Burry Port and Gwendraeth Valley Railway

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Burry Port & Gwendraeth Railway
Cwm Mawr
Dynant Colliery
Glynhabog Colliery
Four Roads
Pentre Mawr Colliery
Minkie Road
Ponthenry Colliery
GWR main line
to Carmarthen
Caepontpren Colliery
Pontnewydd Halt
(Glyn Abbey)
Carway Colliery
Coadbach Washery
Trimsaran Road
Kidwelly Junction
Trimsaran (Goods)
Kidwelly Quay
Pinged Halt
Craiglon Bridge Halt
Pembrey Halt
Burry Port
Pembrey & Burry Port
Cwm Capel Colliery
Crown Colliery
New Pwll Colliery
Llanelly Docks
Sandy Bridge Junction
To Cross Hands
GWR to Swansea

The Burry Port and Gwendraeth Valley Railway (properly the Burry Port and Gwendreath Railway owing to a spelling mistake in the Act of Parliament[1] creating the railway) was a 21-mile (34 km) long railway progressively opened between 1859 and 1891 as a coal carrier.


The railway ran largely on the route of an earlier canal built by Thomas Kymer to bring coal down the valley. It also operated dock facilities at Burry Port, Wales. The railway was poorly managed in the nineteenth century[citation needed] and often bankrupt. Increasing traffic at the turn of the century and intelligent management transformed it as a business and Colonel Stephens was employed as a consultant in 1908 to reconstruct it to legalise its unofficial carrying of passengers. The necessary legislation was obtained in two Light Railway Orders in 1909 and 1911. Stephens supervised re-construction and re-equipment over the years up to 1913 after which he had no further connection.


The railway ran from Burry Port harbour, with a separate passenger station adjacent to the GWR's Pembrey & Burry Port station on the main line. A later branch ran eastwards roughly parallel to the South Wales main lin to join the Llanelli and Mynydd Mawr Railway The BPGVR's main line ran along the bed of the former Llanelly & Kidwelly Canal with stations at Burry Port, Pembrey, before turning up the valley and calling at Craiglon halt, Pinged, Trimsaran Road, Pont Newydd, Pontyates, Ponthenry and Pontyberem as well as the mine at Cwm Mawr. A separate branch ran from Kidwelly where the Gwendraeth Valley railway met the south Wales main line through Ty Coch, where it became the Burry Port and Gwendraeth Railway. There were plans originally to extend the railway up through the valley beyond Cwm Mawr to join the now defunct link between Carmarthen and Llandeilo at Llanarthney.

Various small branches from the Burry Port and Gwendraeth Valley Railway fed out to the collieries and small villages like Rhiwlas and Llandyry.


Table of BP&GV locomotives[2]
BP&GV No. Manufacturer Serial No. Date made Type GWR No. Date withdrawn Notes
1 Ashburnham Chapman and Furneaux 1197 Aug 1900 0-6-0ST 2192 Apr 1951 [3]
2 Pontyberem Avonside Engine Company 1463 1900 0-6-0ST  ? First No. 2; preserved at Pontypool and Blaenavon Railway
3 Bury Port Chapman and Furneaux 1209 Sep 1901 0-6-0ST 2193 Feb 1952 [4]
4 Kidwelly Avonside Engine Company 1463 May 1903 0-6-0ST 2194 Feb 1953 Nos. 4 and 5 same type[5]
5 Cwm Mawr Avonside Engine Company 1491 Apr 1905 0-6-0ST 2195 Jan 1953 Name removed in 1929 [5]
6 Gwendraeth Avonside Engine Company 1519 Sep 1906 0-6-0ST 2196 Jan 1956 Nos. 6 and 7 similar type[5]
7 Pembrey Avonside Engine Company 1535 Jan 1907 0-6-0ST 2176 Mar 1955 Name removed in 1927 [3]
8 Pioneer Hudswell Clarke 871 Mar 1909 0-6-0T 2197 Oct 1952 [6]
9 Hudswell Clarke 893 1909 0-6-0T 2163 Apr 1944 Nos. 9, 11–15 and second No.2 same type[7]
10 Hudswell Clarke 924 Dec 1910 0-6-0T 2198 Mar 1959 [6]
11 Hudswell Clarke 969 Mar 1912 0-6-0T 2164 Feb 1929 [7]
12 Hudswell Clarke 1024 May 1913 0-6-0T 2165 Mar 1955 [7]
2 Hudswell Clarke 1066 May 1914 0-6-0T 2162 Mar 1955 Second No. 2 [7]
15 Hudswell Clarke 1164 Feb 1916 0-6-0T 2168 May 1956 [7]
13 Hudswell Clarke 1222 Oct 1916 0-6-0T 2166 May 1955 [7]
14 Hudswell Clarke 1385 Aug 1919 0-6-0T 2167 Feb 1953 [7]


The railway was absorbed by the Great Western Railway in 1922 and in turn by British Railways in 1948. Throughout its lifetime the railway kept an unusual style. The fact that part of it was built down the old canal route meant that the line was not only prone to flooding but had low bridges and sharp curves. This always posed a problem to the railway operators as very little rolling stock could traverse the line safely. The original passenger stock was primarily second hand, including ex Metropolitan Railway stock and four-wheelers. The Great Western condemned almost all of the existing coaches on takeover and replaced them with four-wheel GWR S11, S17, T32 and T59 coaches from the 1890s. Only in 1939 did the railway acquire new GWR coaches, specially built to diagram D129 and C80, slightly narrower than the standard suburban bogie coaches and 18 inches lower.

Despite the problems passenger traffic lasted until 1953. The freight service continued far longer and coal traffic continued until 1996 when the Cwm Mawr loading point closed down. In later years the restrictions on the line meant that British Rail maintained several specially height reduced shunters to pull the coal trains down the line as well as brake vans with the stove chimney cut down to clear the bridges. For a long time two or even three Class 03 shunting locomotives would make the slow trek down the valley with thirty coal wagons in tow, often down a line that was several inches under water. The class 03 locomotives were chosen as the alternative Class 08 locomotives had electric transmission and there were concerns that they would be damaged by floodwaters. In 1983 British Rail reopened an alternative route to bypass the flood prone parts of the route which were then closed.[8] Once the alternative route was opened the cabs of some Class 08 locomotives were cut down (to fulfil the same role as the Class 03s) because the line was still incapable of supporting normal freight locomotives or even un-modified shunters.

Closure and preservation[edit]

Most of the track was lifted by 2005 with the track between Burry Port and Trimsaran Road lifted much earlier (as the freight trains used the Kidwelly route). There has been some discussion of preserving the railway however the tight clearances and light construction of the line would be a problem. The costs however of preserving the entire line were, at that time, prohibitive. Parts of the route can be walked as part of the Pontiets (formerly Pont Yates) mining heritage trail and the section between Burry Port and Craiglon Bridge Halt is now a footpath/cycleway. Preservation of the railway at Pontyates has now begun. Much of the group's railway stock is in storage at the Pontypool and Blaenavon Railway.

Only one Burry Port and Gwendraeth Valley Railway locomotive still exists this day into preservation. The last survivor is BP&GV No.2 Pontyberem, an 0-6-0ST built by Avonside Engine Company in 1900. It is in need of overhaul and being restored to working order. The engine was sold off by the Great Western Society and is now in private hands, currently residing at the Pontypool and Blaenavon Railway.


  1. ^ 29&30 Vict, chap. V
  2. ^ Whitehurst 1973, p. 7.
  3. ^ a b Casserley & Johnson 1966, p. 126.
  4. ^ Casserley & Johnson 1966, pp. 126–127.
  5. ^ a b c Casserley & Johnson 1966, p. 127.
  6. ^ a b Casserley & Johnson 1966, p. 128.
  7. ^ a b c d e f g Casserley & Johnson 1966, p. 125.
  8. ^ (Railway Magazine Jan 1984 p31)
  • Casserley, H. C. & Johnston, Stuart W. (1966). Locomotives at the Grouping 4: Great Western Railway. Shepperton, Middlesex: Ian Allan Limited. 
  • Whitehurst, Brian (1973). Great Western engines, names, numbers, types, classes: 1940 to preservation. Oxford: Oxford Publishing Company. ISBN 0-902888-21-8. OCLC 815661. 

Further reading[edit]

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