How about seeing the West Wales countryside in true style aboard a Pembrokeshire steam train? All across West Wales, which has five heritage railways, teams of volunteers have restored old steam and diesel engines for visitors to ride on. It's not so long ago that your average holidaymaker would travel by train to their holiday destination.
These days you can still climb aboard a steam train thanks to the maintenance of some of West Wales' old lines and locomotives. Many of the lines cut through the steep Welsh countryside, giving you unforgettable views on your journey. From full-scale steam locomotives to narrow gauge engines, we give you a closer look at Pembrokeshire and West Wales' heritage railways in this guide. Grab your ticket, all aboard!
If you are planning to visit West Wales and its steam heritage railways, why not stay at one of our self-catering holiday homes in Pembrokeshire? Click on the button below to visit our collection.
Gwili Steam Railway
If you're staying in Pembrokeshire and looking for a steam railway then a trip to The Gwili Railway is a must. The Gwili Railway owns 8 miles of the original track bed from Llanpumpsaint in the north to the site of Abergwili Junction in the south on the now-closed Carmarthen to Aberystwyth railway line. It was closed to passenger services in 1963 and the last goods train ran in September 1972.
Facilities at Bronwydd Arms Station include a Railway Shop for souvenirs, books, toys and Hornby model railway stock, the Gwili Railway Museum and a Café Coach. Exhibits on the line include a typical branch line waiting room from 1911, signal boxes that were formally at Aberaeron and Llandybie, a fully working Travelling Post Office 1950s-60s, a restored vintage carriage circa 1880s and a Taff Vale Railway carriage built in 1891.
The Vale of Rheidol Railway
The Vale of Rheidol Railway was the last steam railway owned by British Rail until it was privatised in 1989. Trains depart from the centre of Aberystwyth and the railway is adjacent to the mainline station that is the terminus for the Cambrian line from Shrewsbury. The railway opened in 1902, to serve the lead mines, timber and passenger traffic of the Rheidol Valley. To save money, and in deference to the hostile terrain through which the line was forged, the railway was built to a narrower track gauge than the norm, with many sharp curves and steep gradients.
Yet despite the fact that the rails are just under 2 feet apart, the three steam locomotives weigh over 25 tons each and are more than 8 feet wide. The locomotives and carriages currently in use were built for the line by the Great Western Railway between 1923 and 1938.
The 11.75-mile journey between Aberystwyth and Devil's Bridge takes approximately 1 hour in each direction as the train overcomes a height difference of over 600 feet, affording superb views of the Rheidol Valley. At Devil's Bridge, there is a cafe, toilets and a picnic area. The famous Mynach Falls, Jacob's Ladder and the Devil's Punchbowl are within walking distance of the station.
- Where to climb aboard: The line runs between Aberystwyth (SY23 1PG) and Devil's Bridge railway stations (SY23 3JL).
- Tickets: Visit the website for ticket availability and prices.
- Stay nearby: Cae Cefn | sleeps 2 guests + 1 dog
Aberystwyth Cliff Railway
The Aberystwyth Electric Cliff Railway, the longest in Britain, is at the northern end of the promenade and has been transporting visitors to the summit of Constitution Hill since opening in 1896; on a clear day, it is possible to see 26 mountain peaks spanning much of the length of Wales. Once at the summit, visitors can experience the views afforded by the world’s largest camera obscura, which offers a bird's eye view of 1,000 square miles of land and seascape.
Opened in 1896, it was originally operated on a water balance system until electrification in 1921. Now a powerful motor with high-tensile steel cables, supported by a sophisticated electronic safety system, haul the carriages to the summit at a stately 4 miles per hour. The Cliff Railway is open 7 days a week April to October from 10am to 6pm (often later during the high season); out of season, the trains run to a limited timetable.
- Where to climb aboard: Cliff Railway House, Cliff Terrace, Aberystwyth, SY23 2DN
- Tickets: Visit the website for ticket availability and prices.
- Stay nearby: Hafod Aber | sleeps 4 guests + 2 dogs
Borth Station Museum
This lovingly renovated museum opened in 2011 at Borth Station thanks to the efforts of the local Borth Station Volunteers along with support from a number of local and national organisations. The station is still served by passenger trains and is the last stop on the Cambrian line before Aberystwyth. The collection of artefacts includes hundreds of items collected by volunteers over the years as well as donated items from supporters' own collections. These items trace the significance of the railway here at Borth and the surrounding areas, where the lead mining industry, agriculture and, of course, tourism played an important role.
The old ticket office has been completely renovated, keeping as many original features as possible with many of the artefacts found in the abandoned cupboards having been cleaned of many years' of dust and replaced in their rightful places. The old waiting room is where you'll find our interactive displays, including a model railway, a cabinet full of old railway-related items, and a specially produced video about the local area and the station itself. The Station Manager's office is where you'll find the Borth Station Volunteer team who are ready to answer any questions you might have or give you an impromptu tour of the facility.
Teifi Valley Railway
The Teifi Valley Railway is a narrow gauge line set on the old track bed of what was originally designed as the Carmarthen to Cardigan line; however, it only got as far as Newcastle Emlyn and this became the terminus up until 1973 when the line was finally closed. Although a group of volunteers made attempts to purchase and preserve it as a standard gauge line, they were defeated.
In 1981, a group of people brought the trackbed and in 1983 the new gauge of 2 feet was laid and the Teifi Valley Railway was born. The line starts at Henllan where the old platforms, cattle docks and, sometimes in the summer, the station footings can be seen. The locomotives that haul the trains are heritage locomotives in their own right; the oldest is 115 years old and was originally a Penrhyn Quarry locomotive. Another locomotive from the same quarry, Sgt Murphy, was a World War I locomotive that never made it to France, and ended up making its way to the Ffestiniog Railway; she eventually came to the Teifi Valley and now shares a shed again with Alan George.
Stay at one of our Pembrokeshire holiday cottages
Stay at one of our self-catering holiday cottages in Pembrokeshire. This is a beautiful part of the country to enjoy a break away from the norm at our accommodation. We have coastal properties, rural cottages, dog-friendly accommodation, and romantic boltholes close to Pembrokeshire's many heritage railways. Browse our collection by clicking the button below.
Disclaimer: Whilst every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of the information at the time of writing,
please ensure you check carefully before making any decisions based on the contents within this article.