Post-coal Welsh valleys
© Geoff’s Rail Diaries 2016
Geoff’s Rail Diaries
28 September 2016
The GWR had a rather interesting-looking outside framed
freight locomotive known as an “Aberdare”... No steam now,
sadly, and practically no coal either.
We’re away for the day on an old fogeys’ outing - yes, it’s “Club
55” season. Where shall we go? Neither of us had been to
Aberdare by rail, so we’re leaving Shrewsbury on the 9.14 train
to Cardiff, where we’ve 25 minutes or so to wait for the 11.41 to
the Cynon valley. It’s a class 143, but there don’t seem to be any
rail joints in this part of the world, so it’s not a bad ride.
I’d say it was a scenic ride, too - this is post-coal south Wales.
The pits are long-gone, and in their place the greenery has
thrived - no bad thing, perhaps, though an awful lot of it is
either Japanese knotweed or Himalayan balsam (and silver birch,
buddleia and rhododendron...). The lineside is well overgrown
too - on this drizzly day, it’s like a train ride through the rain
forest! We’d both been to Mountain Ash in colliery steam days,
and it would be interesting to see what we could see of the
former NCB system. (Nothing at all! See “greenery”, above).
Trains run to Aberdare more-or-less every half-hour, but there
are a couple of missing services - to provide paths for trains to
and from the opencast coal workings on the site of the former
Tower colliery at Hirwaun. One such gap would follow our arrival
at Aberdare: we could either go back on the same train, or wait
and see what materialised. What materialised was Railfreight
66509 on empties. I didn’t expect to see a coal train in the
Welsh valleys again. We’d passed a loaded train too, on our way
There was still time to walk down into the town, where we could
buy lunch, including some rather good freshly baked (still
warm!) Welsh cakes in the market hall.
We’d already planned to ride back to Shrewsbury on the “WAG”
train, so we’d need some further activity to fill the time before
its departure (17.16). How about a trip down to Penarth, for a
breath of sea air?
We caught an earlier train than expected at Central, so despite a
walk down to the far end of Penarth pier, were were back in
Cardiff just in time for the 16.21 to Chester. Shall we cut our
losses, on this mild but damper-than-expected day? It was a
class 150. Perhaps not! We’ll have a coffee, sit on a bench and
watch the world go by, before riding home in comfort. The WAG*
is well filled, but we find seats and enjoy our loco-hauled run up
the marches. It’s non-stop from Hereford - very pleasant!
*WAG: daily loco-hauled service from Holyhead to Cardiff and back, with some
“Business (=first) Class” accommodation and dining facilities, financially
supported by the Welsh Assembly Government.