by Rob Phillips, Gwili Railway
Less than a week before Fishguard and Goodwick station re-opened, on Friday 11th May, Aberayron Signalbox was moved from Fishguard to the Gwili Railway. How did it ever come to Fishguard, and how come it’s gone again?
The signalbox was commissioned with the opening of the Lampeter, Aberayron & New Quay Light Railway in 1911 to control access to the small goods yard and engine shed at Aberayron. The station closed to passengers in 1951, and to goods in 1964 when the Aberayron branch was cut back to the milk factory at Felin-fach.
The station buildings remained in situ following complete site closure in 1965; however, photographic evidence taken in 1967 shows that the signal box had been removed. It was thought that the signal box had been demolished during the removal of the disused section of the branch but fortunately it had been purchased by the late Mr. William ‘Bill’ Fowler of Aberaeron. He dismantled it into ‘flat-pack’ form and stored at his mother’s house until he moved to Fishguard to take up a teaching post. Then wanting to “take a piece of Aberaeron with him”, he removed the box from storage and loaded it onto a Fishguard Fruit flatbed lorry, and headed south.
Mr. Fowler and a group of friends from the Fishguard and Goodwick Rugby team, family and neighbours reconstructed the box in his back garden. Although he wasn’t a railway enthusiast, he wanted to preserve this part of Aberaeron’s history. He looked after it until he died in 2002.
In 2011 Aberaeron celebrated the centenary of the opening of the station. Mrs Fowler approached Cymdeithas Aberaeron to see if they would be interested in returning the signalbox to the town. Unfortunately no suitable location could be found. Thomas Spain, a Gwili Railway volunteer from the Fishguard area approached Mrs Fowler with the idea of moving the signalbox to the Gwili Railway. In January 2012 all was agreed.
So it was that on May 5th, a small group jacked the signalbox up from the garden that had been home for nearly 50 years, and moved it on a temporary railway across Mrs Fowler’s lawn, ready for the crane to lift it onto a lorry for the move to Bronwydd Arms on May 11th.
The move was complicated by the presence of low power and telephone cables, so the box was initially loaded onto a low trailer to move out onto the main road. There it was loaded onto a lorry by crane. At this moment it is on a well wagon at Bronwydd Arms, ready to be tripped to Llwyfan Cerrig for unloading, so some repair work can take place this week.
Our eventual plan is to install it near Llwyfan Cerrig Ground Frame where it will be in the company of the booking office from Felin-fach, also at Llwyfan Cerrig.
An appeal, for funds to transport, repair and permanently install the box has so far raised £1,000 was launched (including generous donations from the Aeron Valley Railway Society and Cymdeithas Aberaeron), and Davies Crane Hire of Carmarthen agreed to provide their services at cost. We do still need to raise additional funds however, so if you’d like to send a donation, we’d be very grateful. Please make a cheque payable to “GRPS”, with ‘Aberayron Signal Box Project’ clearly marked on the back. Send it to Dave Johnson, GRPS Treasurer, 54 Church Road, Gorslas, Llanelli , Carmarthenshire, SA14 7NF.
We’d really like to thank Mrs Fowler for donating the signalbox, and to all those involved in raising funds and organising the move, especially Thomas Spain who acted as project manager.
If you are interested in finding out more, please drop me line on firstname.lastname@example.org
Fishguard Trains says: Thrilled at your initiative in rescuing and re-using our railway heritage. Now it’s up to us to put the restored station buildings at Fishguard and Goodwick to good use.