Cardiff Central rail station

Cardiff Central rail station

This station opened in 1850, when the South Wales Railway launched its route from Gloucester to Swansea. Isambard Kingdom Brunel was the engineer. Cardiff’s earlier railways ran north-south, conveying coal to the docks. For its station in Cardiff, the SWR built an embankment between the river Taff and the Glamorganshire Canal (east of the site).

Old photo of Cardiff station in 1922
© National Railway Museum / Science & Society Picture Library

In 1849 Brunel diverted the river Taff to its present course west of the station. This created a long enough site for the station on the east-west axis, and protected the site from flooding. In 1851, Cardiff’s town clerk was instructed to “write to Mr Brunel pointing out the nuisance and injurious effects to the Public Health, arising from the old bed of the river Taff”. Land where the river once flowed was set aside for sport, and now hosts the Millennium Stadium and Cardiff Arms Park.

The SWR was amalgamated in 1863 with the Great Western Railway, which built the current station buildings from 1932 to 1934. The GWR lobbied successfully for the demolition of Temperance Town, the workers’ housing north of the station, to improve the view from the station approach. The company’s name is still written across the frontage. The photo above right shows the station in 1922, before the rebuilding.

Old photo of Cardiff Central stationNotable details from the 1930s rebuild include the cupola with its large clock, and the wall tiles, including the hands pointing from the subway to the platforms. The Art Deco lamps in the booking hall are replicas of the originals, installed in 1999 with funding from the Railway Heritage Trust.  A GWR war memorial is displayed at the east end of the concourse.

The photo on the left, by Peter Clark, shows the station in the 1950s, when it was still known as Cardiff General. British Rail renamed it Cardiff Central in 1973.

Another station, Cardiff Riverside, was immediately to the south, where a track diverged towards the docks. It was demolished in the 1990s, after decades of use as a parcels and newspaper terminal.

Today Cardiff Central is Wales’ busiest station. With the decline of heavy industry and the growth of offices in Cardiff, the balance has shifted from freight to passenger trains. Platform 0 was created in 1999 on the station’s north side. In 2013 Network Rail began an upgrade which involves creating an extra track and platform on the south side. This will cater for trains travelling between the Valleys to the north and the Vale of Glamorgan to the south-west and will be complemented by a modern southern entrance building to reflect the importance of the redeveloped area south of the station.

Where is this HiPoint?

Postcode: CF10 1EP

Other RAILWAY HiPoints in this region:
Cardiff Bay station – The former Taff Vale Railway HQ still stands nearby
Cardiff Central railway war memorial – discover details of GWR men who died in First World War
Hayes Island snack bar – built c.1911 as a parcels depot for city’s large tramway system
Newport station – one station, three different centuries of railway architecture

Website of Science & Society Picture Library - prints available of the 1922 photo above, and many others