Was Cwm Prysor the litmus for the Beeching Cuts?

hpknow

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During my research for an anniversary post on the closure of the line through Cwm Prysor (the Bala-Blaenau GWR line) I found the late Bill Rear (an eminent rail photographer with a number of books to his name) made the claim the closure of the line had 'laid the foundations for the Beeching Cuts.'

The assertion comes from an article in the North Wales Daily Post - it was quite surprising to learn of that.

I have wondered how this could have come about. I tried to explain it as far as possible (but not very well) in my post (link)

Does anyone have any views or knowledge on this unknown aspect of the Beeching cuts era?
 
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Gloster

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Little-used branch lines had been closing for years and I don’t think there was anything special about the Bala one. If there was any closure that made the Beeching cuts more likely, it was the Midland & Great Northern: around 150 miles of cross-country route in one go.
 

Master Cutler

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Did the plans to build the dam for the Llyn Celyn reservoir between Bala and Trawsfynydd have something to do with the closure decision.
 

ChiefPlanner

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Even the GWR had a "branch line group" as far back as the 1930's to review the poorer performing lines , the early days of the British Transport Commission had similar - frankly World War 2 saved a lot of very unremunerative lines. so Beeching did not exactly come out the sky.

Bala to Blaenau (charming though it was) , could hardly have been expected to survive a good , hard look at the economics.
 

Gloster

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Did the plans to build the dam for the Llyn Celyn reservoir between Bala and Trawsfynydd have something to do with the closure decision.
They were looking at closing the line to passengers, but retaining it for goods from Bala to Trawsfyndd, primarily to serve the nuclear power station. As bits of the line would have been flooded this would have involved building a diversion a mile or two long around the reservoir. Wiser minds later realised that connecting the two lines at Blaenau would be much cheaper. I have wondered whether the plan to build a diversion was as much because the Western Region wanted to hang on to every inch of its system and not lose bits to the London Midland as anything else. It is possible that the reservoir may have brought closure forward a bit, but the line was one that was ripe for closure.
 

steamybrian

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Blaenau to Bala line closed to passengers in January 1960 well before Dr. Beeching was appointed to BR in June 1961 .
As stated above I agree the line closed to enable the Llyn Celyn reservoir to be built
 

Calthrop

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They were looking at closing the line to passengers, but retaining it for goods from Bala to Trawsfyndd, primarily to serve the nuclear power station. As bits of the line would have been flooded this would have involved building a diversion a mile or two long around the reservoir. Wiser minds later realised that connecting the two lines at Blaenau would be much cheaper. I have wondered whether the plan to build a diversion was as much because the Western Region wanted to hang on to every inch of its system and not lose bits to the London Midland as anything else. It is possible that the reservoir may have brought closure forward a bit, but the line was one that was ripe for closure.

Topic-drifting somewhat; but I'm irresistibly reminded of a rather wonderfully mad flight of "alternative-history" fancy, long ago, in the Ffestiniog Railway Society's quarterly magazine. The author was speculating on what might have come about if the FR had been included in the Grouping (which, I gather, might have happened; though in the end it didn't). The geography was such that the FR, if "grouped", might have ended up taken either into the Great Western, or the LMS. Author dreamed up a scenario of -- if the former -- the GWR modernising and bringing within its own standards as much as possible, the Ffestiniog -- retaining the 1ft. 11-and-a-half in. gauge (standard-gauging would have been physically impossible). He saw the GWR taking this as far as using the Ffestiniog route for all its access to the Blaenau Ffestiniog area -- transporter wagons might have been feasible, with specially-built standard-gauge vehicles? This would have allowed the GWR to close its white-elephant Bala --Blaenau line (this long before any Llyn Celyn reservoir, ever thought of; that factor not relevant) -- GWR might possibly have re-converted the Blaenau -- Llan Ffestiniog section to narrow gauge, and run it accordingly... Should the FR have gone instead, to the LMS -- the author saw that as, likely, a sad fate for it: the unsentimental LMS would have had no use for such a ludicrous and anomalous relic of railway pre-history, and would probably have closed it before many years had gone by. It can be fun -- even if pointless -- to let the imagination run riot...
 

Mcr Warrior

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Think that the good Doctor has become an easy target some six decades on. Not only does he get vilified for subsequent line closures that weren't even listed in 1963's "The Reshaping of British Railways" report, he's now retrospectively getting much of the blame for earlier closures whilst he was still at ICI. :rolleyes:
 

Calthrop

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Think that the good Doctor has become an easy target some six decades on. Not only does he get vilified for subsequent line closures that weren't even listed in 1963's "The Reshaping of British Railways" report, he's now retrospectively getting much of the blame for earlier closures whilst he was still at ICI. :rolleyes:

The best in that line that I've ever heard, was on a journey on the Dean Forest heritage line, north of Lydney: overheard a fellow-passenger attributing the closure to passengers of that particular section, to Dr. Beeching. That closure took place in 1929, when Richard Beeching was aged all of sixteen...
 

LSWR Cavalier

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Mr Beeching way made to answer for his deeds in a fictional radio programme a few years ago, he was found guilty
The sentence was to be transported to Riccarton Junction, and to wait until the next train called there
 

30907

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The Bala line was unusual in being closed for "external" reasons rather than simple economics or infrastructure issues, but as has been said it was never going to survive.
The notion in the linked article that, if the railway had been realigned, the present road would not have been built, seem highly unlikely.
 
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RT4038

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During my research for an anniversary post on the closure of the line through Cwm Prysor (the Bala-Blaenau GWR line) I found the late Bill Rear (an eminent rail photographer with a number of books to his name) made the claim the closure of the line had 'laid the foundations for the Beeching Cuts.'

The assertion comes from an article in the North Wales Daily Post - it was quite surprising to learn of that.

I have wondered how this could have come about. I tried to explain it as far as possible (but not very well) in my post (link)

Does anyone have any views or knowledge on this unknown aspect of the Beeching cuts era?

A little hyperbole I suspect.

'.....the closure of the line and many others laid the foundations for [many more] in the Beeching cuts.....'

Not exactly untrue, but I don't think this line was anything special in the closure stakes.
 
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The Bala branch was not closed because of the reservoir severing its original route. A deviation of the railway was provided for in the Liverpool Corporation Act 1957 (which authorised the Treweryn Reservoir (later called Llyn Celyn). I think the big book on the Bala Branch (which I have, but am feeling too lazy to pull out from below a pile of other books at this time of night) says some work actually started on pegging out the intended new route. But it was later decided to invest more in road improvement and to provide rail access to Trawsfynydd nuclear power station via the new works linking the two standard gauge systems in Blaenau Ffestiniog, partially on former narrow gauge trackbed (authorised by a later British Railways Act). The new road past the new reservoir (the A4212, which replaced the B4391) was substantially financed by Liverpool Corporation under the Bala to Trawsfynydd Highways (Liverpool Corporation Contribution) Act, 1960. The Bala branch was a pre-Beeching closure.

With reference to Calthrop's posting above, I believe the Ffestiniog Railway was excluded from the Grouping due to some intervention by a very famous politician called David Lloyd George, who had commuted between Afon Wen or Criccieth and Blaenau early in his legal career. I think he feared its demise if it were to go to either the GWR or the LMS.

John Prytherch.
 

hpknow

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Thanks to everyone for the replies. I hadn't even thought Beeching could not be blamed for lines that had closed before his tenure as Chairman of BR. It made me laugh when it was said by Calthrop that someone had blamed the Forest of Dean closure on Beeching! I dont think I was even suggesting that Beeching had been responsible for earlier line closures, merely whether there was something that prompted the Beeching era, but as has been pointed out by several, its an extremely long shot and I agree with the sentiments everyone has said. Hence I modified my post with one of the quotes (from Mcr Warrior as I don't think I could have put it so succinctly) and pruned a lot of paragraphs which I now find to be irrelevant.

I hadnt known this re the Ffestiniog - its interesting that Lloyd George as John says, may have had some bearing on it retaining its independence - unlike both the Welshpool & Llanfair and Vale of Rheidol which was taken over by the Cambrian and then the GWR.
 

30907

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I believe the Ffestiniog Railway was excluded from the Grouping due to some intervention by a very famous politician called David Lloyd George, who had commuted between Afon Wen or Criccieth and Blaenau early in his legal career. I think he feared its demise if it were to go to either the GWR or the LMS.
I suspect this is legend - a whole raft of independent railways was excluded at grouping, both narrow and standard gauge, and I doubt this was all down to individual MPs.
 

341o2

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Topic-drifting somewhat; but I'm irresistibly reminded of a rather wonderfully mad flight of "alternative-history" fancy, long ago, in the Ffestiniog Railway Society's quarterly magazine. The author was speculating on what might have come about if the FR had been included in the Grouping (which, I gather, might have happened; though in the end it didn't). The geography was such that the FR, if "grouped", might have ended up taken either into the Great Western, or the LMS. Author dreamed up a scenario of -- if the former -- the GWR modernising and bringing within its own standards as much as possible, the Ffestiniog -- retaining the 1ft. 11-and-a-half in. gauge (standard-gauging would have been physically impossible). He saw the GWR taking this as far as using the Ffestiniog route for all its access to the Blaenau Ffestiniog area -- transporter wagons might have been feasible, with specially-built standard-gauge vehicles? This would have allowed the GWR to close its white-elephant Bala --Blaenau line (this long before any Llyn Celyn reservoir, ever thought of; that factor not relevant) -- GWR might possibly have re-converted the Blaenau -- Llan Ffestiniog section to narrow gauge, and run it accordingly... Should the FR have gone instead, to the LMS -- the author saw that as, likely, a sad fate for it: the unsentimental LMS would have had no use for such a ludicrous and anomalous relic of railway pre-history, and would probably have closed it before many years had gone by. It can be fun -- even if pointless -- to let the imagination run riot...
Regarding the transporter wagons proposal, when the Leek & Manifold closed, one of its transporter wagons went to Ashover, and modified for use on that line. However, it was never used in service as the reduction in gauge rendered it top heavy. The one journey with the wagon laden terrifed the crew in the way it rocked and rolled The crew were thoroughly relieved to get the train back to Clay Cross still on the rails

Regarding Beeching, the sequence of events was that the railways needed to modernise
This led to the 1955 Modernisation plan
The Treasury replied that the country couldn't afford it
So the railways asked to be relieved of their obligation to run services and be put on a commercial basis, so like the road haulier, they could pick and choose. Out went the British Transport Commission, in came the British Railways Board.
Enter Dr. Beeching as consultant
 

Calthrop

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I suspect this is legend - a whole raft of independent railways was excluded at grouping, both narrow and standard gauge, and I doubt this was all down to individual MPs.

For what this is worth -- again re the Ffestiniog Railway Society's magazine ago -- I recall an item in that journal, at all events suggesting that it was opined (in the locality, anyway) that Lloyd George, who had indeed regularly used the line in his youth; indeed employed his influence to keep the FR out of the Grouping. Although the FR Magazine back then, often engaged in literary-type antics: its editors were well-informed, and usually wrote sense when they didn't make it clear that they were doing a bit of letting their fancy run amok ! If the Lloyd George matter is legend, I'd think it would at least have been a well-circulated and widely-accepted one.

(I've mentioned before on these Forums: that a few decades back, the FR Magazine had an editor and sub-editor who were in my opinion, writers of some genius -- their use of language was witty, colourful and highly imaginative -- occasionally, in many readers' opinion including mine, to the point of their exuberance running away with them and becoming annoying. But so far as I've concerned, these guys totally spoilt me vis-a-vis all other heritage railways' journals: which style-wise as opposed to content-wise, have always seemed to me, deadly dull in comparison.)

Regarding the transporter wagons proposal, when the Leek & Manifold closed, one of its transporter wagons went to Ashover, and modified for use on that line. However, it was never used in service as the reduction in gauge rendered it top heavy. The one journey with the wagon laden terrifed the crew in the way it rocked and rolled The crew were thoroughly relieved to get the train back to Clay Cross still on the rails

I'd read of this matter of the ex-L&M transporter on the Ashover, and failure therewith -- seemingly the six inches less in gauge, made all the difference ! Was giving free rein to my imagination in my scenario; but the GWR were nothing if not enterprising and ingenious: if they'd decided to make a go of the one-eleven-and-a-half Ffestiniog, one can envisage their doing and experimenting with all sorts of things pursuant to that -- as I speculate above, perhaps going to the length of special reduced-profile s/g wagons for the route, to cope with the FR's very restricted clearances... such stuff likely more trouble than it would have been worth; but it's entertaining to "scenario-ise"...
 
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Dr_Paul

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From what I understand, the Bala to Blaenau Ffestiniog line was built because the GWR wanted to get in on the latter town's slate traffic, but by the time it was up and running the business was fading and the line was a commercial flop from the start. It did provide a wonderful ride for enthusiasts -- and I'm surely not the only one to be envious of those lucky folk who managed to do the journey through the wonderful countryside -- but that's not why railways were built, and in retrospect the GWR must have regretted all the expense of building and running it.
 

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