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the vale of rheidol railway

NEWSLETTER issue no.19

Taken by John R Jones, during April 2016. No.9 “Prince of Wales” crosses the River Bridge in Llanbadarn, the point of the railway where it crosses the Rheidol River.

APRIL 2016

Telephone us: 01970 625 819 - Park Avenue, Aberystwyth SY23 1PG Regular steam train services running throughout the year

Vale of Rheidol Railway News: Steaming to the Moon... Recently Steam Railway magazine published a feature about the busiest locomotives in the UK. They overlooked a trio of Swindon built workhorses which have operated all services on the Vale of Rheidol since the early 1920s.

No 7, Owain Glyndwr, No 8 Llywelyn and No 9 Prince of Wales are still doing the job they were built for, running on their original line and hauling VoR stock. From construction in 1923/4 to 1989, whilst operated by the GWR, British Railways and British Rail we estimate the three locomotives clocked up an average of 235,000 miles each. That is the same distance as from the Earth to the Moon. Since privatisation, the locomotives continue to clock up high mileages on the 12 mile route from Aberystwyth to Devil’s Bridge.

No 7 was withdrawn from traffic pending overhaul in 1998 and dismantled. The overhaul finally commenced in earnest in 2014 following the completion of the Vale of Rheidol’s new workshop facilities and is progressing rapidly with completion due in 2017.You can follow the progress of the  project at: All services since 1998 have been operated by either No 8 or No 9. In the high summer, the timetable requires two steam locomotives in service 4 or 5 days a week. With a pool of two operating steam locomotives, this requires 100% availability of the steam fleet in order to run the advertised scheduled service. No 9 has worked every season since 1990. Will Smith

1989 to 2

No 7 - 35,0 015: 0 No 8 - 118,0 0 miles 0 No 9 - 115,0 0 miles 00 miles

Have you ever wanted to become a Steam Train Driver?

Drive a steam engine at Devil’s Bridge from 30th May to the 2nd June 2016. This summer, the Vale of Rheidol Railway is giving you the chance to be an Steam Train Driver for a Fiver! Anyone from young to old can have a go. Our Quarry Hunslet No 605 “Margaret”, will be in steam at Devil’s Bridge station on selected days. For asmall fee, there will be opportunities for Footplate rides or the chance to take the controls and drive the locomotive over a short section of line.  This is the first time “Margaret” has been used for our Driver experience. The locomotive was rebuilt within our new engineering workshop in Aberystwyth. Completed in 2015, the locomotive is fully restored after being in pieces for years previously.

All funds raised go towards the restoration of one of our other locomotive, No.7 “Owain Glyndwr”, which has been out of service since 1998. 

Drive the engine for £5 donation. Footplate rides £3 donation.  Driver for a Fiver & footplate rides on “Margaret” will also be Available on Yellow and Green Timetabled days from the 12th July to the 1st September 2016.


NTH O M E OF TH rrow gauge train E T O U a s Q lar, the n aterfall... it wa w spectacu e

Vale of Rheidol Railway News: Working with Local businesses

a s in scenery, rney wa ank Eng “The jou rough glorious f Thomas the T ed! ” v puffed th in an episode o on absolutely lo g s in ld e o b r e a k e li y4y which m dvisor

- Tripa

Upcoming Events

30th May - 2nd June 2016

Driver for a Fiver

1st June 2016

Summer Evening Excursion

Departing at 6pm, Drive our Quarry Hunslet Enjoy an evening journey Locomotive “Margaret” at Devil’s Bridge for £5. through the Rheidol Valley. Upgrade your ticket to Open to all ages, child will include Fish and Chips at need to be accompanied Devil’s Bridge. by an adult.

About the Vale o Railwayf Rheidol

The Vale o f Steam Rai Rheidol Railway is a lway which historic opened in beautiful ra 1902. This ilw ay r u ns Aberystwyt h and Devil’ 12 miles between a unique g limpse and s Bridge; providing view Rheidol Val ley, nestled s of the stunning Mountains, in the Cambrian Wales.  From the co mfo scenery an rt of your carriage w countrysid d steam passing by. atch the See the e change as yo wide open fields, woo u travel through dla mountain sc enery, the nd and rugged turning as line twisti it clings to the hillside. ng and the sound locomotive of the narrow gaug Listen to e s (200m) in th working hard to clim steam b e 11 ¾ mile s from Aber the 700ft ystwyth to Devil’s Bri dge.  Birds of pre y such as Red are regularl y seen soar Kite and Buzzards valley floo r and breat ing high above the htaki enjoyed by ng views can be all.



In the recent month, the marketing team has been busy meeting with local businesses.

One of the Marketing team, Sophia de Rochefort-Nash, has been out and about in Ceredigion meeting with local Hotels, B&B and holiday accommodation. These meetings and chats are part of a scheme to work closer with local businesses and accommodation to bring more people to the area as a whole. During these meetings, the Vale of Rheidol Railway provided each of the accommodations with information packs, which included Guidebooks, events flyers and posters. The talks have provided a great opportunity to educate local accommodation providers about what the railway has to offer for its guest from walks including the railway, to the new and improved timetables. The marketing meetings have also provided a chance for the managers and owners of the B&B or Hotels to ask any questions which they have about the railway. For example, whether dogs are allowed on the trains to what facilities are available in Devil’s Bridge. Through these meetings, The Railway has gained a lot of great feedback from local businesses on things that their customers have enjoyed and commented on as well as things which could improve. The feedback has all been very beneficial and positive in the progression of the railway and the local area. To help local businesses, the railway promotes a lot of local accommodation and attraction on its website and social media. As the railway often exhibits at large shows and exhibitions, there is always a drive to take along a lot of local promotional materials and leaflets for things in the area. If there are a few things to do and see within an area, as well as a lovely place to stay, a person is more likely to visit Ceredigion and everyone in the area will benefit from increased visitors.

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Gardens Along the Line By Phillip Ellis In the early 1900s when all of the stations and halts were regularly used some gardens would have been maintained by the railway staff. There is some evidence that a kitchen garden was kept at Capel Bangor where an old rambling rose can still be seen in the boundary hedge.

As the railway has been in use since it was first opened in 1902, apart from the wartime closures, we have not tried to recreate a particular period of planting but looked at both a traditional choice of annuals with other shrubs and perennials suitable for their location. We couldn’t resist planting some Smoke bushes, Cotinus ‘Grace’, in the Aberystwyth car park and Chilean Flame trees, Embothrium coccineum, at a number of stations along the line. Both will take some years before they flower. The gardens, tubs and planters at Devil’s Bridge around the Two Hoots café are Shan and Alun Jenkins delightful invention using their local knowledge of what grows well in the Welsh Hills.   At Capel Bangor and Nantyronen we have planted raised beds by the road entrance and level crossings and tried to encourage wild flower growth over the larger swathes of railway land.

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A very fine blue clematis, C. ‘Lasurstern’, was raised in Germany just after the railway opened so we are trying a couple climb along the fence behind the flower planters at Nantyronen. We also planted Clematis montana next to the fence at the two high halts, Rheidol Falls and Rhiwfron after the new platforms and shelters were built. Slugs and snails are a particular problem in West Wales but we had not predicted a massed rabbit attack on the flower bed at Aberffrwd two days before the official re-opening of the station in 2014 by the Welsh Government Minister for Economy, Science and Transport, Edwina Hart A.M. We thought of sitting up all night with a shot gun but more sensibly replanted the next day and subsequently only choose plants on the Royal Horticultural Society list of plants unpalatable to rabbits. We try for a good show from bedding plants in the tubs and troughs, traditional red geraniums being hard to beat, however, in the raised bed by the Capel Bangor shelter we tried the Dahlia, ‘Bishop of Llandarf’ which has made a great show of bright red flowers and dark green foliage over the last three years.

An old photograph of Aberffrwd showed the name carefully picked out on the bank in white stones. We tried to recreate this against a background of sedum which has worked well without too much time spent on weeding it. Our noble volunteers, whom I suspect would rather be driving trains than weed, continue with a fine job of maintaining the halts and gardens.

Railway Shop News: Product of the Month & Peterborough Railway Show By Geraint Roberts

Our shop product this month is fresh off the press and now available in our station shop at Aberystwyth.

To get your hands on one of these books, you can either pop into our welcoming Railway Gift Shop in Aberystwyth, Give us a call on 01970 625 819 or even buy the book online via our eBay Shop. In other shop news, The Vale of Rheidol railway was present at the National Garden railway show in Peterborough on the weekend of the 8/9 April this year. The most important date in the calendar for Garden railway enthusiasts, the show takes over the Pavilion at the East of England showground and has a good mix of layouts, traders and societies. It was a great opportunity to renew old friendships and meet new friends. The railway was also pleased to have acquired the stock of Groudle Glen range of coaches from IP engineering, which are now exclusively on sale in our shops. Ideal for the 32mm modeller.

Priced at £6.99, it’s a great addition to the catalogue. Other titles in this series which have also arrived in our shop include ‘The Cambrian Coast line’, ‘Brecon to Newport’ and ‘Ruabon to Barmouth’.

Look out for our stand at future shows at Llanfair Caereinion, Amberley, Exeter and the Warley show at the NEC.

Fill in this voucher and bring it with you to the booking office for you to claim you free guidebook. All the information must be completed to claim your guidebook. We will use this information to add you to our Email Newsletter Mailing List.

FREE GUIDE BOOK with this voucher

Newsl 19

Graffeg have released this small (200x150mm) hardback illustrated book under the series ‘Lost lines of Wales’. The photographs show many scenes from the Aberystwyth to Carmarthen line at many of the stops; including our platform at Aberystwyth, Llanilar, Tregaron and Lampeter.

Postcode:__________________________ Email:_____________________________ ____________________________________ Disclaimer: This voucher entitles the bearer to one free guide book when details completed.

Upcoming Event: Summer Evening Excursions 1st June 2016 Y A FI S

Make the most of the long summer evenings with our Steam Train hauled evening departure train, taking you through the striking Rheidol Valley in the evening Sunshine.

Why not upgrade your ticket to include Fish and Chips when you arrive at Devil’s Bridge Station? For a little extra, you can upgrade you ticket to include a Fish and Chips, so then you don’t have to worry about dinner. Or you can bring your own picnic!

TIMES Summer Evening Excursions depart  Aberystwyth at 6:00pm, Arriving back at 9:00pm.




TICKETS standard return fare applies. Meal prices: Adults £6.50 Children (3-15) £5.00 Includes a drink MENU CHOICES - Fish & Chips,  - Vegetable Curry with Chips or Rice,  - Sausage & Chips.

u also on’t ydoinner? d y h W us for join

Vale of Rheidol Volunteers and Walking in the Valley By Maurice Kyle, Railway Volunteer

The Vale of Rheidol’s small band of volunteers has been as active as always in April. As a small part of a mainly professional railway, we aim to carry out those tasks that the paid staff would have a hard job getting around to, what with running a fantastic train service!  The railway’s wonderful record of being able to take on more and more full-time employees and apprentices over the last few years seems to indicate we’re getting it about right.

With our newly refurbished intermediate stations, one of our main tasks continues to be keeping an eye on things at each of them and making sure they stay looking as good, or better, than ever. With Philip Ellis’s expert guidance, the floral displays and general planting continue to develop, and flower beds and containers continuously demand weeding and re-planting.  In April we also carried out work that improves the look of the railway for the main holiday season. Re-staining the eleven picnic benches at Devil’s Bridge, putting a top coat of paint on the water tank’s tower at Nantyronan Halt, painting new plant containers for Capel Bangor Station, and painting the two large freight containers at Aberystwyth that serve as storage rooms for equipment. We are also always keen to promote the use of the railway by walkers, which often means passengers alighting and boarding again at

intermediate stations, that’s what they are there for, after all. If you’re visiting the railway soon, why not try the walk on the right, which you can do en route to Devil’s Bridge, breaking your journey at Rheidol Falls Halt. Bear in mind, though, that paths are steep and narrow in places, and you should not take on more than you are comfortable with...walking boots are essential in this open hilly countryside!  (As everywhere else, walkers proceed at their own risk)  One of our other, shorter walks is a linear between Rheidol Falls Halt and Aberffrwd station.  Unfortunately, the original path that this took above the Halt has been severely disrupted by the necessary clearing of the larch forest, to combat the spread of larch disease.  The volunteer team has explored and established a feasible route for walkers up this exceptionally steep hillside, and one of our next projects will be to mark it out more clearly on the ground and put in ‘rustic’ steps at a particularly difficult part of the path.


Cwm Rheidol Reservoir Circular Walk 5½ km (3½ miles) Taking about 2½ hours

As for all the circular walks from Rheidol Falls Halt, this starts and finishes with the steep and rather slippery path to the valley floor, but this is a favourite delightful circular, with a nice break halfway round, and mostly easy walking. 1. Leave Rheidol Falls Halt by the gate at the western end of the platform, and descend diagonally on the steep, slippery path, down a few ‘rustic’ steps onto a level former miners’ track. Go straight across this track and continue on the small path in the same descending direction until you come to a stile near the bottom edge of the woods. Cross the stile, and go left on the grassy path downhill for a very short distance with glimpses of a ruined building below you. Follow the path steeply right beside the forest boundary fence, often made muddy by livestock, and immediately turn right again at the open meadow to pass in front of the ruined building.   Follow the wide mess of farm vehicle tracks in the river’s ‘upstream’ direction for a short distance.You will see the green footbridge over the river and you should now descend diagonally to the left to pick up the clear fairly level path again between gorse bushes.    2.Don’t be tempted here to go too far downhill to the riverbank. The path arrives at a stile which takes you onto the well-used path which leads to the footbridge to the left.   3. Cross the bridge, stopping to admire the picturesque Rheidol Falls, and walk up to the valley lane alongside the iron handrail.  Turn right along the surfaced lane and walk about 100 metres to spot the house sign for ‘Ty Poeth’ on the left hand side.  Go left up this right of way driveway, and through a gate just before the Ty Poeth outhouses.  The house itself is off to the left, but this does feel a bit like a private driveway.   4. Find and go through a small gate straight ahead which leads off the gravelled surface onto grass, and then a second small gate a little further on up the hill which leads into the forest. The path here climbs and zig-zags steeply uphill some way through the forest.   5. When high above the valley floor in a section where the path is bearing round to the right, look

out for a stile over a fence to your left. Go over this stile and struggle steeply up a very short distance between trees to reach a good wide forest track.  Turn left down the track, and follow it’s very gentle downhill incline along the valley side in the ‘downstream’ (westerly) direction.   6. The track provides a lovely easy stroll with flashes of beautiful views of the valley below to the left.  There are even one or two seats along the way to make the walk even more leisurely! Eventually you will find yourself in the Statkraft Visitor Centre car park, and there should be time for a stop here for refreshments.  This is about the half way point; make sure you have enough time to catch the train back.    7.From the Visitor Centre, walk along the road about ½ km further ‘downstream’ (west) to where the lane to Aberffrwd goes off to the left.  Walk along the lane for 250 metres, admiring the weir and dam on your left (the landscaping of the weir as part of the CEGB hydroelectric scheme won design awards in the 1960s).  8. Where the lane takes a sharp right turn towards Aberffrwd, you go through a gate on the left, and on to a track which leads along the south bank of the river, which here is widened out to form Cwm Rheidol reservoir.  Follow the track which is waymarked in places, climbing to avoid the river’s meander, and then gently descending as it approaches Rheidol Falls. 9. Soon the river has narrowed and you see the green painted footbridge at Rheidol Falls ahead. Finding the ruined building and the path up to the Halt should now be straightforward.  If you have time, have a stop at the picnic table immediately downstream of the falls, but allow plenty of time to catch your train at the top of the long steep path! As a shorter alternative, reducing the length of the walk by about ½ mile, turn left out of the Visitor Centre instead of right (see7) and walk along the lane, taking in the power station and re-crossing the river by the fish ladder and falls.

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Pictures from the Month By John R Jones, International Travel Photographer

History in Pictures By Rob Bance, Archives

Here we see locomotive No.9 taking water at Aberffrwd on the 19th April 1965. The Devil’s Bridge bound train is made up of a six car set, two of them being open “summer” carriages, which appear rather full.

Permanent Way

The Track Maintenance Team

It has been a busy season for the P-way and Track Maintenance team. They have now completed all of the heavy winter maintenance and now the trains are running, they can commence with their seasonal maintenance. The winter maintenance window runs from the End of October until the Beginning of daily Service in March. During the winter maintenance window is when the P-way Team do the majority of the big and heavy maintenance jobs.

As you can see the carriages are in the Green livery which was applied in 1964. The colour was meant to represent Cambrian Bronze green. Either side of the carriages had VoR applied in the centre, along with a waist height gold and black line. This livery only lasted a few years, being altered to all over British Railways blue. During this 5 month period, the team completed: - Re-laying 600 sleepers - Fitted ½ mile of new drainage systems across the line - 6 new track cross drains - Rebuilt an embankment wall - Extended the headshunts at both Aberystwyth & Devil’s Bridge Station, for future use. Now that the trains are running every day, the heavy maintenance window has closed. This means that seasonal work can commence between trains during the day. During April, the P-Way Crew have been working on levelling, lining and tamping the newly installed tracks across the line.

Workshop Progress:

Workshop Updates

The Cattle Van, No.40, has now been completely stripped down to the frames. This has now allowed for the frames to be sandblasted and primed. Sandblasting thoroughly cleans the frames and prepares their surface for the primer and later, the paint.

Talyllyn Railway’s Locomotive No.3 Work on Talyllyn Railway’s locomotive No3 is progressing. The final stripping of the frames, wheels sets and boiler has been completed. All of the locomotive’s components will be blast cleaned during early May, then allowing work to progress on the frame and boiler repairs.

Pictured Below,Van.40’s stripped and primed frames in the workshop with Talyllyn Railway No.3’s Boiler, also stripped and primed.

After 3 years of successfully testing the rebuilt and modified bogies on summer car No.7, the first of 14 pairs of bogie frames and wheelsets are being rebuilt to the new specifications to improve the ride and comfort in all the carriages. The New wheelsets have been manufactured in the Railway workshop.

Top Right; Modified bogies which have been The Rebuilding work has included: rebuilt to new - shot blasting  specifications. - overhauling the brake gear Bottom Right; An appren- rebuilding horn guides and bearings - new primary suspension mountings tice, Connor, works on - fitting shock absorbers to dampen priming and and stabilize the secondary painting the suspension. bogies.


Including work on Locomotive No.7 and other projects. No.7 “Owain Glyndwr”

The machining of No.7’s Axle boxes is nearing completion after the Railway’s Apprentice, Will, has been working on the over the last few month.

Coastal Communities Fund

As part of the apprentice programme, the Vale of Rheidol Railway needed to provide lessons within the workshop at the Railway. This has required the construction of a classroom, which has just reached completion. This classroom will allow the railway to teach and educate its Apprentices within the workshop environment. The classroom provides a great learning environment for our experienced engineers to pass on their knowledge and heritage skills to the apprentices and younger generations.

Apprentice,Will Parry, working on No.7’s frames with the Axle boxes

The Mechanical overhaul of the locomotive’s motion continues, whilst work has started on the plumbing of the chassis. It is hoped to have the Locomotive back on its wheels in early June.

As part of the construction of the classroom, a new staff tea room and locker room have been built in the workshop. All the lockers and staff areas will be moved over to the workshop in the coming weeks. Our apprentices have been busy cleaning valve gear components of No 7 ready for assessment, inspection and overhaul

The design work on locomotive No.7’s Tanks has been completed using the Railway’s new 3D CAD software in the design office. The next step will be to order the material for the tanks during June, ready to commence the manufacturing of the tanks within the Railway’s workshop.


Margaret has been in the workshop this Month, receiving minor works in preparations for a private charter train during May. After this the locomotive will be moved to Devil’s Bridge Station to run the Driver for a Fiver experience for the rest of the summer season.


At the beginning of the Month, Carriage No.1 left the workshop after minor repairs and a The Railway is eagerly awaiting the delivery of part-repaint and re-varnish. Carriage No.3 then the new firebox for No.7’s boiler, which is being moved into the workshop during mid-April to manufactured by Hatch Engineering, based in receive the same work, and is expected to be Swindon. Once this has been delivered, the reas- completed by early to mid-May. sembly of the boiler can continue. Page 11

Telephone us: 01970 625 819 - Park Avenue, Aberystwyth SY23 1PG Regular steam train services running throughout the year

Newsletter April 2016  

Vale of Rheidol Newsletter covering news from April 2016 along with other articles.

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