Following my springtime visit to Pembrey & Burry Port I felt inspired to pay a summer Saturday (10 July 2021) return to the other doomed outpost of semaphore signalling on the South Wales Main Line.
Ferryside is one of two request stops between Pembrey and Carmarthen and a delightfully picturesque spot on estuary of the River Towy (Afon Tywi) at which to spend a couple of hours watching trains passing the five semaphores controlled by Ferryside Signal Box.
Unlike the quintet of semaphores at Ancaster featured in my previous blog, those at Ferryside are easy to see and photograph from the station footbridge, the station platforms and, in the case of down home FS21, from rocks alongside the low wall between railway and river estuary.
The signal box at Ferryside gained its Grade II listing in 2014 for its special architectural interest, as a well preserved signal box and the best surviving example of a GWR Type 3 box in the United Kingdom.
From south to north its five semaphores comprise FS21 (pictured below), then up home signal FS3 immediately in front of the station footbridge and opposite the signal box, while north of the station stand down starter FS20 and section signal FS19, along with up outer home FS2 (photo above).
Passenger services passing Ferryside on a summer Saturday morning comprised hourly workings between Manchester Piccadilly and Carmarthen/Milford Haven, generally formed of Class 175 units, though with the appearance of a Class 150 on one service, a Swansea-Fishguard Harbour service formed of two Class 153 units and a GWR 5-car Class 800 IET working from Paddington to Carmarthen, later returning ECS to Swansea.
Although officially a request stop, TfW guards seem to hide themselves away during a journey, so making it difficult to ask for the train to stop, as the recorded station announcements implore you to do. As a result it appears that all of the two-hourly stopping services do currently pause at the station.
As I wrote following my visit to Pembrey earlier in the year, time is almost up for the semaphores at Ferryside, with re-signalling of the route due to be completed by September 2023 and possibly sooner, spelling an end to the semaphores at both Pembrey and Ferryside.
Under Network Rail’s plans for what is called Port Talbot West Re-signalling Phase 2 (PTW2) control of the route from Swansea West Loop (215m 14ch) to Whitland (250m 0ch) would pass to the Wales Railway Operating Centre (ROC) at Cardiff, with closure of four signal boxes – Pembrey, Kidwelly, Ferryside and Carmarthen.
What the future holds for the charming signal box at Ferryside is far from certain. A local campaign to safeguard it for the community has been launched, though my attempts to contact those behind the campaign sadly failed, so I do not know how far it has got.
On a fine summer day Ferryside is a really delightful place to visit, with some truly spectacular view across the Tywi estuary to the village of Llansteffan on the opposite shore and the impressive ruins of the 12th century Llansteffan Castle on a hill south of the village.
After an enjoyable couple of hours photographing trains it was time for some refreshment in the Felinfoel Brewery-owned White Lion Hotel, just yards from the station, where a couple of pints of Celtic Prince (3.8%) went down rather well while watching Wales’ stuttering 20-20 draw with Argentina at the Millennium Stadium.