Among several railway items displayed at the Cynon Valley Museum is the metal British Railways (Western Region) sign from Abernant Station (not the sign pictured above).
Abernant Railway Station
The station was opened in November 1854 when the Vale of Neath line to Aberdare (1851) was extended from Gelli Tarw Junction (near Hirwaun) to Merthyr Tydfil.
The engineer of the line was I. K. Brunel who laid down a single broad gauge line; a third rail allowing mixed gauge was added later.
The stations on this branch were Llwydcoed – Abernant – Merthyr. Soon after leaving Abernant the line passed through a 2,497 yard long tunnel; the journey between Abernant and Merthyr took just 12 minutes; Abernant to Llwydcoed 7 minutes (based on departure times).
Another original feature of the line was a gigantic timber viaduct built at an elevation of 100 feet. This stood near Nixon’s Colliery; known as the Werfa viaduct, travellers were known to ‘hold the breath and become nervous’ on crossing. The viaduct was replaced with an embankment.
Some remains of the station remain, notably the platform. This can be seen opposite the Rhoswenallt Inn, Abernant.
The ‘most antiquated line’ of the GWR
Reaching the station from the town of Aberdare entailed either a long steep climb or hiring a cab. Although picturesque and convenient, for many years the station was unloved.
In October 1891 The Board of Health were concerned at its lack of facilities, recording that it did not think there was any place in England worse than Abernant station; it was a disgrace to any line of railway. The chairman (R. H. Rhys) noted that 300,000 passengers a year used it, and yet there was no accommodation there, or even the decencies of life.
Matters had not improved five years later and in June 1896, a local newspaper called it the most antiquated and ill-suited railway station under the control of the (then) Great Western Railway; a move was suggested to the Cardiff Exhibition of that year. Pressure was exerted and in 1897 the station was improved.
The 1951 photograph above is reminiscent of Edward Thomas’ I Remember Adlestrop (1917).
“The steam hissed. Someone cleared his throat.
No one left and no one came
On the bare platform. What I saw
Was Adlestrop—only the name”
The line was closed in December 1962 and there are proposals to re-open the tunnel to cyclists and pedestrians as a link between Aberdare and Merthyr.
Abernant takes its name from a stream, the Nant. This can be seen emerging from a culvert and joining the Cynon directly underneath the Aberdare railway station.
The ancient parish road connecting Aberdare and Merthyr was via Abernant. The road descended into Heolgerrig.
Abernant grew as a community when the Abernant Ironworks opened in 1801, depicted below.
The Rhos Wenallt Inn opened in 1881.
This line was probably frequently used by the Board’s Chairman, Rees Hopkin Rhys, whose public duties as a Magistrate, and Chairman of several Boards would have necessitated him travelling to Merthyr.
Aberdare and Merthyr were once closely connected for administrative purposes e.g., they formed a joint parliamentary constituency and a poor law union.
Geoffrey Evans, Cynon Valley Museum Volunteer, May 2020.
Images copyright RCT Libraries Service unless otherwise stated. The RCT Library Service is searchable via this link.
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