Central / Heart of Wales Line - historical

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70014IronDuke

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Taken from the longest journey operated by tank locos thread.

Previously ir was Black 5s, and BR Standard 73xxx equivalents, on through passenger and 8Fs on goods, though this 1961 film shows a through, though stopping, passenger train surprisingly in the hands of a Jubilee, crossing the usual types along the way.



Termed the Mid-Wales line in this film. (I thought that was the line which the Central Wales line crossed at Builth Rd.) Rather poor quality, but very interesting film. A Jubilee was super-power for 4? coach trains back then.

But it appears they used GWR locos on the southern end of the line on the passenger workings - at least to Llandeilo? It also looks as if there were a lot more passing loops back then too, but then, there would have been more goods traffic, I suppose.

Any idea what the timings were like Swansea Victoria to Shrewsbury?
 
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Calthrop

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Taken from the longest journey operated by tank locos thread.
Termed the Mid-Wales line in this film. (I thought that was the line which the Central Wales line crossed at Builth Rd.)

I have the feeling that names given to lines by various folk / outfits, are according to same's agendas; or, at times, lack of any such -- all rather "Humpty Dumpty" -- "when I name a line, I'll call it whatever I choose to"...
Rather poor quality, but very interesting film.

As you say -- it's IMO somewhat marred by the large "Huntley Film Archives" logo superimposed throughout. I've seen this elsewhere: films part of the stock of such, of the late John Huntley, seem for whatever reason, nowadays to prominently bear this "branding mark". I've posted about John Huntley previously on "Railway History and Nostalgia": a bod about whom, my opinions are divided -- he had and showed a great deal of wonderful railway film material (and other stuff too, I gather); but in the shows by him which I went to, I found his commentary irritatingly "copious and vacuous". I wish that he could just have shut up and let the films speak for themselves. Interesting how -- in my perception anyway -- the film morphs from black-and-white into colour, just for the last few seconds.
But it appears they used GWR locos on the southern end of the line on the passenger workings - at least to Llandeilo? It also looks as if there were a lot more passing loops back then too, but then, there would have been more goods traffic, I suppose.

By my understanding, the Central / Heart of Wales route was (messily) though largely LNWR becoming LMS, not totally so: Llandovery -- Llandeilo was LNW / GW joint (and the Llandeilo -- Carmarthen branch pure LNW -- "go figure"); Llandeilo -- Pontardulais was GW, with running powers for LNW; Pontardulais -- Swansea Victoria, once again pure LNW. As I'm often moved to comment -- only in Great Britain ! With divisions as per "Big Four" carrying on way into the era of nationalisation: a GWR-motive-power presence in the route's southerly reaches would seem not too surprising.

If I have things rightly, Central / HOW route was one of Britain's quite numerous secondary / tertiary main lines, which did (in, and lasting-after, the great days of ample passenger and freight traffic) a lot of swapping-and-switching in their route length, between double track; and single, with numerous passing loops.

Any idea what the timings were like Swansea Victoria to Shrewsbury?

Figures basically not my thing -- but I'd suspect: long enough to make the trip (other than for impassioned railway enthusiasts) -- in the celebrated words about the one-time Yugoslav narrow gauge, "something to have done, rather than something to do". Thoughts prompted, of the post in the "...our fathers that..." thread on this sub-forum, mentioning the poor devil who -- ill-advised by his grandson -- tried the trip from Yorkshire to Swansea on the overnight postal train via Llandrindod Wells etc., and was driven mad by the journey's seeming to take an eternity, and the endless shunting and messing-around at a great number of spots en route, ensuring his getting no sleep.
 

krus_aragon

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Figures basically not my thing -- but I'd suspect: long enough to make the trip (other than for impassioned railway enthusiasts) -- in the celebrated words about the one-time Yugoslav narrow gauge, "something to have done, rather than something to do". Thoughts prompted, of the post in the "...our fathers that..." thread on this sub-forum, mentioning the poor devil who -- ill-advised by his grandson -- tried the trip from Yorkshire to Swansea on the overnight postal train via Llandrindod Wells etc., and was driven mad by the journey's seeming to take an eternity, and the endless shunting and messing-around at a great number of spots en route, ensuring his getting no sleep.
Some time later (1970s IIRC) my father was travelling to Swansea from North Wales and he was directed to travel via Llandrindod. It left a lasting impression: "an endless journey stopping at every godforsaken village along the way" , or words to that effect.
 

ChiefPlanner

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There was a sort of clockface timetable. ...note the use of the word "sort"

Salop Swansea about every 4 hours - semi, semi fast.

Llandovery / Llandeilo , Brynamman West - to Llanelli slow (about every 2 hours) - combined

Pontardulais to Swansea Victoria - 2 hourly with a couple of "peak" trains ..

Salop to Swansea was about a 3.5 hour journey. In the 1930's there were a couple of trains with a "tea car" - but only to Craven Arms ! ....
 

ChiefPlanner

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Some time later (1970s IIRC) my father was travelling to Swansea from North Wales and he was directed to travel via Llandrindod. It left a lasting impression: "an endless journey stopping at every godforsaken village along the way" , or words to that effect.

Good job he did not go via Moat Lane and Llandiloes then - and up the Cambrian Coast. Perfect journey in nice weather with daylight. Tedious in the extreme in the dark unless he had several good books to read.
 

70014IronDuke

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The June 1947 LMS timetable and May 1949 Western Region timetables are both online at the page linked to below if you want more details of the train services running on the line back then.

http://timetableworld.com/timetable_catalog.php?cat=2

Thanks for this, and other replies. It seems the very sparse 'semi-fasts' did the trip in roughly the same time, or a little bit less than today's all stops. Interesting too that some trains were routed into Llanelli (and into Swansea High Street, or was that just connections?) even back then.
The film certainly makes for fascinating watching. I've only ever done the southern section of the line - Swansea - Llandod - the once, in 1975. I suspect even by then most of the older, unneeded infrastructure had been removed, but I honestly can't remember much about the trip, except for the river/bay at Lannelli.
 

ChiefPlanner

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Thanks for this, and other replies. It seems the very sparse 'semi-fasts' did the trip in roughly the same time, or a little bit less than today's all stops. Interesting too that some trains were routed into Llanelli (and into Swansea High Street, or was that just connections?) even back then.
The film certainly makes for fascinating watching. I've only ever done the southern section of the line - Swansea - Llandod - the once, in 1975. I suspect even by then most of the older, unneeded infrastructure had been removed, but I honestly can't remember much about the trip, except for the river/bay at Lannelli.

The LMS trains went to Swansea Victoria and the GWR ones to Llanelli (or Llanelly) , the long distance LMS services from Salop tended to make "all" or many calls and were therefore as I said before "Semi-semi fast" , I suspect that this was to do with parcels , mail and possibly milk churn traffic north of Llandovery. (the GWR handled bulk milk from the latter , in tanks, but of course would have been preferentially routed via the Severn Tunnel and Swindon to London - probably Kensington Olympia and Wood Lane)

So called competition from the Central Wales area to Euston had basically been long given up - as Salop had much faster services to Paddington via Wolverhampton (the LNWR had tried to sell services from Central Wales via Whitchurch and Stafford !) , much as the Midland tried hard to sell Swansea to Birmingham via Cray and Brecon - this latter ceased in 1931 !)

So basically - the line was largely catering for local Passenger business - albeit there was a good selection of through "fast" freights - Swansea to Burton (beer) , Carmarthen to Salop with a a good connection from Llandeilo for fish from West Wales to the Midlands etc. (but not London which again was essentially a fast GWR flow) ......

Today of course - there is not any freight - bar a maximum of 2 trains a week from Gwaun Cae Gurwen via Pantyffynon to Onllwyn - and probably not for much longer either. The glories of the past.
 

Meole

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The free travel concession for 60+ in the winter has resulted in often full trains from Swansea/LLanelli to Shrewsbury for liquid refreshment in cheap Wspoons before returning, all helps.
 

ChiefPlanner

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The free travel concession for 60+ in the winter has resulted in often full trains from Swansea/LLanelli to Shrewsbury for liquid refreshment in cheap Wspoons before returning, all helps.

Very much so - and no doubt puts a few (off season) quid into various tills along the line. Putting an extra Sunday service - from 1 to 2 has also helped the weekend tourist traffic all year - not just day trips but breaks.

The line is physically probably in good nick - viaducts etc have been nicely maintained , and previous comments from track qualified engineers indicate that careful maintenance has paid off (as opposed to massive relaying) - so the extra service planned in the franchise ought to help. (+ better class 170's) , though it does need I gather a thorough tree trimming programe to improve views of the scenery.
 

Greenback

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I haven't done a trip on the HoW since the first half of 2017, bu the trees were certainly getting in the way of the views back then. I don't necessarily want them all chopped down, but cutting them back a bit would be nice.
 

70014IronDuke

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The LMS trains went to Swansea Victoria and the GWR ones to Llanelli (or Llanelly) , ...

Makes sense, of course.

So called competition from the Central Wales area to Euston had basically been long given up - as Salop had much faster services to Paddington via Wolverhampton (the LNWR had tried to sell services from Central Wales via Whitchurch and Stafford !) , much as the Midland tried hard to sell Swansea to Birmingham via Cray and Brecon - this latter ceased in 1931 !)

Well, there can't ever have been very much in the first place!

So basically - the line was largely catering for local Passenger business - albeit there was a good selection of through "fast" freights - Swansea to Burton (beer) , Carmarthen to Salop with a a good connection from Llandeilo for fish from West Wales to the Midlands etc. ...

It is interesting to be reminded of the kind of important and varied traffic that used to go by rail. Nobody from the younger generations would have any idea of the importance of these lines back in the day.

Today of course - there is not any freight - bar a maximum of 2 trains a week from Gwaun Cae Gurwen via Pantyffynon to Onllwyn - and probably not for much longer either. The glories of the past.

Indeed. But what are these two (sometimes) remaining freights per week? (I didn't know there was any freight traffic left at all.)

Very much so - and no doubt puts a few (off season) quid into various tills along the line. Putting an extra Sunday service - from 1 to 2 has also helped the weekend tourist traffic all year - not just day trips but breaks.

But does the railway earn any revenue from this traffic? Does the Welsh Govt offer some kind of compensation for the free travel, or is it considered as an off-set for the annual subsidy?

The line is physically probably in good nick - viaducts etc have been nicely maintained , and previous comments from track qualified engineers indicate that careful maintenance has paid off (as opposed to massive relaying) - ...

Probably because it has dedicated staff, working for years on end on the line? IF so, this surely helped in terms of the quality of maintenance.
 
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krus_aragon

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Today of course - there is not any freight - bar a maximum of 2 trains a week from Gwaun Cae Gurwen via Pantyffynon to Onllwyn - and probably not for much longer either. The glories of the past.

Indeed. But what are these two (sometimes) remaining freights per week? (I didn't know there was any freight traffic left at all.)
That'll be coal traffic from Gwaun-Cae-Gurwen open-cast mine to the Onllwyn coal preparation/washing plant.


But does the railway earn any revenue from this traffic? Does the Welsh Govt offer some kind of compensation for the free travel, or is it considered as an off-set for the annual subsidy?
It's "funded" in some manner, presumably similar to how bus operators are recompensed for concessionary bus travel.
 

ChiefPlanner

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Probably because it has dedicated staff, working for years on end on the line? IF so, this surely helped in terms of the quality of maintenance.

A very good and extremely knowledegable (ex BR man of course) , did some digging into the track costs of the line and they were exceedingly low and incredibly sensible. (Hence my guarded comment on "no relaying")

At the time , it was indeed the stalwart local teams who were doing the job , with intimate local and detailed knowledge.
 

70014IronDuke

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Probably because it has dedicated staff, working for years on end on the line? IF so, this surely helped in terms of the quality of maintenance.

A very good and extremely knowledegable (ex BR man of course) , did some digging into the track costs of the line and they were exceedingly low and incredibly sensible. (Hence my guarded comment on "no relaying")

At the time , it was indeed the stalwart local teams who were doing the job , with intimate local and detailed knowledge.

Qualities all too often not recognised or understood in the world of 'get it outsourced' management philosophy, alas. Until it was too late, and as likely as not, not even then.
 

DelW

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The line is physically probably in good nick - viaducts etc have been nicely maintained , and previous comments from track qualified engineers indicate that careful maintenance has paid off (as opposed to massive relaying) - so the extra service planned in the franchise ought to help. (+ better class 170's) , though it does need I gather a thorough tree trimming programe to improve views of the scenery.
Most of the stations are well looked after by local residents organised by the user group (HoWLTA), who keep them clean and tidy, and provide floral displays at many of them in the summer.

For anyone interested in the line, HoWLTA membership is only £8 per year, for which you receive regular illustrated newsletter booklets. Contact via [email protected]
 
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