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A survey of railways in Wales and the tourist attractions they serve

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The Heart of Wales Branch
(Central Wales Line)

This is an extract from the page on Arriva Trains Wales. To access the main site select either the North Wales, The Marches, and Chepstow-Swansea section, the Heart of Wales, Swansea and West Wales section, or the full version which combines the two.
Select one of these links to return to the Gazetteer of Stations or Route Sections page.

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The Heart of Wales line (officially the Central Wales line) is the nearest to a quiet backwater it is possible to get on the modern railway. Though the first part of the line threads through a formerly industrialised region, beyond Ammanford the line passes through some of the most romantic scenery in the British Isles. Winding track and steep gradients means that the 90-mile journey between Llanelli and Craven Arms takes all of three hours to complete, but the reward for the leisurely pace are the views from the windows of the train. Though many places along the route had been famed for their healing waters since the early part of the seventeenth century, it was the coming of the railway which established the spa townships, though the modern railway has dropped the 'Wells' suffix from Llandrindod, Llangammarch and Llanwrtyd stations in present-day timetables.

Please note. The period of validity of the National Network timetables has changed.
Any times and travel details given  apply only for the currency of the timetable valid from May 18 to December 13 2014.

Northbound
Monday to Friday
trains leave Swansea at 4.36am, 9.16am, 1.14pm and 6.21pm; Llanelli at 4.53am, 9.34am, 1.35pm and 6.39pm. These trains call at Craven Arms at 7.54am, 12.39pm, 4.40pm and 9.38pm, arriving at Shrewsbury at 8.22am, 1.08pm, 5.09pm and 10.08pm.
Saturday trains leave Swansea at 4.36am, 9.16am, 1.16pm and 6.21pm; Llanelli at 4.53am, 9.34am, 1.35pm and 6.39pm. These trains call at Craven Arms at 7.54am, 12.39pm, 4.38pm and 9.38pm, arriving at Shrewsbury at 8.22am, 1.06pm, 5.11pm and 10.08pm.
Until October 19 (inclusive) Sunday trains leave Swansea 11.08am and 3.26pm; Llanelli at 11.29am and 3.51pm, arriving Craven Arms at 2.44pm and 7.03pm and Shrewsbury at 3.12pm and 7.31pm. From October 26 (inclusive Sunday trains leave Swansea 11.08am and 3.35pm; Llanelli at 11.29am and 3.55pm, arriving Craven Arms at 2.44pm and 7.03pm and Shrewsbury at 3.12pm and 7.31pm.

Southbound
Monday to Friday
trains leave Shrewsbury at 5.16am, 9.00am, 1.58pm and 6.01pm; Craven Arms at 5.47am, 9.28am, 2.26pm and 6.31pm. Departure from Llanelli is at 8.55am, 12.42pm, 5.40pm and 9.44pm; arriving at Swansea 9.23am, 1.04pm, 6.05pm and 10.12pm.
Saturday trains leave Shrewsbury at 5.16am, 9.00am, 1.58pm and 6.01pm; Craven Arms at 5.47am, 9.28am, 2.26pm and 6.31pm. Departing from Llanelli at 8.55am, 12.42pm, 5.40pm and 9.44pm; arriving at Swansea 9.23am, 1.04pm, 6.05pm and 10.12pm.
Sunday trains leave Shrewsbury at 12.04pm and 4.18pm; and Craven Arms at 12.33pm and 4.47pm, Llanelli at 3.41pm and 8.03pm; arriving at Swansea at 4.02pm and 8.23pm.

Station names in italics indicate that these are request stops only.
Figures after station names show the approximate journey times from Llanelli with the approximate journey times from Craven Arms in brackets.

Swansea 20 mins (235)
Wales' second city, Swansea was extensively damaged during World War II. Over the years, the bomb damaged areas have been replaced with modern shops and houses, a process completed with redevelopment of defunct dockland to create the Maritime Quarter.
It has a modern shopping centre, with many attractive parks close by. 
The Grand Theatre celebrated its centenary in 1997, and has been refurbished to a very high standard. It was opened by the celebrated Italian soprano Madame Adelina Patti, whose pavilion stands in Gors Lane.
A barrage across the mouth of the River Tawe, and the conversion of part of the former dockland area into a picturesque marina, has given Swansea an attractive waterfront quarter which harks back to its seagoing heritage. On the northern quay of the marina is the Swansea Industrial and Maritime Museum - which will soon become the Welsh Industrial and Maritime Museum -  with extensive displays and artefacts which highlight that heritage. Close to the Dylan Thomas Theatre is a statue of one of Swansea's most famous sons: the writer, poet and playwright, most notoriously of 'Under Milk Wood' a wickedly whimsical day in the life of the fishing village of Llareggub (try reading the cod-Welsh name backwards!).
The city's university is located at Singleton Park, a public area which has a boating lake amongst its many attractions.
Swansea is the gateway to west Wales, but closer at hand is the Mumbles, famed as the site of the world's first passenger railway, which used steam, diesel, electric - and even sail - power in its 153-year existence from 1807 until 1960. There were plans to resurrect the Railway using a revolutionary flywheel driven tram system, but this has been abandoned, one reason - ironically - being that the original route has been developed as a promenade and cycleway. Mumbles pier houses the Swansea lifeboat station.
To the west is the Gower peninsular - the first region in Britain to be designated an area of outstanding natural beauty - with numerous bays and inlets and a coastal cliff-top path. The northern coast is flatter with salt marshes forming the boundary with the sea.

After passing Landore depot (right) and burrowing through Cockett Tunnel, the line crosses the River Loughor estuary in parallel with a more-recent road bridge, and soon the Heart of Wales line converges from the right at Llandilo Junction.

Soon, the train arrives at

Llanelli (174)
owes its existence to iron, tinplate, copper, and coal, but today, Trostre Tinplate works is the only reminder of its heavy-industrial past. Its long-closed port has been turned to leisure use, and modern buildings are replacing the arcaded structures for which the town was noted. Some imposing buildings remain: the Jacobean-style Town Hall; Tabernacle chapel and Capel Alis; and the more-recent Roman Catholic Church. Parc Howard House is now a museum and art gallery, while Stradey Park is famous as the home of the town's rugby union team.

The train now backtracks to the junction noted earlier, and soon reaches:

Bynea 5 mins (169)
The steelworks which overshadowed Bynea were demolished over 25 years ago, to leave a pleasant town nestling on the edge of the salt marshes of the River Loughor.
Llangennech 11 mins (166)
is another former industrial town, built where the River Morlais flows into the Loughor.
Pontarddulais 13 mins (162)
was built around the tin-plate industry little more than a century-and-a-quarter ago, though the fame of Pontarddulais now rests predominantly with its brass band and male voice choir. There is an ancient church and castle motte on the marshes of the river estuary.
Pantyffynnon 20 mins (156)
The century-old signal box which stands just outside the station controls all the signalling for the branch until it reaches Craven Arms.
Ammanford 23 mins (153)
A former mining town on the edge of the anthracite belt of the South Field coalfield, Ammanford is now the largest township on the HoW line.

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From Ammanford, the true rurality of the branch soon becomes evident. The area around
Llandybie 32 mins (149)
is marred by limestone quarries, though the disused kilns have more than a hint of Gothic Victorian in their architecture. The church dates from the 14th century, while the Plas is the ruin of a 17th century mansion.
Ffairfach 35 mins (142)
is a small village located near where the River Cennen flows into the much larger Towy
Llandeilo 37 mins (137)
is named after one of Wales' most famous saints. St Teilo was a 6th century missionary dedicated to converted Britain to Christianity. The station is located on the eastern edge of the town near the banks of the River Towy, from where the road winds between brightly coloured houses to the church and to ruin of Dynevor Castle.
Llangadog 49 mins (128)
church commemorates another of Wales' saints, this time St Cadoc who flourished toward the end of the 5th century.
Llanwrda 52 mins (124)
was the site of the sister church to Llangadog, and is located up-river on the opposite bank of the Towy.
Llandovery 59 mins (112)
is a busy market town, a mix of Georgian and Victorian architecture surrounded by gentle hills. The ruins of the castle overlook the cattle market. The Methodist chapel commemorates the best-known writer of Welsh hymns: William Williams of Pantycelyn, who lived at a farm five miles outside the town. Llandovery College is one of only two public schools in Wales (the other is at Brecon).
Cynghordy 69 mins (104)
which name derives from a former meeting house, is the remote location for two of the engineering wonders of the line; the 93ft high Cynghordy viaduct, and the 1,000-yard Sugar Loaf Tunnel. The viaduct is 650 feet in length and consists of 18 arched spans. The mid-point of Sugar Loaf Tunnel is directly underneath the county boundaries of Carmarthenshire and Powys.
Sugar Loaf Halt 77 mins (97)
Like Cynghordy, is remotely located, and both stations are ideal starting points for rambles in the surrounding countryside.
A Shrewsbury-bound train pauses at Llanwrtyd WellsLlanwrtyd Wells 83 mins (89)
(pictured left) was established as a spa town as far back as 1732. Reputedly the smallest town in Britain, and set on the edge of the Cambrian mountain range, red kite and other birds of prey can be seen wheeling overhead. Near by, Lake Abernant offers fishing and boating facilities. It is also the home of the annual man-versus-horse race, recently won by a man for the first time in the competition's history, and the sport of bog snorkelling, where competitors wearing snorkel and scuba fins swim 60 metres along a trench cut into a peat bog.
Llangammarch 91 mins (83)
Yet another spa town, its waters are claimed as unique in that they contain barium chloride, considered an infallible cure for all forms of heart complaint.
Garth 95 mins  (79)
serves a quiet spa village, and is surrounded by beautiful countryside.
Cilmeri 100 mins (74)
has great significance for patriotic Welshmen as it was here that Llywelyn, the last native Prince of Wales, met his death in 1282. A stone monument which marks the spot can be seen from the train, west of the station.
Builth Road 103 mins (71)
is two miles from the town of Builth Wells, where the pump room is a reminder of its spa origins in the 1780s. The town stands on the River Wye which is crossed by an 18th century stone bridge. Parts of the church date from the 13th century, and contains an effigy of Sir John Lloid, a personal attendant of Queen Elizabeth I. At Llanelwedd, outside the town, the Royal Welsh Agricultural Show is held.
Llandrindod 114 mins (58)
(in English, the Church of the Trinity) developed as a spa town from 1749, but the benefits of its waters were well-known for at least fifty years before. Every August, the town steeps itself in Victorianna during its annual festival.

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Penybont 127 mins (49)
was once the centre for horse races, in particular those employing the use of sulkies, a light trap-like cart which carries the 'jockey'.
Dolau 132 mins (45)
Like most stations on the Heart of Wales line, it is looked after by local station adoption groups, and is a frequent winner of the annual Best Kept Station award.
Llanbister Road 138 mins (39)
is ideally located for walks in the Radnor Forest, as is
Llangynllo 143 mins (35)
the next station along. Just before the 645-yard long Llangynllo Tunnel the line reaches 980 feet above sea level, the highest point on the branch.
Knucklas 149 mins (27)
is approached over a 465-yard viaduct a with distinctive castellated turrets which carry the line 69 ft above the valley floor.
Knighton 155 mins (20)
straddles Offa's Dyke, the traditional boundary between Wales and England: the town in the former country but the station located over the border. Though in Wales, the architecture of Knighton's Norman Church is more typical of neighbouring Herefordshire.
The remaining stations are Bucknell, Hopton Heath, and Broome before Craven Arms, which owes its name to one of the old coaching inns on the road between North and South Wales, is reached. Craven Arms is on the Marches line which runs northward to Shrewsbury, and southward to Hereford and Newport in the south. (See the North Wales and Marches section of the Wales and West pages.

This is an extract from the page on the Arriva Trains Wales.
To access the main site select either the North Wales, The Marches, and Chepstow-Swansea section, the Heart of Wales, Swansea and West Wales section, or the full version which combines the two.
Select this link to return to the Gazetteer of Stations or Route Sections page.

The Heart of Wales Line Travellers' Association exists to support and develop the line. Select the link to visit the Association's official web site.

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Copyright 1998/9/2000/1/2/3/4/5/6/7/8/9/10/11 /12/13/14 by Deryck Lewis. All rights reserved.
Page created January 28 1998; Redesigned March 29 1999; Updated
May 18 2014
If you have any suggestions, comments, or glitches to report, please contact the author at WalesRails