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The Valley of the Witch


Saturday 10 March 2018

Our first ‘Valley of the Witch’ tour back in 2011 celebrated the reopening of the branch line to the Cwmgwrach Opencast site. Things change a lot in a few years, and it is worth repeating some fondly remembered tours, if only because of the uncertain future of many freight-only branches.

Our route takes us down the South Wales Main Line via the Severn Tunnel to Bridgend. Here we veer right to reach Tondu before reversing and following the Ogmore Vale Extension line to the bleak expanse of Margam Yard.

We continue via Port Talbot and Cwrt Sart Junction. Here we leave the passenger network behind (for several hours!) and veer left on to the ‘Neath Loop’ and explore the docks area of Swansea to Burrows Sidings. After reversal we commence our twelve mile journey up the scenic Cwmgwrach branch, now very little used. Once in the Vale of Neath there is little habitation other than the settlement of Resolven, with views of the Neath and Tennant Canals and the trackbeds of many a long-lost colliery branch. Cwmgwrach translates literally as ‘The Valley of the Witch.

There are two adjacent branches retained for coal traffic and it would be nonsense to include one and not the other! So after returning to Neath & Brecon Junction and reversing we commence a second long climb on a ten mile remnant of the former Neath & Brecon Railway to Onllwyn, Look out for the remains of the ‘other’ Seven Sisters station, closed in 1962, By the time we reach the end of the line we have gained considerable altitude and the scenery has become quite wild and remote,

We make our way back via Neath & Brecon Junction and after reversal at Jersey Marine we take the curve leading to the Jersey Marine North Junction and the Swansea District Line. This little-used route skirts the north of the city, with glimpses over the rooftops and out over Swansea Bay.

At last rejoining the passenger network at Morlais Junction we make a final reversal at Llanelli before heading for home via the Swansea Avoiding Curve at Landor, thence main line to our set-down stations and London.

All timings are provisional and intended only as a guide.

StationDepartArrive
London Paddington07.0022.30
Slough (for M25)07.2522.05
Reading07.5521.35
Bristol Parkway09.3519.40
Cardiff Central10.2518.50