Vale of Rheidol Railway

Gauge: 1ft 11½in (600mm)

The Vale of Rheidol Railway in Mid-Wales connects Aberystwyth with the tourist attraction of Devil’s Bridge, a distance of 11³⁄₄ miles. Constructed in 1901-2, it operated the last steam service owned by British Rail.

In 1989, it was sold to a private company, and has since been developed as a heritage railway with many original features recreated.

The Vale of Rheidol Railway was authorised by act of parliament passed in 1897 and construction began in 1901. Since the railway would offer views of the spectacular and remote valley of the Rheidol river some tourist traffic was envisaged, but the primary purpose of the railway was to haul lead, copper, zinc and iron ores extracted from the Devils Bridge area to the sea and the railway in Aberystwyth. The railway was inspected for safety twice in 1902 before being granted permission to carry passengers.

Two large, purposeful 2-6-2 locomotives were built by Davies and Metcalfe of Cheshire. Three later locomotives, built in the Great Western works at Swindon, follow the style of the two originals.

The freight traffic never amounted to much and passengers, particularly in the summer season, brought in the profit.

Cambrian Railways took over the line in 1913. In the grouping of 1923 the line passed into the hands of the Great Western Railway which immediately set about relaying the entire track with new rail, built two brand new locomotives and heavily re-built one of the originals and provided new carriages. Freight traffic declined and the harbour branch was formally abandoned in 1933.

The railway was closed during the Second World War. It reopened in 1945 and three years later, under Railway Nationalisation, was transferred to British Railways. As steam passed away elsewhere, it became the last steam operated BR railway. In 1989, as the first privatisation, the Railway was sold to the Brecon Mountain Railway which operates a 2 foot gauge tourist line in South Wales. The railway has since regained its independence under the current management.

The locomotives and rolling stock on this railway are built to a large loading gauge with the result that the passenger accommodation is roomy and comfortable. The locomotives are powerful and heavy and more modern than many on British narrow gauge railways.

There have been a number of changes at Aberystwyth, with the terminus being transferred to the main station in 1968 with the closure of the standard gauge line to Carmarthen. The standard gauge locomotive shed was converted to provide covered accommodation for the railway rolling stock.

Recently, a new separate station has been built, a short distance from the main railway station.

Number / NameManufacturerTypeNotes
1 / 1212 Edward VIIDavies & Metcalfe No.1 of 19022-6-2TWithdrawn 1932. Scrapped 1935
2 / 1213 Prince of WalesDavies & Metcalfe No.2 of 19022-6-2TScrapped 1924
3 / 1198 RheidolW.G. Bagnall of 18962-4-0TEx Plynlimon & Hafan 1903. Scrapped 1924
7 Owain GlyndŵrGreat Western Railway of 19232-6-2T
8 LlywelynGreat Western Railway of 19232-6-2T
9 / 1213 Prince of WalesGreat Western Railway of 19242-6-2T
10 Brecon Mountain Railway No.BMR002 of 19870-6-0 DM