THE REBIRTH OF CARROG STATION
Carrog village lies between Llangollen and Corwen, near Llidiart y Parc and just off Telford’s London/Holyhead road. The name ‘Carrog’, a word for ‘brook’ or ‘torrent’ in old Welsh is the name by which the village is generally known. The old name Llansantffraid Glyndyfrdwy is still retained by the older part of the village.
It is also the name of a late medieval manor house (nowadays a farm house) near an ancient castle known as Owain Glyndwr’s mount. Owain Glyndwr was leader of the great Welsh revolt of 1400 and, for a time, was proclaimed Prince of Wales. The five span stone bridge over the river Dee has the date 1661 carved on one of its stones.
The area around Carrog is well known among walkers. Standing by the Dee, one looks up to see the very friendly village sprawling along the road, mostly above it, with the Llantysilio Mountain range on one side and the Berwyn Mountain range on the other. The view is magnificent.
Before 1890 the main village lay below the road and parts of it can still be seen close to the river bank.
Carrog Station lies on the flat valley floor separated from the village by the river. It was built in 1864/5 in stone and slate by the Llangollen and Corwen Railway Co. The first train to pass was the Ruabon to Corwen in May 1865. Later it became part of the GWR Ruabon to Barmouth line and was very popular with holiday makers. In the 1950s, rakes of carmine and cream liveried carriages regularly carried tourists from London and the northern conurbations to Snowdonia and the coast. The station and branch line closed as a result of the government’s reorganisation plan under Dr Beeching. The ‘Beeching Axe’ finally struck in 1964.
From 1964 the station became more and more dilapidated as nature reclaimed the site. Three years after closure the station still retained the corrugated sheds, telegraph poles, the signal box, the waiting room building and one railway track.
Carrog Station 1967.
The stationmaster’s house was taken over by Glyndwr District Council, as a council house, and although not modernised was well maintained. The station itself was not. Both the corrugated sheds were taken down and the signal box demolished. The Platform 2 waiting room building was vandalised and with no roof slates or lead flashing to protect it from winter frosts and rain, it collapsed.
Carrog Station 1991.
The telegraph poles were taken down, railings removed and some lamps, posts and signs disappeared. The main station buildings attached to the station house had deteriorated badly but were re-slated by the local authority, which helped prevent them from becoming completely derelict.
In 1989 Carrog Station property was for sale and Martin Christie, a Llangollen Railway Society member and Mechanical Engineer from Cynwyd, a nearby village, bought it as his home and residence. Martin started work on the station master’s house putting in new floors, central heating, treating of timbers, new bathroom, garage etc, in fact all the things you normally do after buying an old property in rural Wales! Then, after obtaining planning permission proceeded to restore the ladies waiting room, the booking hall, the ticket office and the areas bordering the platform. The remainder of the station had to wait.
To erase 25 years of neglect is not only very expensive, but also time consuming, especially if there was only one person to do the work. Martin had received no approach from the Railway at this time. Fortunately he was confident enough of the Railway’s intentions to change the previous owners plans for a larger café/restaurant that were included with the property purchase to a small one occupying the old ladies waiting room and toilet only. This was modelled on the similar conversion already completed at Berwyn Station and ensured that the railway could again use the original station building. This decision prepared the way for subsequent events.
In January 1992, Quentin McGuinness, a member of Llangollen Railway, knocked on Martin’s door. He explained that some LR members thought that Carrog Station should be restored to the early 1950’s period: bullhead rails, wooden sleepers, wooden post signals, and all building details wherever possible. What did Martin think? He was in complete agreement.
Quentin formed an organisation called 'Friends of Carrog’ (FOC) ) to help with the labour and finances and manage the station restoration. They planned to open the station for Easter 1994. It didn’t work out that way, as it was such a big restoration.
Martin gave up his usual employment in the North Sea to make himself available full time at Carrog and Quentin in turn gave up his job and relocated to Llangollen. With the manual and financial resources they had FOC started to erase dilapidation. They needed a great deal of resources and materials and what they couldn’t get by begging and borrowing they had to buy.
With railway restoration, the search for ‘bits’ is pre-requisite. The art of scrounging and scavenging had to be extended as period railway artefacts, equipment and building materials were becoming increasingly difficult to find. Some members excel at it. Llangollen Railway’s stations had previously been ‘raided’ several times by other railways, which was felt to give the group some moral right to continue the procedure!
The logical start, for the scavenging parties was on the Ruabon-Barmouth line itself. Four trailer loads of ‘imperial’ (pre-metrification size) bricks came from Corwen, Trefor obliged with the remains of its demolished signal box and water tank base. At Ruabon, Harry ‘H’ Barber discovered an iron platform gate, which quickly found its way to Carrog. The gate is now the public entrance to platform 2. Platform edging slabs came from the site of Bala Junction station. As there were many more available than needed at Carrog approx 150 extra slabs were collected and earmarked for the Corwen Station project. These are stored on the trackside at Carrog Station.
In the spring of 1993 a party went to the site of Llandderfel station where Quentin had noticed some spearhead railings. The station had been similar to Carrog in layout, but sadly the buildings had been levelled around 1980. By 1993 not very much remained at all except parts of the platform and some rusty railings. After a hard day’s work it was assured that a little of Llandderfel station will be preserved at Carrog. The railings were repaired and erected along platforms 1 and 2.
The rebuilding of the signal box started almost from scratch after intensive cleaning and tidying of the place revealed that seven or eight incomplete courses of bricks, and the tunnel where the signal wires and point rods passed under the platform, were all that remained of the old signal box. A new concrete floor was cast, and under direction of John ’Chicken’ Mason, the signal box quickly started to take shape.
Carrog signal box reconstruction in progress,
John Mason at work.
As the brick-laying approached platform height four cast iron locking room windows were needed for building in. These were not yet available as there was a delay in demolition of the ‘donor’ signal box at Houghton Halt. Acquiring it took Martin over nine months of patient negotiation. This was mainly due to the fact that the box was situated on an operational railway line and was only accessible across private land under high voltage power lines! Consequently there was a paperwork mountain to climb. Also the national railways were in the throes of privatisation. Meanwhile the Carrog Station programme could not wait and to avoid delaying the building work, Martin made a new set of windows in steel and Bob Maxwell had them galvanised. Bricks to start the lower section were already available from Corwen.
The brickwork progressed well – the new windows of the locking room were built in and further courses of bricks were laid to the point where the upper windows and wood built upper section could be fixed. Once it arrived at Carrog, the upper section and centre section window frames had to be cut in half and rebuilt as a non-opening ½ window in order to fit the smaller Carrog Box.
The lever frame came from Green Lane signal box in Chester and was installed in the summer of 1995. This had to be lowered into the new building by crane before the roof was put on.
Another productive expedition was in October 1994. After negotiations and for a mere £200, Martin had bought the redundant GWR waiting room at Weston-sub-Edge, on the northern half of the Cheltenham-Stratford, ‘Honeybourne’ line, from the BR Property Board. Thirty volunteers took three days to carefully demolish the waiting room and urinal buildings and to clean and palletise the bricks ready for transport. Lorries were provided by ‘FOC’ members Phil Morrey and Colin Dobson. It is now the new platform 2 waiting room and the toilet block tucked away by the side of the main station building. Whilst on site note was taken of the Weston Sub-edge weighbridge office building, details of which were later duplicated in the new toilet block, a brick building of similar scale and character.
Most of the material used in the station restoration has been reclaimed. According to Quentin, around £60,000, including grants, has been spent by FOC and a further £10,000 - £12,000 from Llangollen Railway. The real cost would be impossible to estimate as finds, donated items, materials scavenged and scrounged cannot be evaluated in pound notes. An enormous amount in cost saving comes also from the dedicated volunteer members who, on most weekends and some weekdays spend their time working at Carrog.
In May 1995 FOC member Mick Sedgeley, organised an expedition to the privately owned Maentwrog Road station on the Blaenau Ffestiniog-Bala line. He obtained a pair of cast iron station name board posts. The price: a photograph of them when commissioned! These now support the Carrog Station platform 1 name-board.
In June 1995, when out walking the track bed near Drws-y-Nant, Quentin came upon a wooden signal post. This quickly found its way to Carrog and is in store until the 6 sets of wood post signals for Carrog Station and its approaches are designed and constructed by FOC.
Photographic records showed that the up platform had a pair of typical GWR corrugated iron sheds – a 20ft goods and parcels lock up and a 12ft lamp store. Both had gone. Quentin went in search of replacements. He found the larger one at Aynho Station near Banbury. The owner Lewis Yates was just about to dispose of it. Quentin bought it for £175. The lamp shed, which had originally been sited at Llangower station, came from the Bala Lake Railway where it had served as a waiting shelter. Quentin arrived just in time, as it also was about to be replaced. Both sheds needed an almost complete rebuild before being erected in their final positions.
Tin shed being moved into place (centre) and ‘local
residents’ in the foreground. Rebuilt signal box in
background. Piles of bricks for toilet block (left hand side)
and waiting room (right hand side).