When the 5.45pm Cardi Bach mail train steamed out of Cardigan Station for the final time on September 8, 1962, it saw one of the mightiest cogs in the industrial revolution being taken away from the people of Ceredigion and north Pembrokeshire.

The 27-and-a-half mile track, which ran  from Whitland to Cardigan, had served its people in a way quite like no other since 1873 and the affection that locals retain for the Cardi Bach Railway remains just as strong today for those who remember her.

Tivyside Advertiser: Cardigan StationCardigan Station (Image: Mwldan)

“There’s no doubt that those were among the very best days of my life,” says Les Evans who worked as a fireman on the Cardi Bach from the age of 16.

“The day the steam railways were done away with, just like the one that ran from Whitland to Cardigan, was extremely poignant.  But Dr Beeching wanted to make the railways pay, and his decision was to close them all down.

“But it was the end of an era for so many of us.”

For as long as he can remember, Les’ dream was to become a train driver.

“I remember being asked in school what I wanted to be when I grew up and my ambition was always to be a train driver. So in 1956, when I was 16, I joined the Whitland railway as an engine cleaner.

“In those days, the Cardi Bach operated small little tank engines and the Cardigan line was three miles from Whitland station down the single track.

"And whichever station we stopped at, we’d see the same people on the platform virtually every day.

“We’d recognise those that would get on first thing in the morning to go to work and we got to know them well enough to have a chat and a laugh.”

Les, who's now 83,  goes on to recite the stations without a moment’s hesitation.

“There was Llanglydwen, Login where we used to fill the engine up with water, Glogue and then up the bank to Crymych, Boncath, Cilgerran and on into Cardigan.

“And when I worked on the Cardi Bach we had a total of 29 drivers and 29 firemen.

“One of the drivers, Albert Lye, was a small little man from Cardigan who always had plenty to say, and we used to tease him something rotten.

“And this was what was so good about working on the railways. The camaraderie we used to enjoy with one another was like nothing I’ve every experienced since.”

Les stayed with the Whitland station for two years and then, when he was 18, he moved to Southall in Middlesex where he began training as a railway fireman.

“But London was frightening for a young boy from West Wales, particularly when you’d see the Teddy Boys with bicycle chains around their wrists.”

And so 18 months later, Les returned to the railway tracks of Wales when he began working on the Pembroke Dock mail train.

If he was working the early shift, he had to be at the station in time for the first train that left at 4.30am, and the last shift was back at the Dock at 11pm.

“We’d leave Pembroke Dock then travel to Pembroke, Lamphey, Manorbier, Penally, Tenby, Saundersfoot, Kilgetty, Templeton, Narberth and Whitland,” he recalls, once again without a moment’s hesitation.

“And the mail train worked in chain shifts from Pembroke Dock to Whitland and then another to Swansea, another to Cardiff and then on to London.”

But sadly, just as he’d bidden farewell to the Cardi Bach in 1962, on September 23 1963 he once again saw the Pembroke Dock mail train leave the platform for its final journey.

“These days people wake up in the morning and they think to themselves, ‘Here we go on another day’s work’ but when I was working on the railway, I’d look forward each and every day, to waking up and going to work more than anything,” concludes Les.

“It was a hobby more than a job, and it gave me more satisfaction and enjoyment than you’d ever know.

“They were very special days.

"When the Cardi Bach was forced to leave Cardigan Station for the final time, it really was the end of an era and the happiest time of my life that I will never forget."