Gwili Railway

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Gwili Railway
Rheilffordd Gwili
Gwili Railway logo.jpg
The official logo of the Gwili Railway
4566 at Bronwydd Arms.JPG

ex-GWR No.4566 visiting in October 2008
Locale Wales Wales
Terminus Bronwydd Arms
Coordinates 51°53′30″N 4°18′03″W / 51.89155°N 4.30077°W / 51.89155; -4.30077Coordinates: 51°53′30″N 4°18′03″W / 51.89155°N 4.30077°W / 51.89155; -4.30077
Commercial operations
Name Carmarthen and Cardigan Railway
Original gauge 7 ft 14 in (2,140 mm) Brunel gauge
Preserved operations
Operated by Gwili Railway Co. Ltd
Stations 5
Length 2.50 miles (4.02 km)
Preserved gauge 4 ft 8 12 in (1,435 mm) standard gauge
Commercial history
Opened 1860
1872 Converted to
4 ft 8 12 in (1,435 mm) standard gauge
1881 Absorbed by Great Western Railway
1973 Closed
Preservation history
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.
2015-2016 Opening of extension to new station at Abergwili Junction.
Headquarters Bronwydd Arms
Gwili Railway
To Pencader
Pencader Tunnel (985 yards)
Conwyl Elved
Danycoed Halt
Llwyfan Cerrig
Bronwydd Arms
Abergwili Junction
Llanelly Railway
River Towy
South Wales Railway

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 southwest Wales along a short section of the former Carmarthen to Aberystwyth. The original railway closed in 1965, with the track being lifted in 1975.

Original line[edit]

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 14 in (2,140 mm) gauge to 4 ft 8 12 in (1,435 mm) 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.

Between the wars, the GWR sought to encourage traffic, opened several new halts along the route and provided camping coaches at several stations.

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 (90 km) 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 (9.7 km) 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.

Gwili Railway Preservation Company[edit]

Two years after its closure, the Gwili Railway Preservation Company was formed with the ambition to preserve at least a figure eight miles (13 km) of track of the former route, from Abergwili Junction right up the Gwili Valley to the station site at Llanpumpsaint.[1]

Track lifting had already started by the time of the formation of the new Company and, as a result, only one mile (1.6 km) of track north of Bronwydd Arms was left in situ, the Company being able to acquire the full eight-mile (13 km) 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 (1.6 km) to 2 12 miles (4 km), as well as reconstructing original features at Bronwydd Arms station and amassing a collection of locomotives and rolling stock.

The Gwili Railway was set up in 1974 (but formed officially in April 1975). By 1978 the railway had purchased at least eight miles (13 km) of track (between the sites of Abergwili Junction and Llanpumpsint railway station) and was running an initial steam-hauled service on a one-mile (1.6 km) section.

In Spring 1978, it re-opened the one-mile (1.6 km) section of the Carmarthen-Newcastle Emlyn route from its base at Bronwydd Arms, three miles (4.8 km) north of Carmarthen, making it the first standard-gauge preserved railway to operate in Wales.

The railway was 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.[2][dead link]

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.

Former GWR 0-4-0ST at Bronwydd Arms in 1992

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 one-half mile (0.8 km) 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 one-quarter mile (0.40 km) 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 'under the wood') where a typical GWR rural halt has been recreated.

On 19 July 2006 a volunteer was killed in an accident when coupling carriages together for the train that was due to run that day.[3]

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.

Future expansion[edit]

Restoring the line northwards has 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 station site.

The railway bridge that once carried the line over the River Towy was removed for the construction of the Carmarthen Eastern by-pass.[4]

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.

In 2011, over one mile (1.6 km) of track was laid on the southern extension to Abergwili Junction and work started to improve signalling and the level crossing at Bronwydd Arms for future passenger operation. By 2015 the track had extended all the way down and into Abergwili Junction station itself. It is planned that the railway to Abergwili Junction is expected to open in 2017, this will bring the line up to a total of around 4 12 miles (7.2 km) in length from 2 12 miles (4.0 km).


Steam locomotives[edit]

'Victory' waiting at Bronwydd Arms

Diesel locomotives[edit]

Pen-Y-Bont station in 1981.

Vintage coaches[edit]

The Gwili Railway has a collection of vintage coaches from various railway operators and companies.


  1. ^ "Gwili Railway". WalesRails. Retrieved 7 May 2015. 
  2. ^;jsessionid=27B2FF9A2CBDA35BFB4A3DBCE0608AEC.wam2?action=show&appType=planning%20folder&appNumber=W/19935 PLANNING ON OLD ABERGWILI JUNCTION SITE from Carmarthenshire County Council
  3. ^ "Fatal accident at Bronwydd Arms station on the Gwili Railway". Rail Accident Investigation Branch. Retrieved 25 May 2015. 
  4. ^ "Picture Gallery 25". Llanegwad. Archived from the original on 23 March 2012. 
  5. ^ 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. 
  6. ^ Phil Trotter (25 October 2008). "Austerity 0-6-0ST 'Haulwen' waits in the loop at Llwyfan Cerrig". Retrieved 7 May 2015. 
  7. ^ Phil Trotter (August 1978). "RSH 0-4-0ST (no.7058/1942) 'Olwen' at Bronwydd Arms". Retrieved 7 May 2015. 

External links[edit]