Brief History of the Railway
of Rheidol Light Railway was authorised by Act of Parliament on
6th August 1897. At the time of building, it was of the most up
to date standard of narrow gauge construction, and passed through
terrain where it would have been almost impossible to build a standard
gauge line without prohibitive costs. The line was authorised as
two distinct sections, namely the main line from Aberystwyth to
Devil's Bridge, and a harbour branch.
on construction was delayed due to difficulty in raising capital
locally, but finally got under way under the direction of Sir James
Szlumper in 1901. Some materials and a locomotive ( which was renamed
Rheidol) from the defunct Plynlimon & Hafan Tramway were used
during the construction. The railway finally opened to the general
public on 22nd December 1902.
At the time,
it was thought that the building of the railway would bring prosperity
back to some of the local lead mines in the area, and indeed some
were reopened, the ore extracted taken by the railway to Aberystwyth
for transhipment by rail or sea. A good trade was also done in timber,
which was used mainly for pit props in the South Wales coal mines.
stations were at Aberystwyth, Llanbadarn, Capel Bangor, Nantyronen
and Devil's Bridge.
At the height
of the lines prosperity, in 1912, consideration was given to converting
the line to electric traction, using hydro-electric power from the
River Rheidol. The same year however, control of the line passed
to the Cambrian Railways and plans were shelved. The Great War of
1914-18 saw closure of the Rheidol United Lead Mine and a reduction in
passenger services, and following the war the decline in other mine
traffic continued, balanced somewhat by a growing tourist trade.
In 1923 Cambrian Railways were themselves absorbed by the Great
Western Railway and goods services were withdrawn completely, and
the harbour branch closed. The winter passenger service was withdrawn
in 1930, and the line closed completely from the end of the 1939
summer service for the duration of the Second World War.
of the line passed to British Railways in 1948, and it survived
through threats of closure to become the last steam railway owned
by British Rail until privatised in 1989. The railway is now owned
by a charitable trust, who set about renovating and improving the
locomotives, carriages and track and opening up some of the views
not seen for decades.
and carriages currently in use were built for the line by the Great
Western Railway between 1923 and 1938.
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Vale of Rheidol Railway
Park Avenue, Aberystwyth, Ceredigion, SY23 1PG
Registered Charity No 1076037
Bookings and Enquiries: 01970 625819
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