( . Y . )
This sweet little cottage is "Cwm Farm", pictured circa 1900. This is what stands at the same site today.
A huge change. From a small country farm in a rural Welsh Valley to some of the most massive, impressive, epic, heavy industry in the country.
Coke is an almost pure fuel that is produced by burning coal in airless, cylindrical, battery-like ovens. Coke fuelled the industrial revolution, being a vital ingredient in blast furnaces, and is still used in steel production. Although when burned it is smokeless, to produce it requires a huge ammount of heat and energy.
There was originally a colliery named "Cwm Colliery" at this site in Beddau, just south of Pontypridd in Rhondda Cynon Taf, that was sunk in 1909. No coal was actually extracted until 1914, however, and then it came from two shafts, Margaret and Mildred which were over 750 yards deep. In 1928 the colliery was taken over by Powell Duffryn Associated Colleries Limited, and at this point it employed over 1000 men. It operated under their name until 1948 when the National Coal Board (NCB) was established to manage the nationalised coal industry in the UK. The NCB updated the colliery in a massive Â£9 million redevelopment between 1952 and 1960. This included connection Cwm (pronounced "Coomb") to Coedely Tonyrefail, and of course building a massive Cokeworks, Cwm Coke.
In the 70s, the cokeworks alone employed 1,500 men and produced some 515,000 tonnes of coke each year. It continued to do so until 1986, when the NCB was privatised. The colliery ceased production at this point, but the cokeworks were bought buy CPL Industries and continued producing coke right up until 2002. It would have remained open had it not been for the fact it was extremely outdated, in desparete need of modernisation and no one was willing to invest in new technologies.
The only word I can think of to sum up the site is "wow". I've done a fair bit of industry but nothing on this scale or size, and certainly nothing with so much left behind. Machines and paperwork are still in-situ and that silo is truly epic. There's loads of decay and rust covers everything, but that almost adds to the place. However, one thing I will add is that never have I seen a site in such bad condition considering it has only been empty seven years. Vandalism, metal stripping and arson (though I saw no signs of fire) have devastated parts of the site, and seven Welsh winters have not been kind. In some places rust is so bad solid iron bars can be snapped with your fingers, metal walkways disintergrate at your touch and sheets of loose metal flap and bang in the wind. Still, this place is well worth the risk.
Anyway, on with the pictures. Huge thanks to Paskey for joining me. I found it really hard to photograph and for some reason photobucket has messed up my borders, so sorry if they are utter shite. :)
Retardedly, I got very few external photos and none of the silo because the weather was, well, Welsh. But I'm sure you all know what it looks like and if not just look at some other reports; there's loads on here. But I'll try and walk you through what happens. At the north of the site, crushed coal could be unloaded from locomotives into some fairly large silos. It would be dragged up this conveyor...
...and dropped into his hopper, at the bottom of the massive conveyor leading to the main silo.
The massive conveyor must have carried a huge ammount of coal at once, so it required some massive motors.
The hopper let coal fall in a controlled way onto the main conveyor. This dragged it up a fairly steep angle to the top of the silo. There is a maintenance staircase on each side of the belt, and it used to be enclosed by corrugated sheets on each side. A lot of these have blown off however, leaving it very exposed, and very windy.
The conveyor is so long it has to turn at a right angle. To make this possible, the first half rises directly above the second at the middle and drops its coal into another hopper. It then falls through, dropping onto the second half which continues to the top of the silo. You can see the sheets that used to be on the side on the floor - that's how high it is!
At the top of the silo, there is a large room which the conveyor enters, rises to the top of and here it drops its load into another hopper. This leads to a large rotating beam affair which would turn and deposit the coal into some of the large "bins" that drop away for several stories into the darkness below. It seriously is a long way down - it takes several seconds for a stone to hit the bottom. Thats long enough to draw breath if you were unfortunate enough to fall.
It really is very high up there, well over 100 feet, probably over 130. The view is really something... you can see the wooden cooling towers of the power station in this picture. They have recently been granted a Grade II listing, so Cwm will be around for a while more I expect.
The massive brick chimneys are even taller than the silo. There are two of them - one on each side, and in between them and the silo is the upper level of the coking battery, where the actual coking ovens are. The metal chimneys behind are those of the boiler house.
The main silo, or "bunker" as it was known, could hold 3,000 tonnes of coal. At the bottom of the actual bins, but still fairly high up the silo (there are offices and changing rooms underneath), there are yet more hoppers, one underneath each of the bins...
...that led down through the ceiling of a hollowed out tunnel under the silo, on the top of the coking battery. A massive locomotive collected the coal from the hoppers and then deposited it in the cylindrical coking ovens. It was wet and windy, and not especially interesting up here anyway, so no photos this time. But there were more coking ovens inside - literally hundreds of them...
It must have been horrendous working in here. These ovens would be extremely hot, and it was very cramped and dark inside. Everything is covered in coke. Then again, everything in the whole place, wherever you are, is covered in coke.
The decay down here is incredible; rust covers literally everything. Occasionally, enough light filters in through the grimey windows for moss to take root in the rust. It smells almost salty, like a cave near the sea, and stalactites are beginning to form on the ceiling.
There were lots of other little bunkers and silos on site, many with their own control rooms.
Underneath the coal silo there is the break room, changing rooms, locker rooms and shower room. Coking is some of the most physically arduous work men can do, and considering how dirty the site is seven years after it closed, workers must have come out from work pitch black.
Here's the most photographed sign in Cwm Coke...
Even inside here it was tight and cramped, and eveything had to be crammed in.
And the second most photographed sign at Cwm Coke...
In this area there was also the "Ovens lab". I guess samples from the ovens were taken and tested here to ensure consistency, but it was really very cramped and stuffy inside.
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