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Report - Cwmcerwyn (Bryn) Tunnel, Maesteg, South Wales - March 2014

Discussion in 'Underground Sites' started by cunningcorgi, Mar 23, 2014.

  1. cunningcorgi

    cunningcorgi 28DL Regular User
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    Visited with Lenston and dangerous dave.

    HISTORY

    In 1894, the Port Talbot Railway and Docks Company obtained Parliamentary approval to redevelop the town's existing harbour and docks, construct a new dock with a deep water lock and piers, and equip them with the best handling facilities available at the time. The intention was to open up the extensive and practically untouched coalfields of the Llynvi, Garw and Dyffryn valleys by providing unrivalled shipment facilities, Port Talbot being much closer than the existing docks at Swansea, Barry or Cardiff.

    To transport the coal for export, the second element of the scheme involved the laying of a meandering 17-mile railway linking Port Talbot with Pontyrhyll via Bryn, Maesteg and Lletty Brongu. Loaded trains faced a stiff climb on a ruling gradient of 1:75 as far as the line's summit, thereafter enjoying a 1:40 descent. The tightest curve was of 10 chains radius.

    Work on the railway - with an estimated price tag of £200,000 - got underway on 1st March 1895 and was fulfilled by Messrs S Pearson & Son, contractors based in Westminster. Scheduled for completion in March 1897, the single track actually opened for traffic five months late, on 31st August. The PTR&D extended its reach by opening two other connecting lines during 1898; its new docks were also inaugurated that year.

    The railway's principal engineering feat was Cwmcerwyn (or Bryn) Tunnel, extending for 1,012 yards. It passes through mixed strata, resulting in a varied approach to construction and several changes in profile. In some places where rock was encountered, sidewalls were dispensed with, the arch being supported on shelves. But generally the lining comprises four or five brick rings in lime mortar, with brickwork or stone sidewalls. At a few locations, short lengths of concrete invert were also added.

    Ground movement was recorded from the outset, prompting an assortment of remedial works. The worst affected section of 180 feet was found 362 yards from the western end. Here, various measures were taken to address bulging of the sidewalls, with a length of 35 feet strengthened in 1898 by constructing five sections of concrete invert, whilst in August 1902 a further 70-foot length was similarly dealt with. 1907 brought the decision to rebuild this entire part with cast iron segments, a project that was undertaken by Messrs Perry & Co without affecting traffic on the line.

    The tunnel marks summit level of the PTR. It is level for almost half its length from the eastern entrance, but the gradient thereafter falls at 1 in 70. The transition point was located at No.29 tablet where the remains of a gong can still be found in the adjacent refuge, presumably having been installed to provide footplate crews with an audible warning of the change. At the west portal the gradient steepens abruptly to 1 in 40. Curves feature at both ends, but the eastern one is bearly perceptible, extending only for a few yards.

    The condition of the tunnel's lining is generally fair although some distortion is apparent in places. Around 330 yards from the west end, four strengthening ribs have been inserted, supported on timber footings. Water leaches through the brickwork at many locations, forming substantial calcite deposits on the walls. Failure of the drainage system has resulted in thick mud accumulating, particularly through the level eastern half.

    Refuges are provided at regular intervals on both sides and two mileposts still stand against the south sidewall. Close to the west portal in the curved section are the remains of a device that was probably installed to lubricate the rails and reduce wheel squeal.

    The portals are both modest brick affairs, with commemorative keystones inscribed "PTR 1897". They are secured by brick blockwalls, above which are high-level grilles for ventilation. These were installed by British Railways Board (Residuary) in July 2013. The saturated eastern approach cutting is the more secluded of the two, with steep sides; both are about 90 yards in length. The tunnel is identified by its structure number PTP/5m 8ch.

    The Port Talbot Railway effectively became a long branch line on New Year's Eve 1951 with closure of the eastern section from Lletty Brongu to Pontyrhyll. Freight traffic continued to venture as far as Maesteg Neath Road - through the tunnel - until closure claimed the PTR on 31st August 1964.

    (Courtesy of the ever reliable Graeme at Forgotten Relics).

    THE VISIT

    We just about managed to get the entire length done but had to stop within 50 yards of the eastern portal as the shitty mud and water were getting deeper and deeper so unfortunately, no shot of that portal.

    1. Looking east
    [​IMG]

    2. Looking west
    [​IMG]

    3. Yellow
    [​IMG]

    4. 28
    [​IMG]

    5. Rock
    [​IMG]

    6. Transport For London
    [​IMG]

    7. Underground
    [​IMG]

    8. Brace
    [​IMG]

    9. Milepost
    [​IMG]

    10. Gloop
    [​IMG]

    11. Way back
    [​IMG]

    12. Greaser
    [​IMG]

    13. Western portal
    [​IMG]

    14. Botch job (the covering of the PTR keystone)
    [​IMG]

    Thanks for looking !
     

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  2. MSP

    MSP 28DL Full Member
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    Makes me want to barf just looking at that water. Picture 7 for me…. :thumb
     
  3. gas man

    gas man 28DL Full Member
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    cracking pics cc apologies for not being able to make it today spent my sunday covered in engine oil :mad the metal framings holding up well on that repair section in pic 7 they did that while the track was live :eek::eek:looks a ropey repair in pic 8 though LOL
     
  4. The Kwan

    The Kwan funksoul Brother
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    Top stuff Matt, ace cool brill photos. :thumb . Looking forward to sheff :)
     
  5. dangerous dave

    dangerous dave 28DL Full Member
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    was a good day mate enjoyed the mud. did you manage to work out anything about the site we found just down the line
     
  6. gas man

    gas man 28DL Full Member
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    thats a old brickworks fella probably built to build cwmcerwyn
     
  7. Ojay

    Ojay Admin
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    That cast iron horshoe is full of win mate :thumb
     
  8. dangerous dave

    dangerous dave 28DL Full Member
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    its a sweet bit of building the inside of the kiln is awesome
     
  9. gas man

    gas man 28DL Full Member
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    disgusting what the butchers done to the datestone though
     
  10. Lenston

    Lenston Bajo Tierra
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    Nice report mate and an excellent mooch today with a coupe of great leads, a couple from me

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]
     
  11. gas man

    gas man 28DL Full Member
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    nice shots lenston :thumb
     
  12. latentux

    latentux 28DL Full Member
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    Great set of photos. I especially like the brickwork shots. :thumb
     
  13. cunningcorgi

    cunningcorgi 28DL Regular User
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    Thanks all.

    Nothing like a good bit of rank mud to wake you up on a Dunday morning...
     
  14. The Wombat

    The Wombat Mr Wombat
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    Can't believe I missed this report originally
    You guys bring some of the best tunnel reports to the forum; and this is some more excellent work :thumb
     
  15. gas man

    gas man 28DL Full Member
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