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The Vale of Rheidol Railway (Hardback)

The Story of a Narrow Gauge Survivor

Colour Books Photographic Books Transport > Trains & Railways

By Peter Johnson
Imprint: Pen & Sword Transport
Series: Narrow Gauge Railways
Pages: 208
Illustrations: 200 colour & black and white illustrations, maps and track diagrams
ISBN: 9781526718051
Published: 6th April 2020
Last Released: 2nd February 2021


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Built to carry minerals from mines in the Rheidol valley, the 2ft gauge Vale of Rheidol Railway found its niche carrying tourists to the tourist attraction at Devil’s Bridge, 12 miles inland from the Cardigan coast resort of Aberystwyth. Taken over by the Cambrian Railways and then the Great Western Railway, it became the last steam railway operated by British Rail. In 1989 it became the first part of the national network to be privatised.

Now under the control of a charitable trust it is undergoing a revival that will see it become one of the leading tourist attractions in Mid-Wales.

This is a very useful volume for anyone who is interested in Welsh narrow gauge lines. The many photographs will also be very helpful to modellers.

Great Western Study Group's Newsletter - Winter 2022

We are treated to the railway’s origins and subsequent trials and tribulations culminating in a takeover, the Grouping and finally Nationalisation. The author has an interesting writing style where he presents his text almost as if a story. As a result it flows well and is easy to absorb and understand. Through the text we learn how the Rheidol came to be in the unique position of being a narrow gauge steam tourist line operated by the nationalised state railway. I got the impression that during the 1960s BR was at an impasse and didn't really know what to do with the line but were reluctant to be the ones to actually close it. There were a number of initiatives which are detailed in the text, which proposed to improve the line’s image and fortunes. Most of us are probably aware of the ultimate fate of the Rheidol, that of privatisation..The author provides a detailed narrative of the process and leads us into the current era, where a rail blue Rheidol tank with a double arrow seems a million miles away..

The excellent text is accompanied by a large amount of photos all of which are reproduced well. Mr Johnson’s book may well lack the detail of the Rheidol’s own mega-volume ‘Vale of Rheidol in Detail’ but it acts as a perfect companion to it by providing the history and context that required the infrastructure and rolling stock.

If you are fan of this great little railway then I can highly recommend it.

Diesel and Electric Modellers United, Summer 22 Issue

This book provides a comprehensive history, and includes historical images not previously seen. There are also plenty of full colour views covering the line over the last 50 years or so, coloured plans and maps and no less than twenty appendices covering such aspects as operating costs, locomotives used and Board of Trade returns.

This is a highly recommended addition to the library of works on the UK narrow gauge.

West Somerset Railway Association

The book is comprehensively illustrated with photographs spanning the entire history of the line, plus maps, diagrams and tabulated information. An excellent publication, well worth its cover price, and thoroughly recommended.

Ffestiniog Railway Society Magazine - Winter 2020/21

An interesting book for preservation lovers.

Read the full Spanish review here

Miniaturas JM

Review by Paul Weeden

The book is interesting in its description of the various periods in the life of the railway which, combined with many period photographs, make it an enjoyable read.

Welsh Railways Research Circle newsletter, No 164 Autumn/Winter 2020

A well designed and laid out book that adds to the history of a fascinating line, thoroughly recommended.

6024 Preservation Society

Built to transport minerals from mines in the Rheidol Valley, this 2-foot-wide railway found its niche leading tourists to the Demon Bridge tourist attraction, 12 miles inland from the Cardigan coastal resort of Aberystwyth. It became the last steam railway operated by British Rail and in 1989 in the first part of the network to be privatized. Now, under a charitable trust, he's experiencing a renaissance that will make him one of Mid-Wales' top tourist attractions.

A great book about a small railway with a lot of history that has managed to adapt to the new times and become a tourist attraction without losing its charm. A history similar to the one we have in Spain with the Steam Train of the Basque Railway Museum or the Utrillas Mining Train. The most noteworthy thing, as in many books of this publishing house, is the large number of good photographs it contains and how complete its information is.

Read the full Spanish review here

Unos Cuantos Trenes

It is a complete story of the line to date, an enjoyable read and a good pictorial record of this attractive railway. So a good way to spend some time in lock-down!

Read the full review here

Michael's Model Railways
 Peter Johnson

About Peter Johnson

Best known for his books on narrow gauge and Welsh railways, Peter Johnson first wrote about travelling post offices in 1985 and added the Post Office (London) Railway to his portfolio in 1995. Living in Leicester, he was employed in local authority fire service communications for 29 years. 

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