Wye Valley Railway Closure – 60 years

The website has been updated.

Since I decided that spending the 28th of every month hurriedly writing a Seasonal Area page (before the month ended and I had to skip one) was getting silly, the website being updated has been an unusual event of much status and importance. This one has been driven by an Event – specifically 60 years since the Wye Valley Railway (and neighbouring Ross & Monmouth Railway) was officially closed to passenger traffic.

For the 50th anniversary I did a Walk, so I’ve done another one for the 60th and this has found its way online – Page 65.

This represents the latest addition to the general WVR feature which dominates my web presence. Inevitably this new page includes several Brexit references, but it also does a little tour of a long-abandoned trackbed and looks at what has happened to it. This is not much, and so long as its re-opening remains unfunded let us hope it stays that way.

The webpage mostly focuses on “big ticket” items and a few general pictures, but there are of course other things to look out for – the old lineside fences mostly survive, various retaining walls still make their presence felt, the concrete post for the southbound distant signal for St Briavels station still stands high above the trackbed and the WVR’s culverts continue to survive the tests of time. So does some three miles of track, retained into the 1980s to serve a pair of quarries at the south end of the route:

tidenham loops 3 jpg The former “end of line” indication also survives in this view of the north end of the loop for the larger and more southerly quarry – it’s the moss-covered sleeper lying next to the rails at bottom right. When the line was in use up to this point, the sleeper was tied to the rails to warn drivers against taking their locos any further. The fact that the overbridge from which this picture was taken is shored up by a series of supports, completely blocking the line, probably provided a harsher disincentive.

Tintern Bridge 11 JPG.jpg Some trains do occasionally still run on the old route – there’s a miniature railway at Tintern station, with turntables at each end. One sits outside the signal box; the other, filled with fallen leaves, is on the northern abutment of the long-demolished bridge over the Wye. The southern abutment and a telegraph pole can be made out in the distance. The WVR built a separate bridge over the Wye, nearer to the famous Abbey, for a branch line to Tintern Wireworks; this was nationalised at the start of the 20th Century (by the Commissioners of Woods and Forests) and, after several renovations at the public expense, still stands today. 

Tintern Old station 13 JPG.jpg Tintern station weighbridge and the stationmaster’s house. The house was built by the GWR many years after they bought out the line; the WVR management were never sufficiently flush with cash to build houses for their staff, though they did suggest that the stationmaster could build one himself if he felt in need of it.

Culvert G JPG.jpg A culvert, between St Briavels and Whitebrook. The WVR built a lot of culverts. They lack ostentation in their design, but they are striking in their size. Note the rail-built fencepost.

Hut near Bigsweir 1 JPG.jpg A former permanent way hut. These had no residual value so the demolition contractor left them be. There are still a couple left; one between Llandogo and St Briavels, and this one between St Briavels and Whitebrook. The other is in rather better condition.

Hut near Llandogo 1 JPG.jpg And this, rather out of sequence and across a field (from the public right of way) is the other – just north of the former Llandogo Halt, and apparently being looked after.

St Briavels Distant 1 JPG.jpg This is a signal post – obviously someone has nicked the signal arm. The GWR did a nice line in concrete signal posts, but there are not many of them left. This one is suffering from concrete rot. Being a lump of reinforced concrete – and an awkwardly-shaped one at that – it has no reuse value so has been left by the lineside.

Redbrook Hut 1 JPG.jpg A stone hut at Redbrook, as referenced on the webpage. One wonders why whoever installed the wooden post through its roof didn’t just knock the building down while they were there. The walling is more rubbly than usual for WVR buildings; it was presumably once a WVR building, though the land it stands on was sold in 1911.

Monmouth Viaduct 9 JPG.jpg The great (but sadly little-noted) engineer Joseph Firbank built both railway bridges across the Wye at Monmouth, but in rather different styles. Here we see the one built for the Ross & Monmouth from beneath an arch of that built for the Coleford, Monmouth, Usk & Pontypool Railway. No CMU&PR passenger train ever used this handsome viaduct, which remained a long (and expensive) siding until the WVR had it brought into passenger use in 1876.

For more information on the WVR, see the Order of the Bed’s website on the line’s history and the importance of re-opening it.