Powys Digital History Project

The Elan Valley Railway 2
On the walls of the dams

  A changing network
Many of the branches of the Elan Valley Railway network ran along the bottom of the valleys, which were flooded after the completion of the dams. These linked quarries, cement sheds, workshops, and stone-dressing yards with the construction sites at the base of the dams. Elan Valley railway locomotive
Temporary branch lines were also used at various levels, cut into the sides of the valleys for delivering stone and other materials as close as possible to where they were needed.
At the peak of the dam-building operation the network is thought to have extended to some 33 miles in length.
Many side-tipping wagons were used so that very heavy loads of rock could be discharged easily. One of the locomotives used on the railway, the "Elan", is shown above right.

on the face of the
dam wall at

County Archives

Track on dam wallEarly photographs of the construction stages of the dams show locomotives, cranes and wagons perched on very precarious looking embankments cut into the steep valley sides at various levels.

A common practice for all the dams was to use a section of railway track cantilevered out from the face of the towering dam wall. These were supported by timbers resting on masonry pegs jutting out at regular intervals along the almost vertical dam wall.

The location of
the Elan Valley dams
and reservoirs
is shown on the
sketch map.  

The postcard reproduced above shows such a perilous lookingCaban Coch dam trackway trackway in use in the late stage of construction of the valve tower which tops the dam at Pen-y-Gareg. A similar system can be seen in the photograph of Caban Coch dam under construction (right).

The stone projections can be seen today on the dams when not hidden by water spilling over the tops when the reservoirs are full. They are visible in a recent photograph of Pen-y-Gareg dam on this website.

Some of the former railway trackbeds survive as paths or roadways alongside the reservoirs, including the route through "Devil’s Gulch" mentioned on the previous page.

This is the second of two pages on the Elan Valley Railway.

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