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Radnorshire Society lecture meetings 2016
'Radnorshire's Lost Gem: the Mid Wales Railway'
The second meeting of the year was held on May 20th 2016 at the Old School, Cwmdeuddwr, near Rhayader. The speaker was the Society's Hon. Sec., Dr. Colin Hughes, and he took the sizeable audience of members and friends on a visual and fact-finding journey of this now defunct railway line from north to south; with illustrations of the different stations and halts, signal boxes, railway crossing gates, various types of bridges, and the Marteg and Rhayader tunnels. He also showed photos of engines belching smoke and steam as old as from 1898, and he described them as living, breathing, beings.
The Mid Wales line, started in 1864 by Cambrian Railways, ran from Llanidloes, via Llangurig, Rhayader, Newbridge, and Builth to Three Cocks; a total length of 50 miles. The line, once described as 'outstanding, charming, and picturesque' was later run independently, and eventually closed on 31st December 1962.
Rhayader station was actually in Llansantffraed Cwmdeuddwr and the railway junction, with a connecting point for the Elan Valley railway, was just north of the Rhayader tunnel (now home for bats). Pictures were also shown of the Station and signal box at Doldowlod. The longest viaduct on the line is where the Ithon joins the Wye.
At Newbridge the station was behind the present Golden Lion pub, with one or two tracks and a cattle dock siding. Dr Hughes showed a photo of the Stevenson Locomotive Society's special train at Newbridge on the last day of the line in 1962. The old signal box from Newbridge is now situated at the old Erwood Station (now Erwood Centre and Art Gallery).
At Builth Road there were low and high levels (see 1984 Radnorshire Transactions), and somewhat surprisingly a luggage tower or lift to take suitcases to the other level. Builth Station near the present Royal Welsh Showground was a particularly busy triangle of buildings and activity and a large staff was employed. At the Three Cocks Junction there were grand buildings - four platforms and a signal box - it being a busy place as the junction of the Mid Wales, the Neath and Brecon, and the Merthyr and Brecon lines.
The Mid Wales Railway line closed on 31st December 1962, with a loss of twenty one stations and halts. Dr. Richard Beeching under his programme of national cuts decreed that it could not be run as a profitable concern, and that buses were sufficient in a rural area (!), so as Dr Hughes finally said 'all that lovely line was lost'.
'Military Flyers of Radnorshire'
The first lecture of the year took place on Thursday 14th April at Llandewi Village Hall. The speaker, Mr. Phillip Jones, focussed his talk on the period 1915 to 1950, when sixty-five prospective flyers left the small county of Radnorshire to fly in the Royal Flying Corps ( later the Royal Air Force) for the experiences and excitement of early flying.
Mr Jones detailed some of the brothers, sons, and uncles of various Radnorshire families who went off to fly - either as bomber pilots, to instruct, or save lives; it being almost unbelievable that such a large number took part from a county as small as Radnorshire. He showed images of several Radnorshire airmen and not surprisingly gave the almost inevitable fact that most of these flyers died in some way, usually in battles, accidents, or lost over the sea. He also showed on a map the locations of where thirty-three planes crashed in Radnorshire between1943 and 1987.
During questions from the audience it was revealed that it was frequently a family tradition for sons, brothers, and uncles, to follow each other into the air. Mention was also made about the flying circus, the 579 Squadron ATC, and the German crash near Hundred House, near Llandrindod Wells.
Mr Jones has had a long time passion for aircraft, and at least some of this twenty-five year long project is featured in the Radnorshire Museum in Llandrindod Wells. In the near future a book is to be published on the subject.
In 2013, The Radnorshire Society and CPAT collaborated on a book of aerial photographs:
'Radnorshire from Above - Images of landscape and archaeology'.
The first edition has now sold out, but the book is available in Powys Libraries and the Society library.