The Llynvi & Ogmore Railway (and related lines)

The Llynvi & Ogmore Railway (and related lines)

The Llynvi Valley and its developing industries were first connected to the coast and Bridgend district by horse tramway. The Duffryn Llynvi & Porthcawl Railway Company obtained its Act of Parliament in 1825 which included the building of a pier at Porthcawl for the transhipment of coal. The original line, opened in 1829, ran from Caerau Duffryn down the Llynvi Valley to Tondu thence westwards to Porthcawl. To this was added the Bridgend Railway in 1834. The gauge was 4'7" and totalled 21 route miles with no connection to any other system at the time. Even at this early stage, the workshops and main traffic centre was at Tondu.

Authorisation of the South Wales Railway in 1845 had a significant bearing on the DL&PR such that a new company, the Llynvi Valley Railway (LVR), was constituted in 1848 with the express purpose of rebuilding the tramway to the broad gauge with heavier rails and chairs in order to be worked by steam locomotives and connect with the South Wales Railway both at Bridgend and Pyle. Due to lack of funding the scheme did not materialise until 10th August 1861 and costly transhipment took place meantime. The connection at Pyle was not completed until November 1876. On 25th February 1864 a passenger service was inaugurated between Maesteg and Bridgend with an addition to Porthcawl on 1st August 1865.

It was a dispute between Messrs Brogden of Tondu Iron Works and the LVR that resulted in the rival plan of the Ogmore Valley Railway (OVR) and Ely Valley Extension Railway (EVER) with the intention of diverting traffic to Cardiff away from Porthcawl.

The OVR obtained its act of Parliament in 1863 with the construction of a standard gauge railway from a junction with the LVR at Tondu to Nantymoel at the head of the Ogmore Valley opened on 1st August 1865.

The EVER was incorporated only weeks later with authority to construct a broad gauge railway from Blackmill (where it formed a junction with the OVR) to Gellirhaidd where it linked into the Ely Valley line from Llantrisant to Penygraig and opened on 16th October 1865. The line also entailed a junction at Hendreforgan to serve Gilfach Goch. The passenger services ultimately operated were from Blackmill to Gilfach Goch reversing at Hendreforgan. There was never a regular passenger service between the latter and the Ely Valley proper.

Once these Acts had been secured, the Brogdens approached the LVR with a view to co-operation which was accepted resulting in proposals for the joint construction of the west Dock at Porthcawl to substantially increase the port's capacity (ships of 1100 tons could now be accommodated). More significantly, the L&O was incorporated on 28th June 1866 with the amalgamation of the Llynvi Valley Railway and the Ogmore Valley Railway. The latter had itself merged with the Ely Valley Extension Railway in 1865.

The line from Tondu to Porthcawl was fitted with a third rail to allow through standard gauge running from the Ogmore Valley. Thus the L&OR pioneered the concept of an integrated port and railway system as well as having unique mixed gauge workings. In 1868 the third rail was extended to the remaining broad gauge sections.

At this time the broad gauge engines were exchanged for four West Cornwall locomotives with the GWR working the broad gauge traffic until final conversion in 1872.

From Brynmenyn (Junction with the Ogmore line) to Blaengarw, the Garw Valley line was opened on 25th October 1876. By 1873 the GWR had already taken over the South Wales Railway and with further expansion in mind approached the L&OR with an offer of paying interest on the preference shares and a minimum 6% on ordinary shares.

The GWR also agreed to continue the building of the Cardiff and Ogmore Valley Railway from Blackmill to Llanharan which opened on 2nd October 1876 together with the northern extension of the Llynvi Valley line through Cymmer Tunnel to Cymmer opened on 1st July 1878 and for passengers on 16th July 1880 and finally Abergwynfi on 22nd March 1886. A further part of the C&OVR was available on 1st May 1877 giving direct access from Tondu to Llanharan and Bryncethin. On 1st July 1883 the L&OR was dissolved and completely taken over by the GWR.

Triangles at Tondu and Brynmenyn installed on 21st November 1892, extension to a new terminal at Porthcawl in 1916 and a west loop at Pyle on 15th September 1946 (giving direct access to Porthcawl from the Swansea direction) completed what was the L&OR network referred to by the GWR and its successor as the Tondu Valleys. In 1899 a shorter route to Port Talbot from Cefn Junction was opened by the Port Talbot Railway thus providing an avoiding line from Llanharan through Tondu to Port Talbot capable of taking all classes of locomotive except Kings and 47xx's.

The passenger services on all routes were never very dense except for the Porthcawl branch which saw a daily "residential" service to/from Cardiff (with corridor stock), together with intensive excursion traffic at weekends and Bank Holidays.

Some very interesting and unique operating features on the L&O system were to be witnessed;

From an early date, the Porthcawl branch was worked by two small Prairies of the 44xx or 45xx series, one Passenger turn the other Goods. Due to the tortuous curvature of the line from Pyle the practice was to turn these at Tondu each night so as to equalise the tyre wear and tear. Additionally they each faced opposite directions one bunker leading, the other chimney.

Passenger trains from Bridgend consisted of four portions; Abergwynfi, Nantymoel, Gilfach Goch and Blaengarw. These were detached at Tondu (Abergwynfi portion), at Brynmenyn (Garw portion) and at Blackmill (Gilfach portion) until the latter service was withdrawn in 1930. All this, when the distance from Bridgend to Tondu and Brynmenyn is 3 and 3¾ miles respectively.

Tondu Valley services ran to/from the north facing through platform at Bridgend. An alternative method when services were worked individually from Bridgend, to minimise run round movements, wrong direction over the Up Main was that on arrival of all the services, the locomotive at the east end would run round by the above means but the remaining locomotives would uncouple from the train they had brought in, move forward and attach to the train in front for the return working. The Abergwynfi service was last in and first out in recognition of it serving the most populous valley and minimise connection times with main line services.

Blackmill station was located in the V of the Junction with loops on both the Ogmore and Gilfach branches but each had only one platform face. The non platformed line of each loop enabled a goods/mineral train to be passed in either direction as the Goods loops were signalled for either direction running.

As a result of the layout and curvature, from Tondu Middle Box it was possible to see Tondu South, Tondu North, Tondu Ogmore Junction, Tondu Velin Vach and Brynmenyn Junction Signalboxes (the latter being two block sections away from Middle).

It was also common practice for Goods/Mineral trains to/from Cardiff to be worked by tender locomotives working via Llanharan and Bryncethin in one direction and the main line via Bridgend in the other to avoid turning the locomotive at Tondu.

Today (2007) the line from Bridgend as far as Maesteg (in the Llynfi Valley) has been reopened for passenger services hourly to/from Cardiff. The line from Tondu to Pontycymmer (Garw branch) is the subject of a preservation initiative and the direct route to Port Talbot is all that remains.



Selected Reading  

• Railway Magazine March 1954
• Railway Magazine July 1955
• Railway Bylines January 1999
• Railway Bylines December 2001
• Railways of the Llynfi Valley ISBN 0907117 384