Formed in 1864 by the amalgamation of the Oswestry & Newtown, Newtown & Machynlleth, Llanidloes & Newtown and several other railway companies, Cambrian Railways was the largest independent railway in Wales, with a long, winding, single-track main line that extended from Whitchurch in the east to Aberystwyth and Pwllheli on the Welsh coast. In 1922, the company was amalgamated with the Great Western Railway under the provisions of the Railways Act 1921 and thereafter, the Cambrian line was worked as an integral part of the GWR system.
The present-day Cambrian main line runs from Shrewsbury to Pwllheli, a distance of 1183/4 miles, and there is an important branch to Aberystwyth. The line, which runs through spectacular mountain and coastal scenery, serves as a vital lifeline for the inhabitants of scattered towns and villages such as Welshpool, Machynlleth and Harlech, while at the same time the sinuous Cambrian route plays an important role in the Welsh tourist industry - a role that is further enhanced by the way in which this highly scenic route provides a convenient link between several of the famous Welsh `heritage' railways.
Stanley C. Jenkins, who was educated at Witney Grammar School, the University of Lancaster and the University of Leicester, has written over 20 books and some 750 articles on local, transport and regional history. Having worked as an English Language teacher at Oxford Air Training School for several years, he returned to Leicester University to retrain as a museum curator in 1986, and was subsequently employed by English Heritage as the Regional Curator for South Western England. He is Curatorial Advisor to the Witney & District Museum, and is also working as a curator for the Soldiers of Oxfordshire Trust, which is at present building a military museum at Woodstock. Martin Loader has been interested in railways since the late 1960s, but only starting taking photographs seriously with the acquisition of his first 'proper' camera in 1978.