Disused railway bridge, Talybont-on-Usk

Disused railway bridge, Talybont-on-Usk

talybont_railway_bridgeHere the Monmouthshire & Brecon Canal passes under two contrasting bridges. The derelict metal span carried a railway – scene of a dramatic train wreck in 1878.

Rail transport first came to Talybont in 1815, when the 19km (12-mile) Bryn Oer Tramroad opened. It brought raw materials to the canal basin from Bryn Oer colliery, near Rhymney, a limestone quarry at Trevil and other sources. Horse-drawn wagons returning south carried timber for pit props, brought here by canal.

Trade diminished after a rival tramroad opened in 1836, and again when railways were developed. The Talybont end of the tramroad route is now a footpath, which you can reach by crossing the road bridge here.

The Brecon & Merthyr Railway opened in 1863 from Brecon to Pant, near Merthyr Tydfil. From 1868, its trains continued down the Rhymney Valley to Newport. The canal bridge at Talybont was near the foot of the “Seven Mile Bank”, which led the trains into the uplands of the Brecon Beacons.

The attached photo, courtesy of the MBACT archive, was taken in 1962 and shows a short goods train starting up the bank’s 1 in 38 gradient – unusually steep for steam trains. Longer trains needed an assisting locomotive, which was kept in a purpose-built shed at Talybont station until c.1900.

In the early decades, northbound trains sometimes made “wild runs” down the bank, with wagon brakes inadequately “pinned down” (partially applied) before the descent. In December 1878, a train of 36 wagons and three locomotives accelerated out of control down the bank. It left the track just after crossing the canal here, killing four men: drivers Joseph Thomas and Thomas Williams; and firemen (stokers) Thomas Pask and Thomas Fury. Wreckage was strewn widely. The leading locomotive lay upside-down on the road near the canal.

The last passenger train from Brecon to Newport ran on 31 December 1962. The upper section of the Seven Mile Bank is now part of the Taff Trail route for walkers and cyclists.

With thanks to the archive of the Monmouthshire, Brecon and Abergavenny Canals Trust

Postcode: LD3 7JD    View Location Map