(Photo from Network Rail)
The Cambrian Coast railway is now re-opened with trains again able to run the full length of the line following completion of the railway part of the new bridge at Pont Briwet just south of Penrhyndeudraeth.
The entire line was forced to close following the severe storms in January. The southern section reopened in stages during the spring following repairs to the sea defences at Tywyn and Barmouth, but until now trains had been unable to run north of Harlech due to the ongoing bridge reconstruction work.
The reopening means that Porthmadog, Cricceth and Pwllheli are once again connected to the main line rail network, although it was still possible to reach Porthmadog via the narrow-gauge Ffestiniog Railway.
The fact that there was never any doubt over the line’s future says something abou the change in political climate towards rail over the past couple of decades. Back in the early 1970s the line was under thread of closure; indeed it got as far as closure notices posted at stations. At the end of the decade the future again hung in the balance as the mile-long Barnouth Bridge was being eaten by worms. But today, although it still runs at a loss, it’s recognised as being an important part of a regional economy that relies heavily on tourism.
Another of those layout designs I’m unlikely to build. This one’s based on the Cambrian lines in the 1970s, designed to fit on a standard 6’6″ x 2’6″ hollow-core door, using Kato Unitrack.
The station and yard on the lower side of the layout is based on Machynlleth, the operational hub of the system both in the 1970s and today. The upper half represents any one of the many scenic sections of the line, with the section between Dovey Junction where the line hugs the Dovey estuary with a series of reverse curves a prime candidate.
There is no fiddle yard, and this is by design. The goods sidings on the outside of the oval, and the motive power depot on the inside serve the function of the fiddle yard. It will work provided you don’t clutter the layout with too much rolling stock. I’d suggest three or four two-car DMUs, one or two class 24 or 25 locomotives and perhaps 20 wagons should give enough variety without making things too crowded.
Speaking of stock, most of the signature items for the line are available off-the-shelf. Graham Farish make the class 24 locomotives used on freight as well as the class 101 and 108 DMUs which dominated passenger services. Dapol make the distinctive BR gunpowder vans which made the daily coast line freight such a recognisable train. Likewise, it’s easy to model the Aberystwyth-York mail, the one remaining loco-hauled weekday passenger working with Farish Mk1 coaches and Dapol parcels vans (Former blue spot fish vans converted to parcels use were common on this train).
This is a plan that, at heart, is really a glorified train-set oval. But it should still make a fair representation of a real place, and would make an ideal beginner’s project.
Should you wish to go to HRH Prog II Festival in the far end of Wales next March, it will indeed be an epic journey to get there. The journey from Reading to Pwllheli will take more than seven hours. And worse, five of those hours will be spent in one of these things.
It’s almost, but not quite the longest journey time wise you can make in a class 158. Liverpool-Norwich or Glasgow-Mallaig is slightly longer, but there are only minutes in it.
Last time I rode the Cambrian coast line it was back in the days when there were still loco-hauled workings on Summer Saturdays, and I remember a single class 37s struggling up the grade towards Talerddig summit with nine coaches, and reduced to walking pace by the time it reached the top of the bank. Those were the days.