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Tuesday, 21 May 2013

Corris Railway

In a nutshell

Gauge:         2' 3"


Length:       Originally = 6½ miles
                     Preserved railway = ¾ mile



History:      1858 - horsedrawn tramway from Aberllefenni to Derwenlas Quay opened
                    1864 - line from Machynlleth to the quay at Derwenlas closed
                    1878 - steam locomotives and passenger services introduced                   
                    1929 - line acquired by GWR
                    1931 - passenger services removed
                    1948 - railway closed and stock scrapped or sold off
                    1966 - Preservation Society established
                    1970 - Museum opened
                    1985 - First preserved train ran


View Narrow Gauge Railways in a larger map


Date of visit:  6 May 2013


Key Facts

  • The railway ran for most of its length beside the road up the valley from Machynlleth to Corris with a steady gradient of around 1:40
  • The railway was originally constructed to transport slate from the quarries around Corris and Aberllefenni to a wharf on the River Dovey to the west of Machynlleth
  • When the Cambrian mainline reached Machynlleth, the line from Machynlleth to the wharf was closed and the slate traffic was instead transferred to standard gauge wagons
  • In 1878 the railway acquired three steam locomotives and ten four wheeled passenger carriages, though passenger services were suspended until 1883 owing to a dispute with local quarry owners
  • The Great Western Railway acquired the line in 1927 and shortly afterwards suspended passenger services
  • When the railway bridge over the River Dovey near to Machynlleth was weakened by floods in 1947, it was decided that it was uneconomic to continue running the line
  • The railway was one of the first to be closed by the newly nationalised British Railways
  • In 1966 a small group of Talyllyn Railway members formed the Corris Railway Preservation Society and acquired the station buildings and yard in Corris
  • The museum and a short length of track was opened in 1970-71
  • In 1981, the railway acquired the engine shed at Maespoeth and shortly afterwards the line was relaid from Maespoeth to Corris although for various bureaucratic reasons it was not possible to re-establish passenger services until 2002
  • There are plans to extend the railway from Maespoeth for 2½ miles down the valley to Tan-y-Coed and eventually to Machynlleth


Original route - source: wikimedia
The railway today - source:

















My Impressions

When I arrived at the station yard in Corris, a train was in the station and about to depart for Maesporth. On this occasion only one coach was in use as the line's other carriage was in the sheds awaiting repair.

The coaches are replicas of the railway's original coaches which were in fact made from the bodies of two four wheel coaches mounted on a chassis with bogies.

I boarded the train with the twelve other passengers and the line's steam locomotive, a faithful replica of one of the railway's original Tattoo class locomotives, began its sedate journey down the ¾ mile to the line's workshops and sheds at Maespoeth.

 This was the site of the junction where the line divided to serve the quarries at Corris Uschaf and Aberllefenni.

We were given a guided tour of the workshops. In the carriage shed, the lines other coach was under repair, another was under construction and some goods stock was in the process of being renovated.

 After an enlightening talk about the history of the railway and its subsequent preservation, we made our way up to the station yard, where a new platform is under construction and one of the line's diesel locos was pottering around shunting wagons loaded with building materials and sleepers.

The signal cabin which controls the station area is not a replica of the original but has been constructed on-site by the Society.

 Once the line has been extended further down the valley, the signal box will perform an essential function monitoring and controlling the movement of trains through the station.
Maespoeth Junction signal diagram - Source:
We then had an opportunity to view the engine shed which is one of the railway's original structures. It has recently been re-roofed and still retains many of its original features, including a large slate water tank.

After wandering around and viewing more of the station area, we wandered back to the platform, taking in a glimpse of the track winding back up the valley to Corris.

There was a quick opportunity to take a few more pictures of the our train.......

....before re-boarding for the return journey. As there are presently no operational run-round facilities at either station, the train operates as a shuttle. We were sedately propelled up the line to Corris where there was an opportunity to view the line's museum and shop.

In addition to railway artefacts, there are some fine models of various parts of the original railway on display.

 After partaking of a freshly made cup of tea, I explored the immediate locality, finding the street modelled in the above photo.......

.... and discovering that as the railway continued its way through the village and onwards towards Aberllefenni, it passed very close behind the houses, which have now adopted the route of the railway to provide some much needed backyard psace and/or extensions.

One day I will return to walk the route of the line, documenting what remains of the trackbed, but on this occasion, I took a lingering look up route of the railway towards Aberllefenni ......

....... before walking back through the village towards the station, passing on the way the bridge over the stream which has now become a patio area for the neighbouring house.

I then followed the route of the existing railway ..........

.... taking the opportunity to get some lineside shots as the train made its way down to Maespoeth .......

..... and then back up the line to Corris. 

As this was the last train of the day, I returned to my car in the station's car park and then made my way back home.

I found the Corris Railway to be a very friendly place. The staff were clearly (and rightly) proud of their achievements and more than willing to answer even the most naive of my questions and also to provide plenty of additional information. It seems they have plans to remodel Corris Station, including a rebuild of the train-shed which was a feature of the stations at both Corris and Machynlleth. The planned extension will be the next phase in their ambition to restore the line to Machynlleth, which is readily achievable as much of the trackbed is still in existence, though road widening has, in some places, encroached on the route of the railway.

Although the museum and shop are quite small, the welcome is large and there are plenty of secondhand books and DVDs to satisfy the enthusiast whose sales will help to swell the society's funds. There are light refreshments and hot drinks available and an opportunity to discuss the railway's past, present and future with the staff as you sit and sup.

One advantage of a compact railway such as this is that can be visited in around an hour (or longer if you want to explore further aspects). And so, it caters well for those who want to drop in on their way through the valley. I would strongly urge you to do so whenever you are in the area. Such an interesting and unique narrow gauge railway is well worth the visit.

Virtual Visit Video

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