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New book featuring unseen photos offers remarkable snapshot of final days of steam on Welsh railway lines

21 Mar 2023 4 minute read
Railway staff in front of the last train ever to leave Aberaeron on Friday 2 April 1965. Guard Mr D J Walters, driver Mr Ben Thomas and fireman Mr R Jones. Unfortunately, the names of the other two members of staff on the right of the picture are not recorded.

A book containing a collection of previously unseen locomotive photographs will reveal the remarkable final days of steam on the mid-Ceredigion railway lines.

‘Quiet Between Trains: Lampeter, the Teifi Valley and the Aberayron Branch in the Final Years of Steam – 1963 to 1965’ has been published with the help of the Lampeter History Society and features a collection of beautiful 1960’s photographs taken on the railway line from Carmarthen to Aberystwyth and on the branch to Aberaeron.

The book will showcase the work of Vernon Parry who first photographed the railways around Lampeter in August 1963, when passenger and goods trains were still operating as they had done since Great Western days.

Born in Caerphilly in 1915, the historian had a great love for Wales, particularly the stunning Carmarthenshire and Cardigan countryside.

The photographer, Vernon Parry, with driver Mr Ben Thomas and guard Mr D J Walters at Pont Llanio station on 2 April 1965.

When it became clear that rural railway lines would close, he felt it was important to record them whilst they were still running and preserve the role they played in communities forever in photographs.

His approach was very much that of a historian, planning his trips carefully whilst making detailed notes which were eventually passed on by his late widow to his godson and now author of the book containing the collection, David Gowan.

Vernon Parry not only wanted to record the railways and 1950s locomotives in their hay-day – but he also wanted to showcase the railway workers of the time.

Many of the photographs in the collection depict the railways drivers, porters and passengers in order to capture the true essence of the lines he visited.

Great Western Railway mixed traffic locomotive 6347 passes Llangybi with a goods train to Aberystwyth at 1.35 pm on 14 August 1963 – Photo: Vernon Parry

During his visits, he travelled on the footplate of locomotives, and took pictures at small stations.

In early April 1965, he photographed and travelled on the final train to leave Aberaeron and the last steam hauled train to the milk depot at Pont Llanio (near Tregaron).

The photographs were carefully preserved until Vernon Parry’s death in 1974 at which time the stunning historical archive lay dormant for many years.

During the Covid-19 pandemic, David Gowan decided to digitalise the photographs in order to bring them back to life and used his godfather’s notes to link place names to the pictures.

The collection has now been published in a book written by David, which includes 64 photographs of steam trains, stations, workers and maps of the railway lines.

Pannier tank locomotive number 7439 at Felin Fach station in the Aeron valley in the late afternoon of 11 March 1964. The elegant tall semaphore signal dates back to the construction of the line in 1911. Photo: Vernon Parry

Author, David Gowan said: “I had a look at the photographs during the 1990’s and I was always aware they were there but during Covid, I felt it was the moment to digitalise them.

“These have barely been touched for 60 odd years and I have a great deal of gratitude to the Lampeter History Society and their chairman Slewyn Walters – without whom this project wouldn’t have happened.

“I spoke to Selwyn a few years ago because I had a few things I thought would be of interest to the museum. When he saw the pictures he said they were a remarkable historical record and suggested turning them into a book.

“I think people will really enjoy the collection and all the profits for the book will go to the Lampeter History Society.”

Locomotive 7826, Longworth Manor, at Abergwili Junction on the approach to Carmarthen at 9.20 am on 19 September 1964. Photo: Vernon Parry

A book launch and a talk with David will be held on Tuesday 21 March at 7:30pm at The Old Hall University of Wales Trinity Saint David, Lampeter Campus.

The book is available from Lampeter History Society and is stocked and distributed by the Books Council of Wales so copies can be found in most Welsh bookshops.

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Mab Meirion
Mab Meirion
1 year ago

The romance of steam and the railwaymen, I wonder if the camaraderie is the same these days. Respect Mick Lynch…

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