Firstly, Tom, how did the series come about? Has transport history always been a keen interest?
TF: These books came about through a chance conversation with a former colleague, Matthew Howard, who is now Publishing Director of Graffeg and who had previously been part of my team when I was Head of Sales & Marketing at the Welsh Books Council. Knowing of my interest in railways and transport and thinking of possibly doing some publishing in this area, that conversation eventually led to the Lost Lines of Wales series.
I have been interested in railways and transport history for as long as I can remember. Some of my earliest memories involve trains, stations and steam locomotives. The appeal of railways for me is both visceral and, without hopefully sounding too pompous, intellectual. The steam locomotive is surely up there as one of the most romantic and visually impressive of humankind’s creations. Even today’s fast diesel and electric trains are incredibly impressive. On a different level, the coming of the railways in the nineteenth century altered the landscape of Britain in a way not seen since the time of the Romans, and brought enormous economic and social changes in its wake. A vast amount of money and effort was expended to build that huge national network and how this came about is, I think, one of the most interesting and absorbing areas of our recent history.
How did you go about researching for the series?
TF: I had long been interested in the railway history of Wales and was reasonably well versed on the subject before I started, having been involved in a professional capacity in this area of publishing for many years. This interest was reinforced when I discovered that the former line from Aberystwyth to Carmarthen had passed through the garden of my house in Aber!
Each book is testament to just how important and transformative these lines were for communities and commerce. Was there a risk of their role in Welsh history being lost also?
TF: Some lines in the series are not ‘lost’ in the sense that they are closed and abandoned; the line along the north coast to Holyhead and that from Aberystwyth to Shrewsbury are as busy or busier than ever in terms of passenger traffic. However, they have lost most of the traditional railway infrastructure they had in their heydays, and many stations, junctions and branch lines which fed traffic onto these main have closed, so those books recall a lost era rather than a lost line. Others, such as the Mid Wales and the Vale of Neath, are long closed, and the impact they made on the landscape is being diminished as nature encroaches on once pristine track beds and railway structures are demolished, the magnificent Crumlin viaduct over the Ebbw Valley being a prime example of this.
However, I think a wide range of people who would not class themselves as railway enthusiasts have a growing interest in the recent past and I sense a great interest in the history of these lost lines, often accompanied by a sense of ‘what might have been’ if only they had managed to survive into an era where railways are seen as a vital part of our transport infrastructure.