Abergwili Junction

Introduction (updated)


In 1976 the Gwili Railway Company purchased 8 miles of the track bed of the former Carmarthen to Aberystwyth Branch Line between Llanpumpsaint and Abergwili Junction.

Since then progress has been made and the Gwili Railway Company has been operating on two and a half miles of track between Bronwydd Arms Station and the recently constructed halt in the middle of the Gwili valley called Danycoed.

Building on this progress the Gwili Railway company has begun to extend the railway from Bronwydd Arms Station to a brand new station on the northern outskirts of Carmarthen To be called Abergwili Junction.

This will see the railway operating an extra distance of two miles and providing passengers with a view from the carriage windows that has not been seen for over 40 years.

This extension to the line will allow the Gwili Railway to offer better facilities for both customers and volunteers.  Plans are in place for:

  • Shops;
  • Cafe;
  • Visitor Centre;
  • Restoration Facilities
  • Museum.

Airiel

The Abergwili site (Photo. Doug Rice)

As you can see the site is bordered by the A40 to the south and the A485 to the east. The new entrance is planned to be about half way up on the right. The new site will eventually include a large car and coach park that will be accessible from the Carmarthen eastern by-pass.

This web site will be used to publish any developments and detail as they become known.

SOUTH TO BRIDGE 5

The first job was to clear 40 years worth of trees and undergrowth from the trackbed and embankments. (It's amazing how simple things sound if you say them quickly enough!) Ash and Sycamores were growing over, alongside and through the trackbed like weeds. It didn't help that many were on the steep embankments and local bedrock outcroppings. With typical Brunel 45 degree embankments and even steeper bedrock it made things very difficult to fell the trees safely - but once they were down… well suffice to say that we didn't have much trouble getting them down onto the trackbed; The hard part was stopping them going straight over and into the river!

It took three and a half months just to fell and clear the worst of the trees but, fortunately, we managed to come to an arrangement with a local firewood supplier that meant we got the trees felled and removed at no cost and he got the wood to sell. That left us with the huge piles of thin twiggy bits to clear, the tree stumps growing out of the embankment walls that all have to be carefully removed (we had deliberately left fairly tall stumps to avoid damaging the walls during felling), the wild jungle trackside that had to be tamed and nearly a mile of ditches together with several cross drains to be cleared. Any one for a weekend working party? Or two..? Or…  Embankment

Anyone seen our railway???

This is a view from trackside looking along a section of nine foot high dry stone embankment wall. The wall is the darker area on the left side running towards the centre of the picture; the trackbed is just about level with the top left corner!   Only a little trimming needed…!

Sept 12 - 1

September 2012.

This and the following photograph give an idea of just how many trees we had to clear from the track bed. The log pile is from about 100 metres of track. You can get an idea of the amount of trimmings that were left from the size of the pile on the far side of the trackbed. There were at least four piles this size and many smaller ones!

Sept 12 - 2

As the worst of the trees were cleared we started scarifying the trackbed (ploughing it up to loosen the old compacted ballast and improve drainage) ready for the sleepers to be laid out. No new ballast was laid at this time to make the works easier. Once the track is down the plan is to over ballast and make several passes with the tamper to lift the track through the new ballast to provide a good bed of new ballast under the sleepers and give us plenty of room for alignment and levelling. Dec 12 - 1

December 2012.

A clear and (fairly) level trackbed near Carmarthen! For anyone who knows the area this is where the footpath that starts opposite the old bus depot & BT Yard, following the line of the old leat, crosses the railway. For strangers, this is about a quarter of a mile north of the road bridge (Bridge 5) that runs from the A485 to the hospital. Looking north.

Dec 12 - 2

December 2012.

Another view looking north, about a mile from Bridge 5. Yes the river is close! Fortunately the embankment is built up on bedrock. You can just make out a couple of outcroppings of bedrock from the left bank in the mid distance.  And yet another pile of logs…

Jan 13 - 1

January 2013.

A great moment! The rail stop at the end of the section of track laid in 2006 is finally lifted! Notice the road-railer is handy - just in case things were a bit rusty! (Not sure if that refers to the rails or the staff. Ed.) I think the pantomime season had finished when this was taken… so no cries of "Look out - its behind you" please...  Oh well... if you must... go on then…

Jan 13 - 2

January 2013 again.

The end of the old and the start of the new! This photo was taken looking south from the end of the 2006 works. The clean ballast in the foreground is where we 'time teamed' Bridge 6.

Jan 13 - 4

One of our major concerns is drainage. For forty years ditches and culverts had not been cleared and silt, leaf mould, fast food wrappers and plastic bottles had all built up. We do not have many photos of the ditches filled with mud that is more like runny black porridge (I wonder why not?) - Just be grateful you can't get smell over the internet - yet!  The step in the embankment on the right is the bank of the old leat.

Apr 13 - 1

April 2013.

Looking south, just over a mile from Bridge 5. New track pushing south.  Tree stumps needing trimming everywhere, a culvert to be finished and tidying up needed but already the greenery is recovering.

The photograph above shows one of our more difficult problems. It was taken from the embankment at about the same level as the tree stumps in the background. The old leat is now much higher up the embankment than in the previous photograph, here it is about level with the top of the stump on the far right. As the leat was cut practically level and the railway is continually falling as it runs south the leat gets higher above the track the further south you go.

The leat is blocked in several places with natural materials as well as garden rubbish etc. which means that any water in the leat here cannot flow back to the new culvert at Bridge 6 or further south to the stream by the footpath in the Dec 2012 photo above. You can see the slope of the land so I'm sure you can imagine how much rainwater runoff the leat collects. Add to this the water from two or three gullies on the road above and you have a significant amount of water which has to go somewhere… In this case it burst through the wall of the leat and washed out the trackbed so we have had to add a new culvert here and build the trackbed back up to level. The hole covered by the sleepers is where the water has gouged away the infill since we added the 450mm culvert!

Broken concrete sleepers placed in the bottom of the gulley that the water has cut has stopped some of the erosion but there is still a lot of work to do here, forming a headwall around the entrance to the culvert and stabilising the sides of the gulley being the main problems.

Jun 13 - 1

June 2013

Even the 'old' track laid in 2006 needed a significant amount of trees and undergrowth clearing. What was useful for firewood was removed, and quite lot was used to make insect & wildlife shelters but this hardly seemed to dent the amount of brush. It took weeks to clear most of this little lot, and there is still more to do!

Jun 13 - 2

June 2013

The first loads of the 5,000 tons of ballast to be laid! This view is from bridge 5 looking north.

Jun 13 - 3

June 2013

The first freight in 40 years! The locals don't seem too impressed though.

And that's the story to Bridge 5. Only a quarter of a mile or so to go to Abergwili Junction. We spread 3,000 tons of ballast along the track already laid but had to stop here for a while as Bridge 5 is the last road access to the Abergwili site. Unfortunately the access here is onto the track north of the bridge and the only way south to Abergwili  is via the trackbed as the span is only wide enough for the single track. No track could be laid under the bridge until all of the heavy plant, delivery lorries and builders vans had been in, cleared the trackbed and embankments and built the new platform.

And then the rains came...

BRIDGE 5 TO ABERGWILI

BR5 SouthJune 2013. Photo taken from Bridge 5 looking South

This was the clearest section of trackbed with only a few trees needing cutting back here. The platform will be on the right of the curve in the far distance. The turnouts on the left have been recovered from the brambles ready for the runaround loop. Unfortunately not one was completely usable so we recovered all the rails and chairs and had to start again with fresh sleepers.

Because of the layout of our road access (north of the bridge) all vehicles had to come under the bridge and down the trackbed to access the new station area. The bridge is only wide enough for a single track so track laying had to be put on hold while the platform was built and some major earthworks carried out opposite the new platform. These earthworks were one of the worst jobs we had to do. We had a 10 Ton 360o excavator and two dumpers running almost continuously for three weeks in between the torrential rain storms and howling gales just to re-profile the embankment and a serious amount of earthmoving behind this. Our grateful thanks must go to Parker Plant for the huge amount of support they have given us by allowing us to 'borrow' large excavators (with drivers) and dumpers for the odd week (!) here and there. Finally, we got to track laying...

B5 South track laid

Jan 2014. Looking south from bridge 5 again. (Photo. Les Budd)

The turnouts have been moved to the ends of the platform, the rail pile on the right has all but disappeared and, if you look closely at the background you can see the whitish edging stones of the new platform!

What is not obvious is the huge amount of earthworks that have been carried out to re-profile the embankment opposite the platform and form a siding south of the platform for all our… "Stock awaiting restoration" (I think that is the polite way of putting it!)

If you look closely where the platform disappears around to the right you can also just make out one end of the water main overbridge. This photo was taken just before Welsh Water asked us for access to that water main to refurbish and re-clad it. With the only access for vechiles along the trackbed all of the track you see here has had to be lifted and set aside while they worked. Part of the old cladding may have been asbestos so we were very happy for it to be removed.  To make sure none escaped the whole pipe bridge had to be wrapped in plastic...

water main tent

26/2/2014 The water main in its plastic tent. (Photo John Jones)

Not the best of days for photo's - it was a very dull day so the 'tent' does not show up that well. And you may have noticed - it's been raining - again….

So while we wait for thigs to dry out I've time to tell you about a couple of interesting little events that happened on this section...

Some of you reading this might wonder what all this disturbance has done to the local wild life… well I was lucky enough to witness the following event that happened here while we were lifting rail from the pile on the right in the top photo and then dragging it north for laying… Unfortunately, no one had a camera to capture the event… You can imagine the noise and disturbance made by a grab excavator dragging rails from the pile up onto the trackbed for sorting and then dragging them behind a dumper north to where we were tracklaying… so imagine our amazement when a buzzard flew down and perched on one of the fence posts for the chain link fence right next to the rail pile, literally only a matter of feet away from the rails and happily sat there watching us work! The next thing we knew the bird had jumped (yes, jumped, not flew) off the post into the pile where we had just pulled a rail and with a couple of flaps of its wings was back on the post with a vole in its beak.  This went on for about half an hour (and another couple of voles) before it finally flew off. I always thought buzzards were shy birds… Perhaps it had just decided to eat in and not take away…

Another incident, which could have been the same bird, came while we were ditch clearing a little further north. We had noticed a buzzard regularly perching on tree stumps quite close to where we were working. Each time it appeared it would land a little closer. Eventually this bird flew down onto the trackbed, within a few feet of the excavator, and stood watching intently as each bucketful came out of the ditch we were re-profiling. Even the bucket swinging over its head didn't seem to bother it! It just ducked a little each time and then watched with interest as the bucket dug its next load. If this was the same bird it must have fancied a change of menu because this one jumped into the hole just as a full bucket came out and was last seen disappearing with a rather fat frog in its beak!

A short while later... It's stopped raining,The sun is shining and so is the lovely new cladding on the pipe! The platforms ready (complete with greenery - already!) ballast is down just waiting for track...

New platform at Abergwili Junction

And that Folks is the end of my little sagas. More news updates will be published as we progress. I hope you have enjoyed the story of how we've got this far and look forward to seeing you all at the Gwili when the extension is fully open. AH


Testimonials

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