Malvern Civic Society Group on board a train at the Brecon Mountain Railway
Malvern Civic Society Group on board a train at the Brecon Mountain Railway

Thirty members of the Civic Society took part in a visit to the Brecon Mountain Railway on Saturday 14 September.  The five mile route starts in what used to be a semi-industrial area but quickly enters one of the most delightful landscapes in the Brecon Beacons National Park.  In bright sunshine we had clear views of the Taf Fechan reservoirs and Pen-y-Fan, the highest point in South Wales. 

Train with Pen-y-Fan in background
Train with Pen-y-Fan in background

This narrow gauge line has been constructed in stages since 1979 climbing from Pant (near Merthyr Tydfil) to Torpantau (1,300 feet above sea level) on the track bed of the former GWR branch line to Brecon.  The tunnel just beyond the station is the highest in Great Britain.  Although now abandoned, this could be reopened if the railway is extended northwards in the future.

On the return journey, the train stopped for half an hour at Pontsticill (formerly a junction) where the train guard gave us a talk in the museum, which houses three small locomotives and other exhibits.  The steam locomotive on our train was ‘Graf Schwerin-Lowitz’ built by Jung in Germany in 1908.  This was assisted by a diesel to help with the 1 in 37 gradient on the final section.  We saw the more powerful Baldwin ‘Santa Teresa’ (built in Philadelphia in 1897) in the workshops.

Graf Schwerin-Lowitz locomotive on Brecon Mountain Railway
Graf Schwerin-Lowitz locomotive on Brecon Mountain Railway

After the visit to the railway, some members of the party went on to Cyfarthfa Castle, a local museum with information about Merthyr’s industrial history, including Richard Trevithick’s pioneering steam railway of 1804.  Others returned on one of the scenic roads across the Beacons via Brecon or Talybont-on-Usk.