Monday 19 August 2013

Great Railway Journeys of the World?

     Part 1    
Cambrian Railways owned 230 route miles of track over a large area of mid-Wales.
The system was an amalgamation of a number of railways that were incorporated in 1864, 1865 and 1904. The Cambrian connected with two of the larger railways to give connections to the North West of England, via the London and North Western Railway; and with the Great Western Railway for connections between London and North Wales. The Cambrian Railways were absorbed by the Great Western Railway on 1 January 1922 as a result of the Railways Act 1921.

The Cambrian also had business relationships with many smaller lines. For example, from Abegynolwyn (base for the fbb's holiday last week) the privately owned narrow gauge Talyllyn line carried slate to Towyn where it was transhipped onto the "main line".
The platform, as in Tywyn Wharf station, is still clearly visible alongside he standard gauge line.

Its headquarters and loco works were at Oswestry where the splendid station served as the head office.
The building has been fettled up ...
... and houses the Cambrian Visitor Centre.
Alas, no trains!

The lines that form the core of fbb's holiday interest were (indeed, still are) those that serve the Cambrian coast. The "main line" continues north and west to Pwllheli.
Surprisingly much of this network remains in 2013, albeit with the loss of some intermediate stations on the Aberystwyth line. The Dinas Mawddwy branch closed to passengers in 1931 with Cemmes Road (later Cemmaes Road) succumbing in 1965.
The line between Aberystwyth and Devil's Bridge is the Vale of Rheidol narrow gauge line, now no longer part of the National Rail network, but once owned by "The Cambrian". And before someone adds a comment to that effect, the "dot", south of Barmouth and named Barmouth Junction on the top map, is still open but called Morfa Mawddach.

 The long-term prestigious train was the aptly named Cambrian Coast Express.

Using this 1957 timetable, the happy holidaymaker could leave London Paddington at 1010 and just under 8 and a half hours later would arrive at Pwllheli. Despite some gargantuan journey times, towns along the line were heavily promoted as sun drenched holiday resorts well into British Railways days. 
The cynical modern reader might surmise that the artist and the BR management had never experienced the often inclement weather of the Welsh mountains!

For those for whom nothing is right with today's railways, it is pertinent to point out that the 2013 equivalent of the Cambrian Coast Express requires a change of train at Birmingham International. But departure from London Euston is 1043 and arrival at Pwlleli is 1717. 6 and a half hours; or two hours faster. This is, indeed, the age of the train!

What is perhaps more significant is that there are five departures from Euston on weekdays offering similar journey times.

Tailpiece : Companies that were absorbed by (or operated by) The Canbrian in date order are shown below. fbb has added a few snippets.

1859 Llanidloes and Newtown Railway 12.25 miles
1860 Oswestry and Newtown Railway 30 miles
1863 Newtown and Machynlleth Railway 23 miles
1863 Oswestry, Ellesmere and Whitchurch Railway 18 miles
1863 Aberystwyth and Welsh Coast Railway 86 miles
1865 Mawddwy Light Railway 6.75 miles
 Dinas Mawddwy station still exists as a private dwelling
1871 Van Railway (serving lead mines) 6.5 miles
John Ceiriog Hughes (25 September 1832 to 23 April 1887), was a Welsh poet and well-known collector of Welsh folk tunes. Sometimes referred to as the "Robert Burns of Wales". He was employed as a station master and Manager of the Van Railway at Caersws railway station from 1868 until his death in 1887.
1888 Mid-Wales Railway 45.5 miles
1895 Wrexham and Ellesmere Railway 12.75 miles
1902 Vale of Rheidol Railway 11.75 miles
1903 Welshpool and Llanfair Light Railway 9 miles
1904 Tanat Valley (Llynclys - Llangynog) 15 miles

Tomorrow and Wednesday, fbb achieves a lifetime's ambition!

 Next Rail Blog : Tuesday 20th August 


  1. Thank you for posting the Cambrian Coast Express 1957 timetable.

    It reveals an interesting difference between the up and down journeys - combining at Dovey Junction on the up journey but dividing at Machynlleth on the down.

    But I wonder why the Saturdays up journey started short at Barmouth Junction and failed to serve the resorts of the Pwllheli-Barmouth section?

  2. The Cambrian Railways were/was one of the very few, perhaps even the only, railway company at that time (pre-grouping) to have described itself in the plural. Not repeated until British Railways came along 25 years later.

    Unless anybody better informed knows better.