Post-coal Welsh valleys
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© 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 up. 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.
66060 - eastbound steel slab Aberdare Arriva arrival Aberdare: chapel country The old High Level station 66509: empties for Tower Coal train at Aberdare On up the line 150 for the trip back to Cardiff Penarth: we've arrived! Penarth - we're about to leave