“ The Need For a Railway through Llyn”

Prize Winning Essay Sarn Eisteddfod 1883

  Below is a very interesting essay written for the Eisteddfod at Sarn in 1883, the author unknown, save for his pen name has a very strong argument for bringing the railway to Llyn, which if he had succeeded in his aspirations would no doubt have changed not only the landscape, but also the character of Llyn. Thankfully his dream never came true!!!


Caernarfonshire is separated into three parts which are:- Arfon, Lleyn and Eifionydd. The southern part of the county is Lleyn or Llyn, the latter being the way it was spelt in the reign of George the 2nd and after that.

This part of Llyn is made up of 27 parishes and has an area of 61,500 acres. Formerly this part was divided into three commotes :- Gafflogion, Commitmaen and Dinllaen. Committmaen comprises of the parishes of :- 1 Aberdaron, 2 Bodferin, 3 Bryncroes, 4 Llandegwning, 5 Llanengan, 6 Llanfaelrhys, 7 Llangwnadl, 8 Meyllteyrn, 9 Penllech, 10 Rhiw, as well as part of Tudweiliog.

The population is sparse and spread out, including the town of Pwllheli, the whole population of Llyn is only 17,543.

This part of the county has its advantages and disadvantages, the latter far out weighing the former. Primary amongst the disadvantages is the lack of a Railway.

Out of all the most powerful and skilful engineering feats, both ancient and modern, the Railway is without doubt the masterpiece of this century. To see this you’ve only got to look at the powerful engines, strong bridges and mighty viaducts, this is also one of the greatest ventures that our kingdom has ever witnessed. It was a man named Edward Pease, who first came up with the idea of a railway, to join Darlington to Stockton on Tees in county Durham. On April 19th 1821 the Royal seal of approval was given to parliamentary legislation to proceed with the venture. George Stephenson and his friend Mr Nicholas Wood offered their services to Edward Pease, and Mr Stephenson persuaded Edward Pease to use a steam engine instead of horses to tow the wagons, this plan was adopted and hence the present Railways were born.

Fifty eight years have passed since the opening of the first railway, the afore mentioned line was duly opened on the 27th of September 1825, and by the end of 1874 there were 16,449 miles of track in the United Kingdom and Ireland. It is estimated that there are over 900 miles in Wales alone. There’s about 90 miles in Caernarvonshire , which are greatly appreciated, to the extent that sympathy is felt for those smallholders who do not have the advantages of the Railway and are therefore felt to be outside the commercial markets. Even though the Railway has come to Pwllheli, it ends in Eifionydd as Abererch where the station stands is part of the ‘Parcel Gogwmwd’ in the Eifionydd commote . It is certain that Llyn would have enjoyed the benefits of the Railway for many years had Holyhead not won by a single vote to become the ‘Irish Port’ as it was known. This lack of a Railway in Llyn is most disadvantageous, Llyn is remote from the markets and best opportunities to exchange the goods and produce of the land. Through the Railways distances become less, strangers become neighbours, the farmer’s wife can sell butter, cheese, eggs and chickens on her doorstep, and the farmer his cattle, oxen, sheep and corn, without barely leaving his smallholding. Presently the buyer, when one happens to be going through Llyn, spends four times as much as he would than if there were a Railway going through the land and often the seller has to make up the losses in the price he is paid for his goods, quite frequently the drover has to be accommodated, because of the distance from the Railway Station. The Railway would put the buyer on the spot in a short time and at very little cost.

"Pwllheli Station 1911"

Another advantage of the Railway in Llyn would be to lessen the travelling and spare both horse and man power, when delivering goods to Pwllheli or other markets. Every farmer knows that men and horses are the most expensive creatures on the farm and for them to be cost effective they have to work hard before realising their worth, but the Railway would mean a lessening in this expense, without having any adverse effect on the running of the work of the smallholding. Frequently we see the use of three carts or more each one with three or more horses, undertake the delivery of corn to the Station at Pwllheli. They start off at day break and return home late into the evening, this means a loss of twenty five shillings or more, per load, if the Station were nearer then this would mean one horse for each load, thus the rest would be available for work on the farm, and the journey would take only a couple of hours instead of the whole day as it is at present.

Another reason for having a Railway would be to reduce the price of coal. Presently coal costs 25s – 30s a ton, because of the high price of coal many acres of land are destroyed annually in the excavation of peat for making fires, notice how many of our meadows have been decimated by large holes where peat is dug up. The residents of Llyn would be able to have flour – for their household needs, ‘Indian Corn’ to feed the animals, fertiliser and seeds amongst other goods needed for the running of a smallholding all at a lower price if we had a Railway in Llyn. It would also prove beneficial in lessening the distance animals have to travel at present, the length and time of the journey is detrimental to the animals and affects their worth at market. Each year 3,500 pigs are exported annually from Llyn, most are walked Pwllheli or Chwilog a long and arduous journey. Were it not for these disadvantages farmers would certainly receive a higher price for their livestock. It’s not unusual these days for families in London, Liverpool, Manchester and Birmingham to have milk with their breakfast, milk that has been delivered some 30 to 40 miles that morning, indeed milk is delivered to Caernarfon daily from the Vale of Clwyd. How easy it would be for the farmers of Sarn Meyllteyrn and the area to send milk to Pwllheli, Blaenau Ffestiniog or Barmouth, by breakfast time, this would also bring its own monetary gains, the land of Llyn is far more suited to sustaining animals than growing cereal crops especially wheat.

With the coming of the Railway the industrial age dawned, as did many of the largest and most productive ventures in The United Kingdom. As the Railways expanded, so came the need for expansion of the harbours, the docks and the wharfs as well as the construction of new ports, idle and useless coastlines and seashores became excellent beaches and the sites grew into fine towns. There are in Llyn numerous convenient  bathing beaches such as Abersoch, Aberdaron, Penllech, Porth Towyn, Porthdinllaen and Nevin as well as others and the advantages of having a Railway would bring them to attention and be a means to make them a places of value and importance, to be an attraction for hoards of visitors. We only have to look at the communities of Llanfairfechan and Penmaenmawr and beyond to Rhyl  as well as Barmouth to see what the advantage of rail  travel has given to these once unknown and remote places, and this proves beyond a doubt the importance of extending the rail network to the land of Llyn.

The coming of the Railway brings about a better environment within land management. Since opening the line from Caernarfon to Afonwen, the ditches and hedges of that part of the county have seen more spade work in the first years of opening than in the past hundred years. Land that never saw a plough has now become fruitful and productive, repaying tenfold the attention and labour that has gone into it.

By considering the time wasted on personal journeys the need for a Railway becomes clearly evident and of the utmost importance, Take for instance those residents who live in the furthest extremities of the Peninsula and may need some money and have to visit the bank or any other visit where one has to attend personally, a whole day will be taken for such a task, having a horse or carriage, is barely a significant factor either. The significant number of people that travel to Pwllheli every day as well as on special occasions is proof enough for the need for a railway in this part of the county, but in particular to the heartland of Llyn in the direction of Sarn Meyllteyrn as well as Nevin.

We believe its feasible to work the line from Porthdinllaen to Sarn for £2,500 a mile. It is said that the landowners are willing to sell land for a reasonable price if not a nominal sum, if this true and we do not have reason to doubt them, it would be one of the strongest arguments to undertake the building of the line and one of the best reasons for the success of the venture. Farmers should welcome the venture with open arms and support whole heartedly any original offer to create a Railway line for Llyn. The estimate only covers narrow gauge and not the double track needed for substantial and important traffic in the future linking The United Kingdom with Ireland through Porthdinllaen, a much larger sum would therefore be needed. The figure given was for an appropriate railway to serve Llyn. It would be say feasible to link Sarn with Porthdinllaen by means of a narrow gauge railway round about Plas yng Ngheidio or either through Nanhoron in the vicinity of Rhydclafdy. However it wouldn’t really be desirable to have a narrow gauge railway in Llyn due to its many disadvantages such as unloading and loading continuously of freight and goods.

The best option would be to see one of the large companies such as The Great Western, The Midland or The London and Northwest undertake the venture, especially The Great Western or The Midland. Despite our opposition to the narrow gauge it would be better than nothing. When we do have a Railway through Llyn then The plains of Garnfadryn, the Peaks of Clipgylfinir and Graig Ddu on Rhiw mountain, Maen melyn Llyn, the ruins and well of St Mary’s church Uwchmynydd, The cromlech at Cefnamwlch, the Ancient Church and Village of Aberdaron, the hillocks of Porthdinllaen and Carreg Llam as well as Nant Gwrthyern will be sites of National importance and visited from all over. Hells Mouth will become a haven for shipping and the mines will be developed on Mynydd Graig. Don’t be surprised to see lime kilns on the slopes of Uwchmynydd, where there’s ample limestone, this would prove invaluable to agriculture in Llyn, nearby on the same mountain is an opportunity for quarrying slates of good quality. We have mentioned only a few of the myriad advantages and benefits to be gained by the residents of Llyn if the Railway were to be extended into the heartland of Llyn as far as Sarn Meyllteyrn either through Trigwm Valley from Porthdinllaen or from Abersoch through the fertile valley of the Afon Soch.

If we were to apply to the great companies stating how inconvenient travel is and the number that travel, along with an estimation of how many cattle, sheep and pigs need transportation along with other relevant factors and signed by landowners, farmers, merchants as well as commercial travellers, drovers and others, then perhaps they would see the economic sense of building a Railway in this part of the country. They already know that by very little effort on their part they could create Porthdinllaen into a viable option and that traffic would soon be divided between Holyhead and Porthdinllaen, especially if steamships were introduced, and the railway line connected with Wicklow or Kingstown, the distance to the former from Porthdinllaen is only sixty miles and to the latter only ten miles more. This line would be more direct from London to Dublin and shorter by about fifty miles, than the one through Angelsey and the traveller would gain both in time and cost.

This line would also bring Ireland closer to the important towns and markets of the Midlands, such as Birmingham, Wolverhampton, Hereford and Worcester as well as bringing them closer to each other.

Our hope and desire is that this important and vast land of Llyn will not be deprived of a Railway for much longer, and that when in the future the Eisteddfod meets in Sarn or Aberdaron that they rejoice and applaud the line, so much so that they award a generous and worthy prize for an essay titled “ The invaluable benefits of the Railway in Llyn”



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