Abergwili Junction

A little bit of the history...

An extension to the south of Bronwydd Arms has been on the cards for several years. About one mile of track was laid from Bronwydd to a small bridge ("Bridge 6") several years ago. This bridge took the track over a leat that used to supply water to drive the wheels in the old Carmarthen tin works. The leat was six foot wide, just over four feet deep and crossed under the track in a stone lined channel. The trouble was that it crossed the track at such a shallow angle that it took almost 30 yards to cross and the iron deck and girders were a bit of a mess! Another problem was that whenever it rained (here in Wales? Surely not?) the leat collected a lot of surface water run-off which flowed through the channel and drained into the river.

Everything stopped while (many) discussions took place as to what should be done to repair this (and how it was going to be funded!). Then it was discovered that the side walls (under broad capping stones) were only 12 inches thick and bulging out into the leat so it was no longer a case of just putting a new top on old walls, everything needed attention. Many more discussions followed with various solutions ranging from rebuilding it from the ground up to digging it all out and flattening it being proposed. Whatever was done had to include some form of drainage to allow the run-ff to flow to the river. More discussions…

Finally in May 2012 we found the solution - we decided to "Time Team" it - In other words - measure it, photograph it, record it - then fill it all in! Yes it's still there, you do still cross Bridge 6 but it's now about two feet under the track bed and a new culvert to take the run-off water across the track has been installed just upstream of the crossing.

Bridge 6 leat

The leat crossing.

This was taken just before the infilling started. The capping stones have been removed to lower the wall height to give a deeper track bed. You can see the rail head in the background where the wagon is. All the water is run-off from the hillside running backwards along the leat to the river. This view is looking north towards Bronwydd. The river is just out of the picture on the right.

Bridge 6 done

Two days later…

A clear track bed!!! Carmarthen here we come… Well, maybe…

A week after this photo was taken the huge Oak tree on the right was blown over in a gale. We estimate it was at least 60 feet tall because when it fell it literally spanned the river with just a few branches drooping into the water!  All our nice re-profiled embankments had to be re done after dragging the four foot diameter trunk back up into the track bed for cutting up and removal.

So with Bridge 6 sorted we were back on our way - no problem, er…

Well It's been a while since the last update on here but I hope you have been able to keep up to date Via our Facebook page or the National Preservation websites.

In the last update we had track into the new platform at Abergwili and were planning to initially run trains 'top and tailed' with a loco at either end so we could a) get the line open ASAP and b) would not have to run-around at Abergwili. Well... Yes, slight change of plans. A visit from our inspector pointed out that we needed to do a little realignment to smooth out one of our (many) bends and some remedial levelling at a small level crossing and leading up to Bridge 5 to get the track right plus (as usual after an inspectors visit) there were also lots of other smaller (but no less important) jobs that needed doing before we could go for the 'formal' inspection.

By the time we had achieved the realignment and levelling we were coming up to the main running season where most of the track gang volunteers had 'real' lobs to do on the railway so the decision was made that it would be better for us to delay the opening and lay the run-around loop at Abergwili after the main running season was over so all of the track could be inspected in one go. The run-around needs to be fully approved as that will be the main platform road when the Abergwili station is built.

Have you ever noticed how, sometimes, when you start one job, you find more cropping up that need doing as well? Well, it certainly happened to us.

Engineering trains to the extension from Bronwydd had to go over the main level crossing just outside the station. We noticed that the rails were starting to dip quite badly when a train passed over the road, and potholes kept appearing over the cable conduits...  What had been OK for our occasional shunting movements was obviously not going to last any time at all if we were running regular services so we have had to close the road and dig up and replace the section of track across the level crossing then re-lay the road surface. We guess that the wooden sleepers that were buried under the tarmac (and therefore quite wet!) were at least 50 years old so it's no wonder they had got a little "spongy" (to say the least!) So we now have a shiny new crossing with concrete sleepers that won't rot and 'Bomac' type panels between the rails that can be lifted out to access the track without having to dig up the road. It was not a job we had planned to do and it wasn't cheap but at least it is one less thing to worry about now.

BA Level Crossing

The smart new level crossing at bronwydd Arms. Just the Gates to be re-hung.

So where are we now? Track wise the loop is in and finished but there are a couple of rails closer to Bronwydd that we have found to be below limits on wear that have to be changed. Another visit from the tamper is expected soon. Signs are to hand ready to be erected, anti trespass grids (for all the crossings) are being manufactured, fencing surveys have been carried out, more tree works have been done to improve signal sight lines and S&T have all their plans ready for the signalling changes. Services and structure identification, inspection and condition recording are ongoing as is the paperwork for changes to our operational procedures and Safety Systems.

As you can see we are not that far away now, just about all the big jobs have been done but there are still quite a few bits to do. Will we make it by the end of this year? Well we are doing everything we can with our limited workforce (and we still have a railway to run don't forget). Some dry weather and a good summer trade to boost the funds would be a great help. All that can be said at the moment is that we are trying to have the extension open by the end of this season, weather, workforce and funds permitting. Fingers crossed then everybody...


Gwili Steam Railway, Bronwydd Arms Station, Bronwydd Arms, Carmarthen, SA33 6HT. Tel (01267) 238213 (Mon-Fri-10am-4pm)