Port Authority Building, Cardiff Bay

Look at any old photo of Cardiff’s docks in their heyday, and there are two constants to be seen. One is the railway station at the southern end of the Taff Vale Railway (TVR), which today is the Cardiff Bay railway station. The other is the Pierhead Building, former home to the Bute Dock Company (later renamed to the Cardiff Railway Company), and it provides a fantastic point of reference to help us see how the land around it has been utterly transformed since the height of the docks.

Built in 1897, the Pierhead Building was commissioned to be the new headquarters of the Bute Dock Company. Today, it is part of the estate of the Welsh Assembly, and serves a dual-purpose role of public museum and events venue.

I haven’t visited the museum since it opened in March, 2010 yet, but I will do so shortly. It’s my growing hypothesis that Cardiff-based exhibitions tend to downplay the debt that the city owes to the exploitation of the natural resources of the valleys (which have been left economically devastated in the post-industrial world), and I’m very curious to see what this exhibition says on the matter.

References

Copyright (c) Stuart Herbert. blog | twitter: (photography) (all) | facebook: (Merthyr Road project) (all).

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North of Coryton Railway Station, the old Cardiff Railway is long gone; the track ripped up, stations demolished. But it would be wrong to say that there’s nothing left of the old line that once made an ambitious (and far from simple) route up the valley, snaking over and under everything that had already gone before, in an attempt to provide another way for coal to make it from Pontypridd down to the docks at Cardiff.

The single most spectacular section is the nature trail that leads immediately north of Coryton Railway Station up to Longwood Drive, where in days gone by Cardiff Railway was carried over Middle Lock by a bridge. Then there’s some surviving hints where the Cardiff Railway was carried underneath the Rhymney Railway (now the Taff Trail cycle path from Taffs Well to Nantgarw). And then Cardiff Railway re-appears through Taffs Well and out to Nantgarw.

The section out to Nantgarw has, in recent years, been revived as a pedestrian and cycle way, with a new bridge laid across the A4054 to replace the old railway bridge that is long gone. In May of 2009, I went out to the bridge with my Nikon D200 to capture the site as it stands today. I hope you enjoy it.

The Photos

Lost Cardiff Railway Bridge

When it was still in existence, Cardiff Railway used to run through Taffs Well and then out and over the old A4054 Merthyr Road at this spot, crossing from right to left before running atop an embankment north to Nantgarw and the coking plant that used to be there before the land was cleared and turned into Treforest Industrial Estate.

Railings On The New Foot Bridge

The original railway bridge is long gone, but today, the old railway trackbed through Taffs Well is a foot path and cycle way, which is carried over the A4054 by this modern bridge.

Looking North Towards Nantgarw

Looking north from the bridge, the path runs atop the old railway embankment. You can see from the overexposed area on the left of the shot just how much the light and shade contrasts here.

New Bridge Along Cardiff Railway Route

Here’s a better view of the new bridge over the A4054, taking anyone walking or cycling north out of the shaded path and out into the bright sunlight.

Spider's Web In The Railings

In the railings leading up to the bridge, I spotted these spider webs.

Looking South Towards Taffs Well

The route south into Taffs Well from the bridge is best described as “shaded”. Even on a bright day like this one, the path is well sheltered from the sun by the retaining wall to the east and the trees growing on both sides.

Towards A Former Crossing Over The Cardiff Railway

I first walked this route quite a few years ago, before I had heard of the Glamorganshire Canal or any of the railways that I’ve spent so long exploring through the Merthyr Road project.

One of the first clues that there was a lost industrial heritage all around us that I was ignorant of came along this very track, where an old crossing point over the old railway still exists.

Beware of trains

Half-hidden in the bushes besides the old crossing is this sign: “Beware of trains”. The style is one I recognise from the old coal railways of my youth in Yorkshire.

It was this sign, and one just like it up in Treforest, that first made me wonder about what used to be here in the valleys before everything we see today.

House And Church Visible From The Old Railway Route

The former railway crossing leads to this house and what looks like a former church or chapel just behind it.

Copyright (c) Stuart Herbert. blog | twitter: (photography) (all) | facebook: (Merthyr Road project) (all).

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.

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Earlier in 2010, I decided to spend a Sunday exploring the railway stations of the Coryton Line. This is the surviving section of the Bute’s Cardiff Railway, the last of the great railways built to bring coal down to the Cardiff docks. I’m sure I read somewhere that the Bute’s original intention was to run this railway along the route of the Glamorganshire Canal (which the Marquis had earlier bought), but that ultimately he wasn’t allowed to close the canal, and so had to come up with an alternative route for his railway.

Today, the Coryton Line is a single-track commuter run that swings east to west across the north of Cardiff. There are no services on a Sunday, making it the perfect day to explore these stations.

The Photos

Heath Low Level Railway Station

Taken from the platform, looking north towards where the Coryton Line starts to make its turn west to Ty Glas Railway Station and beyond.

Heath Low Level Railway Station

Looking south along Heath Low Level Railway Station’s platform. The station is approached through a little alleyway between houses, and is the only one of the Coryton Line stations that does not have the familiar red-and-white railway station sign outside it.

Heath Low Level Railway Station

At its southern end, the railway quickly disappears beneath this road bridge before joining the main Cardiff to Caerphilly line.

Heath Low Level Railway Station

The single best view of Heath Low Level station is from the road bridge. From here, you can clearly see the housing that backs onto the station.

Public Telephone At Heath Low Level Station

For me, Heath Low Level wasn’t just the last of the stations I explored along the Coryton Line, it also contained by far the single most interesting photo to take. This public telephone can be found in the brick shelter at the station. I didn’t check to see if it worked, though.

Copyright (c) Stuart Herbert. blog | twitter: (photography) (all) | facebook: (Merthyr Road project) (all).

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.

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Earlier in 2010, I decided to spend a Sunday exploring the railway stations of the Coryton Line. This is the surviving section of the Bute’s Cardiff Railway, the last of the great railways built to bring coal down to the Cardiff docks. I’m sure I read somewhere that the Bute’s original intention was to run this railway along the route of the Glamorganshire Canal (which the Marquis had earlier bought), but that ultimately he wasn’t allowed to close the canal, and so had to come up with an alternative route for his railway.

Today, the Coryton Line is a single-track commuter run that swings east to west across the north of Cardiff. There are no services on a Sunday, making it the perfect day to explore these stations.

The Photos

Ty Glas Railway Station

Taken from the bridge that carries the A469 over the Coryton Line. Looking east towards Ty Glas Railway Station.

Ty Glas Railway Station

Looking west to Ty Glas Railway Station. Taken from the gate to the pedestrian crossing at the eastern end of the station.

Ty Glas Railway Station

Looking east along the Coryton Line. In the distance the track finally abandons its straight march across the north of Cardiff and starts to turn to the south, towards Heath Low Level Railway Station and beyond to Cardiff Queen Street.

Ty Glas Railway Station

Looking west, back towards Birchgrove Railway Station, which is immediately beyond the bridge in the distance.

Comms Tower Beside Ty Glas Station

This is the comms tower seen in the earlier shot to the immediate south of Ty Glas Railway Station.

Copyright (c) Stuart Herbert. blog | twitter: (photography) (all) | facebook: (Merthyr Road project) (all).

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.

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Earlier in 2010, I decided to spend a Sunday exploring the railway stations of the Coryton Line. This is the surviving section of the Bute’s Cardiff Railway, the last of the great railways built to bring coal down to the Cardiff docks. I’m sure I read somewhere that the Bute’s original intention was to run this railway along the route of the Glamorganshire Canal (which the Marquis had earlier bought), but that ultimately he wasn’t allowed to close the canal, and so had to come up with an alternative route for his railway.

Today, the Coryton Line is a single-track commuter run that swings east to west across the north of Cardiff. There are no services on a Sunday, making it the perfect day to explore these stations.

The Photos

Birchgrove Railway Station

From a distance, Birchgrove Railway Station seems to be doing its level best to hide beneath the nearby bridge.

Birchgrove Railway Station

Looking west along the Coryton Line tracks back towards Rhiwbina Railway Station and beyond ultimately to Coryton Railway Station.

Birchgrove Railway Station

Birchgrove Railway Station, looking east along the platform. Note that Birchgrove hasn’t yet been the recipient of a shiny new shelter.

Birchgrove Railway Station

Birchgrove Railway Station is nestled right up against the A469, which carries traffic between Cardiff and Caerphilly. This photo looks east along the tracks towards Ty Glas Railway Station.

Birchgrove Railway Station

Looking down from the A469 onto Birchgrove Railway Station platform.

Copyright (c) Stuart Herbert. blog | twitter: (photography) (all) | facebook: (Merthyr Road project) (all).

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.

Be the first to leave a comment »

Earlier in 2010, I decided to spend a Sunday exploring the railway stations of the Coryton Line. This is the surviving section of the Bute’s Cardiff Railway, the last of the great railways built to bring coal down to the Cardiff docks. I’m sure I read somewhere that the Bute’s original intention was to run this railway along the route of the Glamorganshire Canal (which the Marquis had earlier bought), but that ultimately he wasn’t allowed to close the canal, and so had to come up with an alternative route for his railway.

Today, the Coryton Line is a single-track commuter run that swings east to west across the north of Cardiff. There are no services on a Sunday, making it the perfect day to explore these stations.

The Photos

Birchgrove Railway Station

From a distance, Birchgrove Railway Station seems to be doing its level best to hide beneath the nearby bridge.

Birchgrove Railway Station

Looking west along the Coryton Line tracks back towards Rhiwbina Railway Station and beyond ultimately to Coryton Railway Station.

Birchgrove Railway Station

Birchgrove Railway Station, looking east along the platform. Note that Birchgrove hasn’t yet been the recipient of a shiny new shelter.

Birchgrove Railway Station

Birchgrove Railway Station is nestled right up against the A469, which carries traffic between Cardiff and Caerphilly. This photo looks east along the tracks towards Ty Glas Railway Station.

Birchgrove Railway Station

Looking down from the A469 onto Birchgrove Railway Station platform.

Copyright (c) Stuart Herbert. blog | twitter: (photography) (all) | facebook: (Merthyr Road project) (all).

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.

Be the first to leave a comment »

Earlier in 2010, I decided to spend a Sunday exploring the railway stations of the Coryton Line. This is the surviving section of the Bute’s Cardiff Railway, the last of the great railways built to bring coal down to the Cardiff docks. I’m sure I read somewhere that the Bute’s original intention was to run this railway along the route of the Glamorganshire Canal (which the Marquis had earlier bought), but that ultimately he wasn’t allowed to close the canal, and so had to come up with an alternative route for his railway.

Today, the Coryton Line is a single-track commuter run that swings east to west across the north of Cardiff. There are no services on a Sunday, making it the perfect day to explore these stations.

The Photos

Rhiwbina Railway Station

Taken from the footbridge over the Coryton Line at Rhiwbina Station, looking west towards Whitchurch Station. Note the CCTV camera perched high on the left in a commanding view along the platform – provided there isn’t a train there 🙂

Rhiwbina Railway Station

Looking east from the platform towards Birchgrove Railway Station, there isn’t much to be seen. There are local shops at the heart of Rhiwbina just off the bridge that you can see in the distance.

Rhiwbina Railway Station

There isn’t much more to be said about Rhiwbina Railway Station to be honest, except that I found it tidy and with a modern shelter for passengers enduring the long wait for a train.

Copyright (c) Stuart Herbert. blog | twitter: (photography) (all) | facebook: (Merthyr Road project) (all).

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.

Be the first to leave a comment »

Earlier in 2010, I decided to spend a Sunday exploring the railway stations of the Coryton Line. This is the surviving section of the Bute’s Cardiff Railway, the last of the great railways built to bring coal down to the Cardiff docks. I’m sure I read somewhere that the Bute’s original intention was to run this railway along the route of the Glamorganshire Canal (which the Marquis had earlier bought), but that ultimately he wasn’t allowed to close the canal, and so had to come up with an alternative route for his railway.

Today, the Coryton Line is a single-track commuter run that swings east to west across the north of Cardiff. There are no services on a Sunday, making it the perfect day to explore these stations.

The Photos

Whitchurch Railway Station

Viewed from the bridge that carries the A470 over the Coryton Line, Whitchurch Railway Station looks a sleepy little station well buried amongst greenery.

Whitchurch Railway Station

Looking west along the tracks, you can clearly see the bridge that carries the A470 over the track, and the odd little kink in the track as it approaches Coryton Railway Station just out of shot.

Whitchurch Railway Station

The station itself is small and functional. Unlike some of its neighbours, it has no CCTV cameras at the time of writing.

Copyright (c) Stuart Herbert. blog | twitter: (photography) (all) | facebook: (Merthyr Road project) (all).

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.

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Earlier in 2010, I decided to spend a Sunday exploring the railway stations of the Coryton Line. This is the surviving section of the Bute’s Cardiff Railway, the last of the great railways built to bring coal down to the Cardiff docks. I’m sure I read somewhere that the Bute’s original intention was to run this railway along the route of the Glamorganshire Canal (which the Marquis had earlier bought), but that ultimately he wasn’t allowed to close the canal, and so had to come up with an alternative route for his railway.

Today, the Coryton Line is a single-track commuter run that swings east to west across the north of Cardiff. There are no services on a Sunday, making it the perfect day to explore these stations.

The Photos

Coryton Railway Station

This is the northern end of the Coryton Line, the surviving segment of the Cardiff Railway’s torturous (and ultimately unsuccessful) route up into the valleys in competition for carrying Rhondda and Merthyr coal.

Today, just beyond the fence, there’s a short (about 20 mins or so) but beautiful walk along the old trackbed up to Longwood Drive.

Coryton Railway Station

The bridge in the background carries the A4054 (the original Merthyr Road, before the A470 was built in the late 1960’s) over the old route of the Cardiff Railway.

Copyright (c) Stuart Herbert. blog | twitter: (photography) (all) | facebook: (Merthyr Road project) (all).

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.

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In 1858, the Rhymney Railway opened a branch route which ran from the Taff Vale Railway (modern Valley Lines route) at Walnut Tree Junction (modern Taffs Well station) up and over the Glamorganshire Canal to Penrhos Cutting, where it was joined by the Barry Railway and the Pontypridd, Caerphilly and Newport Railway. It survived the construction of the A470 trunk road, and was in use up until 1984, long after the railroad had constructed the Caerphilly Tunnel in 1871 to provide a much more direct route between the eastern valleys and Cardiff.

Today, it forms a section of the Taff Trail, a national cycle path (route 8) that runs from Cardiff Bay in the south all the way north to Brecon in the heart of the Brecon Beacons.

The Photos

Plenty of Lamp Posts at Taffs Well

The Rhymney Railway route starts at Taffs Well railway station, with the magnificant Garth behind it. The Garth, with its three distinctive barrows, dominates the skyline looking north from Cardiff.

Half a Mile to Tongwynlais

At the start of this section of the Taff Trail, if instead you want to head south towards Cardiff (a route which threads its way through Tongwynlais and then largely follows the River Taff), you can pick up refreshments in the village of Taffs Well if you need them. Just cross the railway by the nearby bridge.

If you’re heading north along the Rhymney Railway and then either up Penrhos Cutting to Caerphilly or along the Pontypridd, Newport and Caerphilly railway route up through Nantgarw, your nearest refreshments are some miles away. Stocking up first in Taffs Well might be a good idea.

Daisies Beside The Path

These lush daisies stand large and proud beside the fence at the start of the route.

Gate Guarding Cycle Route Eight

To try and keep the Taff Trail just for walkers and cyclists, the route is guarded by gates such as this one. They do break up leisure cycling a bit, as it’s much safer to dismount to navigate, but they seem a reasonable compromise to stop dirt bikers abusing the trail.

All Quiet On The A470

The route crosses the major A470 trunk road over a distinctive railway bridge. I don’t know for certain, but I’m willing to bet that this bridge is modern and was constructed when the A470 was built in 1969/1970.

Note how the A470 was empty when I took this shot. I commute up and down this road every weekday, and traffic levels have been (relatively) low for several months. Several years ago, it wasn’t unusual on a morning for this stretch to be completely stuffed with queueing traffic.

Rhymney Railway Bridge Over The A470

This is what the view is like along the bridge … wide and flat, with just the offensive graffiti for company.

Central Divider

Almost immediately beyond the bridge over the A470, the former Rhymney Railway section of the Taff Trail crosses a much older bridge, which originally went over the Cardiff Railway. The trackbed over the bridge has been tarmaced over, but this central divider with its metal studs (rivets) remains a major feature.

Bridge Over The Cardiff Railway

There’s hardly anything left of the Cardiff Railway in the immediate vicinity, as much of it was obliterated by the construction of the A470. There’s the Cardiff Railway stretch between Coryton and Longwood Drive that I’ve covered before, and also a stretch through Taffs Well that I haven’t yet written up … but in between, I think this bridge that carried the Rhymney Railway over the Cardiff Railway is about the only bit of the Cardiff Railway that still exists.

Gate Across The Trail

Aways beyond the bridge over the Cardiff Railway, a padlocked gate stands across the route. There’s one of the usual cycle gates beside it (so that cyclists and walkers can use the route as normal).

Alleyway and Gate

This section of the Taff Trail is crossed in places by alleyways that disappear into housing estates in one direction, and up the hill (presumably to the other Taff Trail along the old Barry Railway – yes, there are two Taff Trails running in parallel here!). Metal gates bar them to prevent non-walkers and non-cyclists from abusing the route.

It would be interesting to dig out some old maps to see whether any of these were here (as public footpaths) back when the railway was in existence.

Tree in Abstract

The Rhymney Railway section of the Taff Trail is very green this time of year – almost monotonously so. Occasional breaks of light like this provide interesting contrasts.

Tree in Abstract

The contrast of shade and well-lit trees beyond can make for eye-catching scenes such as this … but I imagine that if you’re cycling rather than walking, you’d probably miss them as you whizz by.

Sign in the Undergrowth

Does anyone know what this sign might be? I spotted it half-buried in the undergrowth along the route. Is it a left-over from when the railway was here, or something unrelated?

Rusting Post

I’ve no idea what this metal post’s original function was. It stands by the route, and is happily rusting away. If you can shed some light onto this, please leave a comment below.

Rusting Post Up Close

I’m a bit of a sucker for textures, especially when they contrast with a soft background like this one does.

Posts Beside The Rhymney Railway

Here are some old posts (I’m guessing they were railway fence posts from back in the day) standing beside the Taff Trail as it runs along the route of the former Rhymney Railway. As you can see, this particular stretch is long, straight, and very green, with not a lot to see.

The Two Taff Trails Merge

Not far from the start of Penrhos Cutting, the other Taff Trail route (which runs along the old Barry Railway line that used to go over Walnut Tree Viaduct) joins the Rhymney Railway route. I’m planning on covering the other Taff Trail route at a later date.

Bathed In Sunlight

When you get to Penrhos Cutting, the trail goes under this bridge. I’ll talk about the bridge more in the next photo.

What you’re seeing isn’t rain. It was a very dry, very sunny day, and when I angled my Nikon D300s up towards the sun, these strange streaks of purple light appeared on the image. I think it looks better as black and white, but if anyone really wants me to, I’ll upload the colour original for you to see for yourself.

Bridge At Penrhos Cutting

A little saner than my last shot, here’s the bridge at Penrhos Cutting that the Taff Trail goes under before its climb up Nantgarw Hill. It doesn’t take a lot to imagine local boys standing up on the bridge, waiting to be engulfed as a steam train huffs and puffs its way up the valley from Walnut Tree Junction. Maybe the driver blew the train’s whistle for them as his train passed by.

It’s a romanticism that our modern railways, with their sealed carriages and grumbling motors, simply can’t compete with. Who knows … when oil finally starts to run out, maybe we’ll all be forced back to a second age of steam?

Two Miles To Caerffili

At the foot of Penrhos Cutting, the intrepid explorer has a choice. He can continue along the Taff Trail (cycle route 8) to Nantgarw and on to Pontypridd, or he can continue to follow the old Rhymney Railway line up Nantgarw Hill and into Penrhos Cutting.

Entrance To Penrhos Cutting

If you leave the Taff Trail and decide to continue to follow the Rhymney Railway route up Nantgarw Hill instead, this takes you into Penrhos Cutting and on to Caerphilly. At the far end of the cutting (approx 2 miles) stands Penrhos Junction, which I’ll cover at a later date.

Copyright (c) Stuart Herbert. blog | twitter: (photography) (all) | facebook: (Merthyr Road project) (all).

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.

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