Bucknell station and the first section of the line was engineered by Henry Robertson and constructed by the Knighton Railway, opening in 1861. Further construction and route openings in 1865 and 1868 subsequently put the station on a through route between Shrewsbury and Swansea. By this point the mighty London and North Western Railway company (LNWR) had taken control of the line. For much of its length the historic infrastructure that you see is built according to their plans, with detached station master’s houses, and terraces for the rest of the workforce. Bucknell Station is the best preserved of the original Knighton Railway buildings, with the majority of external features exactly as they would have been 150 years ago.
In the early days the station would have employed a significant number of staff, including the stationmaster, porters and signalmen. At it’s peak, around 10 people worked at the station, a real contrast to the present day where everything is handled by staff on the train itself.
Bucknell wood yard, the remains of which are still visible behind “Your Bucknell Stores”, just across the road from the station was a major local employer and would have been a major customer of the railway.
We bought the station from Austin Powell, the son of the last Stationmaster, and are lucky to have some recent history from him. Austin’s Father, Mr Terry Powell, was appointed Station Master at Bucknell in 1957 and also had responsibility for the Stations at Hopton Heath and Broome. The job came with the house and garden at Bucknell Station.
Apart from passengers, a great amount of wood and sawdust continued to leave by rail from B & J Davies timber yard. Following Mr Powell’s appointment, it was also the base for the coal business of the area with The Radnorshire Company. Distribution of the Radnorshire Company’s seasonal sugar beet trade for the area also moved to Bucknell at that time.
The line was active 24 hours a day, 6 days a week, with no trains on Sundays. The first passenger train arrived each day at about 0430hrs bringing with it the mail, which was then collected by the postmen and women, and the newspapers, which were sold and distributed around several villages by Mr. Bill Shaw. Mr Shaw’s shop was right opposite the station and the green wooden building is still there today, although sadly no longer used.
Austin recalls happy memories of growing up here. “Being the Stationmaster’s son meant the railway was my ‘playground’. Every day in the school holidays, when the daily Goods train arrived to drop off trucks and vans and pick up empties, I’d ‘help’ the porters and shunting men, and occasionally got a ride on the foot plate of the engine as it went about its work. The guard on the train, a local man called Jack Summers, who lived in Craven Arms, would let me ride in the guard’s van up to Knighton on many an occasion – all quite illegal of course and if he’d been spotted doing so would probably have got the sack.
A gang of us kids in Bucknell, (2 of which still live in the village) would play in the goods yard and occasionally be allowed in the signal box – again a sackable offence if the signalman had been reported.
Of course, just watching the various trains go by was always interesting. There were so many in the late 50s and early 60s. There were trains going to York, coming from Burton on Trent and goodness knows where else amongst the ones that were regulars from Shrewsbury to Swansea and vice versa.
My journey to Presteigne Grammar School started with a train trip from Bucknell to Knighton each day and then a walk up to the car park behind the Norton (Knighton) Hotel to catch the bus. I was one of two kids that did that – it was a magical time”.
When Dr. Beeching closed down many lines, the Central Wales Line (as it was then called), escaped closure, but was downgraded to a line with just un-manned halts. Mr Powell Sr was then moved around with jobs, firstly in Ludlow, and then Hereford, before he later took early retirement.
Sometime after that, around 1967, British Rail decided to sell-off many railway properties along the line, and as sitting-tenants, Mr & Mrs Powell were given first option to buy. In the 1970s, they converted the Booking Office and General Waiting Room into what they called “Station House Cottage” and rented it out.
Time passed and 10 or 11 years ago, with Mr & Mrs Powell now in their nineties, Austin and his partner Sue, moved to Bucknell to look after them.. They moved into Station House while Mr & Mrs Powell moved into the Cottage. As the now slow trains went by, so did the years and sadly, Mrs Powell passed away in June 2012, aged 98 and Mr Powell in September 2016 aged 97.
In an already turbulent time, and with so many memories attached to the house, it took a while for the house to make it to market. We were lucky that this happened at a time when we were already looking to move, and we fell in love with the house the moment we walked through the door. And so began the next piece of this beautiful building’s history….