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Y Lein Fach

The railway reached Carmarthen in 1852, the Llanelli to mid-Wales line opened in 1857 and the Carmarthen - Llandeilo link through the village of Llanarthne was opened in 1865. Its official name was the "Central Wales to Carmarthen Junction Railway". Its single line embankment down the valley, full of badger setts, can still clearly be made out.

At the turn of the century farmers told the time by the trains - they never varied for over a generation. There were half a dozen passenger trains each way every day. The 7 am from Carmarthen brought the post, the 11 am the occasional traveller. If a stranger got off at Llanarthne the porter ran to the school to warn the headmaster in case it was an inspector. The 1 pm brought the school children home from the Grammar, the "Lancastrian" and the High School on Thursdays and Saturdays and the 5 pm brought them on other days. The 7 pm brought the visiting preachers on Saturday nights. In addition, The Goods meandered along between 9 and 11 every morning, dropping wagons in all the stations & picking up the empties. Flour, now being carried cheaply, resulted in the closure of many of the small mills. Coal and lime were particularly important; supplies were stored in little sidings such as the one at Dryslwyn, from where they would be collected by the farmers. At 6 pm the Fish Express went through on its way from Milford Docks to the Midlands. Cattle trucks were collected from the Llanarthne siding on fair days.

The 12 o'clock from Llandeilo was used by travellers returning from Llandeilo & Ffairfach marts while the 6 pm cleared the post from the villages. The 9 pm was quite a popular train, some passengers on Saturday night being hauled out by the porter.

It was amazing that the line kept open long enough for Dr Beeching to cut it. If ever there were more than 12 passengers apart from the school children, it was a fair or mart day or there were Cwrdde Mawr on somewhere, and it was far from unknown for no fare to be charged, particularly to the young men travelling to Llandeilo for a Saturday night out - which finished at 9 o'clock! During the First World War many troop trains came through, the destination of many of the passengers no doubt being France. During the next war armaments came down from the Midlands en route to Barry Docks ready for D Day so as to avoid more dangerous routes, the little line standing up well to the pounding of the "Hudson Bay Triple Four" engines.

The material for this article comes from an unpublished manuscript by Sidney Perkins, one of the boys who travelled to the Grammar School from his home half way between the stations of Llanarthne and Dryslwyn from 1910 to 1916. He learnt the Morse Code from Williams, the porter on Llanarthne station, during this time and soon after was a signaller in France. On his return he became a teacher, living in Barry, where he celebrated his hundredth birthday in 1997. He has many memorials in the village - the freehand maps of the valley and its villages, crammed with fascinating detail and drawings. I hope to publish one of them in a future issue.

first published in The Friend June 2006

Jill Davies

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