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cunningcorgi
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Merthyr (Abernant) Tunnel, February 2012

Explored with walsh (non member) and the first of three tunnels we were going to have a crack at on the day. The Merthyr tunnel is now the longest assessable disused train tunnel in Wales at 2,497 yards long.

HISTORY

In 1845, Isambard Kingdom Brunel surveyed and prepared parliamentary plans for the Vale of Neath Railway which involved a 2,497-yard hole through the hill between Merthyr Tydfil and Aberdare, the second longest of Wales' tunnels. 650 feet below ground at its deepest point, it was built to accommodate broad gauge and formed part of the 6¼-mile Gelli Tarw Junction-Merthyr extension, opening on 2nd November 1853. It regularly takes two names - Merthyr, which is to its east, and Abernant.

The contractor (Mr Davis) sunk two construction shafts, 1,280 yards apart, from which he drove 7-foot headings. One of these shafts was 282 feet deep. A system of troughs and fans pumped air down to the face whilst a 1-inch diameter pipe forced water at high-pressure through ‘roses’ into the workings to clear the powder-smoke hanging in the air after blasting.

A third rail was added to the predominantly single track route in 1863, allowing GWR trains to reach Swansea. The broad gauge rail was removed and the line converted to standard gauge on 11th May 1872. In the mid-1870s, the tunnel partly collapsed as a goods train passed through, almost burying the locomotive. Locals declared the structure to be dangerous, a claim unsurprisingly contradicted by the investigating officer. Subsidence caused by mining beneath the tunnel later resulted in part of the structure settling by 10 feet.

The S-shaped bore has masonry walls and a brick-lined roof. Close to its centre are two platelayers’ cabins. At the western end, for around 400 yards, the bore is wide enough for a double track layout; two small buildings mark the point where it suddenly becomes single.

The route was closed to traffic on 29th December 1962.

(From www.forgottenrelics.co.uk)

And some additional information from Sparhawk at www.blackmountains.co.uk -

Nowadays, the only way out of Merthyr Tydfil by train is south, following the valley past Pontypridd and on to Cardiff. But back in the day, when the coal industry was thriving and GWR (Great Western Railways) were a hugely influential force in the land, there were several routes away from Merthyr by train; to the north a tunnel at Morlais would see you to Brecon, to the east a series of curious loops and switchbacks saw trains running to Abergavenny and Ystrad Mynach, and to the west, trains ran through Mynydd Gethin towards Aberdare, and eventually all the way to Neath. The tunnel through Mynydd Gethin is the Abernant tunnel, and is 2497 yards long (around a mile and a half). The tunnel was single-track and ran specifically from Abercanaid through to Cwmbach in the west. Construction was slow and costly as no airshafts were possible (this tunnel is 660 feet deep at its deepest point).

Built in 1853, and bricked up in 1967, this tunnel must have seen a huge amount of traffic as it linked one of the most prolific coal mining centers in Wales with coastal steelworks and docks. It’s sad to see such civil engineering works, which once people must have taken great pride in building, abandoned and forgotten.

THE VISIT

1. The Merthyr portal complete with regulation BRB(R) fencing.


2. For access, please contact this crew !


3. Into the doom. View down the S shaped tunnel from the Merthyr portal.


4. One of the worker refuges. A coal seam is visable in the refuge (same level as the O2) and appears to have been worked at some stage.


5. About 400 yards in and looking towards Abernant end. Sharon was also here at some stage !


6. The view back at 400 yards to the Merthyr portal.


7. Victorian engineering at its best. The tuunel was built to accomodate the coal seam between the 2 sets of brickwork.


8. Heading deeper towards Abernant.


9. Refuge art at its best.


10. The weirdness begins. Nearly half way in at the deepest point (660 feet) is a workers room (on the right). Someone has hauled their arse all the way in to paint it and create a Mormon church. A cross has also been painted on the opposite wall.


11. A view into the 'church'. A Mormon bible has been placed in the wall.


12. Another bible has been placed beside the painted cross on the opposite wall.


13. Close up of the Mormon bible in the wall of the 'church'.


14. The 'church'.


15. The tunnel has short sections that are wider, and much higher than the rest of it. Here, some of the exposed brickwork between these sections.


16. No light at the end of the tunnel as we continue towards the Abernant portal.


17. And on we go...


18. And then there was light. Abernant portal nears. The tunnel has now become double tracked and a workers building can be seen on the right.


19. Fireplace in the workers building.


20. Daylight streams in through the Abernant portal.


21. A view back towards the Merthyr end.


22. Near the Abernant portal, support braces have been installed on the walls.


23. Journeys End. The Abernant portal.


24. Last Train No 6416, 29th December 1962, entering the Merthyr portal. (From www.alangeorge.co.uk)


25. Same scene today.


Thanks for looking an any comments / advice more than welcome !

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Sun 19 Feb 2012 @ 22:54 View cunningcorgi   Email cunningcorgi   Edit this messageQuote this messagePMQuote this message
ratty
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Some good shots but where's your usual tunneling partner?

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Ratty
www.ratsandwich.co.uk

Fri 02 Mar 2012 @ 09:41 View ratty   Email ratty   ratty Home Page   Edit this messageQuote this messagePMQuote this message
cunningcorgi
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Had to leave him at home after my last attempt with him in November 2011.

Back then, we had walked about halfway through when he hurt one of his front legs and I had to carry him all the way back out ! As the ballast has been left down in the tunnel, it is pretty rough on his (very short) legs so I decided best to leave him at home until I went back to ballast free tunnels. Mud and water are fine, ballast isn't !
Fri 02 Mar 2012 @ 12:40 View cunningcorgi   Email cunningcorgi   Edit this messageQuote this messagePMQuote this message
let181
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love the photographs and the 'walkthrough'. I'm really interested in walking through this tunnel too, the fencing looks substantial, is it easy to get past?? how did you get over it? thanks for your information, great site!
Mon 09 Jul 2012 @ 23:51 View let181   Email let181   Edit this messageQuote this messagePMQuote this message
cunningcorgi
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Since that report, the fences have been changed - higher, more spikes and lots more grease.

Still got in when we went back but it is harder...
Tue 10 Jul 2012 @ 20:52 View cunningcorgi   Email cunningcorgi   Edit this messageQuote this messagePMQuote this message
ratty
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I've had an email from a Mr Elliot who would like to point out the Aberdare end of the tunnel is actualy in Cwmbach and not in Aberdare. The entrance is very close to Blaennantygroes Road in Cwmbach.

----------------------
Ratty
www.ratsandwich.co.uk

Mon 02 Jan 2017 @ 14:10 View ratty   Email ratty   ratty Home Page   Edit this messageQuote this messagePMQuote this message
cunningcorgi
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Better get Mr. Elliott to email Graeme at Forgotten Relics as that is where the history came from.

I did mention in my piece that the tunnel ran from Abercanid to Cwmbach !
Fri 13 Jan 2017 @ 18:06 View cunningcorgi   Email cunningcorgi   Edit this messageQuote this messagePMQuote this message
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