The Railways of Monmouth
Archive article by J J Davis, Railway Magazine, February 1959
Monmouth Troy station, looking west in this 1922 view. The line progresses through the short tunnel to Pontypool. (Pic: R S Carpenter)
The County Town of Monmouth is served by two stations.
The smaller, May Hill, is about a quarter of a mile east of the town, on the east bank of the River Wye. The other, Troy, is about three quarters of a mile away, on the south side of the town, across the River Monnow.
It takes its unusual name from the neighbouring Troy House, and the River Trothy.
Both stations are on the cross-country line from Pontypool Road to Ross-on Wye.
Troy is approached from the west through a short tunnel, over which passes the main road to Cardiff and Fishguard ; at its eastern end, the Wye Valley line to Chepstow diverges.
Both routes are single track, and May Hill Station has only one platform, but crossing facilities are provided at Troy.
The history of the railways converging on Monmouth is of considerable antiquity and great interest.
The first line to reach the town was built by the Monmouth Railway under an Act of May, 24, 1810, which authorised the construction of a railway or tramroad from Howler Slade, in the Forest of Dean, through Coleford, Newland, and Redbrook, to May Hill, near Monmouth.
This undertaking must not be confused with the Monmouthshire Railway & Canal Company, which obtained powers as early as 1792, to link the ironworks at Sirhowy and Blaenavon with Pontypool and Newport by means of canals and tramways.
The Monmouth Railway Act mentions the conveyance of passengers, and is among the first to do so.
The line was completed in 1816 or 1817, to a terminus at May Hill, on the bank of the Wye near the site of the present station. A branch was constructed in the Redbrook area.
The next railway to reach Monmouth was the Coleford, Monmouth, Usk & Pontypool Railway, which was authorised under an Act of August 20, 1853, from a junction with the Newport, Abergavenny & Hereford Railway, near Pontypool, to Coleford, with a branch to serve the gas works at Monmouth.
This company also was empowered to buy the Monmouth Railway.
The route was from Little Mill junction, some two miles north of Pontypool Road Station, to the Monmouth Railway at Wyesham near Monmouth.
The four miles from Little Mill Junction to Usk were opened on June 2, 1856, and the 12 miles thence to Monmouth (Troy) followed on October 12, 1857.
Until the opening to Monmouth the line was worked by the Newport, Abergavenny & Hereford Railway, but from that date the owning company worked its line with engines hired from the N.A.H.R.
On July 1, 1860, the N.A.H.R. became part of the West Midland Railway and the Coleford Monmouth Usk, & Pontypool Railway was leased by the West Midland twelve months later.
Amalgamation between the West Midland and the Great Western Railways followed on August 1, 1863.
The G.W.R. absorbed the Coleford, Monmouth Usk & Pontypool in 1887.
The line from Monmouth to Ross-on Wye was built by the Ross & Monmouth Railway under an Act of July 5, 1865 and opened on August 4, 1873.
It was worked by the GWR from the outset, although the local company maintained its nominal independence until 1922.
This line terminated at May Hill Station, and it was not until May 1, 1874, that the G.W.R. opened the ¾ mile extension to
An Act of July 18, 1872 authorised the construction of the Coleford Railway from Wyesham to Coleford.
These powers were not exercised, and the Coleford branch was built largely over the course of the Monmouth Railway, under an Act of 1875.
As the Wye Valley Railway (authorised on August 10, 1866), was opened from Chepstow to Monmouth on November 1, 1876, the Coleford branch actually ran from Wyesham Junction to Coleford, a distance of 5¼ miles.
It was opened on September 1, 1883, and worked by the G.W.R. which absorbed the local company during the next Year.
There was one intermediate station, at Newland, and at Coleford there was a complicated connection with the Severn & Wye Railway.
The railway passed through picturesque scenery, and was steeply graded.
The train service was infrequent, and the line was closed to passenger traffic, as a wartime economy measure, on December 31, 1916.
Shortly afterwards, the rails were removed, except for one mile of track between Whitecliff and Coleford, which is still open for some stone ballast traffic. The Wye Valley Railway remained nominally independent until 1905.
From the junction at the cast end of Monmouth (Troy) Station, the Wye Valley line crosses the river on a singlespan steel bridge approached on masonry arches, and reaches Wyesham Halt.
The site of Wyesham Junction is passed, and the derelict course of the line to Coleford is seen rising up the side of the valley until it passes out of sight among the trees.
Redbrook Station is situated beyond the confluence of the Trothy and the Wye, and the line then crosses the river to Penallt which is served by a halt, and follows the right-hand bank for some six miles to Tintern passing on the way Whitebrook Halt, St. Briavels, Llandogo Halt, and Brockweir Halt.
On leaving Tintern, the train re-crosses the Wye on a substantial bridge and enters a tunnel, beyond which the ruins of Tintern Abbey are seen.
At the southern entrance to the tunnel is the site of Wireworks Junction, from which a tramway formerly ran across a bridge to the Abbey Wireworks.
The wire trade at Tintern apparently was in existence in the sixteenth century, and only ceased about fifty years ago.
An early tramway was laid from the wireworks in the neighbouring Angidy Valley as far as the Wye, and in 1875 the Wye Valley Railway Amendment Act authorised a standard gauge tramway to supersede it.
After the Abbey Tintern Wire & Tinplate Company had closed down, the tramway was used to serve a sawmill.
The line was closed in 1935, after the rails had buckled. The permanent was removed sometime during the second world war.
The line continues along the eastern bank of the Wye until it leaves the valley on entering Tiddenham Tunnel (1,188 yards long) and emerges at Netherhope Halt.
It then descends through Tiddenham and joins the main line from Gloucester to South Wales at Wye Valley junction. The train then proceeds through Tutshill Halt, and crosses the Wye on Brunel's bridge to reach Chepstow Station.
Monmouth to Monmouth May Hill
The journey from Monmouth to Pontypool Road is unlike that down the Wye Valley, as the railway does not follow one valley only.
Leaving Monmouth, the line goes through the tunnel, and reaches the River Trothy, which is crossed several times before Dingestow, where rail and river go their separate ways.
The railway makes for Raglan, where the castle is seen from the station. A halt at Raglan Road Crossing is passed, and Llandenny the first station with a crossing loop, is reached. Usk, the next station, is approached from the Monmouth direction through a tunnel.
Beyond the station the train crosses the River Usk, and runs beside the Berthin Brook. Before Glascoed Halt is reached, two platforms serving a large factory are passed.
The factory also has a two platform station on a short branch. A run of two miles from Glascoed brings the train to Little Mill junction, where the main line from Newport to Abergavenny and Hereford is joined.
The journey up the Wye Valley from Monmouth is far more impressive.
The railway crosses the Wye on a steel girder bridge to reach May Hill Station, which is a block post, although it has only a single platform. Sidings serve a timber Yard and the gas works.
The train then runs beside the river past Hadnock Halt (a conditional stop), and the valley narrows and twists and turns before Symonds Yat Station is reached.
The river now makes a detour of over three miles round a massive cliff, but the railway is carried through this obstacle in a tunnel 400 yd. long.
Beyond the tunnel, the line continues beside the river to Lydbrook junction, where a branch of the former Severn & Wye Joint Railway is seen diverging in a south-easterly direction.
This picturesque line through the Forest of Dean was closed to passengers on July 8, 1929.
(Archive article by J J Davis, Railway Magazine, February 1959)