Station Name: WHITLAND
|Location:||West side of Station Road (B4328)|
|Company on opening:||South Wales Railway|
|Date closed to passengers:||Still open|
|Date closed completely:||Still open|
|Company on closing:||Still open|
|Present state:||Still open|
|OS Grid Ref:||SN199185|
|Date of visit:||Not visited|
Notes: Whitland station was opened by the South Wales Railway which became part of the GWR in 1862. There was also a separate Whitland station on the Pembroke & Tenby Railway which opened as a terminus on 5th September 1866. This was closed in August 1869 when trains were diverted into the GWR station. After the opening of the the Whitland & Taf Vale Railway (1874) the station had four platform faces. Two of these served the main line, one served a loop round the down island platform and the other a bay behind the up platform with access from the west.
The goods yard was on the down side, this was originally built for the P & TR and for exchange of traffic between that company and the GWR before the GWR too over the working of the P & TR .
To the south of the station there was an engine shed. The original building was a one-road shed opened by the P & TR in July 1863. The GWR absorbed the P & TR in 1897 and closed Whitland shed in 1901. The replacement building was originally the two-road Letterston engine shed of the contractor that built the North Pembrokeshire and Fishguard Railway, opened in 1894. The GWR worked that line and provided a new, one road shed at Letterston, opening 14th March 1895, with the former shed then becoming a carriage shed. But in 1901 Letterston carriage shed was dismantled and moved to Whitland where it took on one road engine shed form; it was later rebuilt by the GWR with a gable roof. Whitland's second shed closed 9th September 1963.
Passenger trains from Cardington ran into either the bay or the up main line platform but trains departing for Cardigan usually shared the outer face of the down island platform with P & TR trains.
Passenger services are operated by Arriva Trains Wales, using a mixture of Class 158 and Class 175 Diesel Multiple Units.
The station has an approximately hourly service (including Sundays) to and from Carmarthen and Swansea eastbound and every two hours westbound to Milford Haven and Pembroke Dock. Certain eastbound services continue onwards to Cardiff Central, Hereford and Manchester Piccadilly. The twice daily service each way to Fishguard Harbour also calls, as do the summer Saturday HST services between London Paddington and Pembroke Dock.
During the 1860s, mine and quarry owners along the Taf Valley realised that the troubled C & CR would be of little benefit to them even if it did ever reach Cardigan. Their best interests would be served by a line running south from Cardigan along the valley. To achieve this aim, the proprietor of Glogue Slate Quarry spearheaded the promotion of the standard gauge Whitland & Taf Vale Railway, which would provide a better outlet for the slate and minerals of the valley. The proposed line would run from Whitland on the SWR (part of the GWR since 1862) to Crymmych, on the main road between Cardigan and Haverfordwest. Engineer James W Szlumper was employed to draw up plans for the line ready to put before Parliament.
There was a lot of local support for the line, and the promoters had little difficulty raising sufficient capital. At this time the SWR was still broad gauge so, to enable trains to run into Whitland, the new company had to negotiate with the GWR to lay mixed gauge track to its junction with the W & TVR, 2’/4 miles west of Whitland.
Completion of the line was further delayed due to deliberate vandalism and a dispute with the GWR over delivery of rails and fishplates, and once again the company was in financial difficulties with payments to the contractor being in arrears. At a board meeting on 11th February 1873, Edward Lewis, was asked to hand over the line, including the sections that were unfinished; he eventually complied, and on 1st March 1873, although the arrears had still not been cleared, work restarted.
The junction was examined by the Board of Trade on 15th March. Once a few improvements had been made the line was officially opened for goods and mineral traffic on 24 March 1873, with two daily trains between Whitland and Glogue quarries calling at all intermediate stations: Llanfalteg, Login, Llanglydwen, Rhydowen and Llanfyrnach.
Initially there were four down trains (northbound) and three up trains a day with a journey time between Whitland and Crymmych Arms (the station at Crymmych was always known as Crymmych Arms) of between 1 hour 10 minutes and 1 hour 30 minutes. A connecting road service to Cardigan met two of the trains.The line was eventually inspected three days later, and the company was informed that it must suspend the passenger service for one month to allow the required modifications to be carried out. The directors ignored this directive, stating that it had acted within the law as the inspector had failed to turn up within the specified period, and that once a line had been opened the Board of Trade had powers only to recommend works and not to compel them. .
Early traffic receipts were encouraging with a dividend of 3% on ordinary shares in the second half of 1875.
Although reluctant to start work until sufficient finance was available, the board could not resist an offer of cheap rails, and on 22nd April 1878 they agreed to start work immediately at both ends.
Due to difficulties buying all the land work did not in fact start until August that year. Progress was slow following disagreements between Szlumper and the company; eventually all construction stopped, and Szlumper was dismissed. A new engineer, J B Walton, was appointed, and limited work on the extension restarted, but serious financial difficulties inhibited progress, and the company entered into negotiations with the GWR to take over the running of the line. After protracted negotiations the GWR agreed to work the line for 70% of receipts in the first year, and a new Bill was put before Parliament in August that year to facilitate the agreement between the two companies and authorise a new route between Boncath and Cilgerran. In 1878 it was decided to relay the entire line with a heavier rail, and the GWR agreed to contribute towards the cost of this; by now take over by the GWR was generally expected.
Once purchase of the necessary land had been completed, construction of the Cardigan extension began in earnest on 1 May 1883 and went ahead rapidly. The permanent way from Crymmych to Boncath was completed in August 1884 reaching Cardigan a year later. No authority had been granted to run a passenger service, but a special excursion from Cardigan to Tenby was arranged, with the first passenger train running in and out of Cardigan on 10th August 1885, although the opening of the extension was still over a year away.
By the end of 1885 take-over of W & CR. services by the GWR on the completion of the Cardigan Extension Railway was believed to be imminent. There was local outrage when the GWR announced that the stations at Login, Rhydowen and Glogue would close to passenger traffic within a year of taking over the line, if passenger receipts did not improve.
By this time, both passenger and goods traffic was in decline. Although the Glogue quarries were still profitable, agricultural traffic - which was the main business of the line - was in decline. There had been a disastrous slump in lead prices between 1876 and 1885, and Llanfyrnach mine closed in 1890. Glogue Quarry remained in operation until March 1926, when it too closed.
It came as no surprised when the W & CR was finally absorbed into the Great Western Railway with effect from 1st July 1890. The earlier threat of station closures was never carried out, and all stations remained open until final closure of the line. For the next 70 years the line settled down to a quiet and eventless existence.
Crymmych developed as one of the important agricultural centres of west Wales and was the busiest intermediate station on the branch. A 'Cattle Special' ran from Carmarthen Junction to Crymmych on the last Tuesday of each month to serve the cattle, horse and sheep fair. There was also a good trade in rabbits from stations on the line.
On 1 January 1948, the Cardigan branch of the GWR. became part of the Western Region of the nationalised British Railways. In the period of BR ownership the passenger service consisted of four down and three up trains. The trains called at all the intermediate stations; latterly Llanfalteg, Login, Rhydowen, Glogue and Kilgerran were downgraded to 'halts'. Of these only Kilgerran became unstaffed; at the rest at least one person was required to deal with level crossing gates.
Post war freight traffic was almost as varied as ever. Coal and fertilisers were conveyed to Llanfyrnach, Crymmych and Cardigan. At Kilgerran and Boncath the business was largely timber, and at Llanglydwen it was coal. A lot of milk went by rail, and although there was some decline in cattle traffic even in the late 1950s, plenty of cattle wagons were to be seen at Crymmych. In spite of this volume of goods traffic, and some steady custom in passengers from villages devoid of any other public transport, it became obvious in the 1950s that the days of the railway were numbered as the popularity of the car increased.
Cardigan was still quite a popular destination for tourists in the summer months, but this generated insufficient traffic to make the passenger service viable along the steep and winding line, which took its toll on the locomotives and rolling stock. The line had a remarkable number of tight curves along its route - few branches in Britain could match it and progress along the branch was always slow. In 1961 the first passenger train of the day from Whitland to Cardigan managed a breathtaking average speed of about15 mph. There were seven level crossings, all of which had to be manned, and signalmen or goods yard staff were needed at Llanglydwen, Crymmych, Boncath and Cardigan. It therefore came as no surprise when, in February 1962, British Railways submitted proposals for the closure of the line to the Transport Users’ Consultative Committee. There was little opposition, and closure was approved: passenger services were withdrawn on 8th September 1962, at the end of the summer timetable.
In the weeks up to closure the line was busy and on the last day there was a large crowd eager to travel on the final train, including one passenger who had been on the first official train into Cardigan in 1886. About 500 passengers were crammed into the last service out of Cardigan. A new bus service started the following Monday, calling at all the intermediate stations. Even this unprofitable and was withdrawn after three years.
The line remained open for freight traffic with a reduced service of one train in each direction on a Monday and two trains Tuesday - Friday. Cardigan shed was closed, and the halts at Llanfalteg, Login and Rhydowen were closed completely with trains only stopping at Glogue to take on water. Parcels traffic was also withdrawn from Llanglydwen, Llanfyrnach and Boncath.
Most of the staff were retained at Crymmych and Cardigan, but this was to be short-lived as the freight service was withdrawn completely from 27th May 1963. One or two trains ran over the line after that date to collect materials and to clear wagons. The last man employed on the line by British Railways left Cardigan in November 1964. Track lifting operations began in December 1963 and were completed by July 1964. Through the 1960s the land was disposed of, mostly to local farmers or other adjoining landowners.
Sources: The Whitland & Cardigan Railway by M R C Price published by the Oakwood Press 1976 and 1986 ISBN 978-0853614098
|Last updated: Friday, 26-May-2017 09:00:53 BST||
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