Vale of Rheidol: Narrow Gauge in the GWR Style

 

1. Aberystwyth 5. The Long Flat
2. The GWR Style 6. Hard Climbing
3. At the Engine Shed 7. Tea at Devil's Bridge
4. On Our Way 8. Sunset on Rheidol Vale

 

Eight: Sunset on Rheidol Vale

 

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Watering in the
deep cut.

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Heading back under the bridge.
Welshcakes, soda and a walk to the famous Devil's Bridge itself (a nearby gorge where three different generations of bridges-- medieval, 17th century and modern-- span a tributary of the Rheidol; now sadly overrun by rather tacky tourist development) passed the minutes until train time.  When I returned, I found the train crew tidying up their pails, fastening their grips and making their way back to the engine.  After stowing their gear on board, the driver and fireman backed their charge down through the passing loop, over the junction points and out into the deep cut at the mouth of the yard.  There, propped conveniently on the side of the cutting, was a watertower: soon the fireman was out on the pilot, refreshing #8's tanks for the downhill run.  A high bridge across the cutting gave me a fine view, as well as a chance to enjoy the traditional baptism of steam as the engine pulled forward to rejoin the train back at the yard.      

 

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Through the horseshoe curves.

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Along the high ledge above Cwm Rheidol
At 16:30 sharp the guard's whistle shrilled for the last time, and then with a gentle jolt we set into motion for the return trip to Aberystwyth.  With my carriage seat now at the rear of the train, I had fine views of the engine and cars as we wound back down through the horseshoe curves and out onto the high ledge above the Cwm Rheidol.  In contrast to her uphill struggle, #8 now served as little more than a very heavy brake van, using her tremendous adhesion to retard the downhill gallop of the four heavy carriages.  At each turn, I could see the driver and fireman leaning alertly from either door of the cab, keeping a sharp eye out for sudden obstructions or unexpected dangers.  No towering thunderheads of exhaust blasting to the skies on this trip: content to simmer along, #8 emitted only wisps of steam from her brass-capped stack.

 

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Sun across the
meadowlands near
Nantyronen


Shadows lay longer over the little train as we chased the sun westward down the mountain.  Tall groves of trees flanked the rails, some so thick that the highest branches formed a cool, shadowy tunnel over the carriage roof.  From time to time the trees would pull away to either side, revealing high meadowlands which glowed like jewels under the slanting evening sun.  As we passed Nantyronen the tall iron watertank flashed by my carriage window: there would be no stopping here on the swift downhill run.

 

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Across the flat and
into the sunset.
One last set of curves and a dip through a final cut, and we debouched onto the long flat across Rheidol vale.  The great tangent led straight as an arrow through the meadows, and the carriages cast long shadows under the sun slanting in from out over the Bay of Cardigan.  Rocking gently now, we clattered along beside the Rheidol's lazy bends.  Then it was out and over the narrow bridge, and back to the north bank of the Rheidol and the sprawl of Aberystwyth.   Soon the great engine house loomed up on the right, and the carriage wheels clattered across switchpoints.  Moments later the platforms of Aberystwyth depot slid slowly into view and out along the length of the train.  The Rheidol had finished another run.

 


 

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All materials, images, text and presentation copyright 1998 Erik Gray Ledbetter.  See Terms of Use.