Pontypridd rail station

Pontypridd rail station

The main platform at Pontypridd was the world’s longest island platform (a station platform surrounded by tracks) when it opened in 1907.

The Taff Vale Railway, the first company established in Wales to build railways for steam traction. The first sod was cut in Pontypridd by Lady Charlotte Guest, wife of the TVR’s chairman, industrialist Sir John Josiah Guest.

The TVR’s first line, from Abercynon to Cardiff docks, opened in 1840. The TVR quickly spread to Merthyr Tydfil and into other Valleys, primarily to serve the coal and iron industries. Isambard Kingdom Brunel advised on the TVR’s initial construction and designed a spectacular skew bridge across the Taff north of Pontypridd station.

The TVR rebuilt Pontypridd station, mainly in 1907, on a scale reflecting the prosperity of South Wales during the industrial boom. Passenger services were concentrated on the east side, leaving the western tracks clear for the endless processions of freight trains. Although the station is on a cramped ledge on a hillside, the island platform was spacious enough to host six buildings. There were seven platform faces, including five dead-end platforms for trains which terminated at Pontypridd from the north or south.

In the 1890s, the busy station was targeted by pickpockets from Cardiff, Swansea and other towns. Some were caught by plainclothes police after “exciting” chases along the platform. On a market day in 1892, five men of a suspected gang of six pickpockets were caught in various locations. One was hiding in a toilet urinal, another leapt onto a departing Merthyr train.

By 1970, Pontypridd had lost all its passenger rail routes except the hourly services to Cardiff from Merthyr and Treherbert. One platform face was enough, and the easternmost track was removed to reduce maintenance. In 1987 the Treherbert trains became half-hourly, and in 1988 the Aberdare line reopened to passengers. One platform face was now inadequate. British Rail built a new platform on the west side, to avoid expensive relaying of track.

In 2011 Network Rail refurbished the station, including the long canopy. If you’re waiting for a train, take a closer look at the wealth of architectural detail, including the terracotta and red brick walls and the ornate ironwork around the stairwells leading to street level (there’s a disused one to the north). Notice too the cast-iron ovals forming the feet of the columns which support the canopy.

Where is this HiPoint?

Postcode: CF37 1DT

Other RAILWAY HiPoints in this region:
Brunel’s skewed bridge – wide stone arch crosses the river Rhondda in Pontypridd
Hayes Island snack bar, Cardiff – built c.1911 as a parcels depot for city’s large tramway system

Other CRIME HiPoints in this region:
Former Ship on Launch, Cardiff – woman stole two canaries from tap room and later killed them
The Dic Penderyn, Merthyr Tydfil – named after a folk hero hanged for an alleged riot offence