Brecon Forest Tramway
This tramway ran 64km from the Swansea Canal to the Usk valley.
Period of construction:
1800 - 1849
Transport Trust plaque:
Brecknock Museum and Art Gallery, Captain's Walk, Brecon, Powys, LD3 7EB
This tramroad was the inspiration of an Englishman, John Christie, a London indigo merchant who had made a fortune in India. In 1819, he purchased a sizable chunk of what is now the Brecon Beacons National Park, put up for sale by the Crown to pay for the Napoleonic Wars. Christie's motives were overtly philanthropic - he hoped to make 'improvements of special benefit to the country at large', although behind this facade was no doubt an urge to establish himself as a local squire with a grand house and attendant manorial rights.
HisÂ aim was to move agricultural products, limestone and coal but he was handicapped from the start by the fact that the route climbed to a height of 426m (1,400ft). What Christie did not find anywhere near the line of the railway were the supplies of coal needed to burn the lime. He sat about rethinking the line, and abandoned three schemes before he hit upon the new, better idea of linking whole network with the busy port of Swansea via the Swansea canal. He bought sailing ships and canal boats, extended his line and went bankrupt in 1827. The railway had cost Â£40,000 to build, and was only worth Â£25,000 at his bankruptcy.
His estates and tramway were taken over by his creditors, who valiantly tried to make the scheme work by extending the line south to connect with ironworks. By 1837 it had been discovered that the local anthracite coal could be used in iron-smelting and there was a short-lived boom in anthracite ironworks, but, yet again, the tramway network was in the wrong place to do more than benefit mildly from the new demand. During the railway mania of the 1840s the system staggered on, depending on a mixture of local foundry trade, some iron and coal work and the occasional passenger traffic. Various new and wildly idealistic schemes, such as the Banwen railway, came to little, and the scheme petered out in the 1860s.
Its remains have largely disappeared, sometimes buried beneath the subsequent railway or the roads, but there is sufficient remaining to reward a careful search. (see below)
Books Llc., History of Brecknockshire: Brecon, Merthyr, Tredegar and Abergavenny Railway, Dafydd Gam, Brycheiniog, Brecon Forest Tramroad, Gwladys, ISBN-10: 1155359372 (2010)
Books Llc., History of Swansea: Swansea and Mumbles Railway, Llanelly Railway, Swansea Canal, Neath and Tennant Canal, Swansea Airport, ISBN-10: 1156496993 (2010)
Hughes, Stephen, The Brecon Forest Tramroads, RCAHM Wales, ISBN 1871184-05-3 (1990)
Jones, G, Dunstone, D, & Watkins,T. The Neath & Brecon Railway, Gomer,Â ISBN 1 84323 452 1 (2005)
Rattenbury, Gordon & Cook, Ray, The Hay & Kington Railways, RCHS, ISBN 0 901461 19 9 (1996)
What remains is visible at all times.
How To Find:
By Road: Starting at the northern end, at Devynock, there is a three storey farm house, which was the former warehouse, at the coordinates given above. it is a private dwelling. Turn off the A40 east of Sennybridge. the building is up a track on the left.
Cnewr was the site of the main depot. There are remains of a bridge over a stream, and the track ran along present carriage way and the later railway.
Penwyllt incline is at the end of a 2km. stretch of the A4067 road which was built on the track-bed.
Ynysgedwyn incline with a ruined engine house and cable tunnel at the top is a scheduled Ancient Monument.
These and many other remnants are best found using Hughes' book. (see above)
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