Milford Haven, the original terminus of the South Wales Railway (GWR) was an important port for ferries to Waterford and Cork in Ireland, and a proposal to build a broad gauge railway connecting the port with Manchester was first proposed under the name of the Manchester & Milford Haven Railway in the 1845 Session of Parliament. An Act for a 4 ft. 8½ in. gauge line was finally passed twenty years later in 1865. The line was originally intended to run from the Great Western Railway's Carmarthen to Newcastle Emlyn line at Pencader, and to run from there to Moat Lane Junction on Cambrian Railways, which would then provide a through link via Whitchurch and the London & North Western Railway to Manchester. There was also intended to be a branch from Strata Florida to Aberystwyth. Money proved to be too tight and so in 1866 while the line was under construction the decision was made to the Moat Lane Junction to Strata Florida section, which involved heavy engineering works, and just build the shorter and easier line from Pencader to join with Cambrian Railways at Aberystwyth instead. Thus only a 4 mile 68 chain section of the projected line was built between Penpontbren Junction south of Moat Lane Junction and Llangurig, on which a single daily goods train operated until closure in 1882. The Manchester & Milford Railway opened from Pencader to Aberystwyth on 12 August 1868. Traffic was pitifully poor, in part because by the time one negotiated all the connections between Manchester and Milford the overall journey time was nearly three days. It was much quicker to travel via London! The line went into receivership from 1875 to 1900, after which there began to be hope of it being absorbed by another railway. The Great Western Railway began working the line in 1906 and absorbed it in 1911.
In 1911 the GWR built the Lampeter, Aberayron and New Quay Light Railway from Lampeter on the Manchester & Milford line to Aberaeron (Aberayron) on the coast. It was intended that this should connect with the harbour and a new quay at Aberaeron, but this never came about.
The northern part of the line closed following severe damage by flooding in December 1964, and the rest of the line closed to passenger traffic in February 1965. Some goods traffic continued until final closure in 1973.
Map of the Manchester & Milford Railway
Aberystwyth train in Pencader station behind 4 ft. 6 in. 0-6-0 No. 5, built by Sharp, Stewart & Co. in 1870
M&MR 4 ft. 6 in. 0-6-0 No. 1 "General Wood," built by Sharp, Stewart & Co. in 1865
M&MR 5 ft. 2-4-2 tank No. 2 "Plynlimmon," built by Sharp, Stewart & Co. in 1891