Monmouthshire Railway and Canal Company
The MR&CC was a rather special organisation, possibly even unique, in having developed from a canal company with associated
tramroads, into a railway company passing through a stage of having some combined edge and plateway sections. Now that is
a challenge for the modelling fraternity! The story of the tramway developments and conversion to railways is fascinating
from both business and technical viewpoints. Although the Eastern and Western valleys lines met at Newport, they could be
considered in many ways as two separate and distinct systems. The Eastern valley lines were, essentially, built as railways
whereas in the Western valleys the lines evolved from tramways and there were no through passenger trains between the two
southern termini. At their workshops in Newport the company built locomotives, coaches and wagons - in Wales, only the
in Cardiff did the same.
As with many of the railways in south Wales the MR&CC came into being in the form it was as a result of the geology,
geography and industrialisation of the area. Many of the valley lines originated at the edge of the coal field where coal,
iron ore and limestone out-cropped but the MR&CC also ran along the eastern edge of the area. As a consequence it was an
early victim of the squeeze between the major railway companies and was taken over by the GWR soon after that company
converted its South Wales main line from broad to standard gauge.
Incorporated in 1792 as the Monmouthshire Canal Co., to construct canals from Newport to Crumlin and Pontnewynyed, and
associated the "Rail Ways" (tramroads). The later were soon found to be a more efficient means of transportation of goods
and later, passengers. Further acts authorised more tramroads, the use of locomotives, a change of name to the MR&CC, and
later to convert tramroads into railways.
The costs of the latter, coupled with a decline in trade and increasing competition from other railways, finally resulted
in amalgamation (in truth, a takeover) with the Great Western Railway
, which became effective in 1880. Paradoxically, the
later Victorian period, and the years leading up to the Great War, was a period of modest prosperity for these lines, with
Welsh steam coal and tinplate in demand.
Later years saw both demand and stagnation. Gradually the industries which were the lifeblood of these lines began to run
down. Alongside this, increasing 'bus competition had its affect on passenger numbers, although peak period travel in the
Western Valleys held its own, especially after the introduction of DMUs in the later 1950's. This was not enough to stave
off closure to passengers in 1962.
Eventually coal production ceased, with final closure of lines in the Eastern Valleys, leaving Ebbw Vale Steelworks in the
Western Valleys as a sole source of traffic there. Ebbw Vale works finally closed (as a tinplate works) in 2002. By then,
however, plans were in hand to restore a passenger service to Ebbw Vale. This started in 2008, after extensive
refurbishment of the line and provision of six new stations.
||Formation of the "Company
of the Proprietors of the Monmouthshire Canal Navigation"
||Canal opened from Newport
to Pontnewynydd with associated tramways
||Passenger service with horse-drawn
carriages on the Western valleys tramroads
||Steam locomotive use recorded
||Authorisation for the construction
of the Newport to Pontypool railway and conversion of Western Valley tramroads
||Name change to Monmouthshire
Railway & Canal Company
||Section to Ebbw Vale, Newport
Dock St. and Newport (Marshes Gate) to Pontypool opened
||N.A.& H.R opened from
Coed-y-Gric Junction with through running to Newport; Pontypool to Blaenavon
||New station opened at Newport
Mill St.; Brecon & Abergavenny canal purchased.
||MR&CC leased to GWR
||Line from Pontypool to LNWR
at Abersychan & Talywain opened
||MR&CC amalgamated with
GWR, passenger trains moved to Newport High St.
||Passenger services between
Pontypool and Brynmawr stopped
||Remaining passenger services
||Newport Mill St to Cwmbran
||Cwmbran to Abersychan &