|1. Of Railfans and Railwaymen|
|2. A Machynlleth Sunday|
|3. Cuppa with John Gwynne|
|4. A Railwayman's Railwayman|
|Two: A Machynlleth Sunday|
Depot, built of
stone from the
railway cutting at
Diesel cars to
up at the down
John on a pearl-gray Welsh Sunday morning in
Machynlleth, a small Mid-Wales market town. I had not intended to tarry there.
Steam trains and the storied Vale of Rheidol Light Railway were the agenda for the
day, and riding the Cambrian line diesel cars from Machynlleth to Aberystwyth was simply
the means to my end. However, Central Trains Ltd. had other ideas. In my hurry
that morning I had failed to note the crucial differences between the Sunday timetable and
the rest of the week-- a mistake one should never make in rock-ribbed Protestant
Wales. With kind amusement the railway agent in Machynlleth's gabled station
explained to me the error of my ways, and delivered the bad news: I faced a two-hour wait
for the first train to Aberystwyth. Disappointed but unbowed, I thanked the agent
and set on out through the platform door. With two hours to kill, what else could
one do head on out to trackside and poke about?
connecting the up
and down platforms.
The 1950s interlocking tower.
platform doors opened on a scene almost from
the last century. Beneath the 1863 depot's tall gables and gray fieldstone walls,
two tracks stretched out to either hand. A sturdy ironwork canopy offered shelter
from the rain to passengers on the down or depot side of the rails, while a lovely
vaulting wrought-iron truss footbridge provided convenient access to the up line.
Tall semaphore signals stood guard at the ends of the platforms, controlling access to
coachyards on one side and the long mainline down to the sea on the other. The only
incongruous touch was the "new" 1950s-era interlocking tower huddled at the end
of the up platform: slab-sided and squat, done up in a sort of poor-man's modernism, it
alone marred the otherwise fine Victorian scene.
I was frowning at the tower, its door popped
open and a tall uniformed man appeared at the top of the steps, gesturing to me
imperatively. Sure that I was about to be shooed off of the platform to wait in the
station until traintime, I approached apologetically. When I got within earshot, the tall
fellow instead called out a cheery greeting: "Would you like to see the tower?
Come on up, then!" I hastened up the steps.