Compared with the Vale of Rheidol Railway, the Brecon Mountain Railway is a relative youngster. The Vale of Rheidol was built in 1902 and is renowned for breathtaking views on its route from the coast at Aberystwyth to Devil's Bridge in the Cambrian Mountains.
Unlike other Wlesh narrow-gauge railways which were built for hauling freight, the Vale of Rheidol has continuously operated as a tourist railway since it opened in 1902. It also has a claim to fame as being the last steam railway to be operated by British Rail.
By contrast, the Brecon Mountain Railway is a much newer railway. It was built by Tony Hills and his business partner Peter Rampton on the track bed of the former Brecon and Merthyr Railway but is now a narrow gauge railway.
The line climbs through the Bannau Brycheiniog (Brecon Beacons) National Park from Pant, which is two miles north of Merthyr Tydfil and runs along the full length of the Pontsticill Reservoir and the adjoining Pentwyn Reservoir to Torpantau.
Both railways have a history of collaboration, as the Brecon Mountain Railway acquired the Rheidol line when British Rail put it up for sale in 1988. For the next eight years both both lines operated under a common management, but in 1996 it was decided that they should established as distinct entities. Mr. Hills was tasked with overseeing the Brecon Mountain Railway and Mr. Rampton took charge of the Vale of Rheidol Railway.
Since then, both railways have made significant investments in enhancing their attractions, with the Brecon Mountain Railway extending services to its current terminus at Torpantau and the Vale of Rheidol developing new workshops, restoring stations and launching new visitor facilities. Unfortunately, Tony Hills passed away in 2015 and Peter Rampton in 2019.
The merger will benefit both two railways and bring a range of benefits to both them and their visitors, including:
- Securing the legacy of both Peter Rampton and Tony Hills;
- Provide investment for enhanced visitor experiences at both railways;
- Financial benefits, by sharing resources, increasing operational efficiency, and making cost savings;
- Providing job opportunities, because expanding operations will open up new job openings and career prospects.
Both railways will continue to operate as separate entities, each with its individual charm and character, with the merger expected to be completed by spring 2024. Further information can be found on the website of the Vale of Rheidol Railway at www.rheidolrailway.co.uk and the Brecon Mountain Railway at www.bmr.wales.
Vale of Rheidol Managing Director Llyr 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.
Brecon Mountain Railway Managing Director Matthew Hills 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 “