Lampeter, Aberayron and New Quay Light Railway

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The Lampeter, Aberayron and New Quay Light Railway was an independent branch line railway in south west Wales. It connected Aberayron (later spelt Aberaeron) to the former Manchester and Milford Railway line at Lampeter; New Quay was never reached.

It opened in 1911 and was loss-making from the outset; it was worked, and to some extent funded, by the Great Western Railway, and absorbed by that company in 1922. The limited passenger train service was discontinued in 1951, but at the same time a new creamery was opened at Green Grove on the line near Felin Fach, bringing significant milk traffic to the line.

The remaining general goods traffic ceased in 1965 and the milk traffic finished in 1973, when the line closed completely.

First railways[edit]

The Lampeter, Aberayron and New Quay Light Railway in 1911

In the eighteenth century, most of Aberayron's trade had been conducted by sea; the road network was of poor quality and inadequate. The main materials of trade were slate, limestone, coal and grain; the hinterland was solely agricultural.[1]

The nearest town of any size was Lampeter, 13 miles away, with a population of 2,000. As the railway network in the region began to develop, thoughts turned to connecting Aberayron to a railway branch line. At first there was the Carmarthen and Cardigan Railway, which was planned to reach Cardigan by way of Newcastle Emlyn.[2] It opened the first short section of its line in 1860 and reached Llandyssil in 1864. Always desperately short of money, the C&CR never managed to extend beyond that point, although the Great Western Railway later took the company over and extended the line to Newcastle Emlyn.[3]

The Manchester and Milford Railway promoted its line, obtaining an authorising Act of Parliament in 1860. It did not aspire to build a line either to Manchester or to Milford Haven, but to form the central link in a chain of lines through mid Wales, connecting with other companies at each end. During the construction phase it became obvious that the company's limited financial resources would not permit the intended north-eastward line to Llanidloes, where it had planned to connect with routes northward. A change of route was authorised, and the onward construction was diverted to Aberystwyth instead. That town was already served by the Cambrian Railways.[4][5]

The M&MR was opened throughout from Pencader to Aberystwyth on 12 August 1867; at Pencader it connected with the Carmarthen and Cardigan Railway. With debt on interest mounting up, the M&MR leased its line for 999 years to the Great Western Railway in 1905 and sold the company to the GWR in 1911.[5][3]

Also in 1860, David Davies proposed a line from Pencader (where the Manchester and Milford and the Carmarthen and Cardigan lines joined one another) to Aberayron by way of Lampeter, but nothing came of this scheme.[1]

In 1885 a further scheme was put forward, this time for a narrow gauge line from Llandyssil to New Quay; J W Szlumper, engineer to the Pembroke and Tenby Railway, conducted a survey, but this too came to nothing.[1]

Vale of Rheidol[edit]

On 6 August 1897 the Vale of Rheidol Light Railway obtained its Act of Parliament[6] to build from Devil's Bridge to Aberystwyth. The 12 mile line was to be built to a gauge of 1ft 11 12in.[note 1] Although tourism was beginning to be a commercial factor, this was no tourist line, and its primary purpose was to convey lead ore and timber from the hinterland at Devil's Bridge to the coast for onward transport. The authorised capital was £68,000.[7][8]

At the time of authorisation, the VoR directors were talking of an extension from Aberystwyth to Aberayron along the coast, a distance of 16 miles. This was no idle thinking, for on 13 August 1898 the directors of the Vale of Rheidol obtained a Light Railway Order for the extension.[6][7] The Vale of Rheidol was authorised to raise another £25,000 in shares to finance the extension. However raising the capital proved to be impossible, and nothing could be done towards the extension, even though Cardiganshire County Council, anxious to develop the area, had offered an £18,000 grant. The powers for the Aberayron extension were extinguished in 1904.[1]

The Great Western Railway leased the Manchester and Milford Railway from 1 July 1906, and a local newspaper reported: "We expect great things from the Great Western, and also want some of their splendid motor buses to connect Aberayron and New Quay with the railway."[9]

A light railway from Lampeter[edit]

In fact a railway branch line from Lampeter to Aberayron had been proposed by local people in 1903, and an arrangement with the Manchester and Milford Railway for the junction was concluded by early 1904. The concern was to be called the Lampeter, Aberayron and New Quay Light Railway; estimated cost of construction was £88,000, with rolling stock calculated to cost £10,000. At this stage the line was simply to run from Lampeter to Aberayron, and at first the line was to have its own independent station at Lampeter. The M&MR agreed to work the line at cost plus 25% of the profits. The LA&NQLR tried unsuccessfully to get the M&MR to guarantee minimum profit levels.

By mid-1904 the means of incorporating New Quay into the line was under consideration; the branch would have diverged near the site of the later Crossways Halt, with a short tunnel near Llanarth. It was to be a branch of the Aberayron line, diverging about halfway along the Aberayron branch, with consequently high operating costs. This was discussed with the County Council, in the interests of securing a grant from them; the 7 14 mile New Quay branch added £63,000 to the cost estimates. At this stage the receipts from the entire network were estimated to be £10 per mile per week.[3]

Light railway order granted[edit]

On 1 October 1906 the Great Western Railway inaugurated the sought-for motor omnibus service between Lampeter and Aberayron, and on 9 October 1906[7] the Light Railway Order for the Lampeter, Aberayron and New Quay Light Railway was granted. At last progress could be made and the first sod was cut on 20 October 1906.[5][10][11][1] The New Quay branch was quietly dropped from the proposed construction, although the County Council had earlier considered this to be an essential part of the work so far as their grant was concerned.

The contractor appointed was Edmund Nuttall, but subscription money came in very slowly indeed and it was not possible to carry out any construction. This situation was worsened when the GWR, who had been asked to work the line when it was completed, asked for considerable additional works to make the line to the standard they would require. The GWR insisted on some of the sharpest curves being eased before they took on the working.[11][12]

Time went by with limited progress, but a Treasury grant of £10,000 was made in April 1910, and the GWR was persuaded to fund the final stages of construction itself. The line was considered to be ready for opening between the junction near Lampeter and Ystrad in June 1910, but before arrangements were made for the Board of Trade inspection, the Great Western Railway asserted their position that the line was not satisfactory from their point of view, and they insisted on delaying opening until the whole line was ready. This dragged into the following year, and the GWR took possession of the line on 3 April 1911 and opened it to goods traffic on 10 April 1911.[7]

Opening[edit]

Lieutenant Colonel Druitt of the Board of Trade inspected the line on 10 May 1911 and found it to be satisfactory and the line was opened to passenger traffic on 12 May 1911.[1][13] The line was worked from the outset by the Great Western Railway, although for a short period the main line at Lampeter was still in the hands of the M&MR; absorption of that company by the GWR was now all but finalised. No expansion of the station accommodation at Lampeter was considered necessary to handle the branch traffic. The point of junction from the M&MR main line was at Aberayron Junction, about 1 12 miles north of Lampeter station.[5] The ruling gradient was 1 in 41 and there was a passing place on the single line at Ystrad (later Felin Fach).[7]

The profit made by the line was insignificant, and was in fact insufficient to pay the interest due to the GWR and the banks, and the Directors paid with their own money. In fact the company made a loss of £962 in 1912 and made a loss in every year of its independent existence.[1]

The charges made by the GWR were evidently a running sore; in February 1914 it was reported:

The directors state that during the year the negotiations with the Great Western Railway have been continued, and several matters in dispute have been settled. The construction charge [actually the GWR loan to complete the line] has been settled at £5,128... the charge of £1,459 7s 4d for the first year's maintenance has been withdrawn. So far the directors have been unable to get the Great Western to reduce their minimum charge of £3,000 per annum for working the line, though the auto-car service cost less than the train service contemplated in the working agreement. The company... will receive £436 18s 6d as surplus on this year's working, after deducting income-tax... The gross receipts for the year amounted to £3,464 19s 9d as compared with £2,998 18s 2d in 1912.[14]

After 1922[edit]

The Railways Act 1921 was a measure by which the Government required all the main line railways of Great Britain to be "grouped" into four large companies; in this are the Great Western Railway formed one of the groups. The Lampeter, Aberayron and New Quay Light Railway was required to be absorbed by the GWR, and as the ordinary shareholders had never received a dividend they did not expect anything from the process. Debenture holders received a swap for GWR debenture stock in the ratio 1:3. The administrative process of the grouping was complete and on 1 July 1922 the loss-making company's line and assets were taken over by the GWR.[1]

After World War I road transport competition had begun to take effect and in the latter half of the 1920s this competition became significant. From a very low base, the GWR tried to encourage traffic in the thinly populated area; the opening of a new halt at Crossways in April 1929 to encourage traffic can hardly have done much to affect the losses.[1]

The weekday passenger train service had long been four trains each way, although this was reduced to three during World War II.[1][11]

Nationalisation of the railways took place in 1948; there were four daily passenger trains once again, but inevitably the new owner, British Railways, considered the carryings on the line. A survey showed that 7,000 passengers were carried in the whole of 1950, an average of six per train. This led to definite proposals to close the line. When the coal emergency[note 2] became serious, the Railways' managements were asked to take exceptional measures to reduce coal consumption, and it was decided to suspend passenger train services on the line; this was done from the last train on 10 February 1951. Although ostensibly a temporary measure, the trains were not restored and the formal closure to passengers took place on 7 May 1951.[1]

Green Grove Creamery[edit]

In 1951 a new creamery was opened at Green Grove, near Felin Fach, by the Milk Marketing Board. It started operation on 10 May 1951 and as well as processing milk it served as a concentration point for conveyance of liquid milk to London and other large population centres. Milk trains ran seven days a week to Lampeter, the milk continuing from there to Carmarthen and then onwards on the main line.[1]

Closure[edit]

The general goods traffic had also declined steeply, and after 5 April 1965 goods traffic on the line was discontinued; the branch was shortened back to Green Grove; from that time the milk tanker traffic was the only traffic using the line. It too ceased on 1 October 1973 and from that time the line was completely closed.[1]

Topography[edit]

  • Aberayron; opened 12 May 1911; closed 12 February 1951;
  • Llanerch Ayron Halt; opened 2 October 1911; closed 12 February 1951;
  • Crossways Halt; opened 8 April 1929; closed 12 February 1951;
  • Ciliau Aeron; opened 12 May 1911; closed 12 February 1951;
  • Felin Fach -- Green Grove Siding;
  • Ystrad Cardigan; opened 12 May 1911; renamed Felin Fach; closed 12 February 1951;
  • Talsarn Halt; opened 12 May 1911; closed 12 February 1915;
  • Blaenplwf Halt; opened 12 May 1911; closed 12 February 1951;
  • Silian Halt; opened 2 May 1911; closed 12 February 1951;
  • Aberayron Junction; convergence with Manchester and Milford Railway main line;
  • Lampeter; M&MR station; opened 1 January 1866; closed 22 February 1965.[15][16][17]

Route[edit]

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 first halt, Silian Halt, was located half a mile from Aberaeron Junction 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 stayed in the base of the valley on generally level ground, passing the milk creamery at Green Grove and continuing to the halt at Ciliau Aeron. Beyond here the line traversed the country estate of Llanerchaeron, and 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 was not 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 two-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 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]

Note: this section was written in 2010. 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.


Notes[edit]

  1. ^ This is the gauge usually quoted; Price says 1ft 11 58in on page 71, and some sources refer to it as "the two-feet gauge".
  2. ^ After 1945 there was an extreme shortage of coal, at that time an essential source of power for industry.

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m M R C Price, The Lampeter, Aberayron and New Quay Light Railway, Oakwood Press, Usk, second edition 2011, ISBN 978 0 85361 714 3
  2. ^ Brief History of the Carmarthen and Cardigan Railway at the Disused Stations website, http://www.disused-stations.org.uk/n/newcastle_emlyn/
  3. ^ a b c D S M Barrie revised by Peter E Baughan, A Regional History of the Railways of Great Britain: volume 12: South Wales, David St John Thomas Publisher, Nairn, second edition 1994, ISBN 0 946537 69 0
  4. ^ Herbert Williams, Railways in Wales, Christopher Davies (Publishers) Ltd, Swansea, 1981, ISBN 0 7154 0497 0
  5. ^ a b c d J S Holden, The Manchester and Milford Railway, Oakwood Press, Usk, 1979, ISBN 0 85361 244 7
  6. ^ a b E F Carter, An Historical Geography of the Railways of the British Isles, Cassell, London, 1959
  7. ^ a b c d e Peter E Baughan, A Regional History of the Railways of Great Britain, volume XI, North and Mid Wales, David St John Thomas Publisher, Nairn, second edition 1991, ISBN 0 946537 59 3
  8. ^ W J K Davies, The Vale of Rheidol Light Railway, Ian Allan Limited, Shepperton, second edition 1970, ISBN 978-0711001435
  9. ^ Unreferenced report quoted in Holden
  10. ^ Tom Ferris, Lost Lines of Wales: Aberystwyth to Carmarthen, Graffeg Press, 2016, ISBN 978 1909 823 198
  11. ^ a b c Peter Dale, Pembroke, Cardigan & Montgomery’s Lost Railways, Stenlake Publishing, Catrine, 2007, ISBN 978 1840 334012
  12. ^ Herbert Morgan, South Wales Branch Lines, Ian Allan Limited, Shepperton, 1984, ISBN 0 7110 1321 7
  13. ^ E T MacDermot, History of the Great Western Railway: volume II: 1863 - 1921, published by the Great Western Railway, London, 1931
  14. ^ Western Mail, 21 February 1914, accessible at the British Newspaper Archive, subscription required.
  15. ^ M E Quick, Railway Passenger Stations in England Scotland and Wales—A Chronology, The Railway and Canal Historical Society, 2002
  16. ^ Col M H Cobb, The Railways of Great Britain—A Historical Atlas, Ian Allan Publishing Limited, Shepperton, 2003, ISBN 07110 3003 0
  17. ^ R A Cooke, Atlas of the Great Western Railway, 1947, Wild Swan Publications Limited, Didcot, second edition 1997, ISBN 0 906867 65 7