Site of Bethesda railway station

Site of Bethesda railway station

bethesda_railway_stationThe GP surgery, Canolfan Feddygol Yr Hen Orsaf, occupies part of the site of Bethesda railway station and goods yard, terminus of a branch line from Llandygai which opened in 1884.

The narrow-gauge Penrhyn Quarry Railway had opened in 1801 to take slates from Penrhyn quarry to the sea at Bangor. The PQR conveyed quarry workers but no other passengers. Bethesda residents and traders lobbied the London & North Western Railway for a 7km-long standard-gauge branch line, which involved erecting two viaducts and boring a tunnel.

Bethesda’s station platform was more than 120 metres (400ft) long, with gas lighting and separate waiting rooms for First and Third Class passengers. It is pictured right (copyright: Gwynedd Archives Service) with a LNWR “Coal Tank” locomotive c.1895.

bethesda_stationmaster_gillettThe LNWR won was praised for appointing a Welshman, a Mr Pierce, as the first stationmaster. Pictured left (copyright: Gwynedd Archives Service) is Charles Gillett, stationmaster in the early 20th century. His son Llewelyn, a former Glanogwen church chorister, died in the First World War and is buried in Jerusalem.

The goods yard east of the station featured a goods shed (for road-rail freight transfer), cattle pens with water supply, a crane and a loading platform for horses and carriages.

The railway improved tourists’ access to the town and the Nant Ffrancon area. There were hopes of an extension to Capel Curig.

The trains also facilitated escape from Bethesda during the Great Strike at the quarry. After the 1901 Whitsuntide holidays, the LNWR provided a special train from Bethesda because so many men had to return to their new workplaces in South Wales and elsewhere. The train also carried many “new trekkers” – people leaving Bethesda to seek new work.

On a Saturday night in 1902, windows at the station were smashed because it was a suspected hiding place of quarrymen who had returned to work. An extra 50 police officers were sent to Bethesda that night. Mounted police from Liverpool were sent to Bangor, where there was fighting between strikers and non-strikers.

The branch line lost its passenger trains in December 1951 but goods trains continued until 1963. The Lôn Las Ogwen traffic-free path now occupies sections of the railway route. The old tunnel north of Bethesda reopened as part of the path in 2017.

Postcode: LL57 3NE    View Location Map