Bridge Over Troubled Waters…

My good buddy Dan Harris stood on a bridge in Rhydyfelin the other day, and took this photograph.

Looking toward Pontypridd up the River Taff

Looking toward Pontypridd up the River Taff

In the center of the pic are the remains of two supports for a long-gone railway bridge, which I threatened to blog about. Now is time to make good on that threat.

14_old layout

The yellow is the old bridge. The red line was an older bridge to access the tin works. The green is the original embankment, now levelled. The grey was the original road. The current day bridge bottom-center is where Dan took his pic from…

The bridge in question was part of the now-defunct Cardiff Railway, brainchild of the Marquis Of Bute in the late 1800’s. The Taff Vale Railway had been in existence for decades, holding a monopoly on coal transport from the Valleys to Cardiff. The TVR had already tolerated competition from the Barry Railway (some aspects of which I’ve covered here and here), and the TVR was not about to let another competitor take the stage. The Cardiff Railway opened in August of 1897 running from Heath Junction in Cardiff down to Treforest. At least that was the plan… in reality the Cardiff Railway never made it in to Treforest – although it came achingly close.

03_cardiff-railway

Viewed from the Treforest-side embankment, the central struts and the right hand side abutment are all that remain of the bridge in 2013.

The TVR tried to legally block The Cardiff Railway from joining their lines at Treforest on safety grounds (likely because the CR goods trains would  have to cross passenger TVR tracks), and the constant court holds up ensured the Cardiff line never truly linked to the existing tracks. When the TVR, Barry and Cardiff Railways merged in 1921, the connection was no longer needed anyway.

As Cardiff Railway couldn’t effectively go beyond Treforest, it ran low goods traffic and passenger services up to Rhydyfelin Halt, the last stop before Treforest.

02_viaduct_and_halt

Viewed from the Treforest side, the bridge is just visible in the far left of the pic, while Rhydyfelin Halt is just visible at the far right, accessible via Francis Street in Rhydyfelin. This view is from somewhere between 1900 and 1910.

The hulking 450 foot long skew bridge that crossed the River Taff was therefore used ONCE. On May 15th, 1909 (almost 104 years ago) one ceremonial train crossed the bridge into Treforest station, a feat that was not to be repeated. The bridge stood for a further 31 years, doing nothing , until the advent of World War 2 meant the behemoth was dismantled and it’s steel recycled for the war effort.

The last stop before the bridge, Rhydyfelin Halt, was a small affair.

Rhyd-y-Felin Halt donated by D K Jones - http://archive.rhondda-cynon-taf.gov.uk - pic 26076

Rhydyfelin Halt – the path leads into Francis Street.

Nothing remains of this halt today. The modern-day A470 trunk road runs right over the top of it, following the line of the Cardiff Railway for several miles.

http://archive.rhondda-cynon-taf.gov.uk pic-PPF23/017

In this 1950’s view, looking into Treforest, on the left you can see the embankment that the Cardiff Railway used to run into Treforest station. This still exists today, but is eroded and overgrown.

12_surviving_abutment

The modern-day remains of the Treforest-side abutment.

The sole remaining abutment of the huge bridge still stands today, looming over the short walk past the old tin work allotments up into Treforest itself. It’s in fairly good shape, all things considered, but it has been ultimately useless for the century it has stood there, being nothing more than a historical curio nowadays.  As for its brother on the Rhydyfelin side of the River Taff (pictured below in 1950) nothing remains. The area it once occupied next to the Duffryn Arms public house has been completely levelled, and the main road through Rhydfelin diverted over its base. The modern-day A470 trunk road now runs on a new bridge just behind the area it occupied. The Duffryn Arms is still in existence though – but it’s now an Indian restaurant called Jamil’s.

Restricted useage

IMAG0533

The Cardiff Railway’s eventual amalgamation into the Great Western Railway eventually meant that the passenger service to Rhydyfelin dried up. Stop by stop the service dwindled, until today – the tracks for this line now terminate 11 miles south, at Coryton, nearby to the ASDA store on the  M4 Junction 32 roundabout.

There’s more to be said about the  railway’s closure and the brutal decimation of Rhydyfelin by the A470’s construction – but that’s a blog for another day.

Restricted useage

Update – 23/6/2017 – I’m planning a local history book about the Cardiff Railway – please back it now on Kickstarter!

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