A brief history of the line

The Fiction:

The narrow gauge Moelwyn Valley Railway was built sometime in the late 1860's to transport slate from the quarries at Bryn Draig to the wharf at Ffenestr where it was transferred to the Cambrian Railway, and later on the Great Western Railway, for delivery to other parts of the country.

The original builders faced two challenges in constructing the line, the first was a mountain range between the quarry site and the proposed slate wharf, the second was that beyond the mountain there was a valley containing a lake. They solved the first by cutting a tunnel through the mountain, curiously the tunnel's northern portal is higher than the southern portal. Local lore has it that the early tunnelers were over enthusiastic with their use of the black powder when they started work and had learnt more discretion in its use as they proceeded with the tunnelling. Once through the tunnel the line travels along a narrow ledge above the lake turning westward round the end of the lake before veering off to the south towards Ffenestr .

Like many such railways it was originally operated by horses, but following the example of other railways it adopted steam power, this created a problem as there was nowhere in the quarry or the Wharf at Ffenestr to store and maintain the new steam locomotives.
The railway solved this problem by constructing a spur off northwards just before Ffenestr towards the town of Ffenics where they built a small locomotive works. It was of course inevitable that a passenger platform soon followed and Ffenics became the headquarters of the railway.

This new station resulted in an unexpected development, the railway's northern station, Bryn Draig which was situated on a branch line that diverged just before the entrance to the quarry, was at that time just a simple run-round loop with a single platform and the town's inhabitants were quick to take advantage of the opportunity to use the railway to visit the much larger town of Ffenics and due to the increase in traffic the station gained a second platform a siding and a proper station building.

In the early 1900's the slate traffic grew to such an extent that the rail wharf at Ffenestr couldn't cope with the volume of slate so the line was extended westwards beyond Ffenestr to a point on the coast where there was a natural harbour and a small village supporting a dwindling fishing industry. The railway constructed a wharf at this location to provide an additional shipment point for its slate. At the same time a passenger station was built alongside the wharf facility and the station at Ffenestr had second platform added to serve trains going to the new station. In time the village expanded around the wharf facility and became known as Glanfa Newyyd, the original name of the village is now lost in the mists of time. While there were those villagers who mourned the passing of the fishing industry, there were others who were happy to exchange the dangers of sea fishing for work on the slate wharf (and a more regular pay packet!).

Glanda Newyyd station was provided with a loco shed and facilities for coaling and watering locomotives and as a result of the extended length of the line similar facilities were added to Bryn Draig station.

With the expansion of traffic and a longer railway it was soon realised that the original loco works at Ffenics was too small to maintain the railway's growing locomotive fleet. So a site was purchased to the north of the Glafa Newyyd station and a larger locomotive workshops was built. At the same time the company moved its head office to Glanfa Newyyd.

With four villages on its route the railway now derives as much of its revenue from passenger traffic as it does from its traditional slate traffic.

The Fact:

The original Moelwyn Valley Railway was built sometime in the late 1960's and early 1970's following several holidays in North Wales.
The layout had a fairly short existence due mainly to the fact that the only ready-to-run locos and stock available at the time were European outline and the appearance of the layout didn't match my memories of the Welsh narrow gauge lines that inspired me to build it, so that was the end of the railway and it was eventually dismantled.

But I still had my dream of one day building a model of a complete Welsh narrow gauge railway, unlikely as it seemed. Then in January 2018 three things came together. First, I found a tin containing my old 009 locos and stock. Second, after many, many years I had managed to arrange a holiday in Porthmadog, so narrow gauge railways were much on my mind. Third, a potential space had become available to build a model railway.

I had a fairly definite idea of what I wanted my layout to look like and what scenic features I wanted to include, and a bit of careful measuring and research into track plans proved that there was space for quite a decent sized 009 layout in the space available that would meet my requirements, and even better, British (or should that be Welsh) outline locos and stock were now available, so I could finally fulfil my dream and build my model of a complete Welsh narrow gauge railway.

After several weeks of planing construction began in May 2018 and by the end of the year the basic work was done. As I continued with adding details the idea of extending the layout presented itself, this would make the layout more interesting to operate as well as improving its appearance. Work commenced on the extension in April 2019, and in so doing set the stage for a second extension. The Layout now had two main terminus stations, but they were not directly connected, the only way trains could go from one to the other was via the station at the far end of the line next to the quarry. This station was just a simple run-round loop and could only handle one train at a time which was clearly restriction to the layout's operation. So a second extension was inevitable and work on the second extension started in February 2020. This allowed for a much larger station which could handle two trains at a time to be built. This had two benefits, the first being that the station could be sited within the context of a small village, and the second being that moving the station to its own baseboard meant that the quarry, which I'd always thought to be too small could be expanded.

In 2022 I realised that the railway's growing locomotive fleet needed more storage space so a third extension was constructed at the end of the first extension's board. This formed a larger locomotive workshop and stabling facility.

So after a gap of four decades the Moelwyn Valley Railway was back, bigger and better than its predecessor.

(This is of course a very brief outline of the situations and circumstances surrounding the building, demise and subsequent re-building of the MVR but the full story would fill many pages!)

The station names:

Ffenics: This was the original headquarters of the MVR, the name means 'phoenix'. In mythology the phoenix obtains new life by arising from the ashes of its predecessor and as the layout is a new 'reborn' MVR the name seemed appropriate.

Bryn Draig: The name of the quarry and northern terminus of the line. The name means 'Dragon Hill', for no other reason than the fact that I like dragons. (and we all know that Wales is the land of the dragon)

Ffenestr: The intermediate station on the line and the site of the rail transfer wharf. The name means 'window', which is an entirely appropriate name for a station that occupies the space in the room's small bay window.

Glanfa Newydd: The new headquarters of the railway its western terminus and the site of the harbour wharf and also the site of the new locomotive works. The name means 'new wharf', not a very imaginative name, but this section of the layout was not in my original plans and the during planning stage I refered to it as the new wharf extension, as there was already a wharf at Ffenestr, and the name 'new wharf' stuck.

The layout's only claim to fame is an article featuring it in the February 2021 issue of "009 News", the monthly magazine of the 009 Society. (It's just unfortunate that they spelt my surname slightly wrong, but that often happens to me.)

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