Residents of a seaside town were stunned by the discovery of mysterious train tracks leading to the sea this week.
Many people living in Barmouth were unaware of the existence of the decades-long lost railway, which for decades was submerged by waves and sand at the northern end of Gwynedd Beach.
It is believed that the discovery was made due to the displacement of the sand patterns, which caused the sea to reveal the traces.
Read more: If you want to know more about Gwynedd news, head over to our Gwynedd news page here
Among the first to see them was local roofer Dicky Sharp, who joked that he had found the “railroad for Cantre’r Gwaelod”- the legendary ancient submerged kingdom of Cardigan Bay.
Others joked that the trails could have once been used to smuggle contraband into Gwynedd, reports NorthWalesLive.
Their existence has come as a surprise to most. “I thought I knew every inch of Barmouth but never encountered this,” one person said.
When Dicky shared his photos on Facebook, they have given rise to a succession of theories as to the purpose of the railway.
One person suggested they were leftovers from Barmouth’s fishing industry and were used to bring ships ashore for repairs.
Initial speculation focused on the construction of the city’s sea wall following the great storm of 1928 which devastated sections of the promenade. In 1930, a series of iron rails were laid along the ball so that sand and debris could be removed by cart. Others were set up on the beach to carry ballast while steam engines worked on the construction of the wave return wall.
The half-submerged iron wheels still visible on the beach are believed to be from one of the vehicles used at the time.
Following this week’s discovery, it was suggested that the railway tracks could have been abandoned after the 1930 works.
The dike theory, however, was rejected by a prominent local historian Hugh Griffth Roberts, are tired Snowdonia National Park officer who put together what has been called “possibly the best collection” of local historical photographs in Britain.
He said: “The sea wall was built by professional contractors and it is extremely unlikely that they left any valuable equipment lying around at a resort that was building a reputation with its visitors.”
Find images from Wales’ past here:
Instead, he said, the railroad tracks predate the dike by at least 40 years and were almost certainly laid in the late 19th century for the city’s new sewage system.
Barmouth touristic trade was already developing rapidly before the arrival of the Cambrian railway line in 1867, which triggered a major real estate boom in the city. A new church was built for English-speaking visitors, the town’s bathhouse was opened, and a small round prison, Ty Crwn, began to accept drunken revelers.
The vast majority of new construction was guesthouses and hotels. To accommodate the growing population, a reservoir was built at Llyn Bodlyn, above Talybont, in 1873 to provide Barmouth’s public water supply. All that was missing was an improved sewage system.
“So many guesthouses were being built at the time that ways of disposing of the resulting waste became increasingly important,” said Mr. Roberts.
“In 1890 a new holding tank and a new discharge pipe were completed in the area where the railway lines are now located. “
Approximately 150 meters long, the cast iron valve pipe discharged raw sewage into the sea at high tide, as was the custom at the time.
In 1987, it was replaced by a new pipe, buried under the beach, which evacuates the treated waste. A sewage treatment plant and a pumping station were built at the same time.
You can now receive all important information straight to your inbox by signing up to our free WalesOnline newsletter.
Signing up only takes a few seconds – just click here, enter your email address and follow the instructions.
The narrow gauge tracks used to install the original Victorian system may have been reused, says Roberts.
Since Dicky’s discovery last weekend, a third section of track has become visible on the beach at low tide, complete with a pair of wheels. One theory is that they were used to move wheeled bathing machines to the seaside. Popular until the early 20th century, they allowed swimmers to wade directly into the sea, thus respecting the etiquette of the sea. Beach.
Most were propelled in and out of the waves by a horse or horses. However, some seaside resorts had wooden rails on which the wheels could roll, and a few even provided steam engines to pull the bath machines using cables. However, the traces found at Barmouth are narrow-gauge, prompting some to question this theory.
Their re-emergence, after so many years, also underscored continuing concerns about the region’s coastal processes and the resulting impact on Barmouth’s infrastructure. The profile of Barmouth Beach is constantly threatened by high tidal currents and strong currents, with a littoral drift carrying sand northward.
The West Wales Coastal Management Plan notes that Barmouth Promenade was built “too far out to sea at its northern end” and that the town’s groyne system is “ineffective in maintaining a satisfactory beach against the dike ‘north of the coastguard station.
According to Mr. Roberts, cracks started to appear “all along the walk.”
“It is undermined by the disappearance of the sand,” he said.
Last March a 10 foot hole open on the north promenade following high tides and strong winds. Emergency repairs were carried out after investigations revealed that 180 square meters of the ball had collapsed.
Control of resulting cavity identified confirmed that 400 square meters of the maritime defense, promenade and adjacent highway had been mined.
Gwynedd Council was approached for comment on residents’ concerns.
Get stories like this straight to your inbox with our newsletters.