Taff Vale Railway

Taff Vale Railway

The Taff Vale Railway (TVR) is a railway in Glamorgan, South Wales, and is one of the oldest in Wales.


On February 10, 1804, a young engineer, Richard Trevithick, drove the world's first ever steam locomotive along a track at the Penydarren ironworks, near Merthyr Tydfil. Ten tons of iron and 70 persons were transported nine miles. [Davies 1815, p. 398] The track, which was built as a tramway to carry iron ore in horse-drawn carriages from Penydarren and Dowlais to the Glamorganshire Canal basin at Abercynon, proved too weak to carry his heavy loco, but this isolated experiment would foreshadow the creation of the Taff Vale Railway 32 years later.

In 1835 Anthony Hill, owner of the Plymouth Iron Works, asked his friend Isambard Kingdom Brunel, to estimate the cost of building a railway from Merthyr to Cardiff and to Bute Docks. Brunel's estimate was £190,649. Local industrialists held a meeting, chaired by John Josiah Guest, at the Castle Inn in Merthyr, to discuss the issue, and decided to request Parliamentary permission to form a company to build the railway.

Act of Parliament

On 21 June 1836, Royal Assent was given to The Taff Vale Railway Company's Act, allowing for the creation of the Taff Vale Railway Company. The founding capital of the Company was fixed at £300,000, in £100 share units. The directors were Josiah Guest (who became its first chairman), Walter Coffin, Edward Lee, Thomas Guest, Thomas Guppy, Thomas Powell, Christopher James, Thomas Carlisle, Henry Rudhall, William Wait, William Watson, and Peter Maze. Company profits were capped at 7% originally, with a clause allowing for an increase to 9% subject to a reduction in the rates and tolls charged for use of the line. The Act also capped the speed of the trains on the line to 12 mph (19 km/h), with stiff penalties for any speeding.


Construction of the railway was started in 1836, and the stretch from Cardiff to Navigation House (later named Abercynon) was opened in a formal ceremony on October 9 1840, with public services starting the next day. The stretch from Abercynon to Merthyr was opened on April 12 1841. The railway was single-line for its entire length, with passing only possible at or near the stations. It was not until 1857 that it became a double line. Brunel, the chief engineer, had chosen a narrower gauge (4 feet 8.5 inches or 1.435 m) than the 7 foot (2.134 m) gauge he would later choose for his Great Western Railway in order to fit the railway into the narrow, curvy space allowed to him by the River Taff valley.

Construction of the main line was relatively straightforward. The line mostly followed the course of the valley, and therefore needed few bridges and no tunnels. Brunel designed an impressive skew stone arch viaduct at Pontypridd, which spanned 110 feet (34 m) over the River Rhondda; the viaduct is still in use today, although it has been supplemented by a second, parallel viaduct. A similar viaduct exists at Quakers Yard.

The main line of the TVR was convert|24|mi long. However, no fewer than 23 branch lines took the full length of track to convert|124|mi|42|chain|km|lk=in. Many of those branch lines were smaller lines taken over by the TVR. (see below)

In 1841, two branch lines were opened. The TVR entered the Rhondda with a convert|4|mi|38|chain|km|adj=on route from Pontypridd to Dinas, and the convert|3|mi|29|chain|km|adj=on Llancaiach branch was opened from Stormstown Junction (north of Pontypridd) to Llancaiach Colliery.

In 1849, the Rhondda branch was extended into Rhondda Fach, with a short line from Porth to Ynyshir. This was extended to Ferndale in 1856, and finally to Maerdy. The Rhondda Fawr line was extended from Dinas to Treherbert, also in 1856.

The TVR proved its worth immediately. At its peak, two trains a minute passed through the busiest station, Pontypridd. By 1850, the TVR was carrying convert|600000|LT|t|lk=in of coal per annum, and was paying a 6% dividend.

As the first steam railway in the area, the TVR was the obvious main target for nearly all of the companies that followed. For example, a monopoly on traffic from the Rhondda meant the TVR was able to charge more than in valleys where it faced competition. This led to Rhondda mine owners creating the Barry Railway.

Passenger Services

The line was conceived as a goods line, carrying iron and coal. However, it also ran passenger services from the beginning. There were two passenger trains each way daily, including Sundays. This was extended to three weekday services in 1844. Single fares from Cardiff to Merthyr were 5 shillings for first class, 4s for second class, and 3s for third, and were each reduced by a shilling in 1845.

Passenger services to Treherbert began on January 7 1863; to Ferndale in 1863; and to Maerdy in 1889.

ummary of the TVR system

Main line

The main stations on the TVR main line were:

* Cardiff Dock (later Bute Road), opened 8th October 1840
* Cardiff Queen Street, opened 8th October 1840
* Llandaff, opened 8th October 1840
* Pentyrch (now Radyr)
* Taffs Well
* Trefforest, opened 1847
* Pontypridd, opened 8th October 1840. At a third of mile (500 m) long, Pontypridd had at one time the longest platform of any railway station in the country. It was known as Newbridge Station from 1840 to 1891.
* Navigation House (later Abercynon), opened 1st December 1896
* Quakers Yard (opened 1858)
* Merthyr Vale (opened June 1 1883)
* Pentre-bach (opened August 1 1886)
* Merthyr Tydfil Plymouth Street Station

Branch lines

Some branch lines include:

* The Rhondda branch line from Pontypridd to Pandy was opened in June 1841. The line was extended to Treherbert in 1856
* The Rhondda Fach line from Porth to Ynyshir was opened in 1849. It was extended to Ferndale in 1856, closed 1964 passengers, 1986 coal.
* The Roath line to Cardiff Docks was opened in 1887, only to freight. Closed 1968

Railways amalgamated with TVR

"August 26 1889"
*Cowbridge Railway, (Aberthaw - Llantrisant) opened 1865
*Dare Valley Railway opened 1866
*Llantrisant and Taff Vale Junction Railway, opened 1863. This connected the main Great Western Railway line at Pontyclun with the main TVR line near Trefforest, via Cross Inn, Beddau, Llantwit Fardre and Tonteg. It included a number of branch lines, including the Waterhall Branch [http://members.lycos.co.uk/cardiffrail/TVR-Waterhall-Branch.html] , which was primarily a goods line (opened 1886) that left the LTV near Llantrisant and ran in a south-east direction to the main TVR line at Cardiff (via Creigiau and Pentrebane)
* Rhondda Valley and Hirwain Junction Railway opened 1878
*Treferig Valley Railway opened 1883
*Cardiff, Penarth and Barry Junction Railway opened 1887"January 1 1895"
*Cowbridge and Aberthaw Railway opened 1892"July 1 1902"Aberdare Railway opened 1846

TVR leased two railways:
*Penarth Harbour, Dock and Railway opened 1865
*Penarth Extension Railway opened 1878

It also had ‘running powers’ over several other companies’ lines, including the Barry Railway, Great Western Railway and the Rhymney Railway.

"Information in this section from The Railway Year Book for 1912 (Railway Publishing Co Ltd)".


Tom Hurry Riches was the Locomotive Superintendent of the Taff Vale Railway from 1873-1910 [ [http://www.steamindex.com/people/riches.htm Tom Hurry Riches ] ] . He was President of the Institution of Mechanical Engineers from 1907-1908 and was the father of C. T. Hurry Riches who was Locomotive Superintendent of the Rhymney Railway from January 1906.

* Taff Vale Railway A class
* Taff Vale Railway O4 class
* Taff Vale Railway U1 class


:"See: Taff Vale Case"

In 1901 the Taff Vale Railway Company successfully sued the Amalgamated Society of Railway Servants, a trades union, for damages due to losses accrued during a strike by their members (who were seeking to compel the company to recognise the union). The Company was awarded £23,000 in a landmark decision, shattering the belief that unions were immune to damages due to the actions of their members. It led, following the election of the Liberal Party in the general election of 1906, to the Trade Disputes Act 1906, guaranteeing union immunity from damages.

Later history

The TVR became a part of Great Western Railway in 1923, and part of British Rail following the nationalisation of the UK railways in 1948.

The sections still in use for passenger traffic - to Treherbert, Aberdare, Merthyr Tydfil and Cardiff Bay - are currently run by Arriva Trains Wales, formerly (under a previous franchise) Valley Lines.

**A selection of original Taff vale coaches have survived into the present day and are preserved at the Gwili Steam railway in west Wales and are in the care of the Gwili Vintage Carriage group [http://www.gvcg.co.uk] .

ee also

*Rail transport in the United Kingdom



* John Hutton, "Taff Vale Railway Miscellany", Oxford Publishing Company, ISBN 0-86093-414-4
* D.S.M Barrie"The Taff Vale Railway", The Oakwood Press. (http://www.trackbed.com/companies/t/tvr/dsmbarrie/tvr_dsmbarrie.htm)
* John Hutton, "The Taff Vale Railway", Silver Link, 2006.
* Walter Davies, "General View of the Agriculture and Domestic Economy of South Wales", 1815, [http://books.google.com/books?id=dBMAAAAAQAAJ Google Books]

External links

* [http://www.gwr.org.uk/notvr1.html The Taff Vale Pages]

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