Branch Line Britain - celebrating Britain's minor railways

Midland - Aberystwyth review 1

Aberystwyth railway station

24/7/09 Shrewsbury to Aberystwyth
Train Operating Company: Arriva Wales
Traction used: Class 158 2-car DMU
Dept: Shrewsbury 07.27
Arrive: Aberystwyth 09.26
Weather: sunny, cloudy and raining

My train is the 06.24 from Birmingham New Street and is waiting in platform 4 as I walk up the stairs onto the platform. It is about a quarter full. We leave on time and go over the river Severn, which is below the platforms of Shrewsbury station. It is still an important terminus and junction station with seven platforms (including bays) in use. The line to Wolverhampton leaves us on the left at Severn Bridge Junction, as we go past the tall south signal box, which is surrounded by scaffolding. There are lots of semaphore signals to be seen. We then go onto a viaduct and past the Abbey on the left. There are some sidings on the right and a single aluminum shed. We go past Sutton Bridge Junction signal box and then leave the Marches Line on our left as we go westwards and the track becomes single. We move into a small cutting and then emerge into the western outskirts of Shrewsbury onto an embankment. We pass the New Meadow ground of Shrewsbury Town FC on the left, before leaving Shrewsbury altogether.

We are now out into the countryside and go over the A5 and see our first view of the Welsh Hills on the left in the distance. We are now travelling about 60 mph as the line curves to the left. We even reach 80 mph, as we pass a village on the left, followed by fields of sweet corn on the left and sheep grazing on the right. Next cows are in the fields on the left and then its wheat fields on both sides. It is still relatively flat, though you can see some hills in the distance on the left. The mobile buffet comes round - a very welcome service on these long cross-country trains. We go into another cutting, before emerging out with some large hills on our right. More hills can be seen on the left and you get a brief glimpse of a flat valley ahead of us.

There are mainly cows in the fields now as we start to slow for Welshpool. We go over a level crossing over the A483 and the river Severn in quick succession. A large supermarket is being built on the right and we pass several large industrial units on the left before coming into Welshpool station. It is an island platform, which has been modernised in recent years and has an aluminum shelter at one end. The large original station building is still there, but is now separated from the line by the A483. It is now a large shopping outlet. We leave Welshpool and it is still very flat, but after crossing over the river Severn again, we start to climb, though it is still relatively flat. Sweet corn is in the field on right, but most fields contain grazing cattle. We go into a cutting then past an old station with a signal box in a preserved state.

We continue to climb and reach 60 mph as we move into more hilly country. It's also very wooded here on the hills on both sides. We pass on the right, what looks like some quail in cages, being bred. We pass a village on our right and then enter another low cutting. The A484 is on our right, then houses appear and a Morrisons supermarket, as we slow for Newtown. Building work is going on the right. We go into a cutting and past a large red brick hotel and then arrive in the station. It has two platforms with the original cast iron footbridge in red, green and white. There is the large original red brick station building on the right and a large red brick shelter on the left. The windows are boarded up though. There are also canopies over both platforms. About five people get off. Most houses that we pass are fairly new, indicating that it is a growing town.

We then move through a series of small cuttings and cross the river Severn as it gets more hilly. There is a small quarry in the hillside on the left. The main A483 road is on the right but is very quiet. We soon slow again for Caersws, as we go past the old goods shed on the left and cross a level crossing before stopping at the station. There is a crossing box and the original grey slate block station building, plus a small shelter on the single platform. A couple of hikers are waiting to get on. We are soon out into the countryside again. We move into a wooded area and cross over the river Severn, before going into a deep cutting. It is even more hilly and the train climbs again. There are sheep grazing on both sides of the track now and you can see higher hills ahead, but clouds cover their tops. We are now right in the very centre of Wales and we pass a wind farm on the hills on our left.

We then come to a stop, as the line becomes double again at Talerddig, where another Class 158 is waiting to take the single section we have just come through. It has four coaches and seems much fuller than our two-car unit. We go back onto the single line again and into a very deep cutting and soon speed up once more. We seem to be going downhill again and have passed over to the hillside on the right now. As we continue to descend, we pass a lovely old station building, now a private house on the left, which has been beautifully restored. There are mainly woods on the hillsides now as we descend further. We pass through more cuttings as the weather changes from sunny to cloudy and it starts to rain. As we continue to descend, we run parallel to a fast flowing river on our right. Then it really starts to pour down.

We then slow down, as we come into Machynlleth, which has several sidings and a small maintenance depot on the left. About ten people are waiting to get on and there is another two car Class 158 waiting at the other platform. It has a large original station building of more yellow coloured brick, with station signs in both English and Welsh. The town of Machynlleth is on the left, whilst there are open fields to the right. It looks very grey, but after a few minutes the rain stops and the sun comes out again, We continue to run alongside the river Dovey and the hills start to recede as the valley gets wider and flatter. The hills are higher but further apart now as cows graze in the fields.

We soon arrive at Dovey Junction, which has an island platform, where the lines for Aberystwyth and Barmouth divide. It is in the middle of nowhere and has a small perspex shelter on the platform. The landscape is quite flat now and the river Dovey runs right next to us as it reaches the sea. We are now going over a large flat salt marsh and can see the sea in the distance ahead. Across the estuary on the right you can see the town of Aberdovey, lit up by the sunlight. The salt marsh continues for several miles until we get nearer the sea and then sand dunes appear with caravan sites and a golf course.

You can see the headland on the right as we come into Borth. There's a large circus tent on the left in the distance and several houses facing the sea on the right. Borth has just the one platform, but a lovely large original station building, painted in Arriva liveried turquoise with light red bricks. Plus it has a large canopy over the platform. As we leave, I spot a large wigwam in someone's back garden. Borth is larger than you think, with houses stretching up onto the headland. The train now goes inland once again and runs along the right hand side of the hillside, curving to the right, going through a cutting. There are several houses on both sides of the track here and we pass another old station house as speed up to about 50 mph.

It's sheep country here, but there are still pockets of woodland. After going through another cutting, we start to see houses on the hillsides on both sides of the track and a second rusty track appears on the right. We actually arrive at Aberystwyth about ten minutes early. The station is quite large and shares its platforms with the Vale of Rheidol Railway, which joins us on the left. Some of the station buildings have been sold off and are now a restaurant. Only two platforms are in use, though there are two other stabling tracks, so excursion trains can still use the station. When I get back on the train to go back to Machynlleth, it is over half full with one of the carriages being used for pre-booked passengers, which is a good sign.

Summary: A very valuable line linking the West Coast of Wales with the rest of the railway network. It is very busy with tourists and walkers in the summer, but not used that much in the winter months, MC