Railway history

hub-badgeRailway history in Wales

Use the lists below to discover stories relating to Wales’ long and varied railway history, from 18th-century industrial tramroads to the pioneering of the preservation movement in the 1950s and some of the technological developments of the 21st century. You can also access the stories by using your smartphone to scan our QR codes at each location.

We have also created a tour along the Ffestiniog Railway which you can follow online or by using your mobile when riding the trains or walking between stations.


Caernarfon - Griffiths Crossing stationmaster killed by a train in 1859 while trying to save a confused old lady
Penmaenbach - dramatic painting shows a fatal freight train derailment on the coast in 1899
Llandudno - compensation claims after a crash in 1932 ruined the Great Orme Tramway company
Llanddulas - 33 people were killed when the Irish Mail hit runaway wagons in 1868
Ruabon - GWR employees killed here included William Lloyd, running beneath wagons while snowballing with another youth
Welshpool - local man killed when trying to board a moving narrow-gauge train in Raven Square in 1904
Llandrindod - the absence of a loading gauge in 1889 resulted in damage to a portable steam engine on a railway wagon
Talybont-on-Usk - four Brecon & Merthyr Railway men died after a freight careered down “Seven Mile Bank” in 1878
Ystradgynlais - playing on empty wagons in the Midland Railway sidings caused a boy’s death in 1888
Aberdare - a two-year-old girl was killed after she and other children got onto the GWR line near Fforchaman Colliery
Govilon - a freight train ran away in 1877 down one of Britain’s steepest railway gradients, hitting a stationary train

Heritage and preserved railways

Llanberis - the rubble wagon outside Spar was one of thousands which tipped slate waste
Llanberis - narrow-gauge railway follows the Padarn Railway route alongside Llyn Padarn
Caernarfon station - three different track gauges in succession have been used here
Dinas station - originally the Welsh Highland Railway’s northern terminus, alongside the LNWR line
Dinas - unusual De Winton quarry locomotive with vertical boiler displayed by the station
Waunfawr station - opened by the North Wales Narrow Gauge Railways Company in 1877
Beddgelert - the old railway wagons on the village green are relics from Sygun copper mine
Porthmadog Harbour station - meeting place of the Ffestiniog and Welsh Highland railways
Porthmadog - Topsy is one of the world’s oldest live-steam model locos, built in 1869
Porthmadog - women made shell cases at the FR’s Boston Lodge works during WW1
Minffordd station - on two levels: FR above, Network Rail’s Cambrian Coast line below
Penrhyndeudraeth - the FR station was relocated in 1879
Tan-y-Bwlch station - managed before WW2 by Bessie Jones, who dressed in Welsh lady costume
Dduallt - a spiral track was created in the 1970s, as a hydro-electric scheme had flooded the FR’s original route
Tanygrisiau station - terminus of the FR while the line into Blaenau Ffestiniog was rebuilt
Blaenau Ffestiniog station - narrow gauge and standard gauge are side by side here
Fairbourne Railway - evolved from a tramway built by flour magnate Arthur McDougall in 1895
Tywyn Wharf station - main terminus of Talyllyn Railway, the world’s first preserved railway
Tywyn - a Padarn Railway host wagon is among the exhibits at the Narrow Gauge Railway Museum
Dolgarrog Railway - originally built to serve the aluminium factory
Rhyl - Britain’s oldest survived miniature railway, opened in 1911
Rhyl - miniature steam loco Billy returned to Rhyl in 1978 after the town council bid in a London auction
Aberystwyth - the cliff railway opened in 1896, using water power
Aberystwyth VoRR station - terminus of the narrow-gauge Vale of Rheidol Railway
Devil's Bridge station - upper terminus of the Vale of Rheidol Railway
New Quay - a section of iron track on stones survives from the harbour railway of the 1830s
Llanfair Caereinion station - two Victorian coach bodies installed in WW2 to store livestock feed
Welshpool Raven Square station - terminus of the Welshpool & Llanfair Light Railway
Llandrindod Wells - signal box relocated to the station for preservation in 1990
Pontsticill station - now a lakeside stop on the Brecon Mountain Railway, once a standard-gauge junction
Pant station - the Brecon Mountain Railway’s terminus is above the disused LNWR Morlais Tunnel

Main railway network

Holyhead - passengers crossing the Stanley Embankment in 1904 stopped their train to rescue a boating party
Llanfairpwll station - the one with the very long name
Llanfairpwll - the ‘Cathedral Abutment’ connects the Anglesey shore to the Britannia Bridge
Britannia Bridge - originally a tubular bridge by Robert Stephenson
Britannia Bridge - stone lions still stand guard at each end of the rebuilt railway bridge
Bangor station - retains its original Chester & Holyhead Railway building
Pwllheli station - relocated in 1909 after construction of an embankment past the harbour
Minffordd station - where the Cambrian Coast line passes beneath the Ffestiniog Railway
Blaenau Ffestiniog station - terminus of the scenic Conwy Valley line and Ffestiniog Railway
Penrhyndeudraeth - Pont Briwet timber trestle replaced in 2015. Nearby is a GWR boundary marker
Barmouth Bridge - timber viaduct stretches for almost 1km over the Mawddach estuary
Penmaenmawr station - retains its C&HR building. WE Gladstone would alight here for summer holidays
Conwy Tubular Bridge - Robert Stephenson’s tunnel above a river
Conwy railway arch - the hole punched through the town walls was disguised to look medieval
Llandudno Junction station - unusually, the town is named after its station
Deganwy station – handled sphagnum moss consignments during WW1 for women to make dressings for troops
Llandudno station - massive glass canopy installed in 1892, reputedly as Lord Mostyn feared loco smoke nuisance
Mochdre - site of world’s first railway water troughs, enabling locos to take on water without stopping
Colwyn Bay station - initially, trains had to wait for Lady Erskine if her carriage was late
Llanddulas viaduct - collapsed in 1879, rebuilt by LNWR in less than a month
Betws-y-coed station - home since the 1960s to a South Eastern & Chatham Railway Pullman coach
Rhyl station - wide platforms were built for the routine crowds of summer holidaymakers
Flint station - features its original station building by Francis Thompson
Hawarden Bridge - one span opened to allow ships to travel along the river Dee
Wrexham General - combines what were once GWR and LNER stations, side by side
Chirk - where the Glyn Valley Tramway met the GWR
Ruabon - the railway to Llangollen and Barmouth diverged here until it closed in the 1960s
Newtown - the railway’s opening enabled the world’s first mail-order business to start
Machynlleth station - the world’s deepest cutting enabled the railway to reach here in 1863
Llandrindod Wells - the railway transformed the fortunes of the spa town from the 1860s
Aberystwyth station - opened in the 1860s and later rebuilt by the GWR
Fishguard & Goodwick station - reopened in 2012 after school pupils’ petition
Tenby station - the ornate canopy is integral to the Victorian station building
Carmarthen station - the track continued to Aberystwyth line until 1965
Llanelli station - where troops shot dead two men during 1911 rail strike
Swansea station - opened as terminus of the South Wales Railway in 1850
Cardiff Bay station - the former Taff Vale Railway HQ still stands nearby
Cardiff Central - Brunel diverted the Taff to fit the station in between the river and the canal
Pontypridd station - boasted the world’s longest island platform from 1907
Pontypridd - Brunel’s skew-arch bridge crosses the river Rhondda
Caerphilly station - opened in 1871 after the Rhymney Railway built a direct line to Cardiff
Newport station - one station, three different centuries of railway architecture
Chepstow rail station - still has its South Wales Railway ‘chalet’ building
Abergavenny station - features original 1850s building with low section of platform adjacent

Repurposed, vanished or disused

Holyhead - LNWR station hotel had 75 rooms and an 18-hole golf course for guests
Holyhead - broad-gauge railway conveyed stone from 1847 for construction of UK’s longest breakwater
Llangefni - former goods shed is a surviving feature of the Anglesey Central Railway
Y Felinheli - standard-gauge and narrow-gauge lines converged at this busy slate dock
Caernarfon - Griffiths Crossing station was used for two Prince of Wales investiture ceremonies
Caernarfon - the De Winton foundry built unusual vertical-boiler locomotives for quarries
Llanberis - terminus of the LNWR branch line of 1869 is now home to a craft shop
Llanberis - you can walk through the former LNWR tunnel, hewn through solid rock
Llanberis – inclined planes brought loaded slate wagons to Gilfach Ddu from the Dinorwig quarries
Bethesda - the site of the LNWR’s terminus station now hosts a GP surgery
Bethesda - Felin Fawr workshops were the base of the narrow-gauge Penrhyn Quarry Railway
Blaenau Ffestiniog - former FR inspector’s house was once occupied by the father of spy Kim Philby
Deganwy dock - built by LNWR for narrow-gauge slate wagons. Now a marina
Llandudno Junction - locos and coaches were serviced where the cinema complex stands
Dolgarrog - upland railways above Dolgarrog were built for quarries, later used for reservoir construction
Prestatyn - the former station building and goods shed are now home to an upholstery business
St Asaph - the station was built by the Vale of Clwyd Railway
Corwen - the former station building is now a showroom Ifor Williams Trailers
Connah’s Quay - the LNER inherited a mass of sidings, evolved from the first tramroad into the port in 1799
Welshpool - the grand station building, now a shop, was the HQ of the Oswestry & Newtown Railway
Hay-on-Wye - horse-drawn wagons crossed The Warren from c.1815
Brecon - ‘Viaduct House’ recalls the Neath & Brecon Railway viaduct over The Struet
Brecon - Watton canal wharf was the terminus of the Hay Railway, built 1797-1800
Talybont-on-Usk - Brecon & Merthyr Railway bridge over canal is near the Bryn Oer Tramroad terminus site
Ystradgynlais - site of Swansea Vale Railway station, initially named Ynyscedwyn
Aberporth - London & South Western Railway sleeping car is now a holiday cottage
Neyland - dock engineered by Brunel for trains to meet Irish Sea ferries
Swansea - former Midland Railway offices in Wind Street
Neath - footbridge crosses the site of Neath Riverside station, where a track and platform survive
Porthcawl - harbour built in 1829 by one of the world’s first combined railway and dock companies
Barry - council offices were originally the Barry Railway’s headquarters
Penarth - marina occupies dock which passed into GWR ownership in the 1920s
Pontsticill - once a Brecon & Merthyr Railway junction, now part of the Brecon Mountain Railway
Pontllanfraith - loco crews halted their freight trains to sup a pint at the Halfway House
Ebbw Vale - steelworks made probably the world’s first steel rails, for the Midland Railway, in 1857
Gilwern - tramroads which met the canal here included the Clydach Railroad of 1794 which used flanged wheels
Govilon - railway bridge was part of the steeply graded MT&A route across the Heads of the Valleys
Abergavenny - the Railway Inn, beside Brecon Road station, had a morning licence for end-of-shift train crew
Llanfoist - Hill’s tramroad from Blaenavon reached the canal wharf via a series of inclines
Pontypool - the Railway Inn stood between the Monmouthshire Railway & Canal Co’s Panteg station and canal

Memorials and graves

Llanfairpwll - memorial to people who died during construction of Britannia Bridge
Bangor - Bangor Institute Boys’ Corps war memorial, Bangor station
Bethesda - stationmaster’s son LC Gillett was a LNWR clerk at Euston and died in WW1
Conwy - grave of signalman William Petch, who averted an Irish Mail accident in 1927
Llandudno - newlywed Ernest Weller was one of 24 killed in the 1948 Winsford train crash
Llandudno - tram driver Edward Harris died in a tram crash in 1932 while trying to save a child passenger’s life
Llangollen - CF Beyer, co-founder of the Beyer Peacock loco factory, is buried in Llantysilio churchyard
Barry - statue of the industrialist David Davies, who built many Welsh railways
Cardiff - the war memorial at Cardiff Central commemorates GWR men who died in WW1
Cardiff - the Roll of Honour at Cardiff Queen Street lists Taff Vale Railway men who served in WW1
Abergavenny - you can see the LNWR’s WW1 memorial in the Market Hall foyer

Trams and Tramways

Llandudno - West Shore shelter was beside the Llandudno & Colwyn Bay Electric Railway’s terminus
Llandudno - the Great Orme Tramway continues to take visitors to the summit
Llandudno - the Great Orme tramcars are hauled by cables
Colwyn Bay - granite ‘postcard’ depicts a streamlined ex-Darwen tramcar of the L&CBER
Rhyl - site of home of Alfred Dickinson, whose trolley pole invention enabled cheaper tramway electrification
Chirk - the steam-operated Glyn Valley Tramway ran beside the road to Glyn Ceiriog and beyond
Cardiff - Hayes Island Snack Bar was built c.1911 as a parcels depot for the city’s large tramway system