A PROPOSED merger between two Mid Wales heritage railways has been described as an historic milestone and will safeguard the future of the Powys-based line.

The Vale of Rheidol Railway (VoR) has announced it is in negotiation for the acquisition of the Brecon Mountain Railway (BMR) – which could result in more jobs coming to Powys.

The Vale of Rheidol Railway dates back to 1902. Known for its breathtaking journeys from the coast at Aberystwyth to Devil’s Bridge in the Cambrian Mountains it has been continuously operating as a tourist railway for 120 years, carrying visitors from across the globe. It was the last steam railway to be operated by British Rail.


The Brecon Mountain Railway is a much newer railway, built by Tony Hills and his business partner Peter Rampton as a narrow gauge railway using the track bed of the former Brecon and Merthyr Railway.

The line climbs through the Bannau Brycheiniog (Brecon Beacons) National Park with views of the Taf Fechan reservoir. The locomotives and rolling stock give a flavour of American narrow gauge railways.

Vale of Rheidol managing director Llŷr 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 added: “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.”

The BMR and VoR have a history of collaboration, with the Powys firm successfully acquiring the Rheidol line in 1988 when it was put up for sale by British Rail. Both lines operated under unified management until 1996, when a decision was made to establish them as distinct entities, with Mr Hills overseeing the BMR and Mr Rampton taking charge of the VoR.

In the intervening years both railways have invested significantly in enhancing their offerings, with BMR extending services to Torpantau and the VoR developing new workshops, restoring stations and launching new visitor facilities.

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Mr Hills died in 2015 and Mr Rampton in 2019.

This new merger is intended to bring a range of benefits to both railways and their visitors, including securing the legacy of its founders, bringing investment in enhanced visitor experiences at both railways, and shared resources, "increased operational efficiency" and cost savings, and job opportunities, with the expansion providing new job openings and career prospects.

Both will continue to operate as separate entities, each with its unique charm and character. The VoR is expected to take over BMR operations in the spring of 2024.

For more information, visit the official websites of the Vale of Rheidol Railway at www.rheidolrailway.co.uk and the Brecon Mountain Railway at www.bmr.wales.