ON SATURDAY residents can enjoy a sneak peek of rarely seen parts of our history.
Among the sites opened up as part of Open Doors, an annual event set up by the Civic Trust for Wales, is the Glyn Valley Tramway which once connected Chirk with Glyn Ceiriog.
Those curious about this part of Wrexham County’s industrial past can explore it on Saturday when the old waiting room at Pontfadog and the former engine shed and coal wharf at Glyn Ceiriog will welcome visitors.
William Carter, 81, known to his friends as ‘Riv’, is treasurer of the Glyn Valley Tramway and Industrial Heritage Trust.
He said: “I’m not a railway man as such but I got involved because I think places like this should be preserved.
“What happened in the previous century is of interest to current generations. It gives them a window to another time.”
Once a dominant feature in the lives of those who lived and worked in the Ceiriog Valley, the tramway ran past shops, cottages and people’s front gates.
A visible and audible part of the residents’ lives, it provided a lifeline to the outside world. Sadly, it shut down in 1935.
According to the organisers of Open Doors, the tramway’s construction in the late 19th century generated a mini industrial revolution in the Valley.
A spokesman said: “Although it existed principally to move minerals, it carried passengers too – and those who rode on the GVT found the trip on Wales’ only rural steam tramway to be a memorable experience.
“Originally, the loaded wagons ran down the valley by gravity, returning empty to Glyn Ceiriog pulled by horses. But horse traction couldn’t cope and in 1888, the GVT was converted to steam and re-routed to meet the Great Western Railway at Chirk station.”
Over the years the line grew to serve granite quarries at Pandy and Hendre further up the valley. But as the national road network expanded, competing bus services mopped up passengers, while the remaining quarries started turning to road freight.
The line stopped offering passenger trains in 1933, and on July 6, 1935, residents turned out en masse to watch the last industrial tram travel along the line.
However, passionate supporters, drawn from the existing Glyn Valley Tramway Group formed the Trust in 2010 and the project now has charitable status.
Open Doors provides a chance to see the process of bringing local history back to life.
Mr Carter said: “We do have some grand plans on the way. We’re currently applying for finance to restore the site.
“The waiting room is opened at various times, including Christmas, where we light a fire in the original grate and serve mulled wine.
“This is an opportunity for anyone who hasn’t been before to stand in an almost-unchanged building and imagine what it must have been like almost 80 years in the past.”
The Trust is in the process of converting the waiting room into a little museum. It already hosts artefacts which, according to Mr Carter, “reflect the industrial heritage of the valley”.
It has already brought a section of the line back into use, running a locomotive up and down 100 yards of the track so visitors can have a tiny taste of a journey taken more than two generations ago.
Mr Carter said: “Co-founding member Gwilym Hughes (a solicitor) has a link to the tramway as his father was a loco driver.
“There will be families in the area whose grandfathers or great- grandfathers rode on the tram. It helped shape the industry of the Glyn Valley."
Thanks to support from Wrexham Council, the Trust is working hard to restore what was the engine shed, saving it from eventual dereliction to house a heritage centre, and to reopen the coal wharf.
Mr Carter said: “We hope this will help boost tourism in the area. What we are really excited about is we’re now looking at having a replica loco like the original engine one.”
If the Trust has its way, the Glyn Valley Tramway will come to life once again.
The former waiting room at Pontfadog, the engine room and the coal wharf at Glyn Ceiriog will be open to visitors from 10am to noon.