- Mid Wales Line
Mid Wales Line (1864-1963)Legend Welsh Marches Line Shrewsbury to Chester Line Shrewsbury River Severn Wolverhampton to Shrewsbury Line (Severn Bridge Junction) Welsh Marches Line A5 Border between England and Wales Welshpool Newtown Moat Lane Junction Machynlleth Cambrian Line to Pwllheli Aberystwyth Llandinam Dolwen Llanidloes Penbontbren Junction (Manchester and Milford Railway) Start of the Mid Wales line proper Tylwch Pantydwr St Harmon Marteg Halt Rhayader Doldowlod Newbridge on Wye Builth Road for Heart of Wales Line Builth Wells Llanfaredd Halt Aberedw Erwood Llanstephan Halt Boughrood to Hereford Golden Valley Line to Pontrilas Hay-on-Wye Three Cocks Junction Talyllyn Junction Brecon (Joint Station) Talybont-on Usk Pontsticill Merthyr Tydfil South Wales Main Line Cardiff Central South Wales Main Line Onllwyn railhead South Wales Main Line Neath Swansea West Wales Line
The Mid Wales Line was a standard gauge railway line that opened in 1864 as a North-South route serving central Welsh towns including Llanidloes, Rhayader, Builth Wells and Brecon. There were over 20 intermediate stations on this rural line, many minor, given the very sparse local populations
The railway met with what is now termed the 'Cambrian Line' at the north end, at Moat Lane Junction between Caersws and Newtown, and connected to the complex South Wales network in several places. Though a long route, it served to link several quite significant rural centres and the key regional towns.
It should not be confused with the scenic Central Wales Line, now marketed as the Heart of Wales Line , which it crossed approximately half-way along its length at Builth Road, nor with the Cambrian Line from Shrewsbury to Machynlleth. Both of these lines undeniably run at least partially through 'mid Wales' and both remain open.
Unlike the Mid Wales line, the railway routes which remain open in Wales primarily serve to connect Welsh communities with England, and so the North, Mid, and South Wales rail networks all remain distinct entities, which makes some journeys difficult.
The Mid Wales route was not an independent railway, but was a network of lines created by a number of smaller companies, which created short lines that later interconnected.
- The Llanidloes and Newtown Railway built the first section, between the towns of its name, and south to Penbontbren Junction, where a signal box remained, controlling double track in spite of the abortive Manchester and Milford Railway scheme that became their Llangurig branch. The L&N also built the expansive Llanidloes station building, the cost borne jointly by the L&N and M&M for many years in spite of the latter never being able to reach it.
- The Mid-Wales Railway built and owned the entire section from Penbontbren Junction to Talyllyn Junction.
- The Hereford, Hay and Brecon Railway built and part-owned the Line from Three Cocks Junction to Hay-on-Wye.
- The Brecon and Merthyr Railway built the heavily-engineered section south from Brecon, via Talyllyn Tunnel, Talyllyn Junction, the Beacons Tunnel, and Pontsticill, opening in 1863, ultimately to Newport Docks. Beyond Pontsticill and Pant, the entire Valleys rail network was accessible.
- The Neath and Brecon Railway constructed the primary western route to Brecon, enabling access to and from Neath Docks.
- The Swansea Vale Railway built a link to the Neath and Brecon line at Coelbren providing another, more direct, route to Swansea, although this lost its passenger service in the 1930s.
At Brecon, following the initial opening of three separate stations, a joint station was created at Free Street. At Llanidloes, a joint station was created in anticipation of M&MR traffic which never materialised, since the Mid Wales Railway never completed their section of the Llangurig - Strata Florida - Aberystwyth line.
The 'Welsh Railways Through Traffic Act' of 1889 went some way to formalising an arrangement whereby the Mid Wales Line would form part of a through route from South Wales to Cheshire, as an alternative to the main line route via Hereford and Shrewsbury. The links necessary to complete this route included a new line from Ellesmere on the Cambrian main line to Wrexham, and certain lines on the Wirral. These links were not complete until 1896. In practice the route never received substantial use, and that almost entirely for goods traffic. An exception occurred during WWI when through passenger trains over the Mid-Wales Railway were withdrawn to provide the maximum number of traffic paths for coal trains from South Wales travelling north to Scapa Flow to fuel the Fleet. These trains, running day and night, were dubbed the 'Jellicoe Specials' after the Admiral of the Fleet.
The entire Mid-Wales network closed in the early 1960s, with the exception of freight south of Onllwyn and north of Llanidloes, and the separate Heart of Wales route. The Hay-on-Wye route also closed.
One enthusiast-run railway uses part of the southern route: The narrow-gauge Brecon Mountain Railway run their American-themed locomotives on part of the former Brecon and Merthyr Railway section of the line from Pant towards Tonpantau. The now defunct Swansea Vale Railway tried to preserve about 2 miles of the Swansea-Brecon section near Swansea.
As a result of the UK planning laws, former railway sites are "brownfield" and therefore targets for development. In several places the former station sites have been built on for industrial use, as is popular elsewhere on former goods yards. Two long stretches have been used for by-passes; around Builth Wells and Llanidloes, which is unusual in that the by-pass runs directly through the town on the old railway, re-using its bridges to take traffic past the urban road network without interference.
The condition of the route today can be assessed using aerial photography. Some of the main features have been highlighted here.
- ^ R W Kidner (2003). The Mid-Wales Railway. The Oakwood Press.
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