Feb 2011 Railway talk

09/02/2011 Notes of talk by Mr Denis Bates of the Aeron Valley Railway Society on the Lampeter to Aberayron railway in the centenary year of its opening.

Denis described the many earlier railway schemes in the region which were however never realised. The eventual introduction of ‘The Light Railways Bill’ of 1896 allowed for less onerous construction and hence more economical initial costs for such branch lines. The main concessions being a 25 m.p.h. speed limit which allowed for smaller radius curves in the planning of the route and also removed the need for crossing gates at roadways and the costs of manning these, All this enabled ‘The Lampeter, Aberayron and New Quay Light Railway’ to become a realistic proposal. Mr J.C.Harford of Falcondale was a leading applicant for the Order of 1906, construction commenced in 1908, the line was opened on 12th May 1911. As finances were difficult the Great Western Railway became involved in completion and operation and also in not taking on the New Quay branch in the face of very high survey estimate costings.

The route of the line was shown by maps. From a junction off the Aberywstwth line just north of Lampeter, via Silian Halt, Blaenplwf Halt, Talsarn, Felinfach, Green Grove, Ciliau Aeron, Llanayron Halt and over the river into Aberaeron by a bridge which is still part of the access into Jewson’s yard. At this location there was an elevated water tank fed from the river by a pump activated by locomotive steam.

This was followed by a picture tour from a 1960’s goods train trip and a selection of earlier photographs. This showed abandoned platforms at the Halt locations and raised considerable interest in recollections of original buildings and in what now remains.

During its main forty year period the line provided four passenger trains daily each way, then and for some additional ten years a goods service which at times included timber, cattle, milk and parcels and later for milk but only from Green Grove. The goods traffic was handled by 0-6-0 ‘ panier tank’ engines so familiar over all of the GWR i.e. those with their water tanks slung on each side. The lighter loaded passenger trains using 0-4-2 engines having their water tanks for the full depth of each side. These headed one coach or were between two coaches coupled so that the driver could control the train from the engine or from the front of the coach if leading, these being referred to as ‘auto-trains’. The line ran for passengers and goods until 1951, goods only to the early 1960’s and from then only for the modest traffic from the Felinfach area milk depots until the 1973 full closure.