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The Corris Railway (Paperback)

The Story of a Mid-Wales Slate Railway

Colour Books Photographic Books Transport World History > UK & Ireland > Wales

By Peter Johnson
Imprint: Pen & Sword Transport
Series: Narrow Gauge Railways
Pages: 208
Illustrations: 200 colour & black and white illustrations, maps and track diagrams
ISBN: 9781399077262
Published: 16th January 2023

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One of Wales’ oldest narrow gauge railways, the 2ft 3in gauge Corris Railway was built to carry slate from several quarries in the Dulas valley to wharves on the river Dyfi. At first forbidden to use steam locomotives or to carry passengers, it overcame these obstacles and became an essential part of the community that it served.

It was also a forerunner in encouraging tourists, offering inclusive tours to nearby Talyllyn, passengers travelling on the train and on railway-operated road services.

Taken over by the Great Western Railway in 1930, the railway was closed by British Railways in 1948, apparently for good. Fortunately, the last two steam locomotives and some rolling stock was saved by the nearby Talyllyn Railway, where it played an essential role in that railway’s preservation. Eventually, the thoughts of enthusiasts turned to reviving the Corris Railway, and, after many twists and turns, the first passengers were carried on a short section in 2002.

Historian Peter Johnson has delved into many sources to uncover the intricacies of the railway’s origins, its development, operation and revival.

The Corris Railway was one of the earliest narrow gauge slate railways in mid Wales, in some respects similar to its near neighbour the Talyllyn Railway, which obtained both locomotives and a number of rolling stock items when the Corris closed. Unlike the Talyllyn, the Corris originally used horse power before steam locomotion was introduced. The line ran from Machynlleth, where it met the standard gauge Cambrian Railway, via Corris to the slate quarries at Aberllefeni and eventually to the Ratgoed Quarry.

As I have come to expect from from Peter Johnson and his publishers Pen & Sword, the book gives an in-depth account of the trials and tribulations of the early days and the whole book has a detailed selection of maps and diagrams, and is illustrated throughout with both historical photographs more up to date ones of considerable interest to historians and modellers alike.

The final section of the book covers the re-birth of the railway by the Corris preservation society, who have made considerable progress in re-opening part of the line and including rebuilding replicas of the two locomotives and the elegant passenger coaches.

I must end this review with the mention of my experience of visiting the line in the very earliest days of its re-birth in the early 1980's. Then, the sole method of conveying passengers was an ex-NCB man-riding coach, hauled by a Simplex tractor, so things have come a long way since then. So, an excellent account of a most interesting narrow-gauge railway - the book has the effect of your reviewer looking towards a visit to the line when next in Wales.

Bradford Railway Circle "The Circular"

"This book covers the journey in detail with maps, old B&W photos from the early days to some wonderful colour photos of the railway today, including its restored buildings and numerous restored locos. This book doesn't disappoint and will be enjoyed by many."

Branch Line Society Members Journal

If you are interested in narrow gauge lines or want to model this interesting narrow gauge line, then this book ought to be added to your collection. I enjoyed reading it - and I hope you will too.

Great Western Study Group's Newsletter - Winter 2022

"The illustrations chosen include some excellent studies of the time, that used as the tailpiece showing No 3 threading a slate train through Corris being particularly apt. Well indexed, and including a bibliography it is a well-produced book that I can recommend to those interested in narrow gauge railways, especially those of North Wales."

John New, The Stephenson Locomotive Society Journal, March/April 2022

"Seasoned narrow gauge historian Peter Johnson has done an excellent job in chronicling the chequered history of the Corris."

Great Western Society

I strongly recommend it as a history of the railway and also a social history of a short valley in mid-Wales whose fortunes rose and fell with slate.

The Railway Correspondence and Travel Society

Review by Gerry Nichols

Overall, the book is good value for money and recommended as a comprehensive history of the Corris Railway.

The Stephenson Locomotive Society

This is a most impressive and well presented publication.

West Somerset Railway Association

This book presents a well-researched and detailed account of the day-to-day working of a minor railway of a type long since consigned to history.

Industrial Railway Society - reviewed by Martin Shill

A very interesting book and an impressive image archive.

Read the full Spanish review here

Miniaturas JM

This book presents a well-researched and detailed account of the day-to-day working of a minor railway of a type long since consigned to history.

Bulletin No.1045 – March 2020 - reviewed by Martin Shill

Overall, this is an excellent addition to the Corris Railway bibliography, and achieves its objective of revealing much detailed information not previously known.

Ffestiniog Railway Magazine, No 248, Spring 2020

Readable and well illustrated this is more recommended, if not essential reading on the Welsh narrow gauge.

Llanfair Railway Journal, No 234, January 2020

An interesting look at this charming byway.

Railway Modeller, April 2020

"The book is a fascinating, in-depth study of the Corris Railway, taking the reader from the horse era of the 1850s right up to date with the Corris Railway Society's most recent achievements and future aspirations."

Reviewed by

6024 Preservation Society

This is a great book because it is easy to access, the images (both black and white and colour) are clear and informative, and the financial statistics at the back explain why and how the original Corris completely lost its way. This is a decent book to get up to speed on a lesser-known but worthwhile project.

Steam World, March 2020

As featured in

Branch Lines and Light Railway Publications

It is worth of a place on the bookshelves of enthusiasts of narrow gauge and other quirky independent railways, and is a valuable record of the history of this little railway and it's place in the Dulas valley. I found it an enjoyable and informative read, and as a modeller, a good source of inspiration.

Read the full review here

Michael's Model Railways

All of this is presented in the quality package that Pen & Sword has become renowned for. The text is easily readable, the layouts making best use of the plentiful picture content, not all of which this reviewer had seen before. In summary this is an impressive work, both to enjoy reading and to have on one's shelf.

Narrow Gauge World, No 145 (Jan/Feb 2020)
 Peter Johnson

About Peter Johnson

Best known for his books on narrow gauge and Welsh railways, Peter Johnson first wrote about travelling post offices in 1985 and added the Post Office (London) Railway to his portfolio in 1995. Living in Leicester, he was employed in local authority fire service communications for 29 years. 

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