MANY old railway lines have been preserved by the tireless efforts of those railway enthusiasts across the country.

Unfortunately, a great number of railway branches have been forgotten, not least the Glyn Valley Tramway. It its heyday it would be seen snaking its way along the scenic Glyn Valley between the quarrying village of Glyn Ceiriog and Great Western Railway station and canal wharf at nearby Chirk.

The line was first opened in1874. Other events that year included Walter Clopton Wingfield who patented a game called ‘sphairistike’ which is now commonly known as lawn tennis. Levi Strauss and Jacob Davis received a patent of their own for blue jeans with copper rivets selling at $13.50 for 12 pairs. In the United States it appears the first typewriter with the QWERTY keyboard was first marketed. It seems to have caught on!

On a more sombre note, in 1874 a serious blaze in Chicago kills 20 people and destroys 812 buildings covering an area of 42 acres. Concerning another patent, the first incandescent lamp with electric light bulb is made available. This year was also important to one or two football teams which are established as association football clubs. Mentioned here are Aston Villa and Bolton Wanderers, the latter originally known as Christ Church FC.

Getting back on track with the Glyn Valley Railway, for the first 15 years of its existence its main source of propulsion was horse-cum-gravity tramway. In 1888 the first locomotive was delivered. It was named Sir Theodore after the chairman of the company, Sir Theodore Martin. Twelve months later they purchased another engine and named it Dennis after Henry Dennis who was a director of their railway concern.

On March 15, 1891 this small but arguably significant railway company began a passenger service to supplement its freight-carrying business of conveying locally-extracted granite etc. (It appears slates were carried for nine miles from the west on this 2ft four-and-a-half-inch gauge railway). An extra engine Glyn was purchased for this new endeavour. On launch day the early commuter train pulled out of Chirk amid a display of detonating fog signals. When it arrived further down the line at Pontfadog, the Glyn Ceiriog Brass Band was there to greet it. The passenger facility went without a hitch until April 1, 1933, although the General Strike of 1926 did hinder the service to some degree. Unfortunately, the GVT had to close down its operations in July 1935 due to, it appears, not being economically viable anymore. This line had been in existence for more than 60 years.

In my opinion the closing of it was such a shame but of course there was, it seems, no option to do otherwise. If this railway was still in existence today, it would have been an excellent tourist attraction in such an appealing scenic area near Chirk.

It seems to me in the pioneering days of railways in this country there always appears to be much controversy between various authorities involved in the construction of the routes etc. No less when the Oswestry, Ellesmere and Whitchurch line was envisaged. The London and North Western with the Great Western Railways were locking horns while discussing this then new railway line. Meetings were held by local committees in the Bridgewater Hotel in Ellesmere and also in the higher authority of Parliamentary committee rooms.

Towards the end of 1860 there seemed in this country an enthusiasm for more railway building than had ever been in previous years. Railway mania was apparently mentioned for that period. The projection was of many lines crossing all over the country that was ruled by Queen Victoria. This local branch railway in question was, of course, important in making a crucial and easy link between the various towns of Shropshire and the key railway station at Crewe in Cheshire. Also, this would impose a vital connection in the due course of time to Wales.

When the scheme was initially discussed at a public meeting on the October 1, 1860 at the Bridgewater Hotel in Ellesmere, the talks seemed to be quite agreeable by various parties concerned. A certain Mr Whalley was chairman at this meeting and he talked in addition about lines to be routed between Ellesmere and Ruabon and certain connections to a line between Gobowen and Oswestry etc. Unfortunately, some of his suggestions (although practical it seems) were at that time not too favourably received due to a shortage of sufficient funds.

The Great Western was initially not in favour with certain proposal. They suggested a branch from Ellesmere to Rednal and in doing this would form a loop which would then place Oswestry on the main railway line. After the meeting in Ellesmere the controversies and arguments began. The secretary of the Great Western, Charles Saunders was most indifferent to the new scheme discussed at the Bridgewater Hotel. He stated it was “both uncalled for and injurious to Great Western’s interests”.

Great Western Railways and London and North Western were in conflict over the future of this projected branch line in the heart of north Shropshire by the close of 1860. Certain other railway schemes were to depend on this future railway which was to eventually become the Cambrian branch.

By January 1861 a splinter group from the Ellesmere ranks was most enthusiastic for the creation of a branch line from Bettisfield to merge with the Crewe to Shrewsbury railway route at Wem. This line would extend to approximately five miles or so. They argued the landscape would be an easy task to construct a branch line allowing reduced costs.

There was also with this proposal of extending the line through Hanmer and then onto Ellesmere. (However, when the line was constructed it ran from Ellesmere to Welshampton which according to my research possessed a station. The line then continued on the northerly fringe of Bettisfield where there appeared to be another station. From there this rail route ran just to the north of Whixhall Moss and Fenns Moss passing through Fenns Bank station and then traversing the main trunk road A41/49 route etc joining the mainline briefly when coming into Whitchurch railway station. From there on the trains followed the line which carried on to a main artery of the rail system at Crewe).

A meeting was held in London during the summer of 1861 by a parliamentary committee for no fewer than 13 days. The Great Western emphasized that Oswestry should be situated on the main line. It seems the majority of the people of Oswestry were in support of this view. One of these supporters was a Sergent Wheeler. He described Oswestry as being an absolutely perfect town to be situated on the main railway route known as the Great Western.

Great Western Railways and London and North Western were in conflict over this projected branch line by the end of 1860.

Certain other railway schemes were to depend on this future railway which was to eventually become the Cambrian branch.