Garw Valley Railway

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Garw Valley Railway
Locale Bridgend, Wales
Terminus Pontycymer and Brynmenyn
Connections Network Rail Tondu Station
Commercial operations
Built by Great Western Railway
Original gauge 4 ft 8 12 in (1,435 mm) standard gauge
Preserved operations
Owned by Bridgend Valleys Railway Company Limited
Stations 5 (currently not operational)
Length 5 miles (8.0 km)
Preserved gauge 4 ft 8 12 in (1,435 mm)
Commercial history
Opened 1876
Closed 6 March 1997
Preservation history
1988 Preservation group formed.
1994 Bridgend Valleys Railway Company incorporated.
23 March 2001 National Assembly for Wales Transport & Works Act order secured.
Headquarters Pontycymer Locomotive Works

The Garw Valley Railway is the trading name of the Bridgend Valleys Railway Company Limited. It operates a short section of 4 ft 8 12 in (1,435 mm) standard gauge railway located in South Wales, which is being recreated as a heritage railway. Formerly part of the Llynvi and Ogmore Railway (L&OR) and built by the Great Western Railway (GWR), the line was formerly used for freight and passenger services, with most of the track still in place between Brynmenyn and Pontycymer. The project currently[when?] has a train shed at Pontycymer, and hopes to initially offer brake van rides between Pontycymer and Pant-y-Gog, a distance of .5 miles (0.8 km).

Garw Valley Railway
Blaengarw
Pontycymmer
Loco Shed
Pantygog
Pontyrhyl
Port Talbot Railway and Docks Company
Llangeinor
A4065
Brynmenyn
Ogmore Valley Railway
Cardiff and Ogmore Valley Railway
Garw Loop
Maesteg Line
Tondu Triangle
Tondu
Ogmore Vale Extension
Maesteg Line

History[edit]

The Duffryn Llynvi & Porthcawl Railway Company (DL&PRC) obtained its Act of Parliament in 1825, running from Caerau Duffryn down the Llynvi Valley to Tondu, and then west to Porthcawl where it built a pier for trans-shipment of coal. Merging with the Bridgend Railway in 1834, built to 4 ft 8 12 in (1,435 mm) standard gauge the system centered on Tondu totalled 21 miles (34 km).[1]

In 1845 the UK government authorised the building of the South Wales Main Line (SWML), which brought about the recreation of a new owning company for the existing DL&PRC system, the Llynvi Valley Railway (LVR), which agreed connection with the 7 ft 14 in (2,140 mm) Brunel gauge SWML at both Bridgend and Pyle.[1]

Due to a dispute between the LVR and the owner of Tondu Ironworks, new independent railways were built to divert coal traffic to Cardiff: the Ogmore Valley Railway (OVR); and Ely Valley Extension Railway (EVER). Once Acts of Parliament were obtained, the LVR and the OVR merged to become the Llynvi and Ogmore Railway (L&OR),[1][2] building both the new Tondu to Nantymoel railway as well as an extension to Porthcawl's harbour.[1][2] The L&OR also became one of the first railways to add a third rail, hence enabling it to run both 4 ft 8 12 in (1,435 mm) standard gauge and 7 ft 14 in (2,140 mm) broad gauge trains on the same track.[1]

From 1873, the Great Western Railway took over the running of the L&OR under a lease, on condition that it built a third railway originating from Tondu, from Brynmenyn to Blaengarw.[1][2] The Garw Valley Line opened on 25 October 1876.[1][3] Within 10 years of opening, four collieries and some associated drift mines were serviced by the Garw Valley line, producing and hence shipping 4,000 tonnes of coal per day.[1][2] After the L&OR was absorbed into the GWR on 1 July 1883, the whole system became known as the Tondu Valley Lines Division.[1] In 1906 the Glengarw Colliery opened, which by 1911 was producing 1000 tonnes of coal per day.[1][2]

The main traffic was coal, but between 1887 and 1902 stations along the Garw were constructed at Llangeinor, Pontyrhyl, Pontycymer and Blaengarw.[1][2] However, the only intense passenger service on the entire Tondu Valley Lines system were from Cardiff to Bridgend and Porthcawl.[1] Passenger trains from Bridgend consisted of four portions: Abergwynfi (detached at Tondu); Garw (detached at Brynmenyn); and Gilfach Goch (detached at Blackmill); with the residual train continuing to Nantymoel.[1] However, even pre-World War II, with the relative distances so short, motor bus services took large numbers of passenger away from the railway, resulting in cessation of most passenger services outside the dedicated coal miner trains from 1953.[1][2]

Closure[edit]

The entire Tondu Valley Lines Division was closed from the mid-1980s, after the ending of the UK miners' strike (1984–85). The subsequent closure of the Ocean Colliery in December 1985, the Garw Valley’s last working mine, resulted in the last coal train running on the Garw in 1986.[1][2] The three lines were initially kept in place, but eventually the Ogmore line was lifted. The Llynfi Valley branch to Maesteg was reopened to passengers in 1992.[1][2]

The Garw was reopened in 1995, to allow a land reclamation system to operate economically. This effectively removed the track and associated earthworks for the last mile of the Garw Valley line into Blaengarw, hence now terminating the line at Pontycymer.[2] The last train from the reclamation site ran on 6 March 1997, and a special charter passenger train, the "Garw Guru", ran on 7 April 1997. Network Rail severed the connection to Tondu at Brynmenyn Level Crossing, just south of Bryngarw Country Park, in 2007.[1][2]

Preservation[edit]

Bridgend Valleys Railway Society (BVRS) was formed in 1988,[4] to create a UK national level operational museum project, with a vision of offering a Welsh National Railway Centre at the Brynmenyn Industrial Estate, and an operational railway north to Pontycymer.

Groundwork Neath Port Talbot (the government body responsible to Bridgend County Council for the regeneration of the Garw Valley) bought the trackbed from Network Rail. It then leased 4 miles 56 chains from Pontycymer to Brynmenyn to the BVRS on a 125-year lease, for establishment of a single-track heritage railway. On 23 March 2001, the Welsh Assembly made its first Transport Works Act order in favour of the BVRS, and six days later Railtrack formally signed over the route to BVRS.[4]

However, after the River Llynvi bridge was demolished, the project was re-established:

The project will also establish an archive of South Wales Valleys railways.[5]

Operations[edit]

After establishing a base and train shed at Pontycymer, where the archive is currently stored, the current focus is on building a new platform at Pontycymer.[4]

In 2008, the project received a boost through the relocation of the Vale of Glamorgan Railway Society, which had been ejected from the Barry Tourist Railway by owners the Vale of Glamorgan Council, in favour of new operators Cambrian Transport.[6] They are now working with the Bridgend Valleys Railway Company to rebuild the line.

In summer 2014, land works were commenced to establish a station at Pontycymmer. By spring 2015, the first 20 metres (66 ft) of platform had been completed.

Future[edit]

After establishment of a station at Pontycymer, the company aims to relay 1 mile (1.6 km) of track south to Braich-y-cymer. Beyond this, it will require two bridge replacement projects to be completed, before access can be gained to establish a station at Llangeinor, and then onwards to Bryngarw Country Park, which will be the southernmost limit of operations in the medium term. In the long term, it is hoped to extend as far south as Tondu, on the Arriva Trains Wales route between Bridgend and Maesteg.[4]

Stock[edit]

References[edit]

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 51°32′45″N 3°35′52″W / 51.54580°N 3.59780°W / 51.54580; -3.59780