Neath and Brecon Railway

Neath and Brecon Railway (and related lines)

Introduction

Incorporated as the Dulais valley railway in 1862, the Neath & Brecon was established to build a standard gauge railway between collieries in the Dulais valley and a junction with the broad gauge Vale of Neath Railway at Cadoxton (Neath), from where a third rail would be laid to gain access to Neath and Swansea Docks. The Neath & Brecon was expensive to operate, and aspirations to expand and develop were effectively ended by the collapse of the bankers Overend and Gurney in 1866, and by the early 1870's the finacial situation was serious. On 1 September 1874, the Midland Railway leased the Swansea Valley Railway, having already reached Brecon from Hereford via the Hereford, Hay & Brecon Railway, and intimated that they intended to run trains over the N&B using the running powers of the Swansea Valley Railway. The N&B was in no position to contest the issue and reluctantly agreed to the Midland working all mainline services between Brecon, Colbren and Ynysgeinon and to pay the N&B one third of the net receipts.

Sennybridge StationThe Midland agreement remained in force until 1889, when an attempt to renegotiate resulted in the Midland Railway withdrawing all its services on 20 June 1889. Following arbitration, through trains resumed a month later but the N&B gained an annual payment and compensation for the inconvenience caused. The situation improved in the 1890's as traffic improved and the passenger service consisted over five trains a day (six on Saturday) between Neath riverside and Colbren Junction. By 1913, the N&B was conveying over 1.2 million tons of coal.

In 1878, the renowned opera singer and celebrity Madame Adelina Patti purchased the Craig-y-nos estate in the valley below Penwyllt. The N&B rebuilt Penwyllt station in stone with a private waiting room for Madame Patti, and both the GWR and Midland provided saloons for her use, and special trains were laid on to allow her to attend singing engagements. In addition private stations existed at Penpont and Abercamlais in the Usk valley

The Neath & Brecon Railway was absorbed by the GWR as part of the Grouping on 24 July 1922, but it was not until the LMS withdrew its through Hereford-Swansea trains on 31 December 1930 that the GWR introduced Brecon to Neath trains. The northern section of the line was closed, along with all other lines to Brecon, in December 1962, although the section from Neath to Onllwyn remains open to serve the washery.

N&B Map

Important Dates

29th July 1862

Incorporated by Act of Parliament as the Dulais Valley Railway

13th July 1863

Obtained Act to change name to Neath & Brecon Railway

29th July 1864

Obtained Act to construct branch line from Devynock to Llangammarch Wells

2nd Sept 1864

Opened to traffic to Drim Colliery Onllwyn

1865

The first Fairlie's Patent double-ended locomotive runs on N&B

1866

Work on Llangammarch branch abandoned

8th June 1867

Opened to traffic Onllwyn to Brecon Mount Street

26th July 1869

Absorbed Swansea Vale & Neath & Brecon Railway (Colbren Jct to Ynysgeinon Jct)

1st March 1871

Brecon Free Street (Joint) Station opened

1874

N&B agree terms to use Brecon Free Street station

1st July 1877

Midland Railway operate all traffic north of Colbren Junction

20th June 1889

Midland railway withdraw through trains

22nd July 1889

Midland Railway trains resume following arbitration

1st July 1903

N&B take over coal traffic between Colbren and Ynysgeinion - purchases two 0-6-2Ts from Port Talbot Railway

1906 - 1908

Three 0-6-2Ts purchased - the last new locomotives the N&B acquired

24th July 1922

Absorbed by GWR

Dec 1930

GWR introduce Brecon to Neath trains after LMS withdraw Hereford - Swansea trains

Dec 1962

Craig-y-nos to Brecon closed

1970

Colbren to Craig-y-nos section used for filming "Young Winston" with GWR 1466 disguised as an armoured locomotive

1981

Onllwyn to Craig-y-nos closed



Selected Reading