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Vale of Rheidol Railway to acquire Brecon Mountain Railway

28 Oct 2023 3 minute read
Vale of Rheidol Railway, Devil’s Bridge Station by interbeat is licensed under CC BY 2.0.

The Vale of Rheidol Railway (VoR) at Aberystwyth is negotiating to acquire the Brecon Mountain Railway (BMR).

This merger represents an historic milestone for both railways and safeguards the future of the BMR for future generations to enjoy.

The VoR has a rich history dating back to 1902. Known for its breath-taking journeys from the coast at Aberystwyth to Devil’s Bridge in the Cambrian Mountains, it has been continuously operating as a tourist railway for 120 years, carrying visitors from across the globe. It has a unique history as the last steam railway to be operated by British Rail.

By contrast, the BMR is a much newer railway, built by Tony Hills and his business partner Peter Rampton as a narrow gauge railway using the track bed of the former Brecon and Merthyr Railway.

The line climbs through the Bannau Brycheiniog National Park with picturesque views of the Taf Fechan reservoir. The locomotives and rolling stock give a flavour of American Narrow gauge railways.


The Mid Wales railways have a history of collaboration, with BMR successfully acquiring the Rheidol line in 1988 when it was put up for sale by British Rail (BR).

Both lines operated under unified management until 1996, at which point it was decided to establish them as distinct entities, with Mr Hills overseeing the BMR and Mr Rampton taking charge of the VoR.

In the intervening years, both railways have invested significantly in enhancing their offerings, with BMR extending services to Torpantau and the VoR developing new workshops, restoring stations and launching new visitor facilities.

Regrettably, Mr Hills died in 2015 followed by Mr Rampton in 2019.

This new merger will bring a range of benefits to both railways and their visitors both by securing the legacy of Peter Rampton and Tony Hills and investing in enhanced visitor experiences at both railways.

The merger will allow for shared resources, increased operational efficiency, and cost savings and create new job opportunities and career prospects with the expansion of operations.

Brecon Mountain Railway by James.Stringer is licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0.


VoR managing director Llŷr ap Iolo said: “This proposed acquisition seems the natural progression for the Vale of Rheidol to carry on the legacy of both Tony Hills and Peter Rampton.

“Having worked with them for over 30 years, it will be a privilege for us to continue Tony’s work with the American two foot gauge theme of the BMR.”

BMR managing director Matthew Hills, son of Tony, said: “Bringing the two railways back together will not only guarantee the future of BMR but also the development of the railway.

“I and my fellow director believe that this is the best way to secure the future of the railway and my father’s legacy “

The two railways will continue to operate as separate entities, each with its unique charm and character. The VoR is expected to take over BMR operations next spring.

For more information, please visit the official websites of the Vale of Rheidol Railway and the Brecon Mountain Railway.

The VoR is a member of MWT Cymru (Mid Wales Tourism), an independent organisation representing around 600 tourism and hospitality businesses across Powys, Ceredigion and Southern Snowdonia.

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Keith Parry
Keith Parry
5 months ago

The BMR needs investment and expansion to run trains past Torpantau towards Three Cocks. Make a great scenic tourist attration.

Jonathan Edwards
Jonathan Edwards
5 months ago

Two queries. Can they get enough coal. Aneurin Bevan would not approve of Wales having enough steam coal and not being able to use it for Great Little Trains. Also, the synergies..they’re not planing to link the 2 across the Cambrian Mountains by any chance? Pob lwc ta beth!

Peter Cuthbert
Peter Cuthbert
5 months ago

Now that is a wonderful idea but would require somebody with more than deep pockets! As for fuel, I am afraid that we do need to stop mining coal and make a move towards renewable fuels. Steam railways are not really environmentally friendly because the locos have a very low efficiency in terms of turning the fuel into motion. However, wood waste fuel will do quite nicely though it yields a lower calorific value per Kg and ideally needs a rather larger fire box for better combustion. This probably does not matter that much for tourist railways as speed is… Read more »

5 months ago

Taking your bright idea together with Keith’s you could take that BMR to 3 Cocks, run up Wye Valley to Builth and beyond on the old track that used to go all the way to Moat Lane ( Caersws). Modern engineers could either take you past Rhayader along side those reservoirs or further north chase a route over the gentle slopes from Caersws , Llangurig and onwards in a S.W direction to PontarFynach. Sadly all the best engineers are probably working on vanity projects for UKGov.

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