Railways - Horse and Steam
Railed Transport development in and around Glasbury


Goods train at Glasbury Signal Box c1890 - Arthur Battiscombe collection

Passenger train leaving Glasbury Station on 17 Sept 1889 - Arthur Battiscombe collection
Railed Transport through The Glasbury area

The Horse Drawn Tramway

With the completion and opening of the Abergavenny to Brecon canal at the turn of the 19th century there was a serious proposal to build a canal extension from Watton wharf at Brecon to the river Wye at Hay. This plan would provide a more efficient transport system than the existing one of wagons and horses travelling on poor roads with even poorer maintenance. Subsequently however the project failed due to a lack of capital investment.
An alternative solution was required and on May the 25th 1811 Royal Assent was granted for the Hay Railway Company ( a consortium of landowners, business people and bankers ) to build a railway from the wharf at Brecon, via Glasbury and Hay, to finish at Eardisley, a distance of just over 25 miles. A route was surveyed by Crosley but the appointment of John Hodgkinson as engineer prompted a second survey which resulted in two further alternatives. Of these two a route with a 550yd tunnel through Keven North Hill was preferred and after applying for the landowners consents a Bill was forwarded for parliamentary approval.
However a major shareholder, Thomas Harcourt Powell, obstructed the Bill on the grounds that it would pass through his estate. Two members of the committee ( Sir Charles Morgan and Thomas Wood ) quickly intervened and a further re-routing was agreed upon, ensuring that the necessary Royal Assent was finally obtained on May 20th 1812
The line itself was to be a single track horse drawn tramway with passing places and ran on a 3’6” “L” shaped gauge rail There was to be a changeover of horses, roughly halfway, at Glasbury.

The Brecon to Hay section opened on May the 7th 1816 and was operated by William Bridgewater of Broomfield House. The line ran behind the Three Cocks Hotel and then had to by-pass St Peters Church by detouring down and close by the present A438 and hence back up past the Six Bells Inn ( no longer in existence ), before continuing above Treble Hill to Glasbury Wharf, adjacent to Broomfield. From there it went on to Hay-on-Wye and Eardisley, this latter section being completed in 1818.
The tramway was used primarily for coal and building materials from the S Wales region and for farm cereals and lime on its return. It was also utilised by some local business people, a prime example being Thomas Morgan of Treble Hill who was a wool-stapler at this time.
At Llwynaubach there was a two storey stable block beside the tramway and this was probably used for the stabling of the draught horses.
Although the tramway was designed primarily to carry commercial goods it was also utilised as a passenger carrier by 1926 and was charging 6p per head for six miles " and 2p for every other Traveller and so on in proportion for any greater distance" (the meaning of which is not quite clear)
The line competed commercially with an improving turnpike road system for over 40 years before being taken over by the Hereford, Hay and Brecon Railway Company in 1860.

The Steam Railway

The first half of the 19th century had provided a railway boom for most of the UK but not so in the Brecon and Radnor area, which was still reliant on the canal system and the horse drawn Hay tramway. It was not until 1859 that an act was passed for the formation of the Hereford, Hay and Brecon Railway ( HH&B ) and acting quickly they lost no time in purchasing the Hay tramway to incorporate it as part of a grand project culminating at Milford Haven.
In the event the line between Hereford and Brecon opened in sections, the last being Hay-on-Wye to Brecon, which opened officially on 26th September 1864. ( *1 )
At the same time a link was established at the Three Cocks junction to connect with the line from Llanidloes and coming down through Boughrood ; this being a part of the Mid Wales Railway.

The section from Three Cocks to Talyllyn was later sold to the Mid Wales Railway and the ongoing section to Brecon was acquired by the Brecon and Merthyr Tydfil Junction Railway. ( B&MT ).
Thomas Savin, a renowned railway builder, was the contractor for both the HH&B and the B&MT companies and these two were amalgamated in 1865. However it was noted in 1867 that the B&MT had not ratified the agreement and this resulted in the union being discontinued.

After Savin the line was run by the Great Western Railway, the B&MT, then the Mid Wales Railway and finally the Midland Railway, which had leased the HH&B line from June 30th 1874 and absorbed it in 1876.
In 1923 the Midland Railway became part of the London, Midland and Scottish Railways and then, after the nationalisation of the railways in 1948, it became largely a part of the London Midland Region.

The route was finally transferred to the Western Region on April 2nd 1950, and finally scheduled for closing just before the Beeching report in 1962.

As regards the old Hay tramway only 1/3rd of that line was used by the new railway ; with the section from Gwernyfed to the wharf at Glasbury following a line below the now disused steam railway. Most of this is still traceable from the Steam rail bridge just south of the Three Cocks garage, apart from the section through the new estate of Dan y Bryn.

B Bowker
12 04 2015

*1 )    From log books of Coed y Bolen on 26th Sept 1864
 “ Many absent owing to the rejoicings at Hay on the occasion of the opening of the Hereford, Hay and Brecon Railway.”

Sources : --

Branch Lines around Hay-on-Wye, including the Golden Valley Line by Vic Mitchell and Keith Smith

Brecknock, Carmarthen & Radnor's Lost Railways by Peter Dale

British Rail archives

Coed y Bolen Log Books

Conversations with local people

CPAT Archives - Historic Settlements Survey - Transport and Communication

Radnorshire Society Transactions Vol 18 1948 - Railways and Radnorshire by R. C. B. Oliver

The Hay Railway by C R Clinker

The old Tramway coming up from the A438 to Six Bells
B Bowker - 02 09 2013

Tramway rails in situ at Glasbury Wharf in 1935
From - The Hay Railway  by C R Clinker

Mike Like on the old Tramway bridge crossing over
the R. Enig at Talgarth
B Bowker - 27 03 2015

Glasbury Railway bridge and embankment at 29 03 1889
The line runs above the old Tramway
Arthur Battiscombe collection

Glasbury Station looking to Three Cocks
The short siding is on the left and 3 oil lamps are visible
R M Casserley - 06 07 1958
Photograph from: "Branch Lines around Hay-on-Wye"
Middleton Press - www.middletonpress.co.uk

Passenger Train crossing the bridge at Boughrood
en-route to Talgarth on August 16th 1889
Arthur Battiscombe collection

A typical rail ticket in the 1950's
G.Adams / M J Stretton collection
Photograph from: "Branch Lines around Hay-on-Wye"
Middleton Press - www.middletonpress.co.uk

Passengers disembarking at the Three Cocks Junction
The train has arrived down the Builth Road line
G.Adams / M J Stretton collection
Photograph from: "Branch Lines around Hay-on-Wye"
Middleton Press - www.middletonpress.co.uk