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Taff Vale Viaduct – Quakers Yard

Within the distance of just over half a mile three impressive railway viaducts were built across the River Taff near the present day village of Edwardsville. While the two most northerly were demolished shortly after the closure of the lines they carried, the third but first to be constructed still remains to the south of Quakers’ Yard station. The Taff Vale, for many years one of the most prosperous railway companies in the whole of Britain, was completed between Merthyr Tydfil and the growing port of Cardiff in 1841. Engineered by I.K. Brunel, the line enabled the ironworks and collieries of Merthyr and its environs to continue to expand and achieve industrial greatness.

Just as this tortuous part of the Taff Valley had challenged the skills of the canal engineers, the construction of the railway here was not to be accomplished without difficulty. The line north of Navigation required the construction of a tunnel, and the steepness of the gradient meant that trains on this section had to be hauled by a stationary engine positioned at the southern end of the viaduct. The walker will notice that the viaduct has been constructed in two separate parts. The original structure of 1841 carrying a single track is the more northerly, while that to the south was built alongside in 1862 when the line was doubled to cope with the increasing demands of industry to the north. It was at this time too that the tunnel was opened into a cutting and locomotives became sufficiently powerful to pull trains up the gradient from Navigation.

Downstream of the viaduct the Penydarren Tramroad crosses the river for the first time by means of a stone arched bridge. This bridge, with a span of sixty-three feet, was built to replace the original timber structure, which collapsed in 1815. On February 15th. John Guest of the Dowlais Ironworks reported that “ The upper tramroad bridge fell down yesterday while the Penydarren Trams were going over it. The whole of the iron, trams, horses and hauliers fell into the river as well as four other persons who were riding on the trams. One horse was killed and another much cut.

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