A series of special events is being organised this year to celebrate the 150th anniversary of The Heart of Wales Line, one of the most scenic railways in the country.
The railway stretches 120 miles from the Shropshire’s county town of Shrewsbury to the coastal city of Swansea on the South Wales coast.
Crossing two impressive viaducts, at Cynghordy and Knucklas, the line passes through the Welsh Marches and takes in historic castles, idyllic villages, Victorian spa towns and Offa’s Dyke.
The scenic journey provides passengers with plenty of opportunities to stop at wayside stations and halts to explore the stunning, unspoilt countryside and interesting towns and villages.
To promote the railway’s 150th birthday, the Heart of Wales Line Development Company, a Community Rail Partnership, is organising a series of events, including touring with a mini exhibition.
Special 150th birthday timetables, which have been sponsored by Network Rail Wales, will be given away at Llandrindod Wells May Fair on May 7, the Royal Welsh Show in Builth Wells from July 23-26, Llandrindod Wells Victorian Festival from August 20-26 and Llandovery Sheep Fair from September 22-23.
The anniversary events continue this Sunday with a fully booked walk over Cynghordy Viaduct. Last month, a special birthday train was laid on from Shrewsbury to Swansea.
The railway will join partners from the Cambrian Line, Severn Dee Travel, Conwy Valley Line, Fairbourne Railway and the Ffestiniog and Welsh Highland Railways at a Community Rail Wales Event at Birmingham New Street Station from May 13-19.
The partners are planning to take with them a small locomotive to recreate a beach scene with deck chairs and sand to promote Visit Wales’ Year of the Sea theme.
“The idea is to generally raise the profile of the line because we think it is one of the last proper rural lines left and a national treasure,” said Rachel Francis, Heart of Wales Line Development Company’s new development manager.
“The tour is aimed at engaging new passengers and supporters, local audiences, tourists and walkers, because we have sections of the Heart of Wales Line Long Distance Trail already open.”
The Heart of Wales Line is increasingly popular with walkers as its offers a chance to walk linear routes between rail stations.
The trail starts at the old railway town of Craven Arms and passes through a diverse range of landscapes, from pastoral farming through to remote uplands, and from mixed broadleaved woodlands to the estuarial saltmarshes of the Loughor Valley en-route to the Millennium Coastal Park.
The trail makes use of existing public rights of way and intersects with established walks including the Shropshire Way, Offa’s Dyke Path and Beacons Way.
Suitable for people looking for a long distance challenge or shorter walks, access to the trail is provided by train.
At the Royal Welsh, the railway’s supporters will have a small gazebo opposite the Marks and Spencer building and will be inviting showgoers to discuss ideas for the Heart of Wales Line over a cuppa.
“Ideas could range from local food trolleys and better timetables to exciting but speculative pilot project ideas, such as hydrogen fuel cell train,” said Rachel.
“We have Riversimple hydrogen fuel cell cars based in Llandrindod Wells and we would love to invite their engineers to have a chat about what is possible for future trains.”