This book is dedicated to the residents of Ruthin who remember and loved their railway
This book has been created thanks to funding from the Ruthin and District Civic Association, Clocaenog Forest Wind Farm Fund, Ruthin Town Council, Denbighshire County Council and Heritage Fund Cadw
Ruthin Railway Station opened on 1st March 1862 and closed to passengers in 1962. Although we acknowledge the station's important history in this book, it is mainly made up of memories from those who travelled on it or lived by it.
Timetable courtesy of Vernon Hughes
Ruthin Station was originally situated where the Briec Roundabout is now, and as can be seen in the maps over the next few pages, the whole layout of the road there (and indeed quite a significant part of the town) has now completely changed.
Ruthin residents, Vernon and Arnold Hughes, are the sons of the last station master, William Glynne Hughes (pictured on the left). They came to Ruthin in 1955 and moved into the station house. Vernon remembers one of the perks of living here was that they were able to get cheaper fares. He also recalls a holiday where the family stayed in a railway carriage, somewhere around the south coast of England.
Vernon's wife, Doris, remembers the Station building as being very cold, particularly the bathroom!
Family photographs courtesy of Vernon Hughes from his years living at the Station House
Map drawn by Brian W Williams 20th July 2012, showing where the railway was situated in Ruthin, based on 1912 Denbighshire OS Sheet
Map courtesy of Brian W Williams
1. Signalman R Williams with an unnamed colleague in the Ruthin signal box. 2. Ruthin station 1949. 3. Ruthin station 1933 (taken from Railways Along the Clwyd Valley Corwen to Rhyl by W. G. Rear)
Anne Roberts remembers her father coming home from war on the train. She had been supposed to meet him at Ruthin Station but unfortunately, the train was delayed so, as she was only two and a half years old at the time, she was told to go home to bed. When her father eventually arrived home at 10pm, she was called down to meet him, but instead of her father, in front of her she saw a stranger who spoke a peculiar language (English - Anne and her mother only spoke Welsh) and Anne burst into tears because she didn't know him and was frightened!
Doris Hughes also had a similar experience when her father returned home after the war. She was four and a half years years old at that time and to her, he was a frightening stranger who suddenly appeared in the middle of the night.
When Lavinia Williams' Taid, Mr Glyn Griffiths (pictured left), was a prisoner in World War II, he was held at Stalag 4B in Leipzig, Germany.
On being released from Eastern Germany he was put onto a train when he got back to the UK. On arrival at Ruthin Station, local Minister, Mr O J Evans, went to meet him and accompanied him home.
After the end of the war, some German prisoners of war moved to Ruthin to live and their families are still there.
Brian W Williams recalls that his first memory of the Ruthin Railway and Station was when his father, mother and himself arrived by train on the 4th of January 1944. They were going to view what was to be their new home, a little smallholding called Lodge Isaf, which was situated roughly halfway between Ruthin and Cerrig-y-Drudion.
John Roberts remembers that when he was 4 or 5 years old, he caught the train from Ruthin to Derwen on Boxing Day to visit his aunt and uncle. After leaving Derwen Station, they crossed the railway bridge that went over the river, and were able to see the salmon leaping over the rocks on their way to spawn further up towards Hiraethog. His uncle, in common with many others throughout the country, rented a piece of land from the railway where he grew a variety of vegetables and flowers.
He also remembers one occasion, when on a return journey by train from Derwen, the Guard, who was named Tom Porter, asked whether 'the little boy would like to see the engine?" John remembers being lifted onto the footplate and can still recall the glow, the heat and the roar of the fire, made all the more dramatic as it was very dark (the wartime blackout was still in place).
He also remembers his father taking him from Ruthin to the top of Snowdon by train and one day John and a friend from Borthyn School came to the station to watch the shunting of the engines which meant they were late back and got into trouble.
John Roberts recalled that during the Second World War, farmers had to grow a quota of various cereals, such as wheat, barley and oats and then had to sell a certain proportion of the crop to the government. His father, together with other farmers, would take their corn usually by horse and cart to the station to be weighed and checked, before being sent to its final destination by train. Timber was also brought to the station by lorry and sent by train to the coalmines of South Wales and other areas to be used as pit props. Farmers had to hold tight to their frightened horses when the trains were blowing their whistles or blowing off excess steam. This was true when his father used to visit Felin Einion, near Pwllglas, to have his corn ground.
Some larger farms would hire a special train to move their animals.
At one time, The Grammar Schools were split with the boys' school being in Denbigh and the girls' being in Ruthin. The girls' school was where the small house part is in Brynhyfryd now. Roger Edwards remembers that love letters were often passed between train carriages as they passed.
John Roberts remembers that many pupils from around the areas of Eyarth, Nantclwyd, Derwen and Gwyddelwern travelled to and from school on the train, arriving in Ruthin at 8.40am and going home on the 4 o'clock train. One of those people was Eric Jones who became a famous climber.
When John lived at Galchog, Llanfwrog as a young boy, he learned that if the wind was blowing in the right direction, he was able to hear the progress of the morning train roaring over Nant Clwyd Bridge. He knew then that it was time for him to get on his bike and cycle off to school.
Another memory John has is of a time some years later when he was a pupil at Ysgol Brynhyfryd and he would sometimes meet his mother at Ruthin Station after school and catch the 4 o'clock train to Derwen, returning on the 7 o'clock train.
Brian W Williams recalls that when he attended the Grammar School at Brynhyfryd in Ruthin, the school bus stopped outside the Railway Station where he and other pupils would get off, cross the railway bridge and walk up Jumbo Hill to get to the school. This continued for three years, from 1949 to 1952
Local resident, Mr Arthur Williams, used to send his dog, Mot, to the station from home to collect the morning paper as they would arrive early by train. The newspaper would be handed to Mot by Ruthin Station staff, and Mot would then return home with it, tied in a roll by string. Quite a few residents remember this.
The Land Cruise train started in 1951 and ran for ten years and crossed the whole of Wales. It departed three or four times a week, accompanied by commentary about the area. Passengers could relax, listen and enjoy a cup of tea or coffee during the journey. The train travelled up the Vale of Clwyd, picking up passengers at the main stations before joining the Ruabon to Barmouth line and then through Porthmadog, Criccieth, Afonwen, Caernarfon, Bangor and the North Wales coastline. There would be a two hour break at Barmouth. Members of the group recall travelling from Ruthin to Snowdon, Rhyl and Llandudno.
Valerie Langford Jones has very happy memories of going on the Land Cruise with her Auntie.
Residents also remember going on trips from Borthyn and Rhos Street Schools to see the Great Exhibition in London, and on the popular Sunday School trips, usually to Rhyl (more on these later in the book). Some remember the excitement of going to Liverpool to see Ken Dodd in the Christmas pantomime.
Many people from Ruthin used to catch the train to Rhyl as they worked there. Anne Roberts worked in Woolworths in Rhyl. Many people lost their jobs when the station closed as very few owned cars at that time.
In 1954 you could buy a four day runabout ticket for 16 shillings and go all round North Wales, but Roger Edwards remembers that most residents' train trips only went as far as Rhyl due to the fact that the train journey there took one and a half hours. John Roberts recalls that his father, David Henry Roberts, said that he always knew when it was a Corwen and Bala day trip to Rhyl as there would be two Great Western engines to tackle the steep gradients from Ruthin and Derwen to Graig Lelo Wernddu.
In 1951 a trip was organised for the pupils of Brynhyfryd Grammar school, to see the Festival of Britain exhibition on the South Bank of the Thames, and Brian W Williams was one of the pupils who went, as was Doris Hughes. Brian recalls that he had to be at the station for 5.30am as it was to be a very long journey. The train also stopped at Denbigh to pick up pupils from Denbigh Grammar School, and the train finally arrived at Euston Station in London at 11am. Brian could not recall what time they had to be back at Euston for the return journey but it seemed to him that it was after midnight when he arrived back at Ruthin.
Most people remembered the Sunday School trips and that the last special trip was in 1957. On Sunday School trip day, usually the third Thursday in June, all the schools and shops in Ruthin wold close down for the day and sometimes, a special train would be laid on to go to Rhyl. Valerie Langford Jones remembers going on a Sunday School trip to Rhyl from Bethania Chapel. She also remembers taking the train numbers and going to catch the bus to Denbigh one morning and something had hit the bridge.
Brian W Williams recalled that about a quarter of a mile down on the railway line from Ruthin to Denbigh, there was a branch which led off to the limestone quarry situated between Ruthin and Rhewl. This branch line crossed the Ruthin to Denbigh road (the A525) and wasn't used by the passenger railway engines on the mainline as this track was substandard. It was serviced by a tractor type locomotive (photo left) that usually brought one or two trucks that had been shunted onto the branch, to the quarry. John Roberts recalls being told that originally, the quarry had used a small, vertical-boilered steam locomotive but this was replaced in the 1930s with the diesel shunter that was used until the quarry closed in 1962. If the diesel shunter was out of action, a BR light goods steam engine would come up the quarry, crossing the road close to where Ruthin PreCast Concrete is now located.
The trucks were filled with lime, which had been processed from the limestone at the quarry. Some of the stones were taken to John Summers Steelworks at Hawarden Bridge. The trucks were covered with tarpaulins and shunted down adjacent to the Ruthin to Denbigh line and were then coupled up to a steam train and taken to their intended destination.
The quarry engine and crew - photograph courtesy of Moira Roberts
John Roberts remembers that one of the signalmen was Mr Curtis, a tall man with white, wavy hair. A few minutes before the train arrived, he would cross from the signal box and stand on the platform with the staff under his arm. He was also prominent in the work of St John's Ambulance.
Maintenance teams, known as gangers and plate-layers, operated from Ruthin. One of these was Charles Hughes, who was also the caretaker of the Tabernacle Chapel. He was the grandfather of Barbara Hughes (later Barbara Birch) who worked at the Ruthin branch of Barclays Bank for many years. Two other well-remembered names were Iorrie Foulkes, and Goronwy Morris from Fron Haul, Llanfwrog, who were locomotive firemen. Moira Roberts remembers Ted Roberts who was the father of Eddie Roberts the Barber, was a porter and 'Uncle Bob' was also here but worked in a higher position than a porter, although she isn't sure what that was exactly.
Tecwyn Roberts (lorry pictured left) initially operated his haulage business from the station and then moved to where B&M is situated now. Anne Roberts remembered the men loading and unloading large cannisters. The two men pictured are John Morris and Frankie Roberts. (Photograph courtesy of Moira Roberts)
Working on the railway could be dangerous, especially for those involved with shunting the trucks. The men would run alongside the free-wheeling trucks and apply the brake to bring the truck to a controlled stop, although there was always the risk of tripping over the sleepers and falling under the wheels. This happened to Bob Hughes, who lost both of his lower legs, but survived.
Once, during the late 1940s or early 1950s, wagons at Derwen Station were left without their brakes on properly and the result was that they ran downhill freely through all the stations, before coming to a halt on the level at Llanrhaerdr.
A fireman on the Ruthin to Corwen train died when he climbed onto the tender of the locomotive to bring the coal forward as the train went under Ffynogion Bridge near Eyarth. Another mishap occured when a refuse lorry was negotiating the level crossing at the north end of the station. The train hit the back of the lorry. Luckily no one was injured, just badly shaken.
In 1955, an RAF plane on a night training flight crashed into a cornfield near the railway at Min y Clwyd, killing the pilot.
John Roberts also remembers Robert Evans who was a porter at Ruthin Station and also a friend of his parents. He had many interesting stories to tell about working on railways in various locations and said that during the First World War, he worked on hospital trains, carrying injured soldiers to Portugal. He told John of the derailment at the station, when a locomotive came off the rails. In later years, after 1955, when passenger trains only ran between Chester, Mold and Ruthin, the locomotives would be detached from the carriages and would run up into the cuttings at Railway Terrace. When it had passed the points, the driver would blow the whistle to let the signalman know to change the points over, so they could go on to the other track to run around the train and hook up at the other end, ready for the journey back towards Denbigh. One dark winter's morning, it appeared there was a misunderstanding between the train crew and the signalman, hence the derailment, and all those involved had to go to Crewe to an inquiry!
John Roberts remembers being on the W.E.A. trip to the National Library at Aberystwyth, led by Bleddyn Lloyd Griffith, the headmaster of Brynhyfryd County Grammar School, as it was known then. It was May 1950 and Bob Hughes (the railway worker who lost both his legs, as told on the previous page) was carried up the steps of the library by John's father, David Henry Roberts and G. R. Richards of Hafod. Of course there was no disabled access in those days. Bob Hughes had two brothers who also worked for the railway in the Vale of Clwyd - Goronwy Hughes (known as Goronwy Graig) was a clerk in the goods department and William Owain Hughes was a signalman at Denbigh. On that trip John's father bought him a book , 'The Worlds' Railways and How they Work' which he says definitely started his interest in railways.
Painting of the last steam train of the day at Ruthin Station by Derek Roberts
Another recollection from Brian W Williams is concerning the original bridge over the river in Park Road (now the A494) in the 1960's. The present bridge was built to replace it. The old bridge was narrow with a roadway width of about 9 feet and footways either side that were approximately 1'6'' to 2' in width. The bridge sides consisted of vertical steel sections about 6' apart and 7' high. Steel tubing linked these sections from the top down at 2' centres. Brian remembers he had seen similar railway bridges to the one at Ruthin and it is his view that it was built to take the original route of the railway from Ruthin to Corwen, and the Park Place Hotel was intended to be the 'Station Hotel' with railway workers cottages in Park Road. It is now known that the railway was rerouted due to objections from the owners of Ruthin Castle, because the railway would be in view as it passed through the Cae Ddol/Lon Fawr area.
There is a story about nobility travelling from London to Ruthin by Train to see Mrs Cornwallis-West (Patsy). The person in question left the train at Rhewl and travelled to Ruthin Castle by coach with the curtains drawn. It was rumoured to be Edward VII although some say it was a local resident who just happened to look like him!
A few group participants remembered hearing about an armed robbery that took place at the station in 1963. The story appeared in the Free Press at the time but nothing can be found online at the time of writing this book. The robbers arrived by car on what was the payday for station staff, but nothing further is known about who the robbers were, whether they were ever caught and if so, what their sentence was.
Brian W Williams states that over the years, he has kept up a keen interest in Ruthin Railway Station and has assembled a collection of photographs, railway tickets, a short movie clip of the station area when it was at the point of demolition and photographs showing the demolition in progress (all within this book). From this information, he has put together a computerised drawing and picture of the station as he remembers it, which can be seen on the following page.
John Roberts says that the main types of steam locomotives he remembers were the Johnson 2P Passenger Engines which could most often be seen on the Denbigh to Corwen trains, and occasionally, the smaller Webb Coal Tank. The last years of passenger trains between Chester and Ruthin saw more modern steam engines, such as the BR built Class 4 Tank Engines. In the last couple of years of goods trains, before the closure of Ruthin station, BR Class 5 Engines were used. These could be identified by the whistle being located behind the chimney. John says he was told by a train driver called Thomas Owen Jones (also known as ToJo) that in the early days of the Land Cruise, Class 2 Engines were used but as these trips became more popular and the trains heavier, more powerful Class 4 Engines were needed to tackle the steep parts of the line between Ruthin and Corwen and Llanuwchllyn and Dolgellau. The line between Ruthin and Corwen was taken up in 1964, and two years after that the section was closed. A black 5 locomotive was used to push and pull the trucks which transported the rails and sleepers. On these trains, water from the River Clwyd would be sucked up into the tender to keep the boiler topped up.
Photograph is of Ruthin Station looking north west on 22nd October 1961. The SLS Railtour waits to depart to Corwen. Photo by Bevan Price.
Computerised drawing by Brian W Williams
Brian W Williams remembers travelling between Ruthin and Denbigh, just before the closure of the line and the stations at Rhewl and Llanrhaeadr were already closed. The train ran through from Ruthin directly to Denbigh without stopping so the journey only took 8 minutes.
Retirement of the final Station Master in Ruthin, William Glynne Hughes. Photograph courtesy of Vernon Hughes
Photos courtesy of Brian W Williams
Film by Brian W Williams, music "Days of Wine and Roses" Mantovani
There were originally plans for two rows of houses forming Railway Terrace; one on either side of the track. The houses form an arc to follow the railway line. The houses and the iron railings are listed. Photographs by Fiona Gale
For many years, the old station crane had been kept just outside Ruthin Craft Centre, sadly rusting away which is a far cry from its glory days, loading and unloading coal at Ruthin Station. Recently, Ruthin and District Civic Association partnered with the Craft Centre on a project to conserve and repair it. They applied to the 15-Minute Heritage Programme run by Cadw and were successful. During spring and summer 2022, 60 years since the last passenger train passed through Ruthin on 30th April 1962, work began on the repairs. The work was sponsored by local business, Jones Bros. who were involved with clearing the railway site over 50 years ago. The crane was given a full facelift, involving painting and welding, to ensure its survival into the future.
Some original tickets, owned by Brian W Williams - and some replicas adorning a Ruthin car park.. have you spotted them when out and about?
We would like to thank the following people for their contribution to this informative and enjoyable book
Valerie Langford Jones
Cllr Anne Roberts MBE
Brian W Williams
Fiona Gale MBE
Kathy Barham CEO and Founder of Book of You CIC