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‘Bethesda Sidings’ is to be an entry in the Wild Swan/MRJ cameo layout competition and represents the goods yard of Capel Bethesda, which was an intermediate station on the erstwhile line between Leominster, Kington and Rhayader.

 

The full history of the railways of the area is reproduced below, but for those for whom a load of pseudo-historical guff a carefully crafted and detailed historical account is just too much, I would summarise the theme of the layout as ‘The Presteign goods with added Pecketts’.

 

 

 

A New History of the Railways of Radnorshire

 

This is a story of railway companies large and small in the Welsh Borders area, some of which were to almost overreach themselves in trying to achieve their ambitious goals. It is also the story of unswerving persistence and dogged determination on the part of respectable, bewhiskered Victorian gentlemen in top hats and frock coats, meeting in coaching inns and country houses, enthusiastically seeking to improve the transport links in their area, at almost no matter what the financial cost.

 

 A 3’ 6” horse-drawn tramway (the Kington Railway) had been opened in two stages between Eardisley and quarries at Burlingjobb (west of Kington) between 1820 and 1833. This tramway  connected to the Hay Tramway at Eardisley, thus providing a horse-drawn line through to Brecon.

 

In May 1854 the Act for the Leominster & Kington Railway was passed and the first sod was cut by Lady Bateman on 30th November 1854, to the accompaniment of festivities in Kington and a procession through the town. Progress in construction was slow, but the first consignment of 50 tons of coal arrived in Kington from Leominster on Saturday 13th June 1857. Public passenger services between Leominster and Kington started on August 4th, 1857.

 

In the meantime, there were businessmen and public figures of Kington who looked at the 3’ 6” gauge tramway down to Eardisley and argued that it should be rebuilt as a standard gauge railway, to link up with the Hereford, Hay & Brecon Railway, which had received its Royal Assent in 1959. This, they argued, would maintain Kingtons long established commercial links with South Wales.

 

The gestation and eventual birth of the Kington & Eardisley Railway was long and protracted. It needed several Acts of Parliament in 1862, 1864, 1865 and 1871 to authorise the construction, raising of capital and modifications to previous proposals. There were problems with raising capital and with contractors in the early years of the project. Work was physically suspended for a number of years, before resuming in 1872, and all this for a line of just under 7 miles. The line was heavily graded and finally opened on 3rd August 1874. Intermediate stations were provided at Lyonshall and Almeley. Trains from Eardisley had to run over the metals of the Leominster & Kington Railway for the last mile and a half from Titley Junction to Kington.

 

Before the Kington & Eardisley railway was even finished, the company took the decision to extend westwards from Kington towards New Radnor, a distance of six and a half miles. The Act for this was passed in June 1873 and construction proceeded with relative efficiency, certainly as compared to that of the route between Titley Junction and Eardisley, and the new line was completed by August 1875.

 

The Kington & Eardisley Railway and the Leominster & Kington Railway, whilst both independent companies, were worked by the GWR from the outset, for which privilege the larger company exacted a significant proportion of receipts, as was fairly usual in such cases. The inevitable happened eventually, though, when both companies were bought out by the GWR and became part of their network.

 

New Radnor was (and still is) a very small town, smaller in fact than many larger villages, and only had some 900 inhabitants at the time. The station, which was laid out more as a through station than a terminus, was inconveniently situated in fields approximately half a mile from the town. The reason for this can be found in the various proposals put forward during the mid-19th century to build a railway westwards from Kington through the mountainous region of Mid-Wales and onwards to the coast at Aberystwyth. Most of the early proposals were for a railway that initially linked with the Mid-Wales Railway at Rhayader or Builth Wells. In 1874, an Act was obtained, authorising the Worcester & Aberystwyth Junction Railway to build a line westwards from New Radnor to Rhayader, and then onwards to join that grandest of fruitless schemes, the Manchester & Milford Railway, at Llangurig.  Local newspaper reports at the time of the opening of the New Radnor line indicated that the Kington & Eardisley extension was to become part of a through route linking Worcester with the Welsh coast.

 

The grand ambitions of the Worcester & Aberystwyth Junction Railway were to come to nought, however, as sufficient funding could not be found. Sir Richard Green Price Bt, one of the principle railway promoters and investors of the area, and who had been involved in many of the local railways, together with his eldest son Dansey Green Price, complained bitterly at the lack of support for this most worthy of ventures.

 

 And thus things might have remained, with New Radnor remaining a sleepy little branch terminus serving a very small town in the mountainous Welsh Borders area. Sir Richard Green Price died in 1887 and his title was inherited by his son Dansey.

 

Sir Dansey Green Price made a further attempt to promote the Worcester & Aberystwyth scheme in 1889, but once again found difficulty in raising sufficient capital. His diaries show that he was on the point of giving up on the scheme for good, when he had a chance meeting with the Honourable Aristotle Cuthbertson, son of Lord Arkwright, whilst at a weekend house party at the latters abode of Cleggington Hall in Lancashire. Cuthbertson had spent some time in California, and had evidently augmented the family fortune as a result of speculation in gold prospecting. Cuthbertson declared himself to be in want of a sound scheme in which to make some investments, and as a result, Sir Dansey was able to persuade him to back the Worcester & Aberystwyth proposal.

 

The Cuthbertson financial input was enough to swing the balance and persuade other investors, including the other major partners, namely the Great Western Railway and the Kington & Eardisley Railway. Nominally independent, the W&AJR Act received Royal Assent in 1890 and the first sod was cut in a grand ceremony just outside New Radnor in the August of that year by Lady Jane Horrocksford-Blenkinsop, niece of Lord Arkwright.

 

The new line was to be built in two stages – New Radnor to Rhayader and then from Rhayader to Aberystwyth. The first stage to Rhayader would consist of a heavily graded single line running via Llandegley and Gwystre, passing to the south of Penybont and crossing under the Central Wales line near the hamlet of Gunstone, where a spur linking with the Central Wales line was also provided.

 

The difficult terrain delayed construction and it was not until July 1894 that the line was ready for inspection by the Board of Trade. Stations were provided at Llandegley, Capel Bethesda, Gwystre and Nantmel. No station was provided for Penybont, which was already felt to be well served by the Central Wales line, and in any case, was not too distant from Capel Bethesda. Three tunnels, together with several embankments, bridges and other civil engineering works proved necessary.

 

Major-General Phileas Ransom inspected the line in August 1893 and reported that everything was to his general satisfaction, although the platforms at Llandegley and Capel Bethesda should be lengthened as they were too short, and there was insufficient protection at a number of occupation and accommodation crossings. He was happy that the line could open to goods traffic immediately, however, and that passenger services could also start, when the platform works had been completed.

The W&AJR company quickly complied with his requirements and the line opened to passenger traffic on Tuesday 18th September 1894. The GWR initially worked the line, as agreed, but bought it out completely in 1897, at the same time as the Kington & Eardisley Railway.

 

The second stage of the line, that from Rhayader to Aberystwyth, was never completed, due to further difficulties in raising sufficient capital. It was said that the loss of virtually all his remaining fortune by the Hon. Aristotle Cuthbertson in a single game of cards was the main cause, but as Lord Arkwright owned a number of leading newspapers at the time, nothing was ever officially reported in the press.

 

The line was worked as a single entity, from Leominster to Rhayader, with some services running through to/from both Worcester and Moat Lane Jct respectively. Seven return trips a day was considered sufficient for most of the lines existence, although there were additional shorter workings between Leominster and Kington. The passenger services to Presteign and Eardisley were worked as separate branches from Kington.

 

The final addition to the railway map of the district arrived in 1901, with the opening of the independent Vale of Radnor Light Railway, which ran from Llanddewi in the valley of the River Ithon to a junction with the GWR at Capel Bethesda. This line was promoted and financed by Sir Ernest Balcombe of Viaduct Manor, Dol-y-dre, who had objected to the way that the W&AJR had effectively by-passed this ‘industrious area of agricultural excellence’, as he put it. Needless to say, the anticipated traffic was slow to materialise, and the light railway struggled financially for most of its existence, although the construction of a munitions stores depot at Llanddewi by the Army in 1937 provided a welcome source of additional traffic. A small fan of exchange sidings was provided at Capel Bethesda at the same time, funded by the government and constructed by the Royal Engineers.

 

The line settled down to a relatively uneventful existence as the years  passed. No major accidents or mishaps appear to have been recorded, although an alarming incident in the 1950s was noted in the memoirs of Mr R. Sweetman, Shedmaster at Leominster, which describe how the 16.50 goods from Rhayader to Worcester started to run out of control in Ffronddyrys Tunnel, the crew having been apparently overcome by fumes. Fortunately driver G. Forster and fireman P. Potter (of Leominster shed) managed to bring their Dean Goods under control, with the assistance of guard Nelson Rushby, of Llandrindod Wells.

 

The Titley Jct to Eardisley line had been closed and lifted in 1916, to help the war effort, and it was not reopened until December 1922. The GWR had never been particularly enthusiastic about the reopening and had only done so under pressure from the local community. They took the opportunity to close it again, this time permanently, in 1940.

 

The passenger service on the Presteign branch was suspended due to the national economic crisis in 1951, and would not be reinstated. As part of the same package of economies, the passenger service between Leominster and Rhayader was reduced to just 5 return services per day, although this would return to the pre-war level of 7 return services in 1955.

 

The Vale of Radnor Light Railway, which had never had an official passenger service, managed to struggle on as an independent company into the 1960s, but it is clear that it would not have survived without the military stores traffic to and from the MoD depot and Llanddewi.

 

The end of passenger services between Leominster and Rhayader came just as Dr Beeching was preparing his infamous report for publication. British Railways Western Region announced that the line would be closed to passengers on and from Monday 12th November 1962. The stations at Kingsland, Marston Halt, Titley Jct, Stanner Halt, Llandegley Halt, Gwystre and Nantmel Halt would be closed completely. Freight facilities would be retained at Pembridge, Kington, Dolyhir (quarry traffic), New Radnor and Capel Bethesda. The goods service between Kington and Presteign would also be retained. The announcement brought about a number of local objections from the population of the district, together with some suggestions as to how the service might be made to pay. The well-known railway enthusiast and photographer Ivan Petersfield wrote to the Chairman of the British Railways Board at 222, Marylebone Road, suggesting the introduction of DMU ‘pay trains’ and the de-staffing of the local stations, but he didn’t receive a reply to his letter. The Reverend Cornelius Tooth of Titley Priory wrote to British Railways, suggesting the introduction of Bulleid ‘air smoothed’ pacifics, which he felt would ease the passage of trains through Ffronddyrys Tunnel and thus save on coal consumption. Perhaps unsurprisingly, he also did not receive a reply.

 

British Railways were planning to close the section west of Capel Bethesda completely, but the MoD objected to the re-routing of their traffic via Leominster, as much traffic from Llanddewi was exchanged with military establishments in West Wales, for which the Central Wales line connection was more useful. BR tried to resist this pressure, but a decision was eventually enforced at governmental level, which resulted in the section west of Capel Bethesda to Gunstone being retained, albeit in an unusual status of ‘closed for normal traffic but available for special trains only’.

 

All signalling between Capel Bethesda and Gunstone West Jct was removed and a minimal maintenance regime implemented to save money. Despite the MoDs objections, it was acknowledged that only a handful of military specials would be likely to run each year, so it was agreed that all such traffic would appear on Special Notices and in the absence of any signalling, all such trains would be worked in accordance with the Regulations for Working Single Lines by Pilotman. The line west of Capel Bethesda quickly took on an unkempt appearance and was eventually closed completely, with the MoDs agreement, in January 1964.

 

Presteign lost its goods services from September 1964, leaving just the goods service to Capel Bethesda from Leominster, which by then was only running on three days per week. Traffic from the MoD depot on the Vale of Radnor Light Railway had also diminished, leading to the closure of the MoD establishment in July 1965. The light railway itself closed four weeks later.

 

With the loss of the military traffic, the remaining domestic freight traffic to and from Capel Bethesda was not sufficient to keep the British Rail accountants at bay. There had been a flurry of new hope when a major forestry felling programme was announced in the New Radnor area in 1964, but this traffic was destined to be moved by road. The last goods train from Capel Bethesda to Leominster ran on Thursday 23rd September 1965 and the line was closed completely.

 

A final enthusiasts special was arranged by the RCTS, consisting of the preserved 44XX loco, No. 4406 and seven brake vans. 4406 herself had been bought by enthusiast and broadcaster P.B. Greenhouse and had only just been restored to GWR livery by Wolverhampton Works. She was en-route to the fledgling Herefordshire Railways Society site at Lower Vowchurch on the old Longtown branch, where she would remain until that scheme was wound up and the rolling stock dispersed in the 1990s.

 

British Rail wasted little time in lifting the track, and contractors Messrs Birds won the contract to recover the track, which had been completed by December 1965.

 

Some of the station sites have survived as private dwellings, such as Kingsland, Pembridge and Titley Jct. Kington station is now an industrial estate and the station building at Stanner is now a store for the Highways Dept. of Powys County Council. New Radnor was bought by French property speculator Gaston Simone and now survives as a caravan park, whilst Llandegley and Gwystre are also private houses.

 

 

The layout

 

‘Bethesda Sidings’ represents the goods yard of Capel Bethesda, using the road bridge that carried the lane to Penybont over both the goods yard connecting line and the main line to Rhayader as a scenic break.

 

The scenic part of the layout will be 4’ or possible 4’ 6” in length and will be built in OO, using ‘OO-SF’ clearances through point work. A fiddle yard at one end will add approximately 3’ to the overall length.

 

All pointwork will be scratchbuilt and chaired bullhead track from C&L/Exactoscale will be used for the plain line.

 

The layout is goods only and a variety of typical W.R. motive power will be used, such as pannier tanks, 14XX tanks, and perhaps the occasional Ivatt 2-6-0 or a ‘Dukedog’.

 

As the layout is set in the post-November 1962 period, trains from the Vale of Radnor Light Railway are authorised to run over BR metals from Vale of Radnor Ground Frame into the goods yard, so a variety of industrial and light railway types will be available.

 

 

Map of the area

 

post-57-0-82774000-1493051272_thumb.jpg

Edited by Captain Kernow
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This is what the Capel Bethesda area looked like prior to November 1962:

 

post-57-0-96838900-1493051422_thumb.jpg

 

This is the result of the track rationalisation after the passenger service was withdrawn in November 1962:

 

post-57-0-65897800-1493051455_thumb.jpg

 

Edited by Captain Kernow
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Extract from the Cardiff Division Weekly Notice for week commencing 10th November 1962:

 

post-57-0-13395500-1493051642_thumb.jpg

 

post-57-0-20025800-1493051671_thumb.jpg

 

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Like the idea that you have come up with for this layout will follow with interest

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Looking good,CK.

 

The history of the line is tremendous........I am looking forward to pinching a few ideas.

 

Rob.

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Will you be bringing this to Taunton on Sunday ?

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Oi! How come you can do all this after falling down the steps? That incident would have excused me from any effort for at least a year.

Looks excellent and any excuse for running Panniers has my vote.

Sincerely,

His Duckness of 36E

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You won't be needing your black Hall anytime soon. :read:  :D 

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Looking forward to seeing it progress Tim and hopefully, having a little play too!

 

Regards,

 

Nick.

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The full history of the railways of the area is reproduced below, but for those for whom a load of pseudo-historical guff a carefully crafted and detailed historical account is just too much, I would summarise the theme of the layout as ‘The Presteign goods with added Pecketts’.

 

 

The best load of guff that I've ever read! 

 

Bring it on....!

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Blimey, I didn't know you had to do all this preamble before building a layout these days.

I sort of.....just did a plan......and started!

 

Impressive though and gives a history to the scene which I suppose gives you an idea of what and how to build it.

 

As I said very impressive and I'm thoroughly looking forward to following this through to completion.

 

Good luck with the competition.

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Anyone reading this might think you have experienced this sort of scenario first hand as a lifelong railwayman :)

 

Just the hint of trackwork with the Pannier and a single building already speaks volumes of the quality this cameo will have.

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Blimey, I didn't know you had to do all this preamble before building a layout these days.

I sort of.....just did a plan......and started!

 

 

You should read some of his 'histories'!! :sungum:

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Will you be bringing this to Taunton on Sunday ?

Stubby - the 'layout' is currently only a piece of wallpaper/lining paper, so perhaps I'd better wait a year or so?  ;)

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Oi! How come you can do all this after falling down the steps? That incident would have excused me from any effort for at least a year.

Looks excellent and any excuse for running Panniers has my vote.

 

Thank you my dear Quackerstaffe, in fact, I've not been able to do any modelling since I hurt my hand, but I can type, as long as I don't use the injured finger!

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Stubby - the 'layout' is currently only a piece of wallpaper/lining paper, so perhaps I'd better wait a year or so?  ;)

 

Points made, buildings done - you've got further than a lot of modellers ! 

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With your literary masterpiece I'm afraid I must prepare my review for the film, sorry layout, that it's impossible to recreate the wonderful images evoked on the page on celluloid (or in this case lining paper) ;)

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Blimey, I didn't know you had to do all this preamble before building a layout these days.

I sort of.....just did a plan......and started!

 

Impressive though and gives a history to the scene which I suppose gives you an idea of what and how to build it.

 

As I said very impressive and I'm thoroughly looking forward to following this through to completion.

 

Good luck with the competition.

Many thanks for your comments, Kevin.

 

I'm afraid that I have 'previous' when it comes to historical guff 'convincing historical accounts' to back up the layouts raison d'etre. In previous times, I have (apparently) caused retired gentlemen to take their dog out for a walk, looking for the site of Engine Wood station, or given the Clerk to a certain Parish Council on the Somerset Levels cause to delay the publication of an official history of their village, so that they could clarify the railway bits.

 

As regards the above back story, at least 75% of it is completely true!

 

I do find composing all of that stuff a lot of fun, though, and as far as I am concerned, it helps motivate me to actually get on with the layout.

Edited by Captain Kernow
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With all his works of fiction he is crying out for a cameo performance on some stage or other   :jester:

 

All the best with this.  I'm reading Rice's book on the subject at present and the competition has whetted the appetite.

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Will you be bringing this to Taunton on Sunday ?

Theres a theme for SWAG 2019  -  The Cameo Layout Takeover....

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Theres a theme for SWAG 2019  -  The Cameo Layout Takeover....

Now there's an idea....

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