Ancient Monuments

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Vale of Neath railway cutting and tunnel portal

A Scheduled Monument in Troed-y-rhiw, Merthyr Tydfil (Merthyr Tudful)

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Latitude: 51.7285 / 51°43'42"N

Longitude: -3.3853 / 3°23'7"W

OS Eastings: 304420

OS Northings: 204220

OS Grid: SO044042

Mapcode National: GBR HN.2963

Mapcode Global: VH6CY.8TP8

Entry Name: Vale of Neath railway cutting and tunnel portal

Scheduled Date: 13 July 2017

Source: Cadw

Source ID: 4337

Cadw Legacy ID: GM606

County: Merthyr Tydfil (Merthyr Tudful)

Community: Troed-y-rhiw

Built-Up Area: Merthyr Tydfil

Traditional County: Glamorgan


The monument comprises the remains of the Vale of Neath Railway Cutting and Tunnel Entrance, an important element of the nineteenth century Vale of Neath Railway, situated at Waunwyllt. The sides of the cutting are shelving and cut directly into the bedrock. The original single broad gauge track has been removed and the surviving trackbed just has the remains of the ballast present. The cutting runs SW for 140m from immediately west of the stone and iron over-bridge carrying the track to Waunwyllt to the eastern tunnel portal. This is made of coursed rough-faced Pennant sandstone. The entrance arch is framed by raking buttresses and the elliptical arch is made of 6 courses of yellow engineering brick. There is a broad stone band running above the arch and a heavy stone coping to the parapet. The Vale of Neath Railway, incorporated in 1846, was designed to connect Merthyr Tydfil and the heads of the western South Wales Valleys with the sea at Neath, and later to a purpose built dock at Briton Ferry. The engineer appointed was Isambard Kingdom Brunel who had first surveyed a route in 1835. The railway reached Aberdare in 1851, where work had started on the Merthyr Tunnel running for 2,495 yards under Aberdare Mountain. Construction proved very problematic and it took over 6 years and ruined two contractors before being completed by direct labour under the control of William Ritson. When finished in 1853 it was the longest railway tunnel in Wales, and it remains an unaltered example of a Brunel design.

The monument is of national importance for its potential to enhance and illustrate our knowledge and understanding of the development of the transport network in South East Wales in the nineteenth century. The cutting and tunnel are unaltered since their completion and represent one of the best examples of the work of Isambard Kingdom Brunel to survive in Wales. The portal and cutting are superb examples of Victorian engineering. The cutting, track bed and tunnel portal may be expected to contain archaeological information in regard to construction techniques and functional detail.

The scheduled area comprises the remains described and an area around it within which related evidence may be expected to survive. It is irregular in shape on plan and measures 166m from NE to SW by up to 38m transversely. The bridge abutment and associated embankment retaining walls are excluded from the scheduling.

Source: Cadw

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