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Report - Virgin (Pontardawe) Train Tunnel, South Wales, Jan 2012

cunningcorgi

28DL Regular User
Regular User
#1
Explored with Mike A (non member AFAIK) and Brandy, the semi cunning corgi. I'm sticking this up as I have never seen a report on this tunnel and indeed, there is very little information about it anywhere. If deemed Pit worthy, please move.

HISTORY

I have been trying to track this one down for over two months. I have called it the 'Virgin' Tunnel for a number of reasons. The main reason however, is that the tunnel was (semi) built but no train every ran through it ! Due to this fact there is little evidence of a trackbed and nobody that really remembers the tunnel. Also, because the line never opened, the tunnel was never really named !

The tunnel itself dates from circa 1918-1920. The proposed line on which the tunnel sits was built as an extention from the GWR branch which served the nickel works in Clydach (still a thriving works) and the Darren Colliery in Trebanos (now sadly closed). The line would have linked up with the existing GWR network at Gwaun Cae Gurwen. As well as the 103 yard tunnel in Pontardawe, there was also a viaduct at Gwaun Cae Gurwen and a station at Cwmgorse which were never used. In later years, a new pit was sunk at Abernant and this was on the same route that would have reached Pontardawe.

The tunnel was not a 'finished' tunnel in that it does not have portals and is devoid of any lining / engineering bricks. It does go from end to end but seems to be very much a trial bore. Or maybe the money just ran out ! On both sides of the tunnel entrances, there are very steep embankments. The 'trackbed cuttings' at these points are only the width of a narrow guage tramway, in other words, a contractors working route to be expanded as the intended line progressed. A further problem that you encounter on both sides is the security measure employed. Put simply, trees from the embankments have been cut down over the years to fill the cuttings and now these trees have started to grow on their own accord. Think Platoon and any jungle scene and you are halfway there. The final problem is that the cuttings are in a very quiet residential area and are right next to the back gardens of the houses. The locals say it is almost impossible to access the tunnel due to the overgrowth. Almost but not totally ! We were probably the first to walk this tunnel in a good few years.

(Big kudos to Mike A for the history of the line and getting info from the locals)

PICTURES

1. View from the mouth of the northern entrance to the bore. The junk would appear to have being hoyed into the cutting from the back gardens of the houses nearby. The trackbed is unmaintained.
P1010286-1.jpg


2. The northern entrance of the bore. Even the cunningcorgi, a seasoned tunneller is unsure what the hell this is.
P1010285-1.jpg


3. View from inside the northern entrance looking back down the cutting.
P1010287-1-1.jpg


4. For a small tunnel, we were in total darkness (reason for this below). A view down the tunnel showing the bare unengineered walls and roof.
P1010289-1.jpg


5. View back out north. Rock falls are evident but not majorly so.
P1010290-1.jpg


6. WTF !!! As we continue south we are met with a brick wall ! No wonder there is no light at the end of the tunnel.
P1010291-1.jpg


7. It's not a wall but a shed ! Access through the tunnel is on the right. The shed appears to date from when the bore was worked so could well have been the explosives / tools store.
P1010296-1.jpg


8. Inside the shed.
P1010294-1.jpg


9. The shed roof is concrete supported by old tram lines.
P1010292-1.jpg


10. Just past the shed, the southern entrance.
P1010297-1.jpg


11. Southern entrance from the (again) jungle like cutting.
P1010298-1.jpg


12. Further back the cutting and the now obligatory DANGER KEEP OUT sign. The bore lurks behind the sign.
P1010299-1.jpg


13. A bit of railway history in the cutting. A GWR boundary marker dated 1920.
P1010302-1.jpg


Thanks for looking.
 

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Last edited:

Ellie Tarrant

28DL Member
28DL Member
#3
I was searching the woods by my house with my dog and found this ive been researching all day and found nothing then this popped up so I guess Thanks!!
 

IanSmyth

28DL Member
28DL Member
#7
Hey Guys, New member doing a lot of research on various Tunnels in the South Wales area. I've been and visited quite a few including Morlais, Cwmbach, Gellifelen and Tidenham. I'd really like to take a look at this one too, anybody willing to point me in the right direction? Nearby street or anything?
 
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