Bethesda Sidings

Discussion in 'Entries' started by Captain Kernow, 25 April 2017.

  1. Captain Kernow

    Captain Kernow Western Thunderer

    ‘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 - Part 1

    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.
    Last edited: 25 April 2017
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  2. Captain Kernow

    Captain Kernow Western Thunderer

    A New History of the Railways of Radnorshire - Part 2

    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.
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  3. Captain Kernow

    Captain Kernow Western Thunderer

  4. Captain Kernow

    Captain Kernow Western Thunderer

  5. Captain Kernow

    Captain Kernow Western Thunderer

  6. Captain Kernow

    Captain Kernow Western Thunderer

  7. Captain Kernow

    Captain Kernow Western Thunderer

    A taste of the layout:
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  8. Lyndhurstman

    Lyndhurstman Western Thunderer

    Hi CK,

    Smashing. I'm a big fan of "pseudo-historical guff" and rank it highly within the realm of our collective marvellous machinations of miniature might-have-beens. In modern parlance, I'd call it 'context' :).

    All Power To Your Artistry


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  9. Simon

    Simon Flying Squad

    I think that if we had a back story prize you'd be very well placed indeed.

    I do hope that you will be able to work in lots of "tk of old ry" type visual cues, not to mention authentic "stop and proceed" etc boards for your era.

    I really like the concept by the way:thumbs:

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  10. SteadyRed

    SteadyRed Western Thunderer

    I do love a good back story for what could have been railway lines.

    Keep up the good work

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  11. Pencarrow

    Pencarrow Western Thunderer

    CK you have been a busy boy down the old alternative facts library! Very entertaining read.
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  12. Captain Kernow

    Captain Kernow Western Thunderer

    Here's one rather unlikely candidate for the Vale of Radnor Light Railway connection, although 'Dictu Prince' (built by Brian Clarke many years ago and known as 'Dictu Titty' by me and Simon) might be a little too 'off the wall':

  13. Overseer

    Overseer Western Thunderer

    Why not? If the first standard gauge loco built by Bagnall was good enough for the Duke of Buckingham at Brill another could suit your minor aristocracy's minor railway.
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  14. Lyndhurstman

    Lyndhurstman Western Thunderer

    And lets not forget the comely wonder that was Gazelle... Train complaint letter from 1912 recalls 'sparks in face danger' - BBC News


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  15. Captain Kernow

    Captain Kernow Western Thunderer

    Some of the point configurations are A5s, which is quite sharp, especially in OO-SF, in my view, so it was necessary to test each point with all the potential motive power that was likely to use them. In this photo, a 57XX pannier is being used (this one has an old Mainline body with a Perseverence chassis). It was also necessary to test each point again, once the cosmetic (Exactoscale) chairs had been added, as I didn't want any flanges fouling the inner chairs, especially RTR flanges such as Bachmann. It was necessary to cut the inner chairs down in order to clear the flanges.


    I wouldn't have had to cut the chairs down quite as much, had I used a spacer between the sleepers and the rail, but as some of the (previously-built) point work that I had decided to use had been built with the rail soldered directly to the sleeper, I decided that the others should match.

    However, I did built one of the points on my P4 layout 'Callow Lane' like this, and once the point had been weathered and ballasted, it all blended in quite nicely with the adjoining trackwork.
  16. BCN-Pete

    BCN-Pete Western Thunderer

    A great intro Captain.

    Looks to be an intruiging project - look forward to track this...

    Good luck Sir
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  17. Captain Kernow

    Captain Kernow Western Thunderer

    Progress of the layout or any of its component parts has been hampered by my fracturing a finger and bruising lots of other bits just over four weeks ago, and whilst the fracture itself is apparently knitting back together, the finger is still swollen and difficult to use, but I do want to get on with things as soon as possible.

    Anyway, I did manage to produce a track plan, of sorts, on the laptop last night, whilst at DRAG. Forgive the crudeness of it, I could have done a hand-drawn plan, but I can't scan anything in at home at the moment, so I had to resort to using 'Paint' instead (Stubby has put me onto a more sophisticated package, also called Paint, but I haven't been able to have a look at that yet).

    Some of the criteria behind this project, which was conceived some time before the Cameo Layout competition was announced, were:

    - a desire to have a small layout that I could put up easily at home, even just for a couple of hours, and put away again quickly
    - a desire to have something small and easy to use, that I could run my existing OO locos and stock on (ie. those which would normally be used on 'Engine Wood' and 'Bleakhouse Road')
    - the wish to be able to justify more Western locos that wouldn't otherwise appear on the S&D, such as a 'Dukedog', an Ivatt Class 2 2-6-0, some of the smaller panniers and, of course, a 14XX or two
    - the wish to be able to display the lovely structures scratchbuilt by Paul Iliff a few years ago for a different GWR project, and which I bought from him when he decided to sell a load of 4mm stuff a while back, when changing up to 7mm scale (I understand that he's since returned to 4mm). These buildings include a goods shed, weighbridge hut and stone road-over-rail bridge, with a single arch.

    I already have a marked preference for shunting goods wagons, so making the layout 'goods only' wasn't a difficult decision. It would be fairly easy to fit a stone goods shed and weighbridge hut in the setting of an ex-GWR country goods yard. The stone overbridge will act as the scenic break. What I didn't really want to do, however, was to feature the 'main line', which this goods yard is connected to, as that could imply a need to show movements and possibly a fiddle yard at the other end as well.

    Given the geographical setting of Bethesda Sidings and it's supposed historical context, I could have made the connection westwards to Gunstone Junction and Rhayader completely disused, or even used the former running line as a siding, but I decided to keep the connection with the Central Wales line 'in situ', to enable me to justify the occasional Midland loco visiting Bethesda Sidings.

    As such, I decided to locate the goods yard on a short spur off the 'main line', which just happened to be crossed by a local road on a stone overbridge.

    Bethesda Sidings track plan_01a.jpg
    I decided in the end to feature a short run-round loop on the layout. One might expect such a feature to be a bit longer, implying perhaps two tracks going out into the fiddle yard under the scenic break, but that would have precluded using Paul's lovely stone bridge, and I did like the idea of keeping most of the shunting action to the scenic area on display. The single line under the bridge can, of course, be used as a 'shunting spur' if necessary.

    I will say that I was very positively influenced by the track plan on 'Sheep Lane' - The Sheep Chronicles. A slice of 'Mutton' . ( Post 1867, page 75 onwards ) The continuing adventures of Norman Lockhart. - Layout topics, having met the layout and it's owner Rob (nhy581 on RMWeb) at the Cardiff show in January this year. Rob's small run round works very well in the context of his overall scene, and as Bethesda Sidings is slightly longer (but not by much, at 4' or 4' 6" - yet to make my mind up but probably 4' 6"), I think it will be OK.
  18. Captain Kernow

    Captain Kernow Western Thunderer

    So far, I have built the crossover at the end of the goods yard and the point for the short spur near the road over bridge. These are all 'A5' configuration. I also have the tandem turnout completed now, this was built 'speculatively' for me by my good friend John Farmer a few years ago, and was intended for a rebuilt of 'Engine Wood' that never happened. I have done a little fettling now and added cosmetic chairs:


    This leaves one more point to be constructed.
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  19. Captain Kernow

    Captain Kernow Western Thunderer

    This was a mock-up done a few months ago on a bit of wallpaper. This one is 4' long and I am now probably going to make the layout 4' 6" in length:


    The 'deliberate mistake' in this view is the lack of tandem turnout, as I hadn't 'rediscovered' it at that time!
  20. Captain Kernow

    Captain Kernow Western Thunderer

    Here are a some photos of the goods shed, weighbridge office and road overbridge, which were scratchbuilt in card by Paul Iliff some 10 years or so ago, and purchased by me when Paul decided not to proceed with that particular project. I consider myself very fortunate and privileged to have had the opportunity to acquire these lovely structures:





    The road overbridge is at a bit of a skewed angle. It may be just a bit too much of a skew for the space I have available, so I've been considering carefully dismantling the bridge and re-configuring it at less of an angle to the track. Having said that, I am loathe to do this and will try to fit it in 'as is':
    Last edited: 12 May 2017