Old Cegin railway bridges, near Bangor

Old Cegin railway bridges, near Bangor

Old photo of Cegin railway bridgeHere the Lôn Las Ogwen cycle and foot path crosses the river Cegin on what used to be a bridge carrying railways of narrow and standard gauges. Very few railway bridges in Britain had two gauges on the same deck. The upper photo, by the late Eric Foulkes, shows the railways and the parallel “check rails”, which would keep any derailed train away from the parapets.

The first bridge over the river here was built in the late 18th century and was part of the Penrhyn Tramroad from 1801. Its three stone arches survive intact alongside the railway bridge. At the north end is another span, forming a rectangular opening. Horses hauled slates in quarry wagons along the tramway from Penrhyn quarry in Bethesda to Porth Penrhyn (a little north of here).

The standard-gauge railway on this bridge was built by the London & North Western Railway in the 1850s to connect Porth Penrhyn to Britain’s rail network.

As Penrhyn grew to become the world’s largest slate quarry, in the 1870s most of the tramway was converted into the Penrhyn Quarry Railway. The steam-operated PQR moved large volumes of slate on rails just 578mm (1ft 10.75ins) apart. In this area, a new route was engineered. You can see why if you look down on the old tramway route south of the original bridge. The S-bend beneath what was the railway was too tightly curved even for narrow-gauge steam locomotives.

Photo of steam train on Cegin bridgeThe lower photo, courtesy of Transport Treasury, was taken by Sydney Roberts and show the PQR locomotive Blanche (now on the Ffestiniog Railway) returning empty wagons to Bethesda.

South of here the old tramway featured a gravity incline where the weight of descending loaded wagons hauled empty wagons up the slope, via a cable and winding drum. The PQR was built with a steady gradient to avoid the labour-intensive incline.

The railways diverged after passing under the main road (now the A5). The LNWR line joined the main Chester to Holyhead line west of Llandygai tunnel.

Both railways into Porth Penrhyn closed in the 1960s and the bridge became derelict. The new deck for Lôn Las Ogwen was placed on the original bridge’s stone piers. Look over the parapet to see how much wider the railway bridge was.

The river meadow you can see beyond the tramway bridge is shown on old maps as an expanse of water named Cegin Pool.

With thanks to Robin Willis and the late Eric Foulkes, of the Penrhyn Quarry Railway Society, and to Transport Treasury

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