Wednesday, 1 February 2017

Ghosts of Aberglaslyn

Portmadoc Beddgelert & South Snowdon Railway
‘Ghosts of Aberglaslyn’ tells the amazing story of an electric railway project in North Wales that was never completed, involving a predecessor of the Rosyth based electrical engineering company Parsons Peebles, the inventor of Beechams Pills and father of the famous orchestra conductor, Sir Thomas Beecham, a Hungarian locomotive builder and the great great grandfather of Tara Palmer Tomkinson, the English socialite, "it girl", television presenter, model and charity patron. The book explains how James Cholmeley Russell, the Chairman and  Receiver of the North Wales Narrow Gauge Railways Company  played an instrumental role in causing the project to fail.

Some of the line was constructed between 1901 and 1909, but it never opened and the track bed eventually became part of the Welsh Highland Railway. The heady and fascinating story of political manoeuvrings, dashed hopes, obstructionism and technology is the subject of a new book, ‘Ghosts of Aberglaslyn’ - the brief life of the Portmadoc, Beddgelert and South Snowdon Railway by John Manners and Michael Bishop.
If the aspirations of the promoters of the Portmadoc, Beddgelert & South Snowdon Railway (PBSSR) had been realised, electric trains might now be carrying passengers between Porthmadog and Caernarfon in North Wales
In the book, John Manners examines the design, technology and building of the PBSSR and plans for electrifying the North Wales Narrow Gauge Railways line from Rhyd Ddu to Dinas, near Caernarfon. This is set within the story told by Michael Bishop of the companies that were involved, including how some six electric locomotives were built by Bruce Peebles & Co Ltd but none delivered and how a power station was constructed that still generates electricity today.  The legacy includes the Leeds built steam locomotive "Russell"  - named after James Cholmeley Russell and the unused bridge by the Goat Hotel at Beddgelert and nearby bridge abutments. 
The book comprises some 120 pages of text and a rich collection of photographs, including several published for the first time.
‘Ghosts of Aberglaslyn’ is available direct from the publisher, the Welsh Highland Railway Heritage Group at for £18 post paid in the UK or via your local bookshop quoting:

ISBN number 978-0-9930821-4-6
The Portmadoc, Beddgelert and South Snowdon Railway (PBSSR) was a 1 ft 11 1⁄2 in (597 mm) narrow gauge railway intended to connect Porthmadog with the North Wales Narrow Gauge Railways link terminus at Rhyd Ddu. Although some of the line was constructed between 1901 and 1906, it never opened and eventually became part of the Welsh Highland Railway, that now runs from Caernarfon to Porthmadog where it connects with the famous Ffestiniog Railway.

James Tomkinson PC (1840 – 10 Apr 1910) was an English landowner and Liberal politician and a director of the North Wales Power & Electric Traction Co. Ltd that built a power station originally intended to provide electricity to the Portmadoc, Beddgelert and South Snowdon Railway.
Born in 1840, Tomkinson lived at Willington Hall, Chester, He was the son of Battle of Waterloo veteran Lieutenant-general William Tomkinson and Susan, daughter of Thomas Tarleton of Bolesworth Castle, Cheshire. He was a High Sheriff of Cheshire, unsuccessfully contested Nuneaton for the Liberals but at the 1900 general election he was elected as Member of Parliament for Crewe, holding the seat until his death in April 1910. He was appointed a deputy lieutenant of Cheshire, became Second Church Estates Commissioner and was  a member of the Privy Council.

In 1871 Tomkinson married Emily Frances Palmer, a daughter of Sir George Palmer, 3rd Baronet.  Tomkinson died on 10 April 1910 from injuries sustained in a fall while participating in the House of Commons Steeplechase.
Charles William Tomkinson (1877–1939); James Edward Tomkinson, later Palmer-Tomkinson (1879–1961); James Algernon Palmer-Tomkinson (1915-1952) ;Charles Palmer-Tomkinson (born 1940); James Palmer-Tomkinson; Santa Palmer-Tomkinson, now Santa Montefiore (born 1970); Tara Palmer-Tomkinson (1971-2017)  - great great grandaughter of James Tomkinson

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