© Geoff’s Rail Diaries 2013
First day of spring, the “Today”
programme presenter said - though
listeners had been emailing to
contradict - it would be tomorrow,
the 21st (that’s what I’d always
thought). Whatever the date, it still
feels like winter. There were
patches of snow on the hills around Church
Stretton, where I joined the train and two pals from
Shrewsbury, and the Black Mountains, further south, were
We’d realised that the old fogeys’ tickets (or “Club 55”, as
they’re known by Arriva Trains Wales) would not be available
after Sunday. I think we’d been putting off, waiting for better
weather. “We’re planning a trip to South Wales - would you like
to join us?”.
I’d spent a day with one of my fellow travellers nearly thirty
years ago, exploring some of the valley lines from Cardiff. Since
then, there have been several reopenings - Aberdare (must go
there one day), Ebbw Vale (went there on a railtour in 1991),
Barry to Bridgend, and Maesteg. “We were thinking of going to
Bridgend via Barry, then back to Cardiff for a pub lunch”. I
booked to Maesteg - I’d never travelled on either of the latter
two revived routes.
The passenger service from Barry to Bridgend ended in 1964, but
the line remained open as a double-track freight route. It
reopened to passengers in 2005, after some track renewal and
upgrading, and some new signalling, with services running to a
reconstructed bay platform at Bridgend. In the meantime,
Maesteg had lost its passenger trains in 1970. Again, track
remained for coal trains; they are long-since gone, but passenger
trains returned in 1992.
We joined the next Bridgend service at Cardiff Central, for a
pleasant-enough run, with views of the sea from time to time.
Bridgend to Maesteg has a very
different flavour - single track,
winding and climbing up the Llynfi
valley, keeping company with the
wooded river for most of the journey.
There’s very little sign of former
activity, though the junction at Tondu
is still intact. The tracks towards Margam
looked useable, as did those in the other
direction towards Pontycymmer, complete with semaphore
signals - but judging by the rust on the rails, they have seen
little use recently.
The next train to Cardiff from Maesteg would the one I arrived
on. Faced with three minutes or an hour and three minutes, I
opted for the former... (perhaps another day).
Back to Cardiff Central - “a day return to Cardif Bay please”. It’s
walkable, but I’d never travelled along the mile or so from
Queen Street. where the shuttle service departs from platform
3. There’s work going on here to contruct a fourth platform, at
the opposite side of the main island platform. Will it be Queen
Street’s platform 0? Central has such a platform!
I debated walking back from the bay, before finding myself back
at the former Bute Road terminus, where the original station
building is in need of some TLC. Perhaps it’s not quite as iconic
as the Bute Docks Company’s Pierhead building, but it would be
worth renovating, surely?
My two travelling companions had managed to find their way
back to Central by the time I got there. “We’re cold - we’re
thinking of going back on the 3.20” Poor things - they must be
getting old. It had been positively springlike down at the bay.
The 3.20 arrived at a packed platform, in the form of a two-car
class 150. It left, packed, without us. The 3.50 had suddenly
looked much more attractive...
More snaps from Cardiff Bay