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Welshpool and district
The railways
  Waiting for the trains  

The successful opening in 1830 of the first 'Intercity' railway line, from Liverpool to Manchester, set off a railway mania in Britain. In November 1845 over 1,260 schemes were presented to Parliament, though only 272 were approved. By 1850 there were some 9,600km (6,000 miles) of track in operation.
But the railways, like canals and improved roads in earlier years, were late coming to mid-Wales.
n the early years of Queen Victoria's reign there were plans to build railway lines from the rapidly expanding industrial areas of north-west England down through mid-Wales to the major ports of South Wales.

The famous Victorian engineer Brunel proposed a line from Worcester to Montgomery and Newtown, where it would cross the River Severn over a 52m (170ft) high viaduct and continue to the west Wales coast for connections to Ireland and America.

A rival scheme which did not cross mid-Wales but reached the coast at Holyhead was approved, and it opened in 1850. It crossed the Menai Straits to Anglesey over a tubular metal bridge designed by George Stephenson.

A Victorian
railway of

Railway engraving of 1869

There were similar "paper" schemes for railways from the manufacturing centres of the Midlands westwards through Wales to the coast. There was fierce competition between rival companies for the approval of different routes, and most towns wanted their own railway station.
But there was too much rivalry and no co-operation between the supporters of competing lines. Many people had hoped to get rich by investing in the new railways, but poor planning led to long Trade directory entrydelays and several companies ran out of money.
The result was that there were still no railways in mid-Wales when there was already a growing network of lines in most other parts of Britain. By 1854 the nearest railway lines were still only in north and south Wales and over the English border in Shropshire and Herefordshire.
But the trains turned up eventually - see the next page...

When the railway comes to town...


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