The Barry Railway

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Steam-coal exports from the Rhondda grew enormously from the 1850s onwards, shipment taxing the port of Cardiff severely. The Bute trustees enlarged their docks somewhat, but the coalowners began to consider Swansea and other ports.

A group of them, headed by David Davies, were granted powers to build a dock at Barry, south-east of Cardiff, with a railway in 1883. The Taff Vale & Rhymney Railways succeeded in opposing the Bill, but another succeeded in 1884, authorising a 19 mile line from Trehafod (north of Pontypridd), where it would meet the TVR, and three short branches. Heavy works included two long tunnels. It was opened in February 1998; the port five months later, with a 73 acre dock, followed by another 37 acres in 1898.

The company was essentially a dock and railway one, whereas all its rivals served docks they did not control. The railway scarcely entered the coalfield itself; traffic consigned to Barry was brought onto it by other railways: at Trehafod; at Peterston and Bridgend, where it connected with the Great Western (1900); and through a link with the Brecon & Merthyr Railway outside Caerphilly (1905).

The port immediately succeeded. In 1890-2 nearly one third as much coal passed through it as through Cardiff. By 1914 it was handling more than Cardiff and Penarth put together. Barry grew from a tiny village into a substantial town

Dividends were impressive: 9-10% in 1894-1920 but they were partly earned by under maintenance, revealed in confidential reports by experts (1906, 1909) showing, for example, that up to one third of the locomotives were out of service at a time, awaiting repairs. The locomotive engineer, H.F.Goulding, left in 1909. John Conacher became managing director in 1910, securing some improvement before he died in 1911. The company became a constituent on the GWR in 1922.

Follow link to see map of the Barry Dock complex.

Another major line that was promoted by the Barry Railway was the building of the Vale Of Glamorgan Railway between Bridgend & Barry. It was the brainchild of coalowners in the Bridgend Valleys, who wanted better exporting facilities for the output of their mines. The nearest port, Porthcawl, was totally inadequate, so they proposed a line to link Bridgend with the booming port of Barry. The Barry Railway Company itself was wary of the approach of a rival on its western side & so came to terms with the promoters of the Vale Of Glamorgan, whereby the Barry agreed to work the line for 60% of its gross receipts. The new railway was incorporated by an Act of 26th August 1889. However, the company had great difficulty in raising capital, & by a Barry Railway Company Act of 1893, the Barry undertook to guarantee shareholders in the Vale Of Glamorgan a 4% dividend out of its own receipts. From this date the Vale Of Glamorgan was completely a subsidiary of the Barry Company, who nominated four if its directors. Nevertheless, the two Companies remained technically independent of each other until both became part of the GWR in the grouping of 1921.

The line ran for 20 miles from Coity Junction on the GWR Bridgend - Tondu line to a junction with the Barry Railway just west of Barry Town Station. There was just one short spur from Cowbridge Road Junction to Bridgend GWR Station, a distance of 33 chains. Gradients were quite steep, including sections of 1 in 85 against loaded coal trains. There were two short tunnels & the major engineering feature was Porthkerry Viaduct.

Opened on 1st January 1898, part of Porthkerry Viaduct collapsed. Luckily no trains were involved & no-one was hurt. On April 25th a diversionary line was opened bypassing the viaduct & involving very steep gradients. This line closed on 7th April 1900, when the viaduct was re-opened.

There were five stations on the line, at Southerndown Road, Llantwit Major, Gileston, Aberthaw & Rhoose. Halts were later added at Llandow (Wick Road) & St.Athan, both to serve the RAF camps. Passenger services were withdrawn on 15th June 1964 & on the same day the section from Cowbridge Road Junction to Coity also closed. (A short section to Coity Goods Yard remained in use until 1977).

Today, the line remains in use as a double track diversionary route for the South Wales Main Line. The eastern half, from Aberthaw to Barry, sees heavy use by MGR coal trains to Aberthaw Power Station. The western half sees much less use with a few oil trains to Aberthaw & a daily train to the Ford Factory at Bridgend. There are also great prospects for the modern day Vale Of Glamorgan Railway based at Barry Island Station with a link up & possible running powers to the original Vale line.

(D.J.Morgan - The main source for the above details on the Vale Of Glamorgan Railway has been "The Barry Railway" by D.S.Barrie, published by Oakwood Press.)