The Pembroke & Tenby Railway was incorporated by an Act of 21 July 1859 to build railways from Pembroke Dock to Tenby and from Pembroke Dock to Hobb's Point. The line opened to Pembroke on 30 July 1863 and to Pembroke Dock on 9 August 1864. Meanwhile, an additional Act of 14 July 1864 had authorized an extension of the line from Tenby to the Great Western South Wales Main Line at Whitland, though the line was still isolated since the Pembroke & Tenby was 4 ft. 8½ in. gauge and the Great Western was built to Brunel's 7 ft. 0¼ in. broad gauge. The extension to Whitland opened on 4 September 1866. Shortly before that the Pembroke & Tenby Railway obtained a third Act, authorizing them to build extensions to Carmarthen and Cardigan. Perhaps this was just intended as a threat to the Great Western, who in June 1868 agreed to lay a short distance of mixed gauge track between Whitland and Carmarthen Bridge, giving the company access to the narrow gauge London & North Western Railway at Carmarthen. Almost immediately the London & North Western Railway began running a through carriage from Manchester to Tenby via Carmarthen. For a long time it looked as if the Pembroke & Tenby Railway would end up as part of the London & North Western Railway, but the little company was fiercely independent and moved closer to the Great Western Railway after broad gauge was abolished on the South Wales Main Line in May 1872. The line was leased by the Great Western Railway on 1 July 1896 and absorbed into the GWR the following year.
The Chairman, who lived in Westbourne Terrace within a stone's throw of Paddington Station, delighted in the name of William Eagle-Bott. The Engineer was Lionel R. Wood, the Secretary W. F. Poole, and the General Manager was Isaac Smedley, who was also the Locomotive Superintendent. Later the Engineer was Sir James Weeks Szlumper (1834-1926), who was the Surveyor to the County of Pembrokeshire and was also engineer to a number of other small railways in the neighborhood. He was also the Locomotive Superintendent of the Pembroke & Tenby. His younger brother Alfred Weeks Szlumper (1858–1934) was later Engineer of the Southern Railway. After Szlumper, Lionel R. Wood returned as Locomotive Superintendent.
On taking over the Pembroke & Tenby line the Great Western Railway adopted a very progressive approach and put on a summer express called the "Tenby Express" that ran the 107 miles between Paddington and Bath in an even 2 hours at an average speed of 53.5 mph. The express ran via the Severn Tunnel non-stop to Newport, where it changed engines, and then made stops at Cardiff and Tenby only. In later years the Great Western ran a summmer express called the "Pembroke Coast Express," a name which still survives as one of First Great Western's summer only express trains. An video impression of the journey along the Pembroke Branch on one of First Great Western HST trains from Paddington to Pembroke Dock can be obtained here. The last few years have seen an annual steam special, also called the "Pembroke Coast Express." Here it is videoed at Narberth and at Moreton near Saundersfoot and coming off the Pembroke Branch at Whitland on the up trip behind No. 6024 "King Edward I" on Mayday 2011. A year-round daily local service between Swansea and Pembroke Dock is also run by Arriva trains. The intermediate stations between Whitland and Pembroke Dock were Narberth, Templeton, Kilgetty, Tenby, Penally, Lydstep Halt, Manorbier, Beaver's Hill Halt, Lamphey, Pembroke and Golden Hill Platform.
Tenby railway station. Image courtesy of Wikipedia Commons
Pembroke Dock railway station. Image courtesy of Wikipedia Commons
In 1898 Pembroke & Tenby Railway 2-4-0 locomotive No. 3, "Pembroke," built by Sharp, Stewart & Co. in 1872, had moved from South Wales to the South of England. Here as GWR No. 1361 it is running the 2.10 p.m. Southampton Docks to Didcot train just north of Winchester Town
The up "Tenby Express" behind a Dean "Achilles" Class 4-2-2 at Newport station in 1898