'The Chronicle' article

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The following article was written by a society volunteer and was published in the December/ January issue 2005 of 'The Chronicle', a community paper which covers Oswestry and the Cain, Tanat and Vyrnwy valleys. A similar article, albeit in the Welsh language, was published in 'Yr Ysgub', and has also been reproduced on this site in the Welsh section, complete with pictures.

Following nine years of negotiations, the Cambrian Railways Society recently acquired the derelict 1.5 miles long Nantmawr quarry branch from British Rail Property Board.

Formed in 1972 to preserve Oswestry’s railway heritage, the Society has thus far concentrated its efforts on the establishment of a railway centre and museum alongside the town’s former main line railway station. Passenger trains have been operating along the line to Middleton Road at roughly monthly intervals.

However, since the society’s earliest days, it has always been the intention to expand out of Oswestry.

At this stage it must be noted that the society is not to be confused with the independent Cambrian Railway Trust at nearby Llynclys, which forms part of a separate scheme.

Thus, the society examined the possibility of acquiring the derelict, albeit intact Nantmawr branch which once distributed the quarry’s high quality limestone all over Britain. The section acquired by the society runs from Hanson’s Llanyblodwell/ Llanddu quarry near the A495 junction with the Blodwell Bank road, up the valley to Nantmawr. The branch dates from the 1860s and once formed part of the ‘Potts Line’, which formerly ran through Llanymynech and on to Shrewsbury. It shared tracks with the much lamented Tanat Valley Railway for a short distance, from Llanddu quarry to Blodwell Junction. The area is rich in industrial archaeology and forms something of a ‘quarry triangle’ with the La Farge, Hansons and Nantmawr quarries all within a stone’s throw of each other. The La Farge quarry is the only one of the three currently operational.

Since the beginning of September, efforts have been concentrated on unearthing the tracks from many years of earth and undergrowth. With the aid of a band of local volunteers, progress was such by mid November that it was decided to open the site to the public.

On the afternoon of Sunday 14th November, following a short introduction by Society Chairman, Dave Smith, a ribbon was cut by Cllr David Cooper, Borough Mayor, declaring the project open. This paved the way for the recently arrived Wickham Trolley to be driven along the first 100 yards by Project Manager, Ken Owen. The vehicle was once used by platelayers for track maintenance. It’s styling is not lost on comic filmmakers either, such as those responsible for ‘St Trinians’.

Further evidence of the society’s recent successes can be found by the fact that the museum, located on Oswald Road, in the heart of Oswestry, has gained official museum registration. Following extensive refurbishment, the site is now dedicated to the history of the once extensive network of railways in the Oswestry area. The museum is open daily, 10 – 4 pm hrs. Call 01691 671 749.

A consortium of society members also recently purchased the former Cambrian Railways Institute social club, latterly used by Oswestry Town Football Club, and which had been threatened with demolition by developers. The building now serves as a venue for society social events ever other Wednesday. Membership is open to any member of the public at £3 p/a.

As to the future, the Nantmawr Branch project forms an integral part of the society’s long term plans for preserving the archaeological industrial and railway heritage of the whole area.

The society would be delighted to hear from anyone with photographs, artefacts, tales, and memories of Tanat Valley railway, and indeed, railways in the Oswestry area as a whole.

If you would like to join the friendly, local team of volunteers on the Nantmawr project, please contact Project Manager Ken Owen on 07802 880263. Working sessions take place every weekend. An anorak-style knowledge of railways is not essential, although a sense of humour would be a wonderful aid!

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Working sessions take place every weekend and occasionally during the week. An anorak style knowledge of railways is not essential, although a sense of humour would be a wonderful aid!

Our volunteer workforce includes a healthy mixture of young and not so young, male & female - you can be assured of warm welcome, for which the people of the Shropshire-Welsh borderland are renowned.

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