Monday 23 January 2012

Teifi Valley Railway

With so much bad news about, it is really good to report on a success story and a positive initiative for once.

Teifi Valley Railway is a trust run by volunteers which operates steam trains on a few miles of track on the Carmarthenshire-Ceredigion border, and now it is working on plans to extend the railway back to Newcastle Emlyn.

Over the years it has cleared miles of over-grown track on part of the network of railway lines which used to criss-cross this part of the country. A huge amount of unpaid effort has gone into restoring part of the line, which operates in the summer months from the station at Henllan, between Newcastle Emlyn and Llandysul.

Last summer I spent the best part of a day there with my family, travelling on the trains and exploring the footpaths and walks which run alongside the track. The countryside is stunningly beautiful and peaceful, and the railway itself is run in a charming, old-fashioned and super-friendly way.

This is not a slick operation run by marketing professionals, and the cost of a day out for a family was really good value.

Currently the line comes to a halt at a collapsed bridge about 2 miles outside Newcastle Emlyn, and repairing the bridge is the first of the major obstacles that needs to be overcome.

The biggest problem facing the extension, however, is at the Newcastle Emlyn end, where British Rail refused to sell its disused station to the trust. The old station, about half a mile outside the centre of town, was subsequently demolished and redeveloped as a small trading estate.

The trust would like instead to extend the line into the centre of town, but that will mean building a second bridge over the Teifi and acquiring more land in what is an environmentally sensitive area.

A few years ago a similar project failed because of costs, but there are some grounds for optimism that funding may be available, and the indications are that the project would find strong support in the community, and the bulk of the work would be carried out by local volunteers.

Newcastle Emlyn is slightly off the tourist trail, and the railway would undoubtedly bring more visitors to the town and give local shops and businesses a boost in the summer months. The project also has the potential to bring the community together and give us a common goal to work for.

To get an idea of what the line is like, check out this clip from Youtube. Be patient, though. The trains travel very slowly - these are not still photos!

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