The official logo of the Gwili Railway
ex-GWR No.4566 visiting in October 2008
|Name||Carmarthen and Cardigan Railway|
|Original gauge||7 ft 1⁄4 in (2,140 mm)|
|Operated by||Gwili Railway Co. Ltd|
|Length||3.50 miles (5.63 km)|
|Preserved gauge||4 ft 8 1⁄2 in (1,435 mm)|
|1881||Absorbed by Great Western Railway|
|1978||Taken over by the preservation society|
|1987||Llwyfan Cerrig reached|
|1988||Llwyfan Cerrig station officially opened|
|2001||Opening of extension to Danycoed|
|2002||Work starts on extension to Carmarthen North|
|2008||Gwili Railway marks 30 years to the day of Re-opening|
|2009||Gwili Railway purchases Llanpumpsaint train station site (completely).|
|2011||Gwili is Awarded for fully restored GWR-Style crossing gates at Bronwydd Arms itself.|
The Gwili Railway (Welsh: Rheilffordd Ager y Gwili) is a Welsh heritage railway that operates a standard gauge preserved railway line from the site of Abergwili Junction (near Carmarthen) in South West Wales along a short section of the former Carmarthen to Aberystwyth railway that closed for passenger traffic in 1965, the track being lifted in 1975.
The Gwili Railway was set up in 1974 (but formed officially in April 1975). By 1978 the railway had purchased at least eight miles of track (between the sites of Abergwili Junction and Llanpumpsint railway station) and was running an initial steam-hauled service on a one-mile section.
In Spring 1978, it re-opened the one-mile section of the Carmarthen-Newcastle Emlyn route from its base at Bronwydd Arms, three miles north of Carmarthen, making it the first standard-gauge preserved railway to operate in Wales.
Currently, the railway is working south towards Carmarthen to a new station site to be called "Abergwili Junction" built on the northern outskirts of Carmarthen , at the site of the old and former Abergwili junction.
The locomotive stock of the Gwili Railway is unusual in that it mostly represents local industrial and wartime operations rather than mainline services. In an interview with Steam Railway Magazine, it was stated that railway intends to obtain a larger locomotive (or locomotives) for passenger service.
The re-laying of track is expected to eventually extend to a total of approximately 4½ miles in length. It is expected that the extension to Abergwili Junction may be completed sometime in 2014, as time and money permit.
List of stations along the Gwili Railway route
- Current Terminus of the Line
- Bronwydd Arms
- Headquarters of the Line
- Abergwili Junction - Future Terminus of the Line
- Proposed - Adjacent to A38 Trunk Road/Bypass
- Expecting to open in 2014
History of the line
The broad-gauge railway was opened in 1860 from Carmarthen to Conwil by the ill-fated Carmarthen and Cardigan Railway Company (CCR), which fell in and out of insolvency until it was eventually absorbed by the Great Western Railway. Despite hostility from GWR, the line never reached Cardigan any further than Newcastle Emlyn.
The Manchester and Milford Railway made a junction with the CCR at Pencader, making a through route to Lampeter which, in turn, later extended to Aberystwyth. In 1872, the line became the last in Wales to be converted from Brunel's 7 ft 1⁄4 in (2,140 mm) gauge to standard gauge.
In its early days, the line thrived by serving the local farming and wool industries though, in the years following the First World War, this traffic gradually declined. The Second World War brought another lease of life as a relief route carrying heavy ammunition trains between South and North Wales.
The route earned a reputation as a meandering rural branch; where trains trundled along, often flagged down by market-bound farmers' wives making their way across the fields to board the carriages. In fact, nearly three hours was permitted for the 56 mile journey between Carmarthen and Aberystwyth.
In the post-war years, closure of the spurs off the main line began. The Branches to Aberaeron and Newcastle Emlyn closed in 1952 which left only the route between Carmarthen and Aberystwyth open to traffic. The line enjoyed a brief resurgence in the 1950s, when the Royal Train traversed the route and other new traffic included Butlins through-specials taking holidaymakers to the new camp in Pwllheli.
However, declining passenger figures meant that the Beeching Axe was inevitable. In the end however, it was nature that struck the first blow. Heavy flooding severed the line six miles from Aberystwyth in December 1964, this taking place in the same weekend that storms that caused the Ruabon to Barmouth Line to suffer a similar washout. The last passenger train ran along the truncated route on 22 February 1965, two Hymek diesels providing the motive power. The line remained open for freight using Hymek locomotives until around 1970, then by Class 37 locomotives. The freight traffic that kept the remainder of the line open was dominated mainly by milk traffic between Carmarthen and Lampeter where traffic was routed to both the last remaining part of the main line to Aberystwyth as far as the milk creamery at Pont Llanio (near Llanddewi-Brefi which survived until 1970, plus the Aberaeron branch as far as the milk creamery at Green Grove near Felin Fach which continued in service until discontinued by British Rail in 1973.
This resulted in the final closure of the line. Track was left in place until the summer of 1975.
Two years after its closure, the Gwili Railway Preservation Company was formed with the ambition to preserve at least a figure eight miles of track of the former route, from Abergwili Junction right up the Gwili Valley to the station site at Llanpumpsaint.
Track lifting had already started by the time of the formation of the new Company and, as a result, only a mile of track north of Bronwydd Arms was left in situ, the Company being able to acquire the full eight-mile stretch of trackbed from Abergwili Junction to Llanpumsaint for both rebuilding and preserving. Over time, the Railway has extended the operational length from one mile to 2½ miles, as well as reconstructing original features at Bronwydd Arms station and amassing a collection of locomotives and rolling stock.
Trains on the Gwili start from Bronwydd Arms where the replica GWR station is dominated by a Signal Box saved from Llandybie railway station on the Heart of Wales Line. The Signal box, which is open to the public, was built in 1885 and has been restored to operate signalling within the station area.
Typical features on the line include the gradients such as the 1 in 60 on the bank immediately north of Bronwydd Arms, the meandering River Gwili and the A484 road which are never far away and the wooded forests and sharp curves as the railway twists its way through the valley.
From Bronwydd, the line climbs between rural hills and meadows alongside the river River Gwili past the site of the first terminus of the newly opened Gwili Railway next to the old mill at Cwmdwyfran. From here, the line continues climbing until it passes under a rusticated brick bridge at the second terminus at Penybont station.
The line carries over a redecked bridge crossing the River Gwili. This expansion was achieved in time for its 10th anniversary celebrations in 1988. At the same time, the new terminus of Llwyfan Cerrig was opened to the public.
In 2001, a further half mile extension built by volunteer labour was opened to a new halt at Danycoed.
Llwyfan Cerrig (in English, Stone Platform) was a former quarrymen's halt and the Gwili has created a nature trail which winds through the old quarry and emerges above the stock sheds. The station building, which originally stood at Felin Fach on the Aberaeron branch and dates from 1911, was dismantled by volunteers and re-erected in the early 1990s. It has been restored and furnished to an authentic 1950s style.
From the platform, a path leads to a picnic area on the bank of the Gwili River where kingfishers and heron can sometimes be glimpsed. A miniature railway runs from this station and refreshments can be bought.
From Llwyfan Cerrig, the line runs uphill for another ¾ mile with the River Gwili on one side and a rock face on the other, until it reaches the present end of the line at Danycoed (English translation being 'foot of the wood') where a typical GWR rural halt has been recreated.
Operationally, the railway is normally run on a 'one engine in steam' basis although the facility exists to pass trains at Llwyfan Cerrig at busy periods such as Day Out With Thomas events. In recent years, the Railway has expanded the portfolio of events on offer with Dining Trains, Driver Experience days and Jazz and other themed nights now being part of the annual timetable.
Restoring the line northwards has still proven to be more difficult than initially anticipated, volunteers' high hopes of reaching Llanpumsaint constantly being hindered by the number of bridges en route.
There are a total of eight bridges to overcome, all of which are in poor condition and need refurbishment to be worthy for rail traffic once more. There were previously several attempts back in the late 1980s and early 90's to extend the railway to the disused Cynwyl Elfed station site.
Once the southern extension of the Gwili Railway towards Abergwili Junction is completed in Spring 2014, this will bring up to a total of around 4½ miles in length.
Reconnection with Carmarthen railway station is now currently impossible as the railway bridge that once carried the line over the River Towy was removed in the 1980s and the Carmarthen East by-pass now occupies a section of the trackbed.
The closure of the former (now defunct) Swansea Vale Railway in 2007 resulted in a merger of that society with the Gwili. This has provided a boost to the southern extension with track materials, a footbridge, water tanks/cranes and signalling equipment from Swansea now earmarked for use on the extension.
As of January 2014, over an extra few yards of the extension have been re-laid, with under a further few yards to go before entering the station site. Work remains ongoing to achieve a possibly anticipated opening date sometime throughout 2014.
- 2201 Andrew Barclay 0-4-0 saddle tank built in 1945. Carries name VICTORY Stripped down for Overhaul.
- 3879 Vulcan Foundry-built Austerity locomotive built in 1945 (works number 5272). Rebuilt in 1961 by Hunslet Ltd (works number 3879). Operational on passenger trains. Named HAULWEN.
- 7058 Robert Stephenson and Hawthorns 0-4-0 saddle tank built in 1942. Named OLWEN. Used as Percy for Thomas the Tank Engine Events. Stripped down for boiler work, should be back in 2014 in GWR colours.
- 71516 War Department 0-6-0 saddle tank built in 1944 by Robert Stevenson Hawthorns (works number 7170) Named WELSH GUARDSMAN
- War Department 0-6-0 saddle tank built in 1944 by Robert Stevenson Hawthorns. Named Phoenix, in storage awaiting long-term restoration.
- 3829 Hunslet austerity locomotive built in 1955. Ex- Swansea Vale Railway. Stored at Bronwydd Arms pending boiler overhaul
- 1345 Peckett Mond Nickel No.1. Ex Swansea Vale Railway. Stored at Bronwydd Arms, firebox repairs required.
- 450 TVR O1 Class 0-6-2 tank locomotive built in 1897. On loan from the National Railway Museum following cosmetic restoration. On static display.
- BR Class 117 3 car DMU Nos 51347 / 59508 / 51401
- D2178 British Rail Class 03 shunter. Operational. (Unnumbered)
- 27658 North British Locomotive Company shunting engine built for British Steel Landore
- 27878 North British Locomotive Company shunting engine built for British Steel's East Moor steelworks and later at the tinplate works at Felindre near Swansea
- 207103 Ruston and Hornsby industrial engine used at Bedwas coke ovens by British Benzol
- 393302 Ruston and Hornsby industrial engine built in 1955 and used at the Aluminium Wire and Cable Company in Swansea
The Gwili Railway has a fine collection of Vintage Coaches from various railway operators and historic companies.
- TVR No.145 - (built 1874) The oldest standard gauge coach surviving from a Welsh railway company. Recovered in late 2006 and returned to Wales. It is now in storage pending a decision on how best to proceed with its restoration. An initial examination suggests that the remaining ten doors, most of the floor, all the glazing and the external panelling on one side will need replacing.
- TVR No.220 - (Built 1891) Saved by Brynteg comprehensive School and rebuilt by the children in 5 years. Now at Gwili Railway it has been undergoing a repaint. expected to return to service in 2014. The cosmetic restoration of Taff Vale Railway 'O1' class 0-6-2T No. 28, the last Welsh-built standard gauge steam locomotive, is set to go ahead. The aim is for Taff Vale Railway Brake Third No. 220 to display alongside the locomotive in showroom condition.
- GWR No.216 - (Built 1888) Restoration ongoing.
- TVR No.153 - (Built 1874) In store pending restoration.
- GWR No.793 - (Built 1881) Offered to the group in 1991. No repair work can be done on this vehicle until coach No. 216 is nearing completion.
- TVR No.31 & 52 - (Built 1883) Bodies restored. The initial use for these carriages will be as static tearooms at Bronwydd Arms Station.
Filming at the Gwili Railway
- http://www.ukplanning.com/carmarthenshire/showCaseFile.do;jsessionid=27B2FF9A2CBDA35BFB4A3DBCE0608AEC.wam2?action=show&appType=planning%20folder&appNumber=W/19935 PLANNING ON OLD ABERGWILI JUNCTION SITE from Carmarthenshire County Council
- http://www.walesrails.co.uk/gwil.html Gwili Railway on WalesRails
- http://www.casgliadywerincymru.co.uk/Item/2321-carmarthen-railway-bridge Colour 35mm slide of Carmarthen Railway Bridge, Carmarthenshire by Dylan Roberts
- http://www.llanegwad-carmarthen.co.uk/parishpictures25.htm The Bridge which carried the line over the River Towy
- Morton, G.; Industrial Railway Society (2006). Industrial Locomotives: Including Preserved and Minor Railway Locomotives. Industrial Railway Society. ISBN 978-0-901906-39-7. Retrieved April 1, 2014.
- Phil Trotter (2008-04-05). "Vulcan Foundry built Austerity 0-6-0ST 'Haulwen' at Llwyfan Cerrig". Retrieved 2008-05-04.
- Phil Trotter (2008-04-05). "RSH 0-4-0ST (no.7058/1942) 'Olwen'". Retrieved 2008-05-04.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Gwili Railway.|
- The Gwili Railway home page
- Gwili Vintage Carriage Group's website
- Carmarthen and Cardigan Railway
- Gwili Steam Railway from WalesRails
- National Heritage Railway Awards for Bonwydd Arms Level crossing gates 2011