Holyhead Breakwater

Away from Holyhead station, with its 4 platforms and carriage sidings and container terminal, was a completely different railway. Worked by unique locos, on unfenced track with unbraked wagons, it was an industrial railway, but unique in that it belonged to British Rail. Very difficult to see in action, my many visits produced only one glorious day when the seemingly impossible happened, and a class 01 came out into the sunshine.

01002 at Holyhead 15-04-79 (s1868.jpg)

15th April 1979 and 01002 is out working on the breakwater. In fact, it is returning to the 'shore' for the lunch break, propelling 4 unbraked wagons carrying slate blocks. The breakwater railway's sole purpose was to carry large lumps of stone which could be dropped into the sea to reinforce the structure. Although originally these had come from the Holyhead mountain quarry, by this time the line from the quarry had been lifted and the blocks came from Penrhyn slate quarry by lorry. In the background, the Skerries lighthouse is seen - on an island off an island off an island.

01002 at Holyhead 15-04-79 (s1869.jpg)

Stabled in the sidings back on the land 01002 awaits the afternoon shift. It wears its original 1950's black paint - now turning green with age. Only 01002 was in working order by this time, and within a few years the railway was removed and the blocks were carried along the breakwater by lorry. The 01's never made it back to the main line, being scrapped outside their shed, a few hundred yards inland from these sidings.

01002 at Holyhead 15-04-79 (s1872.jpg)

A close up view, showing both the original British Railways Lion and Wheel emblem, and the new number applied in June 1974, on a strip of fresh black paint. Originally 11505, it was renumbered to D2955 in July 1961, but the small area carrying the number was probably the only part of the loco ever repainted. Withdrawn 15/3/81, it was probably out of use from 1980, and was scrapped in February 1982. 15th April 1979.

01002 at Holyhead 15-04-79 (s1873.jpg)

A final shot of 01002 parked in the sidings at the start of the breakwater. Behind the loco, the line from the shed can be seen descending.

Holyhead breakwater 16-04-80 (s2112.jpg)

A year and a day later and there is no sign of life at the other Holyhead engine shed. Both 01001 and 01002 were in the shed, but 001 had not worked for some years and 002 was nearing its end. The lines from the shed joined the line which originally ran from the breakwater up to the quarry. By the time this picture was taken, the line to the quarry had been removed, and there was just a short headshunt to allow the loco to reverse. The track ran along the whole length of the breakwater on the lower level, although originally there had been a track on the higher level too. There was also a rail mounted crane, with its own tracks, one rail on the top level and one rail on the lower. The crane is just visible, parked out of use just before the North Stack lighthouse at the end of the breakwater. 16th April 1980.


There's a developing collection of photographs (including some of mine) at www.holyheadbreakwater.com. I particularly like the set taken by David Pool in 1976.