|The Manchester & Milford Railway schemes - Source:spellerweb.net|
Russell & the Manchester & Milford Railway
Manchester and Milford Railway (M&MR) was an
ambitious proposal to connect Manchester and the
industrialised Midlands and North West England
with the docks and deepwater port at Milford Haven in Pembrokeshire. It was to be a standard gauge line using the
LNWR and Midland Railway tracks. The
M&MR would have connected with the Mid Wales Railway at Llanidloes, and
then, via a junction at Strata Florida, Ceredigion (Cardiganshire) with the Carmarthen and Cardigan Railway (C&CR) at Pencader. Trains would
then have run on the C&CR to Carmarthen
before connecting to the Pembroke and Tenby Railway for connection to the
deepwater port at Milford Haven. The plan was that, combined with industrial
traffic from South Wales, Milford Haven could "provide the Lancashire
cotton industry with [an] alternative port to Liverpool."
Almost from the start, the scheme ran into financial difficulties. Construction began in 1860, with the simplest section built first which meant that the Company faced undertaking the toughest engineering challenge, the line between Llanidloes and Strata Florida, when the money was running out. Though it started on the line from Llanidloes, diverging from the Mid Wales line at Penpontbren Junction, and got as far as Llangurig, it was decided, in 1865, instead to simply divert the Lampeter route to Aberystwyth rather than build it through the mountains, thus abandoning the hope for a strategic route. It has been suggested that the bankruptcy of Thomas Savin, renowned Welsh railway engineer and investor, in the 1860s, may have been partly to blame as it was with the failure of several other Welsh railway projects. The M&M opened this modified through line in 1867.
In 1880, James Cholmeley Russell was appointed manager with the support of his friend James Szlumper who had been involved with the M&M as the civil engineer from the very start. Russell was soon at odds with the Directors over the extent of his powers but quickly exerted his authority, leading to his appointment as Receiver in November 1880. Despite the opposition of the Directors, Russell worked tirelessly to put the M&M on a sound footing and by the last years of the 19th century the railway was casting off its previously somewhat ramshackle appearance, Russell having had his way with investment in new rolling stock and signalling equipment.
However by the end of the 19th century it had become clear that the only way out of its difficulties was for the directors to sell out to one of the railway’s larger neighbours. An initial but abortive approach was made to the Great Western Railway in 1896 but the deal foundered on the price to be paid. Russell made a second approach to the GWR in 1903, by which time he was beginning to wind down his business activities. However in 1904 Russell also opened negotiations with the Cambrian Railway but in that year he resigned, probably because of illness and he was succeeded as manager and Receiver by T B Grierson.
The M&M remained independent until taken over by the Great Western Railway in 1911.
Wikipedia and the excellent history ‘The Manchester & Milford Railway’ by J S Holden published by The Oakwood Press in 2007 (Second revised edition)