In 1885, the Marquis of Bute finally succeeded in assuming ownership of the Glamorganshire and Aberdare Canals. It was his intention to close both canals and re-use the land for a railway to compete with the Taff Vale Railway. However, he was unable to do so, and instead was forced to build his Cardiff Railway as a new route north to Treforest. The route ran from Heath Junction, through Coryton, across the Glamorganshire Canal at Middle Lock, and north from there through Taffs Well, Nantgarw, the modern-day Treforest Industrial Estate, and behind the Treforest Tin Plate Works at Rhydyfelin.
However, even the powerful Marquis had finally met his match. The Taff Vale Railway purchased strategically-placed land just south of Treforest, and so were able to prevent the Cardiff Railway from being connected to Treforest Junction. The Marquis was forced to consider merger talks, but when these broke down in 1909, it sealed Cardiff Railway’s fate. With no connection at Treforest, Cardiff Railway was a railway that went nowhere. Passenger services up to Rhydyfelin Halt began in 1911, but in 1931 they were cut back to go no further than Coryton.
The colliery opened at Nantgarw in the 1938 finally gave the railway the freight it was built to carry. However, with the war over, the Taff Vale Railway was able to divert even this traffic by laying a branch line to the colliery in 1952, and in 1953 the line north of Coryton finally closed for good.
The walk along the route of the Cardiff Railway starts here, at Longwood Drive. Right beside the entrance to Asda at Coryton Roundabout, there’s this track heading off into the trees. The track takes you into the Glamorganshire Canal Local Nature Reserve, and over a 3-span bridge that was built over the Cardiff Railway.
In this photo, Longwood Drive disappears off into the distance on the right. Just out of frame on the right is another track that takes you down to the remains of the bridge that carried Cardiff Railway over the Glamorganshire Canal at Middle Lock.
(Thanks to the Friends of Forest Farm, there’s an old photo of the Cardiff Railway bridge over Middle Lock online, if you’re interested in seeing what this area looked like before both the Glamorganshire Canal and Cardiff Railway closed).
The track from beside Asda brings you to this bridge. The Cardiff Railway trackbed is below the bridge.
This is a macro shot of what I think is grass growing in the gaps between the masonry on the bridge over the old Cardiff Railway.
This is the western end of the bridge over the Cardiff Railway. To date, I’ve been unable to discover who built this bridge, when, or why.
From here, there are steps down to the old trackbed.
From the western end of the bridge, these steps lead down to the trackbed below the bridge.
The bridge over the Cardiff Railway consists of these three spans. The bridge appears to be built from brick rather than stone.
This photo is taken looking north along the old trackbed.
This is a shot of the Cardiff Railway trackbed as it goes underneath the bridge near Longwood Drive.
This photo is looking south towards Coryton. Behind me, Cardiff Railway would have crossed the Glamorganshire Canal at Middle Lock over a now-lost bridge.
The Cardiff Railway trackbed between Coryton and Longwood Drive runs through this cutting. At the northern end of the cutting stands the bridge featured in earlier photos in this set.
On a sunny day like today, the light reflects off of the many leaves and plants that line the route once taken by the Cardiff Railway. They present a formidable challenge to anyone wishing to capture the scene with a digital camera.
Along the old trackbed of the Cardiff Railway, there are a few raised manhole covers such as this one. Be careful not to trip over them as you walk!
Unlike the Glamorganshire Canal Local Nature Research to the west, the path along the trackbed of the old Cardiff Railway is much less crowded 🙂
These initials, carved into a tree trunk, caught my eye whilst out walking along the old trackbed of the Cardiff Railway.
After a relaxing walk that takes about twenty minutes, the Cardiff Railway trackbed passes under a smaller bridge. The route over the bridge goes to Melingriffith in the west, but is very overgrown and no fun at all to walk.
This photo is taken looking north along the trackbed of the Cardiff Railway.
South of the bridge, between here and Coryton Station, the trackbed has become completely overgrown. The best route out is along this path to the A4054. Unfortunately this path can be very muddy indeed. Sensible footwear is highly recommended!
The old trackbed of the Cardiff Railway sits within the Glamorganshire Canal Local Nature Reserve. At each entrance to the reserve, there are identical signs showing visitors a map of the nature reserve.
Today, the surviving track of the Cardiff Railway ends here at Coryton Station.
To finish the walk, I went down to the first bridge over the surviving track, and took this photo of whatever it is that’s growing on the bridge.
Thoughts On The Day
I have something to confess. As a regular commuter between the valleys and Cardiff, I often wondered why the Coryton line didn’t connect up to the main route at Radyr Station. I often expressed the opinion that this would be A Good Thing(tm).
Now, thankfully, I know better.
The basis of this ignorance was the mistaken belief that the Coryton line must once have been connected to the main route at Radyr Station. I’d never heard of Cardiff Railway, and I had no idea at all that the Coryton line was the remainder of a railway that had made its own independent route up to Trefforest. I’d never heard of the Glamorganshire Canal, or the Local Nature Reserve at Forest Farm, and didn’t know that the Coryton line would have to take a destructive route through the Local Nature Reserve in order to reach Radyr.
Time has moved on and consigned the Cardiff Railway route to the history books. North of the M4, very little of the route survives at all. It was the last railway to be built in direct competition with the Taff Vale Railway. It had to jump through the most hoops in order to snake its way north, the most favourable land having already been taken up by the Glamorganshire Canal and the Taff Vale Railway.
In retrospect, the futility of the Cardiff Railway is best summed up by the viaduct over the Taff built immediately behind the Treforest Tin Works. Built in 1907, only a single token train ever crossed Rhydyfelin Viaduct, because north of the Tin Works the Taff Vale Railway did everything they could to prevent the Cardiff Railway ever connecting to it (a temporary connection was put in place in 1909, which allowed the single train to cross Rhydyfelin Viaduct, but this connection at Treforest Junction was removed in the same year after a merger between Taff Vale Railway and Cardiff Railway collapsed). Unused for 31 years, Rhydyfelin Viaduct was taken down in 1940 to be recycled for the war effort.
What’s left today is a pleasant walk, taking about half an hour, between Coryton Station and Longwood Drive. We parked on Longwood Drive itself, and made our way down the steps beside a surviving bridge to the cutting where the Cardiff Railway once ran. From there, we made our way south to Coryton, before returning via the same route.
Combining photos taken on two separate visits to form a single set of photos can be tricky, given the variance in the British weather. The main problem is always the same – skies and contrast. My main tool for dealing with any tricky situation is conversion to black and white. It feels like a bit of a cop-out, but sometimes I think the results look better than the original colour images.
To try and improve the quality of the black and whites this time, I’ve boosted the brightness and contrast on all of these shots, and then adjusted highlights and shadows to try and even out the differences between the shots. Overall, I’m very happy with the results, and I’ll probably try the same technique again the next time I publish a black and white set.
As always with these articles, I’m indebted to the information that has already been published about Cardiff Railway. Here’s a list of the sources that I used to compile this article:
- History of the Cardiff Railway and the Coryton Branch Line, Cardiff Railway on the Urban 75 website.
- Cardiff Railway on the Cardiff Rail website.
- Guided Tour of Forest Farm, on the Friends of Forest Farm website.
- The Glamorganshire and Aberdare Canals, Volume 2, by Stephen Rowson and Ian L. Wright.
If you’re reading this in the RSS feed, my original blog post also includes a Google map showing where this photo was taken. Unfortunately I haven’t managed to get the map to appear yet in the RSS feed, so for now you’ll have to click through to my blog if you want to see the map. Sorry.