Retracing The Cardiff Railway, Part Five: Tongwynlais

After Glan y Llyn, the old Cardiff Railway proceeded toward Taffs Well, where the Taff Vale Railway and the Barry Railway were already exercising a strong grip on this natural bottleneck in the valley. The Cardiff Railway threaded itself across the side of the valley, crossing the Glamorgan Canal past Glan Y Llyn, and then broadly paralleling the canel route under the Walnut Tree Viaduct. The modern day route of this is dominated by the A470 dual carriageway, from just outside the Caerphilly junction and down into the village of Tongwynlais.

Tongwynlais is technically part of Cardiff, although the constructions of the A470 and the M4 effectively cut it off from the big suburbs of Cardiff, and over the years it has retained that small rural village feel as a result. The popular tourist attraction of Castell Coch is located in Tongwynlais.

Back when the Cardiff Railway was still in operation, the approach to Tongwynlais was notable for the Tongwynlais Tunnel, just after the Walnut Tree Viaduct, and down the hill from Castell Coch. The tunnel ran for 180 yards.

tongwynlais tunnel 1947
Looking down on Castell Coch in 1947. The Walnut Tree Viaduct can be seen top left, spanning the Valley. The Cardiff Railway runs under the rightmost section. The old Taff Vale Railway lines are left of the picture, and the portal to the Tongwynlais Tunnel is slightly hidden left of center, next to the road. It appears that the tracks had been badly overgrown at this stage.
Hard to see, but the tunnel is in this picture…
The death throes of the Nantgarw-facing portal of Tongwynlais Tunnel in 1969, just prior to demolition for the building of the A470 dual carriageway.
In this picture by Geoff Atkins, we see a close-up view of the overgrown Nantgarw-facing portal of the tunnel in around 1967.


And here we see the view out of the Cardiff-facing portal, this time by John Bulpin, in the late 1960’s.
More remains of the trackbed in Tongwynlais, just prior to A470 construction in the late 1960’s. Photo by John Bulpin.
In this 1969 view from the abandoned viaduct, we can see the portal to the tunnel and Tongwynlais in the distance. The filled-in Glamorgan Canal is prominent in the centre of the picture. Photograph by Geoff Atkins.


destroyed_tong_tunnel- 1970ish
Around 1970, the A470 Tongwynlais exit roundabout has demolished the tunnel.

The track then ran on the outskirts of the village to Tongwynlais Station itself, which was located just south of the village. That station itself opened in March of 1911, and operated for twenty years, finally closing in July of 1931.

Tongwynlais OS
The tunnel can be seen in the top left of this 1952 OS map. The station can then be seen in the bottom centre of the image.

With the opening of the Nantgarw colliery over the 1940’s, this section of track sprung back to life, but just for freight, and the station itself wasn’t reopened. After sporadic use, the re-opened section was finally closed for good in 1952, when a newer link to the colliery was established at Taffs Well.

In spite of it’s abandonment, the station buildings had stood since 1931, until the construction and expansion of the A470 duel carriageway completely wiped them off the map in the mid 1960’s.

I couldn’t find any pictures of the station in it’s prime, but there are a few that exist from the 50’s showing the gradual take-over of nature happening to the old building.

Sometime in the late 1940’s or1950
tongwynlais 1950
A Nantgarw bound train, 1950. Photo from Urban75.

But like so much of the old Cardiff Railway, the A470 swept it away. As near as I can make out, the modern day location of the station would have be right under a set of speed limit overhead barriers hanging just by the Taffs Well/Tongwynlais exit…

The M4 is the bottom-most road in the picture. Almost dead centre in the photo is a set of overhanging LED signs – the station would have been at pretty much that exact spot. A barely perceptible dent in the tree-line below that point indicates the rout of the old trackbed, before the M4 cuts across it.

So that covers all of the now-gone stations and halts of the old Cardiff Railway. Rhydyfelin, Upper Boat, Nantgarw, Glan Y Llyn and Tongwynlais are all gone, but all have left a hint of their former existence. The next stop on the line is Coryton, a station that still functions today, and is now the terminus of the modern-day line. We’ll cover that, and the abandoned trackbed leading up to it, here. Thanks for reading!

Many thanks to John Bulpin, Geoff Atkins and Urban75 for their photography. Some other resources used for this blog:


9 thoughts on “Retracing The Cardiff Railway, Part Five: Tongwynlais

  1. Thanks for the credits. Just one small point … my view from the viaduct was taken in June 1969, not 1967 as stated. Most interesting, though.


  2. Would you be able to let me know who I should contact regarding the photograph of Tongwynlais Railway Station in the 1940’s / 50 please?


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