History of the Tramway
Just beyond Chirk lies the Ceiriog Valley, 'A little bit of Heaven on Earth' according to Lloyd George, and visitors to this now idyllic valley may be surprised to discover the areas rich industrial heritage based on its rock and mineral deposits. Initially slate was moved by packhorse from Glyn Ceiriog across the hills to Llangollen, and there loaded onto barges for onward carriage, a system that was at best slow and very uneconomical.
In 1873 a narrow gauge railway was built, and pack horses gave way to horse power. Industry created the tramway and because the tramway existed it in turn gave birth to other industries. From out of the valley poured a steady stream of slate, to which in the following years was added granite, china stone, tarmacadam and even gunpowder. From the mills came cloth and perhaps the most innovative was the ‘export’ of live trout from the valley’s trout fishery.
With the arrival of steam the whole process accelerated and mixed trains of slate and other mineral products together with passenger coaches became the norm. On the journey passengers would catch glimpses of the River Ceiriog running alongside the track. When the train reached Pontfadog many passengers would take the liberty of expecting the train to wait for them while they enjoyed a drink at the Swan Inn. Often the last customers emerging from the inn would have to dash across the road and would only just manage to clamber aboard in time before the train continued along it’s way to Dolywern and then onto Glyn Ceiriog.
A humorous postcard from this time claimed the tramways motto was ‘No hurry, no worry'.
The waiting rooms in Pontfadog and Dolywern survive to this day in their original locations. In 1950 the council officer used Pontfadog waiting room to collect rates and the locals nicknamed it ‘Pontfadog Town Hall’. It was later bought by the public house and it was also used as a quaint little craft shop.’ and that ‘ten minute stops were made to pick flowers!’ The last train ran through the valley in 1935. The news had gone round, and scores of locals turned out at Glyn to see the “tram” go by, never to return.
The opening of the A483/A5 Chirk Bypass hit the economy of the Ceiriog Valley for all but a few of the area’s potential tourists now speed northwards, either leaving the bypass for the A5 and Llangollen or head further north to join the A55 dual carriageway with its access to the tourist attractions of North Wales. The revival of the Glyn Valley Tramway would help to redress the balance.
Image; 'Glyn' at Chirk, on a cold and wintry day..circa 1920's..the line of trees behind Glyn mark the line of the Llangollen Canal, now a UNESCO World Heritage Site. (Courtesy of the Locomotive Club of Great Britain).