Former railway bridge, Govilon

button-theme-canalFormer railway bridge, Govilon

West of Govilon wharf is a skew bridge – one of the biggest bridges over the canal – which originally carried the Abergavenny to Merthyr Tydfil railway. Much of the railway route is now a traffic-free path for walkers and cyclists.

The railway opened from Abergavenny to Brynmawr in 1862, re-using sections of earlier tramroads. Among them was Bailey’s Tramroad, opened in 1821 by the industrialist Crawshay Bailey to connect his ironworks at Nantyglo to the canal at Govilon. Horse-drawn wagons carried iron along the tramroad to the wharf.

The tramroads were superseded by railways with steam locomotives, and goods were increasingly carried southwards from the Heads of the Valleys. The railway through Govilon was built by an independent company as far as Brynmawr. The London & North Western Railway – Britain’s biggest railway company – operated the line from the start, initially through a lease. It took over the line in 1866 and added numerous extensions, including Brynmawr to Merthyr. This line gave the LNWR a backdoor route to the huge industrial output of the South Wales Valleys.

The railway was one of the steepest in Britain, and the section past Govilon wharf was the steepest on the route. The gradient here was one in 34 (rising one metre in every 34 horizontal metres). This was taxing for steam engines. Freight trains had to be relatively short, to ease the load and to ensure the guard’s van at the rear could halt the wagons if they became detached. The gradient eased at Govilon station, west of here, but then continued at one in 37!

In 1877 a train ran out of control from Govilon and crashed into a stationary coal train at Llanfoist. The driver of the runaway train was unharmed. The fireman (stoker) leapt from the cab before the impact and was badly injured, as was the coal train’s guard.

After the Second World War the railway was owned by British Railways, which withdrew freight trains in 1954 to avoid the expense of operating them over such a steep route. The last passenger train ran in 1958.

Postcode: NP7 9NY    View Location Map

With thanks to the Monmouthshire, Brecon and Abergavenny Canals Trust

Canal & River Trust website – Monmouthshire & Brecon Canal

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