Vale of Rheidol Railway, Devil's Bridge station

Vale of Rheidol Railway, Devil's Bridge station

devils_bridge_stationSince 1902, this station has been the upper terminus of the Vale of Rheidol Railway, a narrow-gauge line built to carry lead ore and timber as well as tourists. The postcard picture on the right shows it in its early years.

Devil’s Bridge (Pontarfynach in Welsh) was already an established tourist attraction by 1902, thanks to its picturesque bridge over a waterfall and the legend of how the devil built the bridge before being outwitted by a local woman. Early tourists travelled in slow, horse-drawn vehicles. The railway was quicker and offered splendid views as it climbed steadily from Aberystwyth.

Devil’s Bridge might easily have had a station on the standard-gauge rail network (a station which would probably have closed decades ago). In the 1860s and 1870s, separate Acts of Parliament authorised: a railway extension from Aberystwyth to Devil’s Bridge; a through line from Aberystwyth to Llangurig via Devil’s Bridge; and a branch line to Devil’s Bridge from Trawscoed (about 10km south-west of Devil’s Bridge). None of these powers was taken up, and fresh legislation in 1897 enabled construction of the narrow-gauge railway which remains in use today.

The line climbs steeply to the elevated terminus at Devil’s Bridge. This gradient worked in favour of trains carrying ore and timber down to the sea. Much of the timber became pit props in South Wales (wooden framework holding up the tunnels in collieries). Tourists, on the other hand, expected to be hauled up to Devil’s Bridge as well as back. This was taxing for the small steam locomotives, and before the First World War there were plans to convert the railway to electric traction – better suited to climbing.

Instead, in the 1920s the Great Western Railway provided two new steam locomotives and improved one of the original locos to match. Those GWR machines still haul trains full of tourists to Devil’s Bridge and back.

Postcode: SY23 3JL    View Location Map

Website of Vale of Rheidol Railway