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Brecon Mountain Railway - A Heritage Attraction?

Discussion in 'Narrow Gauge Railways' started by Tim Light, Nov 3, 2016.

  1. Tim Light

    Tim Light Member

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    A few days ago I was singing the praises of the Welshpool and Llanfair Railway and its vintage train. During the same holiday I took my family - six of us including grandchildren - on the Brecon Mountain Railway, and I was distinctly underwhelmed by the experience.

    Their web site warns you to get there 45 minutes before departure in order to allow time to book tickets. We arrived an hour before departure, queued for 30 minutes to be told that the train was sold out. Undeterred I booked for the later train and took the family to Merthyr for lunch.

    As expected the train was fully loaded and we had to split up in order to get seats. The ride was OK, but the scenery was nothing special - nice but unchanging. The stations are all very basic, with the exception of Pant, and even there the platforms have no real ambience. The carriages are also bare minimum ... decent view but no heritage feel to them. Overall, I never had the sense of taking part in a heritage experience. Instead I felt we had participated in a tourist process.

    On the plus side, the American 4-6-2 was superb, and the little museum at Pontsticil had some nice exhibits.

    The BMR appears to be a very successful commercial venture, with large numbers of tourists being processed each year. And good luck to them. But I would not classify it as a heritage railway. They make no attempt to provide any heritage ambience. They don't need to. People pay their money and they get their ride. It's a tourist attraction, pure and simple.
     
  2. Sheff

    Sheff Well-Known Member

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    Do they advertise it as a heritage railway?
     
  3. Tim Light

    Tim Light Member

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    No. I just thought it would be interesting to contrast it with the WLLR.

    They do refer to it as a Mountain Railway, which it isn't really. But I knew that before I went.
     
  4. simon

    simon Part of the furniture

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    Its definitely not a heritage railway, but as it runs in the Brecon Beacons, which IIRC is a mountain range, then it can't really be faulted for calling itself the Brecon Mountain Railway.

    It makes for a pleasant half day out.
     
  5. Tim Light

    Tim Light Member

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    Wikipedia says:

    A mountain railway is a railway that operates in a mountain region. It may operate through the mountains, for example by following mountain valleys and tunneling beneath mountain passes. Or it may climb mountains, in order to provide transport to and from their summits.

    So by that definition you are right. I've always thought of a mountain railway as being a means to ascend a mountain, e.g. a rack or funicular system. But I guess that's my misconception.

    And I guess the Settle and Carlisle is also a mountain railway by that definition. And the WCML over Shap. And the Highland main line.
     
  6. Kempenfelt 82e

    Kempenfelt 82e New Member

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    Yes the mainline tours over Shap are marketed as the Cumbrian Mountain Express.

    I think what you're getting at with regards to Brecon is that the experience can come across as a bit sterile rather than a heritage experience. To some extents this can be the difference between a commercially focused steam railway and a heritage one. I have heard comments about the Paignton and Dartmouth falling into the former catagory, where as something like the Bluebell, Severn Valley, Great Central or Keighley Worth I would put in the latter (supported by the amount of film work each of these railways receive).

    Paul
     
  7. Steve

    Steve Part of the furniture Friend

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    I've visited the BMR twice and found it a pleasant experience; in fact very similar to a ride on the Vale of Rheidol. Although the VoR has a long history, they are both basic railways and are commercially operated. The Dartmouth Steam Railway is similar in experience. Personally, I see nothing wrong with any of these lines.
     
  8. Reading General

    Reading General Well-Known Member

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    nothing wrong indeed. Just a train ride.

    I visited but was unable to have a ride, maybe just as well.

    I wouldn't go again, the station looked like a public loo imo
     
  9. crantock

    crantock Member

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    Did your meal in Merthyr also leave you underwhelmed?

    The point being that the number of attractions in Merthyr is limited. Look up TripAdvisor and things to do in MT.

    It's a nice well run railway and it does lead to what is highland if not a mountain.

    You can't beat the WLLR cakes though.


    Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk
     
  10. The Saggin' Dragon

    The Saggin' Dragon Part of the furniture Staff Member Moderator

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    I enjoyed my last visit to the BMR, as did the rest of the family, who are not enthusiasts but enjoyed the cafe and the scenery etc.
     
  11. Tim Light

    Tim Light Member

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    Funnily enough ... my daughter looked up a café in Merthyr but we couldn't find it. It had closed down. We had a nice pizza, though.
     
  12. Tim Light

    Tim Light Member

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    No ... nothing wrong with it being just a ride. Would I go again? If I was in the area, probably, although I wouldn't travel from Yorkshire just to see it. I'd like to walk the lineside and watch the Baldwin in action.

    I enjoyed my visit to the V of R far more, despite it being a purely commercial operation. One reason is the load factor ... there was plenty of room for our party to sit together comfortably. Also, the operators have inherited rolling stock that has a vintage look and feel to it. And there was time to visit the falls before returning to Aberystwyth.

    I was happy enough with the Dartmouth Steam Railway. It benefits from lovely and constantly changing scenery, and from a really worthwhile destination at Dartmouth. Their rolling stock, although nothing special, is no different from what you'd get at most heritage lines, and there is the option (which we took up) of riding in the Devon Belle observation car. Finally, their stations retain some of their vintage ambience to a greater or lesser degree.
     
  13. paulhitch

    paulhitch Part of the furniture

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    This is spot on as far as I am concerned. Quite often I think the use of the word "heritage" is pushing things a bit!

    Paul H
     
  14. SpudUk

    SpudUk Member

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    From what I've experienced the BMR does seem to suffer from a lack of powerful locomotives and rolling stock. That said, as a railway experience it's unique in Britain. Personally I think they should go all out with the American theme and re-style their stations, but as a commercial operation that's unlikely to happen
     
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  15. Felix Holt

    Felix Holt Guest

    As it's a narrow gauge line operating on a former standard gauge track bed, it can't under most definitions be heritage IMO. It also is sitting on a track route that I think would make a much more sensible north-south rail route for Wales than the TRAWS suggestion of the western corridor. (Of course, both would be nice to have!!)
     
  16. SpudUk

    SpudUk Member

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    Is there still a plan to extend towards Talybont?
     
  17. big.stu

    big.stu Member

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    When we rode the BMR a year or two back, the thing which I enjoyed most was being able to do the journey on the coach veranda. Not sure that's available at many other railways.

    I agree it's not heritage, but I wasn't expecting heritage - there are lots of railways which have steam but aren't heritage (especially once you go narrow gauge/miniature).
     
  18. andykeithharris

    andykeithharris New Member

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    As far as verandas are concerned, the only other ones I can think of in the UK are the Welshpool and Llanfair and the Tanfield railways. In Europe I'm sure there are others, but riding on the veranda up the Brocken on the Harz Mountain Railway (Harzer Schmalspurbahnen) with snow on the ground takes some beating.

    I visited the BMR in the early summer - it was a pleasant way of spending half a day, but clearly not a "heritage railway". The Baldwin was worth seeing though. I agree with the comment from SpudUk, that they could do worse than expanding on the US theme. It would certainly give them a unique appeal

    Andy
     
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  19. Reading General

    Reading General Well-Known Member

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    It's not much of a mountain, perhaps it could be renamed the Tony Hills Railway?
     
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  20. Pesmo

    Pesmo New Member

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    Veranda rides at the south Tynedale as well, and great scenery.
     

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