Pantyffynnon to Llandeilo
(Pantyffynnon, Tirydail, Llandybie,
Ffairfach and Llandeilo)

Railways were first developed to transport freight for the rapidly evolving industrial revolution of the nineteenth century, replacing the canals that had previously done that job in the eighteenth. But by the middle of the nineteenth century it was clear that a new cargo could be conveyed at a profit along the rapidly expanding rail network – people. And though no-one knew it at the time, within 50 years a newer technology would first threaten and finally ring the death knell of most of our rail network as a means of mass transportation – the internal combustion engine. But until that day arrived, the future for rail was assured.

It took some time though, for the railways to extend beyond the coal-bearing Amman Valley. The coal seams run out at Llandybie where another geological source of profit begins – limestone. The local colliers called this strata of stone the 'Farewell Seam' because its appearance meant farewell, literally, to the coal, and northwards from Llandybie coal tips gave way to limestone quarries on the skyline. For a while Llandybie was also the limit of the coal network, with a mineral line swinging off at Tirydail, then called Duffryn Junction, and serving the coal mines as far as Llandybie, Caebryn, Blaenau and Penygroes.

But moves were soon afoot to take the railways north to the agricultural villages of Carmarthenshire and beyond. In 1857 the London Midland Service (LMS) reached Llandeilo and Llandovery soon followed in 1858. Ten years would have to pass, though, before the Central Wales Extension reached Llandovery from the north but when it did, it united south western and north eastern Wales.

Unlike the Amman Valley branch, this line from Swansea to Shrewsbury is still open to passenger traffic but the railway stations we find along this line today are barely recognizable from those of even 40 years ago. The manually operated level crossings are all gone, replaced by automatic barriers. With the new diesel trains no longer needing the liquid refreshment of their steam predecessors, the track-side water tanks that once slaked the steam trains' considerable thirst have been dismantled. Gone, too, are many of the overhead road footbridges, while most of the station buildings with their booking offices, refreshment and waiting rooms have been razed to the ground. Ticket clerks and platform guards have been replaced by on-board conductors. No more will children enjoy the illicit thrill of climbing station fences to avoid the station guard collecting the ticket they hadn't bought.

It was on this line, too, that the last steam-drawn trains could be seen on June 13th 1964. This was the day, too, that Swansea (Victoria) station, where the Heart of Wales trains used to terminate, was also closed and subsequently demolished. The last passenger trains to be hauled by steam engines along this line travelled along the 18 mile Llanelli to Llandeilo route on that historic day, the engines being replaced afterwards by 1750 horse-power diesels. The last two steam-drawn trains were the 7.35 a.m. bound for Llandeilo and another at 5 p.m. on the same route.

To see what those railway stations looked like we'll have to take an imaginary train ride from Pantyffynnon to Llandeilo and let the photographs jog our memories.

Pantyffynnon Station Looking north, former LMS locomotive 42307 with the 10:48 to Swansea runs into Pantyffynnon on the last stage of its journey from Shrewsbury – a 4 ½ hour trip. The platform at the right was for the Amman Valley Branch Line. (Photo taken 29th July 1958.)

Tirydail Station

Ammanford Station, né Tirydail, né Duffryn Halt as it is today

Continuing northwards from Pantyffynnon the next station is Tirydail, although there was once an intermediate halt at Parcyrhun. In the photo below former LMS 45283 passes over the level crossing from the north and enters the single platform station with the 3:32 to Swansea, 12 noon from Shrewsbury. A mineral (ie coal) branch is indicated by the wagons beyond the signal box. Originally called Dyffryn Lodge Station, Tirydail was renamed Ammanford and Tirydail in 1960 after the closure of Ammanford Station in 1958. In 1973 in was renamed again, this time to plain Ammanford. Like most stations along this line it is now an unstaffed halt. All the buildings in this photo – the signal box, booking office, waiting room and manned level crossing – have been demolished and the passing line at the left of the main line has been removed. Now the only building on an otherwise featureless platform is a rudimentary shelter (see photo above). (Photo below taken 25th July 1958.)

Ammanford Station, né Tirydail and Ammanford, né Tirydail, né Duffryn Halt, date unknown (1930s?)
Llandybie Station (1)
The 5:35 from Swansea terminated at Llandybie and locomotive 3641 is seen here at he end of its outward journey. (Photo taken 25th July 1958.)
Llandybie Station (2)
Looking north, no 42388, the 2:50 from Shrewsbury is about to pass through Llandybie Station. The signal box in the picture is now just a fond memory. (Photo 25th July 1958.) A mile north there was also a Halt at Derwydd Road, which was closed down in 1963.
Ffairfach had a milk siding at the opposite end of the level crossing (at the top of the picture). Here locomotive 9788 heads the 5:53 to Llandovery. (Photo taken 25th July 1960.)
Llandilo (1)
Llandilo (that's how Llandeilo was once spelled) was a junction for two lines: the Swansea to Shrewsbury line and the Llandeilo to Carmarthen line which had originally been opened by the Llanelly Railway Company in 1865. This line crossed the river Towy and then swung west to run south of the river to Carmarthen, stopping at Llandilo Bridge, Golden Grove, Drysllwyn, Llanarthney Halt, Nantgaredig, Abergwili, Abergwili Junction and Carmarthen. There were two platforms at Llandilo to serve each line until the Carmarthen line was closed completely in 1963. In the bay platform on the Swansea to Shrewsbury line, locomotive 9645 waits to depart at 3:25 for Carmarthen. (Photo taken 29th August 1959.)
Llandilo (2)
Looking north, locomotive 45190 heads the 12 noon from Shrewsbury travelling to Swansea. Not a brick of any of the buildings in this picture now remains and the platform for the Carmarthen line has also disappeared. The refreshment room became a public house, known as the 'Refresh', for a while, but this was demolished in the mid 1990s. (Photo taken 29th August 1959.)


Amman Valley Railway Society
There is a web site for the Amman Valley Railway Society, with more history and photographs, which can be found on: http://ammanvalleyrail.netfirms.com/

Heart of Wales Line Travellers' Association' (HOWLTA) Today Ammanford is one of about 40 railway stations on the Heart of Wales line which runs directly from Swansea to Shrewsbury. The line has its own group of entusiasts called the 'Heart of Wales Line Travellers' Association' (HOWLTA). Their web site can be found on http://www.heart-of-wales.co.uk

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Date this page last updated: October 1, 2010