Mid Wales Railway

Mid Wales Railway

The Mid Wales Railway was a standard gauge railway 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, 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 in 2008.

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 the result of a network created by a number of smaller companies, which created short lines that later interconnected.

*The Llanidloes and Newtown 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 Tallyllyn 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 original Swansea Vale Railway constructed a secondary western route to Brecon enabling direct access to Swansea, but this lost its passenger service in the 1930s. There is a preserved line of the same name

At Brecon, after initially opening 3 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 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. The 'Beeching Axe' modernisation program of 1963, viewed South Wales as an area in decline and therefore advocated that it be stripped it of much of its railway infrastructure. Consequentially, many of these towns are 20 miles or more from the rail network. It has been noted that the line's retention might have acted to reduce the north-south divide Fact|date=January 2007 from which Wales is now perceived to suffer, as a result of poor infrastructure between the prosperous south and rural north. Its reopening occasionally features in discussions of alternatives to by-passes on the A470 road, though is highly unlikely Fact|date=January 2007.


Several enthusiast-run railways use 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, based around Pontsticill, and the Swansea Vale Railway have obtained rights for part of the Swansea-Brecon section

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 [http://maps.live.com/default.aspx?v=2&cp=52.169681~-3.41928&style=h&lvl=15&tilt=-90&dir=0&alt=-1000&scene=7687281&sp=Point.sps176gqgtrv_Builth%20Wells%20Station%20Site___~Point.spv587gqf0bh_Builth%20Road%20Low%20Level___~Point.sp44nwgqyvx5_Three%20Cocks%20Junction___~Point.sqnwk6gq5jvw_Tunnel___~Point.sr73wdgq4tnz_Llanidloes%20Station___~Point.sqgz2vgq66w6_Rhayader%20Station%20Site___ here] .

External links

* [http://history.powys.org.uk/history/rhaeadr/railway.html The Railway at Rhaeadr]
* [http://3jays.me.uk/mwr/index.php/Mid_Wales_Railway Mid Wales Railway Wiki]

ee also

*Cambrian Line
*Heart of Wales Line

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