The "Potts" Line – the railway that wouldn’t die. It fulfilled the cliché of the English rural branch line, with its slow and unreliable services, collapsing bridges and most bizarre rolling stock ever seen on a British railway.
The 1860s were part of the golden age of railways, when hundreds of small companies sprung up and built tiny branch lines, backed by private investors speculating in the hope of making a fast buck. The Potts Line, as it became known, went bust four times in its history, but was used on and off for nearly a century before it finally fell into obscurity.
Various plans had been considered for a railway between Shrewsbury and Llanymynech but it was only when the Shrewsbury and North Wales Railway became involved in the 1860s that plans began to take shape. The venture, funded by the North Staffordshire Railway, created the Potteries, Shrewsbury and North Wales Railway – hence the nickname The Potts Line – with the idea of transporting minerals from Llanymynech, as well as carrying passengers.
The first line opened on 13 August 1866 and according to the Shrewsbury Chronicle, a large number of passengers turned up at Abbey Foregate Station to try out the new service and got out at the other end determined to explore Llanymynech. Many walked up Llanymynech hill but others ‘sought sport in the River Vyrnwy, as well-filled baskets testified’.
Unfortunately, the novelty quickly wore off and as passenger numbers dwindled, within a few months of opening, the railway was in deep financial trouble. Despite this, the company still found the cash to build a new branch line from Kinnerley to Criggion, with the aim of picking up revenue by transporting stone from the quarry at the foot of the Breiddon hills.
While the branch to Criggion was opened in 1871, a second branch was added between Llanymynech and Nantmawr the following year. This branch, which crossed the Cambrian Railway’s tracks at Llanymynech, allowed the Potts Line to take on extra freight – limestone from the quarries at Nantmawr.
But despite the extra revenue, the company continued to deteriorate and went into receivership in 1877. By 1880 the condition of the track had become so poor that a 25 mph speed limit was imposed right along the line. Later that year the line closed altogether.
The Oswestry-based Cambrian Railway Company bought the section of line between Llanmynech and the quarries at Nantmawr, re-opening it in 1886.
This text is taken (with permission) from an entertaining BBC article. For the full story of the Potts Line click this link.