Jul 2, 2024 | Carmarthenshire

Discover the fascinating history of the Gwili Railway

The Gwili Railway is one of our region’s most charming attractions. Read on to find out more about its history, plans, and what’s on offer for visitors and volunteers.

One of the UK’s most picturesque railways, the Gwili Railway runs for five miles alongside the River Gwili, passing through beautiful woods and farmland en route from Abergwili Junction to Danycoed.

The Gwili Railway’s roots go back to the 19705 when the Gwili Railway Preservation Company was formed by a group of local steam enthusiasts with a vision of reopening part of the Carmarthen to Aberystwyth line.

In the 1960s the line had been a casualty of cuts made as part of the restructuring of British Railways, closing roughly a century after it first opened. The Gwili Railway Preservation Company envisioned reopening a section of the line as a nostalgic steam heritage railway. They purchased nine miles of track bed from British Railways and set about opening the stretch from Abergwili Junction to Llwyfan.

They also sourced rolling stock: carriages – some of which had been repurposed as holiday homes or found sitting in fields – were restored to their former glory. Some date from the 1880s but most are 1950s carriages, and all are designed in the charming old corridor style.

The railway’s steam locomotives are especially interesting because they come mostly from local industrial and wartime operations rather than mainline use. The Gwili Railway currently owns about six locomotives, but only two are operational. Restoration is ongoing on the other locomotives, and on carriages including an old Royal Mail sorting carriage, onto which people used to be able to post letters for an extra ha’penny on top of the usual postage price. Visitors to the railway can now get off at Llwyfan to see the restoration works in progress.

Since 2001 the railway has run beyond Llwyfan to Danycoed, and work is underway to extend it to Llanpumsaint. Jeremy John, the railway’s business administrator, has worked there for two decades and loves seeing the railway grow.

“It’s a living museum,” he says. “It’s an important piece of social history; the railways changed the world – before them, people rarely travelled.”

He adds that there are always opportunities to get involved in the railway as a volunteer. “You can drive a locomotive, fire a locomotive, clean a locomotive, help out generally on the platform, be a guard – there are lots of options,” he says.

If you’d prefer to visit as a passenger, there are plenty of events happening throughout the year, as well as the regular vintage train trips. Events include cream teas, Peppa Pig visits and a steam train ride with fish and chips.

To find out more, visit: https://gwili-railway.co.uk/

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