Powys Digital History Project 

Rhayader and the Elan Valley
The railway through Rhayader

Edited by Stephen Collard

Detail from an O.S. 1" map published soon after the railway came to Rhayader.

Powys County Archives 

1" mapBetween the years 1864 and 1963, Rhayader had a railway service transporting people, supplies, and animals to and from the town. A ceremony was held on Friday 2nd September 1859, at which Mrs Pyne of Doldowlod Hall, was invited to undertake the privilege of cutting the first turf of the Rhayader section of the railway. The ceremony started at Rhayader’s Town Hall with a brass band leading the assembled crowd down West Street to a field close to the town. One of the contractors Mr. G.H.Whalley introduced Mrs. Pyne by saying that she ‘was the person most entitled to perform the ceremony, for she was a descendant of James Watt, to whom the world was indebted for the introduction of the steam engine’.
 Rhayader Station


The 300 guests dined, then drank to the success of the Mid Wales Railway, as the line was then called. One of the first engines to work the line, built in 1864, was aptly called No.1—‘James Watt’.
  Before 1867 a number of the 12 stations on the Moat Lane to Brecon section were lit by seal oil. On 1st April 1888 control of the line passed from the Mid Wales Railways to the Cambrian Railways Company. The Llanidloes through Rhayader to Newbridge section was opened for goods on 1st September 1864 and passengers on 21st September 1864. The last passenger train ran on a cold December’s day in 1963.
  The birth and death of the railway are encompassed by the life of the late John Jones the tailor,of Llanwrthwl, a popular local singer. To celebrate his 102nd birthday he took a trip on the line, of which incredibly he could remember seeing the first train running on, 97 years previously. The line, which ran through some of the most scenic parts of the countryside, was closed following the Beeching Report in 1963. The line which had taken over five years to lay, and had lasted 100 years was dismantled and removed in only a few months. 

 Photograph by kind permission of
Stephen Collard

Rhayader stationFrom left to right

Station Master:
Alan Davies,
Guard: Peris Evans, Signalman:
Elystan Evans,
Engine Driver: Donald Jones of Llanidloes
  Information supplied by the
Rhayader & District History Archives