North Wales Steam Railways Tour Journey Notes 1 - Shrewsbury to Machynlleth.
Times in brackets are approximate passing times - assuming departure from Shrewsbury on schedule at 11.27 based on timetables to 20 May 2017. Left or Right refers to when facing direction of travel.
L - Shrewsbury’s Severn Bridge Junction Signal Box. With 180 levers at its peak, this is the largest operational mechanical signal box in the world! Note that the semaphore signals in the station are of the upper quadrant type but those immediately afterwards are Great Western Railway lower quadrants.
R - Shrewsbury Traction Maintenance Depot. The former Coleham Goods Yard, Network Rail stable here up to four Class 97/3s for when locomotive hauled trains are required on the Cambrian Lines - there are no freight trains. A Permanent Way Depot adjoins.
L - Sutton Bridge Junction and Signal Box. Just before the signal box was the junction for the northern end of the Severn Valley Railway to Bridgnorth which closed for passengers and through freight in 1963. Today, the SVR from Bridgnorth to Kidderminster is a major Heritage Railway. The Welsh Marches lines to Hereford, Abergavenny and Newport curve away to the left.
From here, the Cambrian Line begins (virtually all single track) with train movements controlled from Machynlleth by ERTMS (European Rail Traffic Management System) with computer screens in the driver’s cabs.
L - The Shropshire & Montgomeryshire Light Railway. 18 miles long from Shrewsbury Abbey station, this ran alongside the Cambrian Line for a couple of miles before crossing over it at Hookagate and heading north-west to connect at Llanymynech with the former Cambrian Railways line from Oswestry to Welshpool. With a chequered history, it was taken over by the War Department in 1941 to serve an extensive camouflaged ammunition depot at Nesscliffe and there were exchange sidings and a signal box here at Hookagate; the line closed in 1961.
(11.33) R - Hanwood. Former station building; closed to passengers in 1960 (together with all other stations on this line before Buttington), Hanwood’s signal box was opposite the station and there was a goods yard until 1964. Half a mile west of here on the left was Cruckmeole Junction for the 6.5 mile branch to Minsterley via Pontesbury where there were transfer sidings from the narrow gauge Snailbeach District Railway which served lead mines in the area. The branch closed to passengers in 1951 but goods continued until 1967. Sidings at Cruckmeole served small coal mines in the area - the Shropshire Coalfield. 2.25 miles further west on the main line was Yockleton Halt.
(11.39) R - Westbury (Salop). Former station building by the B4387 level crossing north of the village; there was a passing loop, signal box and a small goods yard here. Plas-y-Court Halt was 2.25 miles after Westbury and after another mile we cross the border; Croeso y Cymru - Welcome to Wales!!! Another former station was located near here south of the village of Middletown - in 1928, the station name was changed from Middletown Hills to Breidden - the name of the hills to the north.
(11.45) R - Buttington Station & Junction. Just before the A458 level crossing (with a former crossing keeper’s cottage), the old track formation of the Cambrian Railways line can be seen heading north to Oswestry via Llanymynech (branch to Llanfyllin) and Llynclys Junction (branch to Llangynog). Buttington had four platforms but trains from both lines ran to/from Welshpool. Local passenger trains on the Shrewsbury line were withdrawn in 1960 and the station closed in 1965 when passenger services from Oswestry ceased and the line closed south of Llynclys Junction. Cambrian Heritage Railways now operate a short section of line from Llynclys and also from Oswestry.
11.49 Welshpool (Y Trallwng). R - The railway was realigned and the current station built in 1993 to facilitate the provision of a new road to by-pass Welshpool. The adjoining old station, a lavishly designed and detailed French Renaissance style building, was constructed in 1869/60 to house the headquarters of the Oswestry and Newtown Railway; however the building's role as headquarters was short-lived - just a couple of years. The building now houses an Edinburgh Woollen Mill’s shop.
The Welshpool & Llanfair Light Railway used to run through the town to exchange sidings here next to the goods yard. Today the line starts to the west of the town at a new terminus at Ravens Square. Opened in 1903 to link the rural community of Llanfair Caereinion with Welshpool, this 2 foot 6 inch narrow gauge railway was built as a Light Railway. Passenger services ceased in 1931 but freight on the line continued until it was closed by British Railways in 1956. Restoration of the line began in 1959, the first passenger train ran from Llanfair to Castle Caereinion in 1963 and by 1981 the line was open again to Welshpool, some 8 miles. Our Mid Wales Steam Railways Tour takes in this Railway.
The original station at Welshpool had four platforms - part of the up platform still exists by the old station, a bay off this platform and an island platform for down trains off both the Shrewsbury and Oswestry lines. The goods yard and the terminus of the Welshpool & Llanfair Railway was to the west of the station and to the east there were more sidings, a small engine shed and a turntable. The footbridge connecting the up and down platforms is now at Glyndyfrdwy station on the Llangollen Railway.
The line west of Welshpool is ‘double track’ - a 2.5 mile long passing loop.
(11.53) R - Forden. Level crossing and the former station house complete with a restored signal box - on the market February 2015 @ £225,000! Closed to passengers (together with Montgomery and Abermule) in 1965. The signal box controlled a passing loop but it was at the opposite end of the station from the level crossing.
(11.56) R - Montgomery. Site of the former station that was a couple of miles west of the town. The station had a long passing loop, signal box, sidings and a goods yard on left.
(11.59) R - Abermule. Former station building by a level crossing over the B4386 road to Montgomery; there was a passing loop here and the signal box was on the left by the crossing. This was the junction for the 3.75 mile-long branch line to Kerry which ran from here on the left; the down platform had two faces, one serving the branch but it closed to passengers in 1931. Freight on the line included timber (a tramway system ran from the forests to Kerry station), bricks and drain pipes from a brickworks about 2 miles along the line, livestock from Kerry Sheep Fairs and incoming coal. By 1956, traffic on the line had dwindled to a few wagons a week and the branch closed on 1st May.
West of Abermule was the site of a tragic accident in 1921 when the single line token system was overridden and two passenger trains collided head-on. A stopping train for Newtown departed from Abermule carrying the wrong tablet for the section it was entering and collided with an express from Aberystwyth; there were 17 fatalities.
12.02 Arrive Newtown (Y Drenewydd). R - The Pryce Jones Royal Welsh Warehouse adjoining the station remains the tallest building in Newtown; it housed the world's first mail order service depot. On left, remains of a bay platform once used for trains to Llanidloes and the Brecon line; sidings used now for permanent way equipment. The signal box was at the end of the platform - it closed in 1988 when a Radio Electronic Token Block system was introduced on the Cambrian Lines controlled from Machynlleth - the predecessor of the current system; the goods yard was on the right. Depart Newtown at 12.03; the line was once double track from here to Moat Lane Junction.
(12.04) R - Scafell Halt. Closed in 1954; a siding to a quarry was once here.
(12.08) L - Moat Lane Junction. Little remains of the station which had five platforms, a refreshment room, two signal boxes, loco shed, turntable and goods sidings. The 60 mile line ran from here to Brecon via Llanidloes, Rhayader, Builth Wells, Three Cocks Junction (line from Hereford and Hay-on-Wye) and Talyllyn Junction (line from Newport). Closed to passengers at the end of 1962, freight continued to Llanidloes until 1967. After a short distance we pass the level crossing at the junction of the A470 and the A489; the crossing keeper’s cottage (right) is now a private residence. Semaphore signals to protect the crossing lasted until a few years ago.
(12.09) L - The Van Railway. Just before the level crossing on the B4569 and Caersws station was the junction with a 6.5 mile line that served the lead and silver mines at Y Fan, north-west of Llanidloes. For most of its life the line was freight only with passengers only being carried in the 1870s. Production peaked in 1876 when ore was mined valued at over £100,000 - worth £8 million today. The mines closed in 1920 but two trains a week (when required) carried general goods until closure in 1940. The Van station buildings were used by the GWR & British Railways until the 1980s and still exist. Caersws goods yard was on right.
12.10 Caersws station. R - Although there was a passing loop here, the station only ever had the one platform; note the flower beds and tubs provided by local organisations! The former signal box survives and was used after the loop was removed until 2011 for the crossing keeper; the station master’s house was for sale in 2014 @ £125,000.
(12.15) L - Pontdolgogh. Former station building, now a private residence. Closed to passengers (together with all other stations from here to Machynlleth) in 1965.
(12.17) L - Carno. Former station buildings located next to what was Laura Ashley’s first factory; level crossing over road to Llanfair Caereinion - signal box was on right. Ongoing attempts to get the station re-opened. January 2016 - The Transport Minister for Wales confirmed Arriva Trains Wales and Network Rail have broadly agreed with an independent report recommending re-opening the station; a new station would need to be built as the old one is privately owned.
(12.20) R - Talerddig. Passing loop - we are scheduled to pass the 11.30 from Aberystwyth; a small station was formally sited here. The train now drops down Talerddig bank; 37 metres deep and cut through solid rock, it was the deepest in the world at the time of its completion in 1862. After we cross over the A470, look out below left for Talerrdig’s signal box which has been moved and restored and is now located in someone’s garden!
(12.28) L - Llanbrynmair. The former station is now a private house - ‘a very well preserved Grade II listed building’. There was a passing loop, goods yard and a very small signal box. A few miles further on was Commins Coch Halt - right next to the A470.
(12.33) Cemmes Road - now spelt Cemmaes; the actual village of Cemmaes is 2 miles north-east. There was a passing loop and a signal box here until the 1980s. L - The former station buildings at the side of the A489 are now privately owned. R - Former waiting rooms and booking office for the 6.75 mile-long branch line that ran north from here to Dinas Mawddwy to transport slate and timber to the main line. The last regular passenger service was in 1930 (Sunday School specials continued until 1939); after WWII, goods traffic was down to two trains a week and the line closed in 1950 after flood damage to a bridge.
12.41 Arrive at Machynlleth. On the left is the original steam engine shed (built in 1863), the control centre for all the Cambrian Lines and Arriva Trains Wales Train Care facility - all trains terminating at Aberystwyth return here for servicing overnight. The station also dates from 1863 with the opening of the Newtown and Machynlleth Railway; the building is used for booking facilities, etc., offices for Arriva Trains Wales and Mid Wales Tourism have offices on the first floor. On the right was the goods yard and the terminus of the Corris Railway.