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The Vale of Rheidol Railway - News

Discussion in 'Narrow Gauge Railways' started by ValeOfRheidol, Nov 12, 2014.

  1. Maldwyn

    Maldwyn New Member

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    There is an article in the VoR’s own newsletter from 2017 (issue 3) that details the route of the proposed extension. Essentially it traversed inland after crossing the Rheidol on a new bridge once it passed under the GWR line and only hugged the coast once it got to Llanon. The Light Railway Act for the extension was already in place 4 years before the current line was completed so it may simply have been proposed because the County Council was willing to grant the railway a significant amount of funds (in a belief that the area would be developed). As it happens, the VoR struggled to obtain funding for the Devils Bridge line which is why the contractors (pethicks) ended up as significant shareholders (with stock in lieu of payment). As shareholders, Pethicks pushed to obtain the extension (even suggesting they could build it as standard gauge) and which is why in 1910 the extension went out to tender. Unfortunately for Pethicks they were not the cheapest; upon realising they were not going to receive the contract they sold out to the Cambrian Railways who had been sniffing around for a while.
    With part of the extension covering an area that was already served by the Manchester and Milford Railway it would seem to have been on a sticky wicket to make money given the towns and villages served. However the same applies to the GWR Carmarthen line which soldered on until Beeching so it would have come down to whether the VoR could have developed the area enough to have increased traffic and negated the need for the standard line to Aberaeron. I think not but it could have been interesting, particularly if then the Cambrian would have bought out the entire set up and expanded their empire further south.
    (Information collated from the various VoR books in existence)
     
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  2. 30854

    30854 Resident of Nat Pres

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    It seems so unlikely a magnet for railway development that it prompts me to ask, does anyone know if that stretch of coast ever played host to any WD / Military weapons research or manufacturing facility? The more sensitive of these tended to be tucked away in the unlikliest of places, either easily defended or where ousiders would stick out like a sore thumb. The timing seems about right given that following the demise of Queen Victoria, tensions with the Kaiser's Germany were rising long before the events in Sarajevo which precipitated WWI.
     
  3. I. Cooper

    I. Cooper Member

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    Given some of the nation's art treasures from the national collection were moved to the care of the National Library of Wales at Aber. (alongside much also heading to Manod quarry in N.Wales) to protect them from bombing raids, it would seem unlikely that destination would have been chosen if there was a strategic military target in the area, even if it was hoped the presence of that target should remain a secret.
     
  4. 30854

    30854 Resident of Nat Pres

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    I know 'National Treasures' were removed to safety in WWII, but was any such provision made during WWI? In any event, the period in question here is a few years ahead of WWI.

    The reason I ask the question is that something decidedly not in the public eye might explain why construction of a rail link in such a seemingly unpromising location was so attractive. AFAIK, this wasn't the case at Aberaeron, but my knowledge is a long, long way south of comprehensive!

    The sort of cases I'm aware of are what prompt the question are high explosives manufacturing (nitro) at a remote Scottish seaside location (ended decades ago) and 'certain classes of munitions manufacture' at 'a certain location' in the Forest of Dean .... or, more accurately, under the Forest of Dean. Later used for industrial processing of (principally) gold and platinum, I believe the precious metals manufacturing at this site has finished (the company's main facility being in Sindelfingen, near Stuttgart) , but recovery of same from electronics and automotive catalytic converters by the same company is ongoing.
     
  5. 35B

    35B Nat Pres stalwart

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    On the specific about "national treasures", I think the difference to consider is between WWI, when aerial bombing was new and very minor in it's effect, and WWII, when defence planning was dominated by "the bomber will always get through" thinking.

    More generally, I'm simply not convinced that there was any strategic imperative for that particular half baked scheme. Aberaeron wasn't connected to Aberystwyth, and was deemed by some to be a desirable destination where a railway would take the intermediate traffic and benefit the communities. Plenty of railways were built on that logic, with the railway losing money that some of the promoters and their neighbours possibly gained by improvements in the value of their land and businesses; in general, the more rural or later the railway was built, the more likely it is that some of this logic was in play.

    This was happening at least as early as the 1860s, and the 1896 Light Railways Act was a final flourishing of the belief that, for remote areas to do well, they needed a rail link building. As we know, once the internal combustion engine was available, the relative advantage of road and rail swung materially towards road - just as it had swung decisively from road to canal, and then canal to rail, over the previous couple of centuries.
     
  6. Jon Lever

    Jon Lever New Member

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    I would suggest that if anything like that was going on in the area, it would have been further down the coast at Aberporth. Llanon, though, was the location of a POW camp in WWII (presumably a fairly small one), according to my grandfather who lived there from about 1967 onwards. A housing estate was built on the site post-war.
     
  7. 30854

    30854 Resident of Nat Pres

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    Oh, I'm 99% certain that's the case here too. If you look to North Staffs, the L&MVLR was constructed on the flimsy basis that if the Great & The Good of Leek didn't get their fingers out, the lucrative Manifold Valley dairy traffic would go via Buxton. Although the line actually did last until the demise of Ecton creamery (and roads up thataway still aren't the best!), had I been a shareholder, I suspect I've have taken issue with an unduly optimistic use of the adjective "luctrative" when forecasting the line's likely returns!

    Aberaeron does have a certain charm, with that distinctly Celtic application of colour to buildings which still serves as a useful navigation aid for fishing vessels, but nowhere near enough for anyone with the slightest eye for an investment to pitch in ..... unless there was something else the line might usefully serve. That was my only thinking in that regard.

    Does anyone know if there were suggestions of a mineral traffic staple from a line south? The lead veins in Cwm Rheidol were just about on their last legs when the VoR opened, so perhaps the company was looking to fulfill it's earlier ambitions elsewhere?[/QUOTE]
     
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  8. Maldwyn

    Maldwyn New Member

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    The main ore field in mid wales stretched from Aberystwyth to Llanidloes; Generally speaking the mineral veins in run east to west (slightly south east) which is why the Rheidol Valley has a plethora of mines. I think there was another vein for The Cwm Ystwyth complex which ended up near the Abbey Consel Mines at Strata Florida but there was nothing of note in the area of the Aberystwyth extension. Certainly nothing that would enhance a business case for a railway. There was no military establishment either. It was purely an agricultural area. Aberaeron itself did not effectively exist before 1800 and was only granted an urban district in 1894. This might be why the extension was planned. Cardiganshire council offered about 18k of the £25k budget possibly to open up the area. At the time there were only to roads east to west (London to cardigan and Aberystwyth) whilst there was a road from cardigan to Aberystwyth a lot of traffic used the sea. The hinterland had very little connections except possibly via the rivers. To get 65-70% funding as a grant would make any organisation want to put forward a business case. It’s a bit like the modern day where the likes of Homes England provide funding to councils to build infrastructure projects such as relief roads on the basis land can be developed for housing. As it happened the grant ended up being given to the Lampeter, Aberaeron and New Quay railway; the New Quay element was dropped and the railway became what is now known as the Aberaeron branch. Interestingly there is information to suggest that a narrow gauge railway was looked into circa 1885 running between llandissyl to New Quay and was surveyed by a Mr J Szlumper who then subsequently worked for the VoR so this area was familiar to said engineer.
     

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