Grace's Guide

British Industrial History

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Vale of Rheidol Railway

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Park Avenue, Aberystwyth, Ceredigion, SY23 1PG.

The line was to serve the mines in the Rheidol valley, carrying ore, especially lead, and timber (for pit props etc.) to the sea and the main line railway at Aberystwyth.

Construction was begun in 1901 following an Act of Parliament in 1897. Rock was hand-hewn instead of being blasted in order to save money. The railway was unusual in that it developed its tourist potential by carrying passengers from its opening: the line opened for mineral traffic in August 1902 and for passengers on 22 December 1902.

On 1 July 1913, the line was absorbed by Cambrian Railways. It was subsequently grouped into the Great Western Railway (GWR) in 1923.

The GWR turned it uniquely into a completely tourist based service, freight services being withdrawn and only a summer season of trains being operated from the 1930's.

The entire line was closed for the duration of WW2, though maintained so that in 1946 it reopened, and in 1948 passed into the hands of British Railways.

The line was finally privatised in 1989, sold to the Brecon Mountain Railway, who in 1996 sold it on to the Phyllis Rampton Narrow Gauge Trust. Today it still operates as a tourist railway offering an hour-long journey through spectacular mountain scenery, much of it at a gradient of 1 in 50. The headquarters of the railway are at Aberystwyth, where it shares a terminus with the standard gauge main line, trains leaving from a bay platform. For many years, it was the sole steam-operated line on the British Rail network, steam traction having ceased in 1968 on all other parts of the system.

Heritage railway

Vale of Rheidol Railway, Park Avenue, Aberystwyth, Cardiganshire. SY23 1PG

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