Lampeter, Aberayron and New Quay Light Railway

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Lampeter, Aberayron and New Quay Light Railway
Carmarthen to Aberystwyth Line
Lampeter
Silian Halt
A485 road
Afon Denys
Blaenplwyf Halt
Talsarn Halt
B4342 road
Felin Fach
Ciliau-Aeron Halt
Crossways Halt
Llanerch-Ayron Halt
Afon Aeron
Aberayron

The Lampeter, Aberayron and New Quay Light Railway was a branch of the Carmarthen Aberystwyth Line in west Wales. It ran between the seaside town of Aberaeron (formerly anglicised as 'Aberayron') and Lampeter. Stations and halts included:

It was opened in 1911 between Aberaeron Junction which was located several miles north of Lampeter on the Carmarthen to Aberystwyth Line and the town of Aberaeron (the spelling was anglicised by the GWR to Aberayron) and was closed to passengers by 1951. The route was originally intended to terminate at Aberaeron Harbour, but due to lack of agreement with the harbour's owners, it was terminated short at the Aberaeron-to-Lampeter main road (now the A482). A proposed line to New Quay, intended to be built after the Aberaeron line was operational, was never built.

There were many halts on the route with the only intermediate passing loop located at the principal station on the line, Felinfach.

Passenger trains were operated as a branch line meeting main-line trains at Lampeter. Trains were operated by the GWR from the outset, typically using GWR 0-6-0PT and GWR 6400 Class Pannier Tanks or GWR 1400 Class locomotives with a GWR Autocoach.

Freight trains generally also used GWR 0-6-0PT Pannier Tank or GWR 1400 Class GWR 6400 Class locomotives with occasional visits from GWR 2251 Class locomotives on larger trains. An engine shed which was a sub-shed of Aberystwyth Engine shed was provided to house the branch locomotives.

After the end of passenger trains, freight trains continued to provide freight service to all stations. A huge boost to freight traffic occurred in 1950 with the building of a large new milk creamery alongside the line at Green Grove which was two miles west of Felinfach. This milk creamery provided much extra traffic during its construction, plus after its opening it provided large quantities of milk traffic using six-wheel milk tankers which was taken firstly to Lampeter, then combined with milk traffic from Pont Llanio milk creamery near Tregaron on the Carmarthen and Aberystwyth line to the freight yards in Carmarthen where they would be combined with other milk tankers from Whitland and other West Wales milk creameries and then on to London.

In 1963 general freight traffic from the line was discontinued and the line was truncated to the milk creamery at Green Grove. Several special passenger trains ran on the line before this closure including the one and only diesel multiple unit to travel the whole length of the line which was a British Rail Class 120 unit in early British Railways green livery.

The milk tanker traffic from the milk creamery at Green Grove near Felinfach was the only traffic using the line. This traffic continued using diesel locomotives such as British Rail Class 35 into the late 1960s and British Rail Class 37 until the final end of the Milk tanker traffic in 1973. Again, several special passenger trains ran on the route in including British Rail Class 120 and British Rail Class 119 diesel multiple units.

The track was left in situ for a further 18 months before being lifted during the summer of 1975.

Route[edit]

The first halt was located half a mile from Aberaeron Junction which was Silian Halt which was located at the road crossing of the Lampeter-to-Tregaron road (now the A485). The line then climbed north westwards out of the valley of the River Dulas (a tributary of the River Teifi) towards Felinfach for several miles to the summit of the line near Blaenplwyf farm. The line then descended by clinging to the side of a narrow valley to cross the Lampeter-to-Talsarn road (now the B4337) where a halt was located. It then descended further into the valley of the River Aeron to enter the only principal station and intermediate passing loop on the line at Felinfach. Beyond here the line kept in the base of the valley on generally level ground passing the milk creamery at Green Grove and beyond to the halt at Ciliau Aeron. Beyond here the line traversed through the country estate of Llanerchaeron so several halts were provided for workers to travel to the entrance roads to the estate. The first halt was 2 miles west of Ciliau Aeron at Crossways Halt. Then the line traversed some cuttings and embankments to ensure it kept away from being visible from the mansion of the Llanerchaeron estate before arriving at the Llanerchaeron Halt. Beyond here, the line followed the now much narrower valley of the River Aeron and after a level crossing crossed the river on a 2 arched bridge for the remainder of the line into Aberayron.

The engine shed and goods yard were located on the outskirts of the town on the north side of the River Aeron. A GWR 'camping coach' was also located here later in the branch's life. Beyond here was a substantial double-track river bridge (the most significant structure on the whole line and obviously intended to provide access to the south side of the River Aeron to continue the route to Aberaeron Harbour. Beyond this bridge was located a single platform and station building on the north side of the track that was joined later in the branch's life by three GWR prefabricated concrete storage sheds.

Current remains of the route[edit]

There are many sections of the trackbed still in existence although some have been taken over and returned to fields and landscaped over. Sections of trackbed in Felinfach and Ciliau Aeron have been built on as housing developments. The station site at Felinfach is now an extended parking area for the adjacent garage and Ford dealership. A section of trackbed on a low embankment between Felinfach and Ciliau Aeron is now used as an access road to fishing lakes that have been created either side of the trackbed. The section of trackbed between Crossways Halt and Llanerchaeron Halt remains partially open as a footpath, whilst the section beyond Llanerchaeron Halt to the entrance to the former Aberayron goods yard and engine shed is now a well used gravelled cycle path linking the town of Aberaeron with the National Trust property at Llanerchaeron.

The former Aberayron engine shed area is now a housing development, whilst the goods yard area is occupied by a Jewson builder's hardware yard. Access to this yard is unusual in that it uses the still-intact double-track railway bridge over the River Aeron which has now been paved. The site of the station platform is adjacent to this bridge and it can been seen that the paved road climbs up to the level of the former platform and descends to track level to cross the river bridge - this change in level of the paved road was kept to assist in flood mitigation. The site of the Aberayron station building is now occupied by a Ceredigion County Council office building. This was built by the Welsh Water Authority in the 1970s and subsequently bought by the Council in 1996. The office building was extended to its rear during 2003, but up to this point, the GWR prefabricated concrete sheds and brick platform loading dock had still been in existence until that time.

Because the line ran in the base of both the River Dulas and the River Aeron valleys, there were very few bridges, but those that do still exist are concrete bridges located east under an unclassified dead-end road from Talsarn Halt, and west from Talsarn Halt - across a small stream (visible from the A482 road) located a quarter-mile east of Felinfach Primary School. There is also a bridge located between Crossways Halt and Llanerchaeron Halt (visible from the A482 road) where the road and trackbed are located together and cross a small river.

Most of the platforms at the halts on the line were constructed of wooden rail sleepers and have not survived, being either dismantled at closure, subsequently removed by farmers or simply rotted away; but brick platforms at Silian halt are still visible from the A485 road. Others at Talsarn Halt are visible from the B4337 road.

The Felinfach station building was removed for development of a garage and motor dealership but was dismantled, re-erected and restored on the Gwili Railway, at Llwyfan Cerrig station, by volunteer rail enthusiasts.

Proposed railway to Aberaeron harbour[edit]

A substantial double-track river bridge was constructed, apparently intended to provide access to the south side of the River Aeron to continue the route to Aberaeron Harbour. This route would have crossed the Aberaeron-to-Lampeter (now A482) road and would have continued along the south side of the River Aeron along what is now a riverside walk. It would then have crossed the Cardigan-to-Aberystwyth main coast road (now the A487) and entered the harbour on the south side. The line was never built, owing to strong opposition from the harbour company and from sea captains who owned and operated boats from the harbour.

Proposed line to New Quay[edit]

A line to New Quay was intended to branch from the Aberayron route after Crossways Halt and travel directly southwards up a small valley to the village of Oakford. From there it would have continued in a south-westerly direction to the village of Llanarth before entering a short tunnel under the southern side of the village and then plunging down the valley of the River Llethi via the village of Gilfachreda before crossing the river above the Llethi Gorge near the Llanina mansion estate to then travel alongside the old New Quay to Aberaeron road (now disappeared due to cliff erosion) to terminate in New Quay.

There were two possible locations for the terminus - at either a cramped site behind the current Lifeboat station above New Quay harbour and beach which would give direct access to the harbour. The other location was at the now current car park and fire station above Uplands Square where more room existed for a station and goods yard which would have provided easier transhipment of goods from rail to the town and surrounding areas as there was more room for a goods yard, plus the steep climb from the harbour to transport goods to the upper part of the town and surrounding villages and farms would be avoided.