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The Modern GWR

ASLEF station to be demolished?

Panteg & Griffithstown Station

It is completely inevitable that the constant renewal of the modern railway system will result in the loss of the heritage of the old GWR.  Luckily we are in a recession and if there is anything guaranteed to stop the new sweeping away the old, it is a recession! Over the years, lack of funding from national government it has allowed all sorts of relics of the GWR to survive – semaphore signals and mechanical signal boxes that still remain in the distant extremities of the network are a good example.  It’s prevented some bad things happening: I have just read a GWR publication of their plans for 1947 which included a drawing of a new and fairly ugly station planned for Weymouth when, of course, the old wooden station survived until the end of steam.

A lot that was good was swept away: atrocious acts of vandalism were committed, notably the demolition of the fabulous Birmingham Snow Hill but the fourth arch at Paddington was saved and has now been renovated so well that NR are proud of themselves for being forced to chnage their minds.  Other iconic buildings have been saved but only just hang in there: c.f. the Swindon Mechanics Institute, still waiting for a modern use. Some of these new uses can be bizarre: Wolverhampton Low Level station, a possible candidate for preservation for a while, now has blocks of flats and a Travelodge sprouting from its restored platforms and track bed.

So it’s a mixed picture but, bit by bit, the old is disappearing.  Sometimes it goes with a bang such as the huge fire that dramatically engulfed the old Herbert Street Goods station in Wolverhampton recently but often it is the little changes that go by unnoticed. Panteg and Griffithstown station building is a fairly unremarkable South Wales GWR survivor but it will probably now be bulldozed for new housing.  Memorably, Griffithstown was the place where GWR enginemen founded ASLEF, so it has its little place in history and could be a memorial for that.  Local residents have applied to CADW for Grade 2 listed status to be applied to it but it will very likely be seen as too unimportant to save.

Even less glamorously and probably unavoidably, Pont Briwet, the long wooden bridge at Penrhyndeudraeth on the Cambrian Coast line is being replaced by Network Rail at a cost of £20 million.  I am sure it has to be done and the investment for the future that it represents is to be welcomed but it is still a little sad to see it go.

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