Winter 2018

It's easy to take for granted the awesome endeavours of 19th Century railway pioneers which thread us through, around or over the nation's natural barriers. It was an age of speculative adventure, built on innovation, will power and elbow grease.

But many magnificent creations were abandoned during the industrial vandalism of the Fifties and Sixties. Forgotten Relics of an Enterprising Age celebrates some of them.
Operating Notices

Welcome to the winter update of Forgotten Relics.

There’s palpable anticipation in the valleys of South Wales as efforts are made to reopen the region’s two longest disused tunnels. Connecting Blaencwm and Blaengwynfi, Rhondda Tunnel has been pushed into the limelight by a vigorous campaign group, but the second emerged from the darkness almost unnoticed. Merthyr Tunnel - its official title - is in the better condition of the two and benefits from not being buried. So we ventured through the portal to see what lurks inside. Quite a lot, as it happens.

In the 1870s, the Llynvi & Ogmore Railway fashioned another valley link through Cymmer Tunnel, north of Maesteg. Colonel Beaumont did the work, assisted from one end by his patent rock drill; on completion, he took it to Queensbury - also the focus of a cycle path scheme - to complete the headings there. As civil engineer G F Adams recounted, all was going well until an explosion claimed 13 lives.

The Forest of Dean was a key supplier of minerals for the industries of South Wales, much of them travelling via the Severn & Wye’s Lydbrook branch. Catching the eye along its five-mile route was a three-span wrought iron viaduct and Mierystock Tunnel in which ganger George James took his own life in 1894. The Seventies saw its north portal consumed by colliery waste but, in 2005, a group of local pensioners hired a JCB for a week to excavate its keystone. Lee McGrath headed to the Forest to admire the tunnel’s elliptical profile.

Feeling rather sorry for itself in a woodland oasis is a structure we’ll call the Intersection bridge. Built for the Beighton branch of the Lancashire, Derbyshire & East Coast Railway, it carried a section of line which assumed unexpected importance when the Sheffield District Railway was driven into the city’s industrial heart. The structure has two parts - an impressive skew span over the former Waleswood curve and three brick arches across a gulley. Neither remains intact.

Offering more expansive vistas is the soaring Lake Viaduct, enjoyed separately by Paul Twyman and Jon Tuckett. The structure stands close to the summit of the former line between Okehampton and Lydford, part of the London & Southern Western’s empire. Death attended its construction in December 1873 when John Ellis, a 21-year-old labourer, slipped on scaffolding and fell 30 feet to the ground.

We must never forget the sacrifices too often paid by those who grafted to gift us our remarkable railway infrastructure.

New this time
Intersection bridge
Merthyr Tunnel
as well as...
The construction story of another major
South Wales tunnel, partly aided by Colonel Beaumont's patent rock drilling machine.
Mierystock Tunnel
Lake Viaduct
You can reach pages about these relics by clicking on their name. Across the site, new content is identified by a symbol whilst updated pages have a .
Main site areas
The site has stories about some of our more notable railway relics, with a hike through their history and reminiscences from those who worked there. You'll also find galleries showing dozens of bridges, viaducts, tunnels, earthworks, stations and junctions.
Online coverage of our disused network.
Bridges & viaducts
Great structures spanning a gap.
Tunnels & earthworks
Holes blasted
through hills.
Stations & junctions
Destinations torn from the timetable.

All the site areas are available via links in the tab bar and right hand column.

We add more structures on a seaonal basis. We hope you enjoy your visit and come back to see more Forgotten Relics soon.

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