Brunel’s skewed bridge, Pontypridd

Brunel’s skewed bridge, Pontypridd

The legendary engineer Isambard Kingdom Brunel designed an unusual bridge to take the Taff Vale Railway across the river Rhondda. Mill Street also passes underneath the arch. You can get a great view of the bridge from the Tŷ Pennant multi-storey car park.

The Taff Vale Railway’s first line was built to move large volumes of iron and coal from Merthyr Tydfil to Cardiff docks. The ceremonial first stone for the railway was laid by Lady Charlotte Guest in August 1837 at the site where Brunel, the TVR’s engineering advisor, would build his Rhondda bridge.

Here Brunel faced the challenge of taking the single railway track over the river at a place where the river twists through 90 degrees to flow into the Taff. A normal bridge with abutments (the supporting walls at each end of the arch) at right angles to the bridge deck would have been awkward at this location.

Instead, Brunel designed a skewed stone arch with a span of 34 metres (110ft). This was long enough to bridge the road alongside the river as well as the river itself, without a central supporting pillar. However, you will see a central pillar when you look at the bridge today. The TVR began to construct a second track in the late 1850s as business boomed, and to carry this track over the river Rhondda it erected a two-arch bridge adjacent to Brunel’s masterpiece.

Less than 100 metres further upstream, you can see a TVR railway viaduct of seven arches. It was built in the early 1860s for the Rhondda line. Both structures are now owned by Network Rail and used by frequent Valley Lines passenger services.

Where is this HiPoint?

Postcode: CF37 2TB

Other RAILWAY HiPoints in this region:
Pant rail station - Brecon Mountain Railway terminus, above the disused Morlais rail tunnel
Pontypridd station – boasted the world’s longest island platform from 1907