Rail Riders

The Cambrian Line

Caersws to Pwllheli – Wednesday 22nd March 2023

Finally, at last. Yes we did it.

After months of thought preceded by failure, Blue Leader managed to book tickets for this much awaited and anticipated trip.
Back in August/September 2022 we were thwarted by planned rail worker strikes and then by planned engineering works brought forward to October and through to January 2023. I was a young man with lots of dark hair before all this – believe what you like!

So I kept checking at Llandrindod station with the lovely and very helpful Jackie. She assured me that line would be open and running in March. We had to get it done before end of March so we could use our bus passes to travel to get from Machynlleth to Pwllheli. The odd thing was that we had to pay from Caersws to Machynlleth. That is because the train originated in England. Then one day I attended the station to book our tickets. Guess what? The ticket office was closed until further notice.

Not to be outdone I went on the Transport for Wales App to book but you can only book 9 tickets at a time and there were 27 of us.
However if you rang a number in Cardiff for group travel you can book as many as you need. Several times I rang … and rang … and rang.


I was on the point of going via the app but thought one more try and I got through. I got all the tickets, except one because we have a junior member in our midst but got that separately.

Stay with it, nearly there.

The tickets duly arrived and we all met up at The Metropole Hotel at the prescribed day and time. Weather dry but overcast and chilly.
We car shared to Caersws and arrived in plenty of time. Now, not to beat a point but the train was supposed to have 4 carriages – the front 2 splitting off at Machynlleth for the journey up the line. Guess what? No? Then I’ll tell you. There were only 2 carriages. I told everyone to get on and I would sort it with the conductor! “Is this our train?” “ Are you sure this is the right train?” Even my beloved was questioning.

“Well, it would not be a Railriders trip if nothing went wrong”.

Oh yea of little faith. Of course it was the right train. Network rail made an executive decision to send the 4 carriage train to Birmingham instead but did not change the information board. The conductor told us to get off at Machynlleth and wait for our train to arrive to go to Pwllheli, which we did. The journey, if you’ve never done it, is picturesque and scenic. The train stopped at every stop on the line which gave us 2.5 hours to relax and enjoy what we saw.

The views of the coastline and the views inland were as anticipated. Our Borderlines editor tried to take a photo of Harlech Castle but the train going the other way blocked his view so have used a stock photo.

Arriving on time in Pwllheli we were hungry, even though Blue Leader had supplied chocolates and finger biscuits. In Pwllheli there are quite a few eateries and it was every man for himself for 4 hours. It’s funny but most of us, 26 out of 27 ended up in the same place – Wetherspoons. When I mentioned there was one quite a few faces lit up and said we might as well go there then. When we walked in it was busy. I mean really busy. We couldn’t get seats all together but we made made ourselves fit into the spaces and had a really good time. Some people eating in a Wetherspoons for the first time I believe. I think they might do it again. Good food and refreshments combined are a well trusted way of enhancing a social situation.

After lunch was more testing as there is not much to speak of in Pwllheli but folk found their own paths and we agreed a meeting time for the journey back. Now I know it is the same journey but a hill or sand dune does not look the same from both sides and we enjoyed different aspect and views missed on the way up. A lively carriage with more chocolates and biscuits and plenty of tired people arrived back in Caersws. We didn’t even have to change trains and Machynlleth. Bonus.

A long day ended with car journeys back to Llandrindod. Here is my favourite bit – On the 23rd March the whole line was flooded and did not run! We were meant to do that journey. However if anyone asks me to arrange a repeat …