Wales

Rhondda rail enthusiasts plan Maerdy mine heritage line

Engine 2150, The Mardy Monster, Image copyright Steven Williams
Image caption The Mardy Monster is being renovated as the Elsecar Heritage Railway in South Yorkshire

Enthusiasts are hoping to breathe new life into a long-closed Victorian rail line as a tourist attraction.

It is 55 years since passengers last trundled along the Maerdy branch line in Rhondda Cynon Taff.

Now a group of determined locals are planning to renovate a three-mile section of the abandoned line into a heritage railway.

They are asking for help to turn their "pub idea" of bringing jobs and tourists to the area into reality.

Image copyright RCT archives
Image caption Plans include a visitor centre at the former Maerdy colliery that closed in 1990

A 12-man committee and a "ever-growing" band of volunteers are appealing for "brains and brawn".

Their idea would see the creation of a visitor centre at the former Maerdy colliery at the end of the line between Maerdy and Tylorstown.

"It started out as no more than a dream in the pub," said engineer Steven Williams.

"What could we do with our heritage and natural resources to breathe new life back into the area?

"There's so much history and beauty around here, but no-one's tried to harness it at all."

The Rhondda Fach line began life in 1849, when the Taff Vale Railway extended their Cardiff/Porth route to Ynyshir.

It eventually reached Maerdy by 1875, where it joined an older section of track which had not previously been connected to the network.

While the passenger service was discontinued as part of UK railway cuts which followed the Beeching Report in 1964, the freight line thrived.

It was also home to The Mardy Monster, believed to be the most powerful industrial steam locomotives ever built.

The track was removed during the 1990s and the section south of Tylorstown has been turned into the Ynyshir bypass.

Image copyright Steven Williams
Image caption Much of the original track bed remains
Image copyright Steven Williams
Image caption Volunteers hope to rebuild the former water board filter house

But Mr Williams said the northbound line to Maerdy would be easy to reinstate.

"The track-bed is still there, though horribly overgrown, and we would have to build new stations along the way," he said.

"But the only major infrastructure which would be needed is rebuilding a small bridge.

"We're not being naïve about this, it's going to cost millions of pounds and take years to achieve," Mr Williams added.

The group is appealing for people with experience of grant applications, civil engineering or finance - or simply to help with "hard slog".

The longer-term plans include reopening the shaft at Maerdy colliery as an underground mining experience.

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