This month sees the 50th anniversary of the publication of the first part of a report into the state of Britain’s railways written by Richard Beeching and commonly called the Beeching Report. This report called for a drastic reduction in the size of the British Railway system and the ‘Beeching Axe’ fell heavily on parts of Wales.
The picture here is of an enamelled metal network map of the Great Western Railway, such as would have appeared on the walls of many station buildings before the Second World War. It shows the network at its zenith before the ravages of war, economic decline and competition from road transport lead to the demise of many of the smaller branch lines.
A case in point is the Carmarthen to Aberystwyth line, which formed a link between South & North Wales in the West. Since the line closed in the 1960s it has been necessary to cross into England in order to travel from North to South Wales by rail.
The line suffered during the war when rolling stock and heavy loads (such as tanks) were carried over bridges not designed for the weight. The weakened bridges were not considered economical to repair or replace and further damage due to flooding caused the Northern part of the line to be closed at the end of 1964 and the Southern part closed to passengers in early 1965, though freight traffic continued on part of the line until 1973.
Many people have called for the line to be reopened; but while parts of the line have reopened as a heritage railway other parts have been lost to development.
The National Library has a key role in preserving information about the history of railways in Wales; we hold a large collection of maps and plans showing routes and detailed track plans and sections of proposed and actual railways as well as designs for buildings, bridges and even rolling stock. The collection is especially good for Northeast Wales and Central Wales, but has examples covering the whole country. We are continually adding to the collection and hope to receive a large amount of new material in coming years.