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Navigation Basin – Abercynon

Navigation Basin – Abercynon In 1802 the Merthyr or Penydarren Tramroad was completed from its northern terminus near the Penydarren Ironworks to a place that was then called Navigation. It was here, at a point near to the River Cynon’s confluence with the Taff that the junction with the Glamorganshire Canal was made. While the tramroad had followed the eastern bank of the river for almost its entire length, the canal had been constructed along the western side, descending in a flight of sixteen locks from high on the valley side near Cefn Glas to river level.

At that point an aqueduct carried it across the Taff to what was to become known as ‘The Basin’ at Navigation. Long before the sinking of the Dowlais-Cardiff Colliery nearby and the growth of Abercynon itself the area adjacent to the present day fire station and Navigation House Inn was one of constant and intense activity. Here was a dock, wharfs, warehouses and offices, for it was at this place that nearly all of the iron produced by the Dowlais, Penydarren and Plymouth ironworks was transshipped from the wagons on the tramroad, to the narrow boats of the canal company.

Navigation Basin – Abercynon Imported iron-ore on its journey north for the ironworks was also handled here. It is therefore, impossible to exaggerate the importance of Navigation, as for over sixty years it remained a vital link in the line of transport between the areas of iron production around Merthyr Tydfil and the docks at Cardiff. One can only try to imagine the scenes of excitement here in 1804 when locomotive, wagons, iron goods and passengers arrived at the end of the long and not uneventful journey from Penydarren, and it is sad to reflect that we have no detailed eyewitness accounts which would give us a greater insight into and appreciation of this historic event. The site is, however, marked by another monument (in front of the modern Fire Station) erected to commemorate the historic event.

Navigation Basin – Abercynon Like many other industrial tramways throughout the land, the Penydarren was built to accommodate wagons which were to be horse drawn, and while it was to be over a quarter of a century after its opening that the use of steam locomotives would become an everyday occurrence, the events of February 21st 1804 single it out as a tramroad that is different and special. We will resist the temptation to make exaggerated or extravagant claims regarding the significance of that day, but suffice to say that Trevithick’s experiment with steam traction here, laid part of the foundations of a transport revolution.