When you listen to the song the first time, you could be forgiven for thinking that Four Crosses (1860-1965) is a part of Formby. It is the first and only reference in the lyrics to a station in Wales. It was opened by the Cambrian Railway and was located on a line that led from their base at Oswestry towards Welshpool.
The X on the map shows the approximate location of the station in relation to the current British railway network. The nearest open station is Welshpool 6.87 miles away.
The approximate position of the line that led to Oswestry and to Gobowen and Whitchurch is shown in red.
The red dot on the map below shows the approximate location of the station in relation to the local area.
Services: Past, Present & Future?
The service in 1962 consisted of 6 or 7 trains each way on weekdays with just 1 train on Sundays. Oswestry was 15 minutes to the north and Welshpool 22 minutes to the south.
Today there is a frequent bus service that manages to get to Oswestry in less than 25 minutes and Welshpool in 35.
The Cambrian Heritage Railway group are based in Oswestry and have ambitious plans to reopen lines in the area. These are unlikely to include Four Crosses in the short term though.
Four Crosses was listed in the Beeching Report as being in England, and to be fair it was only just inside Wales; we arrived in the village just a few minutes after passing the sign marking the border. Despite this, as we drove around, we noticed that there were plenty of street names in Welsh and there were the usual bilingual road signs too.
The station site was easy to locate just south of the B4393 in the village. There used to be a level crossing where the line crossed this road, but we could see no evidence of it.
The station buildings and the platforms have long since been removed, but the old goods shed is still in use as an industrial unit.
It forms part of a larger industrial estate that extends west towards the site of the old Four Crosses Creamery. The dairy, once famous for its ice cream, was a large source of freight traffic for the railway and there used to be a lot of sidings alongside the line here.
Looking down from a bridge a little further north, the old formation of the railway could be clearly seen as it curved towards the site of the station; it has obviously been used as storage space over the years.
We walked around the industrial estate where the station used to be and were surprised to find that Offa’s Dyke Path goes through the middle of it. The path, a national trail, follows the dyke (an earthwork dating from the Middle Ages) itself along the whole of the English-Welsh border from Chepstow in the south to Prestatyn in the north.
We followed the path, clearly marked in yellow paint on the concrete, through the yard of bulk liquid transport specialist: Lloyd Fraser. The large number of milk tankers parked in the yard provided a link with the famous old dairy that used to stand close by. We continued along the path to the point where it crossed the railway formation in the fields beyond. It was a pretty spot but there was no real sign that the line had ever passed through it.
We returned to the centre of the village. The main A483 road bypasses Four Crosses these days but from the map it was easy to see that it once went through the centre. There was an old, abandoned pub that would probably have once stood on the main road.
Eventually we found a branch of Costcutter housed in a lovely old garage building that was now an ESSO service station. It was also acting as the village post office. We assumed that all the other shops in the village had closed and had left the garage on its own to play all their roles.
All in all, Four Crosses did not seem like a bad place to be. There might not have been too much the way of facilities, but it had a relaxed feel and we saw plenty of very pleasant looking houses as we walked around.
As we left and crossed the River Severn and passed back to England, we climbed up Kempster’s Hill and looked back at the whole area with the village in the background and the Welsh mountains beyond it. It was quite a view.
Then we looped around towards Pant (just north of Four Crosses) and drove alongside the old course of the Welshpool to Oswestry line. At Llynclys (which despite its Welsh name is in England) we stopped at the little station situated on the short Cambrian Heritage Railway line.
The site was closed due to COVID, but I chatted to a guy who was busy restoring an old diesel train. He gave me the run down on the Cambrian Heritage Railway’s complex history, there were once two distinct groups who merged, and their ambitious plans.
They have a bit of track that extends from Llynclys towards Pant and they are just about to open another section from Oswestry down to Weston; there are plans to eventually link them both together and fill in the gap between Oswestry and Network Rail at Gobowen.
We made our final stop at Oswestry which despite being in England was the centre of the Cambrian Railway system. The restored station building there was impressive and there was a Cambrian Railway Heritage Museum housed in the goods shed; although, due to COVID, it was sadly closed.
Oswestry itself proved to be a lovely little town for a stopover though. We had a walk around admiring its many fascinating old buildings including an English Presbyterian Church, now an Italian restaurant, the timber framed Llwyd mansion and a very impressive town hall building.
Whenever we go to Wales my wife always likes to buy Welsh cakes; she claims that although you can get them easily in England too, they always taste better from Wales. I am not sure if that is right or not, but the ones we got on this trip certainly went down well with some coffee back at home.