Welcome to WalesRails

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

Thumbnail map Of Europe showing location of Wales

Some facts about Wales

Region
North Wales
Mid Wales
South Wales

National Network

Route Sections

Gazetteer of Stations

About Wales

The principality of Wales faces southern Ireland across the Irish Sea and St George's Channel.
Off the north-western coast of Wales is the island of Anglesey, linked to the mainland by the Menai suspension Bridge and the tubular bridge which also carries the railway.
Its  total area is 8,015 sq. miles, and its population (at the 2011 census) was 3.06 million.
Preserved:
Standard gauge
Narrow gauge

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assembly.jpg (4989 bytes)Wales is part of the United Kingdom, though a referendum on September 18 1997 marginally produced a majority (of just 0.6 percent) in favour of the setting-up of a democratically elected Assembly to look after its affairs.
After elections on May 6th, the 60-member Assembly assumed its powers on July 1st 1999, taking wide-ranging responsibility in areas such as health, education, housing, local government, the environment, transport, sport, leisure and the arts among others.
The assembly was housed in Crickhowell House (right) in the Cardiff Bay Waterfront development, but a new debating chamber, called the Senedd (Welsh for Senate) opened on St David's Day, March 1 2006.

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Wales is a bi-lingual nation with English and Welsh the languages spoken. About 24 per cent of the population speak Welsh, with the highest concentration of speakers in the west and north-west. In these areas, many people use Welsh as their first language, but even here, everyone speaks and understands English.

Most of Wales' population is concentrated in the southern counties, with over a tenth (305,353) of its inhabitants living in Cardiff, the capital of the principality since 1955. The second most populated city is Swansea (223,293), some forty miles to the west, followed by Newport (137,017), a town twelve miles north-east of the capital.
In the north, Wrexham has the greatest number of citizens, with a population of 128,477.

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All three of the largest towns in the south were once major seaports, which in their heyday exported countless millions of tons of coal, iron and steel to all parts of the world. All of the coal, and much of the iron and steel originated in the formerly heavy-industrialised valleys in the hinterland of the Bristol Channel coast on which Cardiff, Swansea and Newport stand.
Merthyr Tydfil ranked Number One in steelmaking due to the ready availability of iron ore and limestone, and the coal to smelt it. At first, the industry continued after the iron ore ran out, and imported ore was moved by rail from the coast to Merthyr. Eventually, however, iron and steel production moved to new works along the south coast, notably Cardiff, Port Talbot and Newport.

Throughout the world, early railways ran on rails made from Welsh iron and the locomotives fired with Welsh coal. As sail gave way to steam, so too did many of the world's navies, until coal, in its turn, was superseded by oil. The peak for coal export from South Wales was just before World War 1, when in just one year (1908) the Taff Vale Railway alone moved 18,346,933 tons of coal over its tracks. West of Cardiff, the port of Barry holds the record for the most coal exported in one year: 11,000,000 tons in 1913.
But the Valleys' heavyweight industrial role is now being consigned to history. Lighter, more environmentally friendly industries are appearing, and their arrival is helping eradicate the scars of the past.
Swansea's principal industry was copper, and in its heyday, the entry from the east into the smoke-filled atmosphere of the town was between piles of copper waste.
In the north, it was slate which led to the opening of the areas railways, and in Blaenau Ffestiniog houses, fences and roofs are made of the material. High mounds of slate waste forms a background to the town.

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To the north and to the west of the valley areas, Wales is revealed in its true beauty as a land of rolling hills, awesome mountains, and rugged coastline.
In the south, the coastline is shown to best advantage on the Glamorgan and Pembrokeshire coastal paths, and the Gower peninsular west of Swansea. In 2012, the various coastal paths were joined together to form the 870-mile-long Wales Coastal Path.
The Black Mountain ranges and Brecon Beacons separate industrialised South Wales from the rurality of Mid Wales.
In the north west, the terrain pitches and rolls to form the Snowdonia National Park, dominated by Snowdon, at 3,560 feet the highest peak in England and Wales.
Throughout Wales, but particularly along the northern fringe, the landscape is dotted with castles clinging to rocky crags, many of Norman construction, built or strengthened at the behest of Edward I, as a defence against the rebellious Welsh.

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The border with England was marked for much of its length by the massive earthwork of Offa's Dyke, a line of demarcation between Wales and the English kingdom of Mercia, built by King Offa in the latter half of the 8th century. Now a popular long-distance walking route running from Prestatyn in the north to Chepstow in the south, Offa's Dyke remains a symbol of the perceived divide between the Welsh and English, though the actual boundary has changed many times during the intervening centuries.

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Copyright 1996/7/8/9/2000/1/2/3/4/5/6/7/8/9/10/11 /12/13/14 by Deryck Lewis. All rights reserved.
Page created July 14 1996; Redesigned March 20 1999; Updated
May 18 2014
If you have any suggestions, comments, or glitches to report, please contact the author at WalesRails