrail chair2 cast iron carrying chairs for T-section rail file TEMP035.jpg
TYWRM:NAN003Nantlle Railwaysleepers3 slate sleeper blocks for carrying chairs file NAN003.jpg
TYWRM:NAN004.1Nantlle Railwaywagon4-wheeled wagon; steel; inside bearings; double flanged wheels. Marked 'Glaslyn foundry' file NAN004-1.jpg
TYWRM:NAN004.2Nantlle Railwaywagon platebuilder's plate from 4-wheeled wagon. Marked 'Glaslyn foundry' file NAN004-2.jpg
TYWRM:NAN004.3Nantlle Railwaywagon plateDrawbar pin from Nantle Wagon NAN004 file NAN004-3.jpg
TYWRM:NAN005.1Nantlle Railwayrails2 lengths of fish-bellied rail file NAN005-1.jpg
TYWRM:NAN005.2Nantlle Railwayrail chair6 chairs file NAN005-2.jpg
TYWRM:NAN005.3Nantlle Railwaysleeperssix stone sleepers file NAN005-3.jpg
TYWRM:NAN006Nantlle Railwayrail chairCast iron point chair file NAN006.jpg
TYWRM:NAN007Nantlle Railwayrail chaircast iron point chair file NAN007.jpg
TYWRM:NAN008Nantlle RailwayrailPiece of fish-bellied rail file NAN008.jpg
TYWRM:NAN009Nantlle RailwayrailPiece of fish-bellied rail with cast iron chair file NAN009.jpg
TYWRM:NAN011Nantlle Railwayrail chair3 cast iron carrying chairs file NAN011.jpg
TYWRM:NAN012Nantlle Railwayrails2 lengths fish-bellied rail file NAN012.jpg

Built on a collective basis by the owners of the quarries in the Nantlle valley, the Nantlle Railway was completed between 1828 and 1830. It connected the quarries with the port of Caernarfon and was the first public railway in North Wales.

Just over 9 miles long it had a gauge of 3ft 6in and was horse drawn. The unusual gauge may have been chosen by George and Robert Stephenson who were the contractors. The tramroad served most of the quarries on the north side of the Nantlle valley by short branches or inclines. The final terminus at Pen-yr-Orsedd was reached in 1860. Rails were originally fish-bellied and of wrought iron, made to Birkenshaw’s 1829 patent. Eventually however they sagged and had to be replaced with flat-bottomed rail.

The Nantlle Railway operated as a “rail turnpike”, users providing their own wagons and paying a toll, initially 6d per ton/mile. Even on top of haulage costs this was still less than half the cost of carting by road to Caernarfon. Passengers were carried between 1856 and 1865.

Parts of the railway were converted to standard gauge for steam locomotives in 1870 and 1882, but the section between Nantlle Station and Pen-yr-Orsedd Quarry remained at 3ft 6in and horse drawn until it closed in 1963. Eventually the railway had become owned by the LMS and consequently, in due course, it was a unique part of British Railways.

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