WELSH NARROW GAUGE RAILWAYS
1955 – 2017
PART 1 – Mid-Wales
Forty photographs of the
Welshpool & Llanfair
Vale of Rheidol railways
All photographs taken by and © Robert and Barbara Darlaston
The second part of my review of Welsh Narrow Gauge Railways, covering mainly the Ffestiniog and Welsh Highland lines,
can be seen at www.robertdarlaston.co.uk/welsh.ng.2.htm .
1: The Talyllyn Railway
The World’s First Preserved Railway
Incorporated by Act of Parliament July 1865
Opened: Goods, July 1866; Passengers, December 1866: Towyn to Abergynolwyn (6¾ miles) plus a quarry extension
Equipped with two steam locomotives, five carriages and sundry goods wagons - the only rolling stock used on the line until 1951
Bought in 1910 by Sir Haydn Jones (a local landowner and, later, M.P.), remaining under his control until his death in 1950
Letter from L.T.C. Rolt published in the Birmingham Post in 1950 calling for support to rescue the railway after the death of Sir Haydn Jones.
Meeting at the Imperial Hotel, Birmingham on 11th October 1950, resulting in the establishment of the Talyllyn Railway Preservation Society, the
world’s first instance of railway preservation by enthusiasts.
Lady Haydn Jones (Sir Haydn’s widow and executrix) transfers shares in the railway to the Preservation Society, February 1951
Services over the line recommence under the jurisdiction of the Preservation Society with L.T.C. Rolt as Manager: 14th May 1951
Locomotives and some rolling stock from the Corris Railway acquired and put into service from 1952 onwards.
Passenger services extended for ¾ mile over former quarry extension from Abergynolwyn to Nant Gwernol, 29th May 1976
1: The 1950s
Abergynolwyn on 15th August 1955, with ex-Corris Railway no 3 Sir Haydn with a train to Towyn.
The loco is named after Sir Henry Haydn Jones, effective owner of the Talyllyn Railway from 1910 to 1950.
Two more scenes with Sir Haydn on 15th August 1955
Left: leaving Towyn Pendre with a train from Abergynolwyn to Towyn Wharf. The loco shed is at the right
Right: Towyn Wharf with the train arrived back from Abergynolwyn
No. 1 Talyllyn, built in 1865 for the opening of the line:
In the left hand photo the loco is seen in August 1955, stored out of use and awaiting overhaul.
In the right hand photo the loco is seen back in service, taking water at Dolgoch in September 1958
Ex-Corris Railway no 4 Edward Thomas approaches Abergynolwyn with a train from Towyn on 15th August 1955.
The train includes former Penrhyn Quarry Railway open carriages used by quarrymen.
Edward Thomas was the Manager of the Talyllyn Railway until the Preservation Society took over in 1951.
2: The 1990s onward
Left: Locomotive no. 2 Dolgoch (built 1866) at Abergynolwyn in 2006. The loco is painted in the railway’s livery as used prior to preservation.
Right: The same loco at Towyn Wharf in 2012.
Left: Towyn Wharf station in 2012 with loco 7 Tom Rolt on a train to Nant Gwernol
Right: a view up the line from Towyn Pendre station
Coaling loco 7 Tom Rolt at Towyn Wharf in 2012.
The loco is named after L.T.C. Rolt (1910 – 1974) who was a leading figure in establishing the railway preservation movement.
Ex-Corris Railway no 3 Sir Haydn crosses Dolgoch Viaduct in 1994
Dolgoch station, showing ex-Corris Railway no 3 Sir Haydn with a train for Nant Gwernol in 2011
The terminus at Nant Gwernol in 2011, opened to passengers in 1976 on the site of the former extension to the slate quarries.
The train is hauled by ex-Corris Railway no 3 Sir Haydn.
2: The Corris Railway
Incorporated by Act of Parliament July 1858
Opened: Goods, 1859; Passengers, July 1883, Machynlleth - Aberllefeni (6½ miles), plus quarry branches
Acquired by Great Western Railway 1930
Passenger services ceased 1st January 1931
Became part of British Railways 1st January 1948
Goods services ceased and line closed following severe flood damage 20th August 1948.
Locomotives and some goods wagons acquired by Talyllyn Railway, 1951
Corris Railway Society formed, restoring ¾ mile of the line between Maespoeth and Corris, passenger services commencing in 2002
The former Corris Railway locomotive sheds at Maespoeth Junction in 1955, at which time they were used by the Forestry Commission.
Note the water column still in situ seven years after closure, positioned above the former route to Corris and Aberllefeni.
In 2005 the Corris Railway Society had a replica built of one of the line’s locomotives (the originals now belonging to the Talyllyn Railway).
The locomotive is seen here at the new Corris terminus of the line.
3: The Welshpool & Llanfair Railway
Incorporated under Light Railway Orders
Opened: Goods 9th March 1903; passengers 4th April 1903; Welshpool (Cambrian Railways station) to Llanfair Caereinion (9 miles)
Operated by Cambrian Railways Company. Provided with two locomotives, “The Earl” and “The Countess” (later GWR 822 and 823)
Acquired by Great Western Railway, 1st January 1922
Passenger service withdrawn, 9th February 1931
Became part of British Railways, 1st January 1948, goods services continuing as before
Goods services withdrawn and line closed, 5th November 1956
Line reopened to passengers under auspices of Welshpool & Llanfair Light Railway Preservation Company:
Llanfair Caereinion to Castle Caereinion (4 miles) 6th April 1963
Extended to Raven Square, Welshpool (4 miles) 18th July 1981
A trip on the line on 9th June 1956, in the days of British Railway
In the closing years of the line’s existence, railway enthusiasts, with the full cooperation of British Railways Western Region, organised
excursions over the line. As there were then no surviving passenger vehicles, open wagons (normally used for carrying coal!) were
thoroughly cleaned by railway staff and equipped with platform benches from Welshpool main line station. Of course, it was bad luck
if it rained! Here are some photographs taken on one such trip I was lucky enough to join, just five months before the line closed.
Left: 822 “The Earl” (but by this time anonymous) waits outside Welshpool main line station before the start of the trip
Right: A view from a goods wagon as the train penetrates the alleys of Welshpool
822 and its train pause at Castle Caereinion for the passengers to enjoy a short break.
A B.R. Inspector is on hand to keep an eye on matters
Left: The train pauses once more just before the Banwy Viaduct
Right: On the return journey 822 stops to take water soon after leaving Llanfair Caereinion. (The water comes from the adjacent River Banwy).
A cheery driver attends to some routine lubrication after arrival at Llanfair Caereinion while passengers alight from the wagons.
Note that 822 escaped the standard B.R. smokebox numberplate, but sports an 89A shedplate.
The line in the preservation era: 1963 onwards
After closure in November 1956 the line and its rolling stock lingered out of use while enthusiasts negotiated to take it over.
Reopening took place between Llanfair Caereinion and Castle Caereinion in April 1963. Here, we see 822, once
more carrying “The Earl” nameplates, arriving at Llanfair with a special for the Omnibus Society.
Left: 822 back in service at Llanfair in the summer of 1963.
Right: 823 “Countess” in 2001, wearing GWR livery, alongside the water column at the new terminus at Raven Square, Welshpool. (The line
formerly continued across the main road for a mile through the streets to reach Welshpool main line station.
In summer 2016, 822 “The Earl”, back in B.R. livery, sets off from Welshpool with two carriages acquired from the continent
A Rumanian 0-8-0T locomotive which ran on the W&L only from 2007-2016 climbs Golfa bank out of Welshpool in 2008.
This location, alongside the main road to Dolgellau, is where I first saw a freight train on the line in the Spring of 1948.
A train for Llanfair arrives at Sylfaen Halt in 2009
“Joan” an 0-6-2T which formerly operated in Antigua crosses a minor road near Castle Caereinion with a train for Welshpool in 2017
The Rumanian 0-8-0 pauses at Castle Caereinion in 2008.
823 “Countess” crosses the B4385 as it leaves Castle Caereinion station in 2004
Left: “The Earl” in original W&LR livery, at another minor level crossing in 1966
Right: A photo showing the rural nature of the line.
Note in both photographs the train comprises Austrian carriages with open end balconies.
A glimpse inside the cab of 822 “The Earl”
Left: The train waits as the guard closes the level crossing gates after leaving Cyfronydd station
Right: a view from the rear of the train as it runs alongside the River Banwy
823 “Countess” is serviced after reaching the end of the journey at Llanfair Caereinion in 2001.
4: The Vale of Rheidol Railway
Incorporated by Act of Parliament, 6th August 1897
Gauge 1’ 11½”
Opened: Goods, August 1902; Passengers, 22nd December 1902
Taken over by Cambrian Railways Company 1st July 1913
Acquired by Great Western Railway 1st January 1923
Closed: Goods in mid-1920s. Winter passenger services suspended 1st January 1931, summer services suspended 31st August 1939
Reopened for passengers (summer services only) 23rd July 1945.
Became part of British Railways 1st January 1948
From August 1968 the line was the only steam-operated section of British Rail
Line sold by BR 1989 to a private consortium – the first part of the BR system to be privatised
1: Scenes in the days of British Railways
2-6-2T number 7, built at Swindon by the GWR in 1923, waits at Devil’s Bridge with a train for
Aberystwyth in August 1953. The loco still shows its GWR lettering and has yet to acquire a smoke-box numberplate.
Scenes at Aberystwyth on 13th July 1962:
Left: the trans-shipment siding where loco coal was transferred from main line wagons to the narrow gauge line.
Right: number 7, by now named Owain Glyndwr and equipped with B.R. smoke-box numberplate, outside the
loco shed at Aberystwyth. The line at the left once continued as a freight link to the harbour.
Number 9, Prince of Wales, at Aberystwyth in June 1970.
Numbers 7, 8, and 9 were, after August 1968, the only steam locomotives remaining on British Rail and they wore the same blue livery
as diesel and electric locomotives. From 1973 they were officially listed as 98007 – 98009, but never carried those numbers.
Left: The view from a train approaching Devil’s bridge
Right: Prince of Wales waits at Devil’s Bridge, ready to return to Aberystwyth in June 1970
Left: Devil’s Bridge terminus in Spring 1985 with a train from Aberystwyth hauled by number 7
Right: the view from a train climbing to Devil’s Bridge in 1985.
Although then still owned and operated by British Rail, the locomotives and carriages had by this time reverted to Great Western Railway livery.
Number 7 Owain Glyndwr takes water at Aberffrwd on the journey to Devil’s Bridge in Spring 1985
A general view of Devil’s Bridge terminus in 1985 with Owain Glyndwr waiting to take its train back to Aberystwyth
* * * * * * *
The second part of my review of Welsh Narrow Gauge Railways, covering mainly the Ffestiniog and Welsh Highland lines, can be seen at www.robertdarlaston.co.uk/welsh.ng.2.htm .
My other railway pages can be accessed by clicking on the links below:
Railways.htm (Photographs taken in the 1950s, train spotting at Birmingham Snow Hill in 1953, and scenes in the West Midlands and South Wales 1953 – 1962)
Railways50yr.htm (A selection of photos from the 1950s: West Midlands,
Railways2.htm (Brecon and -Mid-Wales; the Somerset & Dorset line, GWR and LSWR lines in Somerset, Devon and Cornwall: all 1957-1962)
Railways4.htm (Birmingham area LMR; glimpses of Boston, Peterborough, and Lincoln; GWR lines in North Wales; a few shots on the Southern: all 1961-1963)
(the last days of
My Chronology of events, including opening and closure dates, relating to the Railways of the West Midlands from 1954-2017 can be accessed from these links:
RAILWAYS of WEST MIDLANDS pt 1. (1954-1974)
RAILWAYS of WEST MIDLANDS pt 2. (1975-1993)
RAILWAYS of WEST MIDLANDS pt 3. (1993-2017)