Tramroads and Railways
The early industrialists would have used rutted paths and the old Roman roads, which came north along Gelligaer Common from Caerphilly, and linked east to west via Llechryd. When Parliament considered the first Turnpike Act in 1756, it was said that in Monmouthshire "There are no roads, we travel in ditches". About 1800 a Turnpike Road ran from Merthyr Tydfil to Abergavenny on a route that is very similar to the A465.
When iron was first produced in the Rhymney Valley, the materials all had to be moved by pack horse. There are no recorded plans to build a canal in this area, but there was a really ambitious proposal to create a tramroad from Carno Hill to join the Cardiff to Merthyr Tramroad - it didn't materialise!
The Rhymney Railway Company was established in 1854 to construct a railway between Rhymney Iron Works and Hengoed where it was to join the Newport, Abergavenny and Hereford Railway. Unfortunately this connection could not take place so a revised plan was approved in 1855 with the route linking to the Taff Vale Railway from where it could travel to the Bute East Dock in Cardiff. The route to Rhymney eventually opened in 1858.
The relationship with the Taff Vale Railway was not always smooth, and the 1860’s proved to be a difficult time. 1871 was an important year for the company – the Caerphilly Tunnel was completed giving a direct route into Cardiff, new stations were opened in Cardiff and a joint railway was opened with the LNWR linking Rhymney with the Merthyr to Abergavenny line via Rhymney Bridge. This proved to be the start of a very strong alliance, and the route to the North of England via Abergavenny proved to be very profitable.
The Rhymney Railway became part of the GWR in 1922, changing from being a penniless concern to a prosperous railway. This proved to be one of the best investments of its day with shareholders regularly receiving dividends of 9% on ordinary shares.
The Rhymney Bridge station closed in 1958 (much of the Merthyr to Abergavenny line is now a cyclepath) but the Rhymney line to Cardiff is still an important communication route in the Rhymney Valley.
The Last Train from Rhymney Bridge Station
The Bryn-oer Tramroad
The opening of the Brecon and Abergavenny Canal at Talybont in 1812 created new transport opportunities. Benjamin Hall lead a group of colliery and quarry owners as well as canal shareholders in seeking to build a tramroad to connect the heads of the valleys area with the canal - it opened in 1815. This took a 12 mile route from Rhymney Bridge, through Tafarnaubach to Talybont - a route that you can still walk today. An ingenious 3 track system was created to link two different sized systems together and to get materials to the Union Works, which was an important customber, carrying an average of 180 tons of limestone from Trevil Quarries until 1864.
The Rhymney Tramroad
Tramroads criss crossed the valley moving goods between the different sites. It was important to improve the routes to the port in Newport. A route had been opened in 1805 from Sirhowy Ironworks to Newport, and a further Parliamentary Act was passed in 1825 for another tramroad to be created from the north of the Abertysswg Estate to join the Sirhowy tramroad at Pye Corner - this eventually opened in 1836 at a cost of £48,000. An extension between the Rhymney Ironworks and this line was added shortly after.
The overall length of this route was 22 miles which would have taken 10 hours or more to travel as the trucks were pulled by horses. Sometime between 1840 and 45 steam locomotives were used, although the speed of these was limited to 10 miles per hour - but this still reduced the journey time to under 3 hours.
This crude tramroad was used until 1861 when it was converted to a railway, and in 1863 it was transferred to the Brecon and Merthyr Railway Company, and it became known as "The Old Rumney" to differentiate it from the new railway running on the Glamorgan side of the River Rhymney.
Clickable map of the Rhymney Railway
Wikipedia entry for Rhymney Railway
Find out more in:
- The Rhymney Railway by DSM Barrie
- The Rhymney Railway Volume 2 Branch Lines in the Valleys by John Hutton
- The Rhymney Railway by RW Kidner
- Rhymney Railway Drawings: Welsh Railway Records Vol 1 by N Nicholson, T Jones and M Lloyd
Bute Town is just 100m from A465, on A469. Leave A465 at The Twisted Chimney!!