Mid Wales Steam Railways Tour Journey Notes 4 - Aberystwyth to Dovey Junction.
Aberystwyth now has 12 trains every weekday to Shrewsbury starting at 05.30 through to 19.30 - mostly every hour with just three two hour gaps. Many of these trains run to Birmingham International with connections to London - total journey time 4 hours and 45 minutes. Arrivals at Aberystwyth follow a similar pattern from 08.22 to 23.38.
In the late 50s, prior to all the closures, the first train out of Aberystwyth for Shrewsbury was at 07.35; stopping everywhere between here and Welshpool, arrival in London Paddington was not until 14.15 - two hours exactly after the current 07.30 will get you to Euston. The next train, the 09.55, took even longer.
The line did have one train then that doesn’t exist today - the Cambrian Coast Express which ran through from Paddington to Aberystwyth. Leaving London at 10.10, it arrived at Aberystwyth at 16.05 (later times on Saturdays). The Express did the same as all todays’ trains do - it divided at Machynlleth with one part of the train going on to Aberystwyth and the other part to Pwllheli. In the other direction, It left Aberystwyth at 11.45 and arrived Paddington at 18.00 (two hours earlier on Saturdays); the two parts of the train were combined at Dovey Junction.
However, with steam nostalgia in mind, the departure of the Cambrian Coast Express from Aberystwyth in those days would have been a rather more impressive sight than a diesel multiple unit today! The train had a Restaurant Car for the entire trip - also rather more impressive than today’s refreshment trolley! In 1957/8, a full breakfast was available for 18p, table d’hote luncheon @ 48p and afternoon tea for 15p. Fares at that time were £2.94 for a 1st class single ticket for the 234 mile trip to Paddington and 2nd class @ £1.96.
There was even an overnight service to London in the timetables. Leaving Aberystwyth at 18.00 and travelling to Shrewsbury, one could then get on a Sleeping Car train here at 23.10 which arrived at Paddington at 05.10; passengers didn’t have to leave the train until 07.30.
Also in those days, there were a couple of trains each way on weekdays from Aberystwyth that took the Cambrian Railways Line from Welshpool to Oswestry and Whitchurch instead of to Shrewsbury. These trains included the 03.15 down mail from Whitchurch which arrived at Aberystwyth at 07.05. Summer Saturdays saw additional trains for visitors. There was only one arrival at Aberystwyth on a Sunday at 09.29 and a departure for Whitchurch at 18.20. Today there are eight or nine Sunday trains to/from Shrewsbury.
The Vale of Rheidol was still run by British Railways at this time. Peak summer services consisted of three trains Monday to Friday, two on Saturday and one on Sunday; there was also a train on Wednesday evenings - just the same as in 2015.
12.30 Depart Aberystwyth. L - The goods yard was quite extensive and some overgrown sidings still exist; coal deliveries lasted until the 80s and Shell BP’s depot here was supplied by rail until 1993. A number of freight trains did run in 2005 when a five week trial took place transporting timber from Aberystwyth to the Kronospan wood chip factory near Chirk on the Shrewsbury to Wrexham line. Although the results of the trial were apparently successful, nothing more came of this.
Bow Street, Llandre, Ynyslas and Glandyfi - in the late 50s all these closed stations would have had 6 to 8 trains each way daily plus one from Machynlleth at 17.10 and from Aberystwyth at 21.00 which only ran on Mondays and Thursdays - do doubt some one will know why on these days! Only Llandre was important enough for the Cambrian Coast Express to be requested to stop - but not on Saturdays.
12.41 Borth. Camping coaches were a feature on the Cambrian Lines in the 1950s and 1960s; they were old carriages converted to form eight-berth self-catering holiday ‘cottages’ with one or more stabled in sidings at smaller coastal stations and were available to hire - part of the deal would be that you travelled there by train. Locations included Borth and Bow Street as well as a number of locations on the coast line.
12.52 Arrive Dovey Junction (Cyff Dyfi) and leave the train. There was one passenger train in the steam era which left Swansea on summer Saturdays at 10.10 and travelled via Carmarthen, Aberystwyth, Dovey Junction and Barmouth to the Butlins Holiday Camp at Penychain (just east of Pwllheli) where it arrived at 16.56 - average speed 23 mph! The return journey started at 10.18 and arrived at Swansea after a change at Carmarthen exactly seven hours later.