Industrial Wales - Monmouthshire's Clydach Gorge
The Clydach Railroad
From Beaufort to Brynmawr, Gilwern and Glangwryney
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The Industrial Archaeology and History of the Clydach Gorge

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The Clydach Railroad

Quick links to :-     Beaufort to Brynmawr     Brynmawr to Black Rock     Black Rock to Gilwern
    Gilwern to Glangrwyney

The 3'8" gauge Clydach Railroad dates from 1793 by Thomas Dadford as a horse-drawn edge railroad linking Beaufort with the canal at Gilwern. Most of the Beaufort and Brymawr route was closed by 1833 and the rest was little used by 1865. Short sections may still have been used into the early 20th century. It ran from a junction with the Rassau Railroad at Rhyd-y-Blew, Carmeltown through Beaufort and Brynmawr. It then followed the Northern side of the Clydach Gorge to a wharf at Gilwern. For the first few years it ran on from Gilwern to Glangrwyney Forge. This plan shows the 'Brecknock and Abergavenny Railroad' from Rhyd-y-Blew to Glangrwyney is dated 1795.

Beaufort to Brynmawr



The Clydach Railroad ran along Warwick Road and Alma Street through Brynmawr to cross Pont Clydach and enter the Clydach Gorge

Brynmawr to Black Rock

Quick links to :-     Beaufort to Brynmawr     Brynmawr to Black Rock     Black Rock to Gilwern
    Gilwern to Glangrwyney

The Clydach Railroad from Pont Clydach to Black Rock

The Clydach Railroad starts its journey down the Clydach Gorge but very little is left following the building and dualling of the A465. Heavy engineering is still in progress in 2020 so I've no idea how little has survived. A short branch went South to the Brecon Boat Co's levels and then a longer branch crossed the river at Pont Harry Isaac and went up to Gellifelen Collieries. The Llammarch Tramroad took most of this traffic so the branch was little used. Another short spur entered Black Rock Quarry passing under the original Turnpike Road. The quarries at Darren Ddu were served by an incline running up from the lime works.

Pont Clydach - SO 1960 1214

The original Pont Clydach is under the Heads of the Valley road roundabout at the entrance to Brynmawr. It carried both the Turnpike and the Railroad until the A465 arrived and I believe it has survived the dualling of the road. Old pre-1880 levels just below the bridge were uncovered during the roadworks, originally just nicks in the banking, like the Hafod Arch example.

Coal Tar Houses and the Brecon Boat Co levels - SO 1999 1217

The Brecon Boat Co levels (occasionally known as Clydach Colliery) were served by a short spur off the Railroad and later a siding off the MTAR with Coal Tar Houses next to them.

Coal Tar Cave

Gwent Caving Club explored Coal Tar Cave in the Summer of 2019. It is a man-made cave to divert the River Clydach away from the coal workings of the Brecon Boat Co, which are above it.

Hafod Arch - SO 2021 1226

The Hafod Arch was rebuilt in 2011 after becoming dangerously unstable. The setting was rather spoilt by the Brynmawr sewerage pipeline running above it but thats been demoished now.

Cwm Nant Gam and The George Inn - SO 2086 1224

The Gelli-felen branch of the Clydach Railroad crossed Pont Harry Isaac and came up through Cwm Nant Gam, where the George Inn stood up to the 1920s. All that remains of it now are the cellars. The branch ended up at Gellifelen Collieries, which were better served by the Llammarch Tramroad on that side of the gorge.

Gardeners Cottage - SO 2110 1245

The well-known photo of the Clydach Railroad at Gardeners Cottage was taken by 'Judges' for a commercial picture postcard, probably around 1910. It shows the railroad with conventional rails but it was probably little used by then. The 'Judges' photographer also took another photo looking West. The whole area now lies under the A465 dual carriageway.

Black Rock Quarry - SO 2135 1255

Opened by 1811 and closed after 1944. It was linked to the Clydach Railroad by a steep branch crossing the turnpike road on the level and then a tunnel underneath it.

Black Rock Limeworks and Daren Ddu Quarry - SO 2184 1275

Opened in the 1790s, the current kilns date from the end of the 19th century and were connected to the Clydach Railroad by a short incline. A much longer incline leads up to Daren Ddu quarries.

Craig-y-Ffynnon cave at Daren Ddu Quarry

There's a cave (not a mine, a cave) up on Daren Ddu, all safely locked up, but if you're an experienced caver and you know the man with the key, then you're in. And you're in for a surprise! Inside there's a short length of tramway and a couple of wagons that were used for securing the entrance. Thanks to Jamie Larke of the Gwent Caving Club for sharing this little gem.

Black Rock to Gilwern

Quick links to :-     Beaufort to Brynmawr     Brynmawr to Black Rock     Black Rock to Gilwern
    Gilwern to Glangrwyney

The Clydach Railroad from Cheltenham to Gilwern

The Clydach Railroad approaches the Abergavenny - Merthyr Turnpike level crossing at Cheltenham from the West, the cellars of the three-storey houses could have been warehouses. The collection of tinplate signs includes an 'Abergavenny - Monmouth Road' station sign at the top - and as for 'Ringer's Shag', the less said, the better. The cast-iron sign is headed 'Roads Act 1920, Section 7 (4)' and the footer lists the exceptions. It continues its journey past the Bellevue Inn, through Maes-y-Gwarthfa, to Gilwern and the Llanelly and Clydach Wharves on the Brecon and Abergavenny Canal.

Branch from Clydach Ironworks

It is quite probable that there was a branch from Clydach Ironworks up to the Clydach Railroad.

Incline above Maesygwartha - SO 2346 1433

There appears to be a well-built incline at this location which local opinion states was built as a carriage road from the Rectory in Maesygwartha to Llanelly Church on the hill above. It's very well constructed and a less steep route would seem to have been a better idea, given the effort involved.

Llanelly Wharf - SO 2424 1469

The main line of the Railroad continued along Maes-y-gwartha Road from Machine House to Llanelly Wharf and limekilns. These are heavily overgrown but can be viewed from the towpath, (preferrably in Winter).

Gilwern to Glangrwney Forge

Quick links to :-     Beaufort to Brynmawr     Brynmawr to Black Rock     Black Rock to Gilwern
    Gilwern to Glangrwyney

The Clydach Railroad from Gilwern to Glangrwney Forge

The Clydach Railroad branch to Glangrwney Forge left the main line at 'Machine House' at SO 2416 1439 and cross the Llammarch Tramroad just before the dock. After passing through a substantial stone tunnel under the canal at SO 2440 1450 the route travelled behind and above Dan-y-bont Mill, over the Crickhowell Road at the 'Corn Exchange' Inn and on to Glangrwyney Forge at SO 2395 1610.

Dan-y-bont Lane level crossing

The railroad crossed Dan-y-bont Lane, passing through what are now the gardens of the cottages either side. The owner of one has dug up a rail from the railroad and has supplied these photos.

Crickhowell Road level crossing

On to Glangrwyney

Acknowledgments, sources and further reading.

'Early Limestone Railways' by John van Laun, Geoff Palfrey

A Guide to the Website

All rights reserved - Phil Jenkins