Aeron Express

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Original 19th Century version

The Aeron Express was the name used for a hand powered cable ferry that was built to ferry people across the harbour in the West Wales coastal town of Aberaeron. The ferry was first built in 1880 to ferry labourers from the Liverpool quay on Quay Parade, to the Birkenhead quay on Lon Yr Hafen , in the absence of a bridge across the river Aeron.

20th Century reproduction

The ferry was re-created by the then-owner of Aberystwyh Cliff Railway Clr Bob Griffin (ex Mayor of Aberystwyth) in 1987, predominantly as a tourist attraction, and ran until 1994.

During this period, the ferry ran from the Easter bank holiday weekend until the end of September (the traditionally busy times of year for Aberaeron). At the end of the tourist season, the ferry, including all the supporting structures, were dismantled and stored for the winter in the village of Llanon.

The ferry utilised a single supporting steel cable that bore the weight of the carriage, with a looped drive cable that was driven by 2 hand-powered wheels, one at either side of the harbour. At peak times, a man was placed at either side of the harbour to wind the carriage, but was manned by 1 person during quieter parts of the summer tourist season.

The modern day version could carry 4 grown men with ease, with the only restrictions being the strength of the winder.

During the summer season, tourists often believed that the ferry was powered by a hidden electric motor, or that it went to destinations other than the other side of the harbour.

When the main cable was tensioned, it prevented access to the inner harbour for boats with high masts, and had to be lowered on occasion to allow yachts to enter & leave the inner harbour (Pwll Cam as it's known locally)

On either quay, there was a Hexagon shaped wooden hut that sold tickets and merchandise for the ferry.

TV appearances

The ferry was featured in an HTV program in 1993, when an interview was carried out by TV personality Sian Lloyd. This footage was used again in an HTV program 'Stories from the street' in approximately 2003, when the previous footage taken in 1993 was used again.

Current status

Although the ferry remains disused, the substantial reinforced conrete footings can still be seen adjacent to the Holgates honey ice-cream parlour on the Liverpool quay, and directly opposite on the Birkenhead quay.
It has been rumoured of late (2007 / 2008) that the steel supporting structures, the ferry and the remaining winching gear have been bought by a local businessman with the intention of resurrecting the Aeron Express as a tourist attraction. This remains unconfirmed however.

At the 2007 Aberaeron Carnival, the 1990s carriage body was used as a float attraction, it has not been seen in public since.