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Mine Exploration Forum

Author Penwyllt research
Peter Burgess

Joined: 01/07/2008
Location: Merstham. Or is it Godstone ...... ?

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Penwyllt research
Posted: 06/05/2009 17:49:48
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I spent a fantastic weekend walking the hills around Penwyllt at the head of the Swansea valley. I was collecting photos of evidence of the various industrial activities in the area, and ended up thinking quite a bit about the tramway that ran from the silica deposits at Pwll Byfre down to the firebrick works at Penwyllt. Having done a bit of research, I already knew that the original route up onto the hill was by a zig-zag line, later replaced by a narrow gauge cable and loco operated line, with an impressive incline. Much of this I already knew, but although the narrow gauge history is fairly well documented, I only have a few website claims for the zig-zags being standard gauge. As this zig-zag line went out of use as far as I can tell at the end of the 19th century, and the incline has been photographed well into the 20th, perhaps it is not surprising that the earlier line is poorly recorded.

Is there a chance that anyone reading this has seen some solid evidence that the earlier line was standard gauge? Or any other information concerning the history of this line or the later narrow gauge one, apart from the obvious stuff which you can find by Googling for Penwyllt and silica and tramway etc?

I also saw a lot of excellent remains of the Brecon Forest Tramroad, but that's another story!

Thanks


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ICLOK

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Joined: 19/02/2008
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Penwyllt research
Posted: 06/05/2009 18:53:25
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Strange that .... just starting to get into this area and adding various tramways... in touch with like minded bunch down there so will of course advise... would like to see some pics please... sounds good. Flowers

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davel

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Penwyllt research
Posted: 06/05/2009 19:11:47
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It might be worth contacting South Wales Caving Club [web link] who have their headquarters at Penwyllt. It could be that their secretary knows of SWCC members with an interest in the transport history of the area.

Dave
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Morlock

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Penwyllt research
Posted: 06/05/2009 20:48:40
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Not sure if you've seen this., may be worth wading through.Smile
http://www.jlb2005.plus.com/walespic/penwyllt/030705.htm
IP: 86.27.230.214 Edited: 06/05/2009 20:49:57 by Morlock
JR

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Penwyllt research
Posted: 06/05/2009 20:55:23
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It may be that this could be a matter where real archaeology could be useful. As long as the route of the zig zag tramway is known a relatively small trench across the trackbed should disclose the gauge used.
Who fancies a 'Time Team' type weekend?

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Morlock

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Penwyllt research
Posted: 06/05/2009 21:08:14
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Some info in this post indicates a standard gauge zig zag incline pre-dated the present route.

http://www.welshcoalmines.co.uk/forum/read.php?4,21075,21634

Edit: You may have to clear any digging with the Ogof Ffynnon Ddu nature people.

Edit: More info.
http://www.swcc.org.uk/aboutswcc/history/penwyllt_village/penwyllt_haulage.pdf
IP: 81.105.66.169 Edited: 06/05/2009 21:26:41 by Morlock
Morlock

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Penwyllt research
Posted: 06/05/2009 21:40:00
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Is the zig-zag path at the top what you're looking for?


(click image to open full size image in new window)
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Peter Burgess

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Location: Merstham. Or is it Godstone ...... ?

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Penwyllt research
Posted: 06/05/2009 23:37:00
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Thanks everyone. I have spent much time chatting to SWCC members over the weekend and I was allowed to look through the library. Yes, I am aware of the links posted but thanks anyway. I agree about it being fairly easy to check by digging, but permission would be needed. The line of the zig-zag is well-defined and is certainly wide enough to be standard gauge, except the last leg down to the Neath and Brecon Railway, which is a very narrow ledge, but I suppose it may have slipped and been eroded over the years. I think it is most likely it was 4ft 8 1/2in but just wondered if anyone had more information. As for photos, I have quite a few now! I'll put the better ones up sometime. It's an area that really deserves several days of exploring to really appreciate what is there on that side of the valley, never mind the lines laid all over Cribarth.

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grahami

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Joined: 29/01/2007
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Penwyllt research
Posted: 07/05/2009 09:17:25
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I know this is probably stating the obvious - but have you looked at the various 25" OS COunty series editions for the area in question ? A quick look at old-maps gives a 1st version of 1889. Examination of this edition should indicate clearly whether the tracks join the "main line" railway or remain separate. Actually joining on would suggest standard gauge to me. You should be able to find copies in the archive office for the area, unless you have access to a university with a subscription to the Landmark Information group (I believe most do, via Athens) in which case you can browse the maps directly.

Cheers and good hunting!

Grahami

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Peter Burgess

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Location: Merstham. Or is it Godstone ...... ?

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Penwyllt research
Posted: 07/05/2009 09:58:21
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I hade a look at old-maps and none of them showed the zig-zags, which surprised me. The later maps showed the incline route, but only in its original form, and not the later one (which was slightly different at the head of the incline). I am putting together a picture of how the line evolved and one or two of the documents mentioned so far are the key to this. In a short article I wrote in the 1990s I made the assumption that the zig-zags were narrow gauge, and that therefore they would not have joined the main line, but I never actually checked that this was so.

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RPJ

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Penwyllt research
Posted: 08/05/2009 14:36:18
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Stephen Hughes' "The Brecon Forest tramroads: the archaeology of an early railway system" (Aberystwyth, 1990) is a comprehensive study of the early to mid C19 horse drawn tramroads of this area and contains a good deal on later locomotive worked railways and later C19 to early C20 mineral tramways. Its packed full of maps. Might possibly still be in print (visit the Royal Commission on Ancient and Historical Monuments in Wales website - they published it) and is regularly available second hand from industrial and transport interest booksellers.

I seem to recall a good article on the early to mid C20 history of the locomotive worked quarry tramways of this area. Might have been in the Journal of the Industrial Railway Society. There may be a listing of the contents of back issues on their website. This scoiety publishes county-by-county listings of all known industrial locomotives that include outline historical details of the various industrial lines they worked on. Check their website for the West Glamorgan volume.
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Peter Burgess

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Location: Merstham. Or is it Godstone ...... ?

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Penwyllt research
Posted: 08/05/2009 15:05:06
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I have a copy of Hughes. It says little about post BFT infrastructure. Its an excellent field guide for the BFT.

I'll check the IRS website. Thanks.




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Peter Burgess

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Location: Merstham. Or is it Godstone ...... ?

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Penwyllt research
Posted: 08/05/2009 15:38:36
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From what I can gather, the NG incline route was initiated in around 1903, and the zig-zag route went out of use as a result. The NG route is pretty well documented, with some good illustrations and its route is well-defined. The older route is only referred to in passing by descriptions of the NG route, and no maps show it in use. If the zig-zag route was separate from the main line it would have had to squeeze through a narrow rock cutting under a bridge, still extant, and I can't see how there would have been enough room, so for this reason alone I strongly suspect the references to this line being SG are correct. As to when it was built, then I suppose it must have been after the OS first edition was published, assuming the surveyors were totally thorough, which I think was always the case (except they did sometimes misidentify features e.g. clay-pits which were actually sand-pits and so on).


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IP: 81.144.191.248 Edited: 08/05/2009 15:39:13 by Peter Burgess
Peter Burgess

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Penwyllt research
Posted: 08/06/2009 12:39:40
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Does anyone know of other installations of similar systems to the one described here:

[web link]

This endless rope system, with a division into two sections with a friction clutch connecting the two ran for several kilometres. Note the tall structure with sheave wheel in two of the images. I am assuming this was a tensioning device. Is anyone aware of similar installations elsewhere? The article refers to this concept being used in mines. Is it possible to tell from the photo of the winding engine how it was powered?



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Graigfawr

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Penwyllt research
Posted: 05/11/2009 00:17:04
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If the zig-zags under discussion were built after the first edition 1:2,500 / 1:10,560 maps were surveyed (around 1875 for this area, I think), and went out of use prior to 1903, then there are two potential map sources well worth checking:

The second edition 1:2,500 / 1:10,560 maps for this areas were surveyed around 1898, I think.

The 'revised new series' 1" map often depicts industrial tramways that fall between the frist and and seciond editions of the 1:2,500 / 1:10,560 maps. The original 'new series' 1" map is simply a redution in scale of the first edition 1:2,500 / 1:10,560 maps, but the revised edition shows the landscape of around 1894 in this area, I think.

Either of these might show the zig zag tramway in use. If they do not, then at least you will have further narrowed down the period of operation to between the dates of the relevant maps.
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Peter Burgess

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Location: Merstham. Or is it Godstone ...... ?

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Penwyllt research
Posted: 12/11/2018 20:55:49
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All these years later, I can add to this story, thanks to online newspaper archives.

South Wales Daily News 22nd August 1885

Penwyllt Mountain Railway

This railway, commenced about six weeks ago, is rapidly approaching completion under the management of Mr. Wm. Jones, contractor, of Neath. The total length is three miles, and only a few hundred yards of earthwork remain to be moved before the metals are laid down. The line is the private property of Messrs Kershaw and Pole Limited, 27, Leadenhall-street, E.C., well known in the South Wales district for their silica bricks. The railway will be worked by them in conjunction with the Midland Company, and will open up a new district for limestone, lime, and silica sand, invaluable for steel works. The construction is the most remarkable in the country for an ordinary 4 feet 8 1/2 inch railway, unlike any existing line, and has been visited by several engineers of note. The plan and sections have been jointly made by Mr. Jones, the contractor, and Mr. D.M. Davies, engineer, of Neath. A lot of needless opposition was raised by a commoner in Brecon against the promoters, which caused them to incur a great deal of unnecessary expense and trouble. Fortunately, the difficulties have all been overcome, and a large trade may be expected from Penwyllt through the opening of this branch.
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Morlock

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Penwyllt research
Posted: 13/11/2018 04:22:41
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Good sleuthing. A pity there's so little info about on this SG line. IP: 86.181.106.109
Phil Jenkins

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Penwyllt research
Posted: 13/11/2018 13:49:10
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My photos are here but I've got to add the maps of the railways and tramroads.
http://www.industrialgwent.co.uk/w-b13-powis/index.htm#penwylltrailway
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Phil Jenkins

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Posted: 13/11/2018 16:25:57
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This map shows the course of the zig-zag railway which can be followed on the ground reasonably easily
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