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Gwili Railway

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Location: 51 54N 4 18W; UK National Grid Ref: SN 418 237

Gwili Steam Railway, Bronwydd Arms Station,
Bronwydd, Carmarthen. SA33 6HT
Telephone: +44 (0)1267 230666

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History........The line today........Locos and rolling stock
Days, times and fares....How to get there
Other local attractions

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In March 1978, the Gwili became the first standard-gauge preserved railway to operate in Wales when it re-opened a one-mile section of the Carmarthen-Newcastle Emlyn route from its base at Bronwydd Arms, three miles north of Carmarthen. Since then, the Gwili has steadily expanded into the idyllic surroundings of a wooded valley where its previous terminus was a former quarrymen's halt on the banks of the River Gwili.
At the start of the 2001 season, the Gwili opened its extension to a new station at Danycoed.

 On September 4th 2010, the 150th anniversary of the opening of the line was celebrated.

History

The broad-gauge railway was opened in 1860 from Carmarthen to Conwil by the ill-fated Carmarthen and Cardigan Railway Company - which fell in and out of insolvency until it was eventually absorbed by the Great Western Railway - though even under the auspices of the GWR, the line never got any closer to Cardigan than Newcastle Emlyn, and this was not until 1895! Meanwhile, the Manchester and Milford Railway made a junction with the CCR at Pencader, making a through route to Lampeter, later extended to Aberystwyth. In 1872, the line became the last in Wales to be converted from Brunel's 7ft 0¼in gauge to standard gauge.
In its early days, the line thrived by serving the farming and wool industries, though in the years following the First World War, this traffic declined. World War II brought another lease of life as a relief route carrying heavy ammunition trains between south and North Wales.
The route always had a reputation as a lazy rural branch; where trains ambled along, being flagged down by market- bound farmers' wives making their way across the fields to board the carriages, and in the post- war years closure of the spurs off the main line began. Newcastle Emlyn closed in 1952 (but see the Teifi Valley Railway) which left only the route between Carmarthen and Aberystwyth. Heavy flooding severed the line six miles from Aberystwyth in December 1964, and little more than two months later the remainder of the branch was closed to passenger trains, though milk traffic kept the line between Carmarthen and Felin Fach on the Aberaeron Branch open until 1973. Two years later, the Gwili Railway Company was formed to preserve eight miles of the route, from Abergwili Junction to Llanpumpsaint.

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The line today

Trains on the Gwili start from Bronwydd Arms where the replica GWR station is dominated by a Signal Box brought from Llandybie on the Heart of Wales line. The Signal box, which is open to the public, was built in 1885 and has been restored to operate signals in the station area.
Hauled by a Pannier Tank locomotive, a train crosses the river as it nears Llwyfran CerrigFrom Bronwydd, the line climbs between hills and meadows until it passes under a rusticated bridge close to its original terminus at Penybont.
Before further extension was possible, a bridge which crosses the River Gwili (one of eight with which the Gwili has to cope before Llanpumpsaint is reached!) had to be redecked.
This was achieved in time for 10th anniversary celebrations, and at the same time, the new terminus of Llwyfan Cerrig was opened. The photograph shows one of the celebration trains crossing the bridge.
Llwyfan Cerrig (in English, Stone Platform) was a former quarrymen's halt, and the Gwili has created a nature trail which winds through the old quarry and emerges above the stock sheds. The station building, which originally stood at Felin Fach on the spur to Aberaeron and dates from 1911, has been restored and furnished in authentic 1950s style.
From the platform, a path leads to a picnic area on the bank of the Gwili River, where kingfishers and heron can sometimes be glimpsed. A special leaflet gives details of other attractions at Llwyfan Cerrig, including a treasure hunt and a miniature railway. (Your ticket includes a round trip on the miniature railway.)
Now that the new half-mile extension to Danycoed is completed, the Gwili will turn its attention to southward extension towards Carmarthen.
The Gwili owns the track as far as Abergwili Junction, two miles south of Bronwydd Arms, where a new station - Carmarthen North - will be built alongside the new Carmarthen by pass.

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Locomotives and rolling stock

The Gwili has a large collection of locomotives and rolling stock, and there are too many to list here (though perhaps it will be included in a later update) but two items are worthy of special mention.
One is a Robert Stephenson and Hawthorn Austerity 0-6-0 saddle tank No 71516 (7170 of 1944),  pictured right near the village of Pentre Morgan. This was built for the Ministry of Defence, but did not join the war effort in Europe, instead entering service in the Northumbrian coalfield, later transferring to west Wales. After being withdrawn from service and a spell stored as a source of spares, it arrived at the Gwili where it received a three-year refurbishment at a cost of £25,000.
TVR 220, the Taff Vale Railway coach restored by students at a Bridgend Comprehensive schoolIt was named Welsh Guardsman/Gwarchodwr Cymreig in a bi-lingual ceremony in June 1993, though it had hauled a demonstration freight train and worked some of the Santa Specials the previous year.
The other item which is worthy of special mention is a Taff Vale Railway coach built in 1891. Withdrawn in 1926, it was discovered 50 years later in a Herefordshire field. In 1982 it was bought as a restoration project by Brynteg Railway Preservation Group based in a Bridgend Comprehensive School. Beginning in 1986, some 250 students, £7,600 and four years of work went into refurbishing the coach, rebuilding it onto the chassis of a former London and North Eastern Railway brake van. Fitted with wheelchair clamps for the disabled, the coach (pictured left with Welsh Guardsman/Gwarchodwr Cymreig) entered service in October 1991. The project was awarded a Blue Peter Badge by the prestigious British children's television programme.

Now, the Gwili Vintage Carriage group has been reworked into first-class GWR livery as Coach No 3846. It was withdrawn from service before it could be reliveried into GWR design, but passengers have the opportunity to travel Victorian style when 3846 is attached to trains.

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2014 Days, times and fares

Times

On Blue days, trains leave Bronwydd Arms at 10.30am, 11.50am, 1.20pm and 2.50pm. In June, July and August, there is an additional train at 4.10pm
Sunday lunch trains run from Bronwydd Arms at 12.30pm and 2.30pm

Fares

Adults: £9.00; Children (2 - 15): £4.00; Senior Citizens: £8.00; Family (two adults and two children): £24.00
Party Rate for 10 or more fare-paying passengers: 10% reduction.

Tickets are valid all day on date of issue except for certain special events

Blue Peter badge holders travel free except on Special Events days.
A local residents' discount card is also available at a cost of £1.00, which gives a 25% discount and allows holders to bring one guest (not valid on Special Event trains).

Special Events
(Special fares and timetables apply. Contact the Gwili for details.)

Southward extension to Abergwili

The extension is expected to open some time in 2014, but the Gwili cannot give a specific date.
When it opens, trains will depart Bronwydd Arms at 10.30am, 12.30pm, 2.30pm and 3.40pm. A shorter journey will be available in July and August only, departing at 4.30pm.

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Nearby attractions

Carmarthen stands on the Towy River and is founded on the Roman town of Moridunum, but is also steeped in Arthurian legend. One legend states that when the Carmarthen Oak falls, the town will fall with it. All that is left of the oak is the stump, but what remains is guarded with meticulous care at the Carmarthen Museum in Abergwili.
Of the Norman Priory there is no trace, but it is famed for the Black Book of Carmarthen: a collection of Welsh poetry, and the oldest manuscript book in the Welsh language (now at the National Library of Wales in Aberystwyth).
Parts of the 11th century castle remains, but has been encroached upon by more modern structures.
Near the Guildhall, a statue to General Sir William Nott - a hero of the Afghan Wars - stands on the spot where, in 1555, Bishop Ferrar was martyred at the stake for his Protestant beliefs.
For how long the Church of St Peter has stood is uncertain. Parts of the building have been dated to the 13th century, but there are references to the church during the reign of Henry I.

It was Henry I who also built the Castle at Kidwelly, 9 miles south of Carmarthen. One of the best preserved castles in the region, it featured prominently in the battles of the Welsh Uprising of 1257.
Opened on April 24 2000 is the National Botanic Garden of Wales, located at Middleton Hall, Llanarthne, 8 miles west of Carmarthen.

On the opposite side of the Towy estuary is Llanstephan Castle, and the village of Laugharne, briefly the home - and finally the resting place - of Welsh poet and dramatist Dylan Thomas (1914-1953), and said to be the model for Llareggub in Under Milk Wood, though this he always denied - perhaps wisely in view of what the cod-Welsh name reads backwards!

How to get there

The Gwili is three miles from Carmarthen on the A484 road (watch for Gwili road signs).
Arrive at Carmarthen by
Arriva Trains Wales train services or by bus or coach, then take First Cymru buses 460, 461 or 462. For times, telephone Carmarthenshire Transport Helpline on +44 (0)1267 231817 or the All-Wales bus info line on +44 (0)870 6082608. The National Train Enquiries number is +44 (0)8457 484950.
For details of connecting services, including travel planner and timetables, visit the Traveline Cymru website.

Select link to visit the Gwili Railway's official website.

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Copyright © 1996/7/8/9/2000/1/2/3/4/5/6/7/8/9/10 /12/13/14 by Deryck Lewis. All rights reserved.
Page created July 24 1996; Redesigned March 29 1999; Updated March 22 2014
If you have any suggestions, comments, or glitches to report, please contact the author at WalesRails