History of the Carmarthen – Aberystwyth Railway
The Aberystwyth to Carmarthen railway started by being built in stages from the South. The South Wales Railway was built westwards from Swansea in 1852. From here, it was extended to Haverfordwest, reaching Carmarthen in 1859.
From Carmarthen, developing on the idea by a well-known Welsh railway Contractor, David Davies, of wanting a railway line to link Carmarthen with Cardigan, a link was opened northwards of Carmarthen to Cynwyl Elfed in 1860. 3 years previously, in August 1957, work had started on the Alltwalis tunnel of 985 yards. By March 1864, the railway was extended to Pencader, and in only 3 months time, had been extended to Llandysul. In the same year, Aberystwyth was connected by rail to England.
10 years previously, in 1854, the Manchester and Milford Railway Company was formed in order to establish a rail link between Manchester and Milford Haven. Liverpool docks were becoming very busy and congested with freight, so taking advantage of a link to the quieter, natural dockyard would be advantageous to trade between Manchester and North America. Designing the railway prove to be difficult and complicated, with many plans being discussed and abandoned. The mountainous nature of Mid Wales made building a railway which needs to be as level as possible, a very difficult task.
With plans to link Manchester and Milford Haven in mind, the line progressed from Pencader to Lampeter in 1866. 700 men were employed by the contractors David Davies and Fredrick Beeston to build the M&M line, including building the Llanfihangel-ar-arth/Bryn Teifi tunnel. Around 150 wagons and horses were used for the job. Then Lampeter was linked to Aberystwyth in just 2 years through Tregaron, Strata Florida, Caradog Falls and Llanilar, reaching Aberystwyth by August 1867.
In its heyday, the railway was popular with farmers for livestock freight, milk and cheese production, and the availability of farm machinery. Animals could be transported long distances quickly and safely to meet demand. Livestock marts in Llanybydder and Llandysul were well known and well reputed, and flourished with the availability of the train service. People could travel far to attend, and animals could be imported and exported to wherever they were needed. People in the countryside would commute to Aberystwyth or Carmarthen to do their shopping. Lecturers in Lampeter University regularly used the train, and lecturers travelled from afar to hold lectures on the campus.
The closure of the line happened in stages, first being lost from Aberystwyth and working southwards. Passenger services were lost prematurely in December 1964 when flood damage by the Ystwyth River eroded a small part of the track bed near Llanilar. This small section of damage was never fixed, and bus services were used to link the final section of the journey. With the flood damage and the Beeching cuts, the entire line was closed to passengers in 1965, but freight services continued until 1970 to the creamery at Pont Llanio, and 1973 for the Felin Fach Creamery and Newcastle Emlyn. The entire line was closed in 1973, with the tracks lifted in 1975.
Wikipedia article on the line.
History of the Afon Wen – Bangor Railway
This railway linked the Caernarfon Railway Station with Afon Wen Station, which was connected to the Aberystwyth and West Coast Railway. The railway left Caernarfon Station and had two branches, one heading to Llanberis and the other heading South to Afon Wen. It was first operated by London and North Western Railway (LNWR) and then by the London, Midland and Scottish Railway (LMS).
The Llanberis branch closed to passenger services in 1930, running summer excursions between 1932 and 1939, and again from 1946 until 1962. The rail line was opened in 1862, and fell victim to the Beeching cuts and was closed in December 1964 between Caernarfon and Afon Wen. Passenger services between Bangor and Caernarfon lasted until 1970 but the line we re-opened to freight after a fire damaged the bridge across the Menai Strait to Holyhead. This section finally closed in 1972
Wikipedia article on the line.
Derailed – a history of the line