Saturday 6 November 2021

Valley Lines in Autumn

Roger Burdett and Ken Jones went to South Wales in late October to travel on as many of the Valley Lines in daylight as possible. They drove to / from Cheltenham Spa station, as starting from there was significantly cheaper than catching a train from the West Midlands. 

Obviously in summer you could do much more in daylight but shortages in crews and rolling stock together with work on the South Wales Metro may still cause problems.

The attached map produced by Arriva Trains Wales nicely shows the lines available. When planning our day we had already decided not to travel on the following services

Pontypridd to Merthyr – bus replacement service due to South Wales Metro construction work

Coryton Branch – no trains running on that line during our visit

Cardiff Bay Line – no convenient interchange with other trains

Barry Island line – we could have done this but connections were tight so a coffee break at Cardiff was more important.

Ebbw Vale line – insufficient time in daylight to include

Penarth Line - insufficient time in daylight to include

We wanted to see if we could travel on a 769 unit. These are converted 319 electric units running on diesel power. We saw 3 x 153/9 units at Canton depot but none in service. These have been renumbered from other class 153 units to distinguish them in terms of PRM [People with Reduced Mobility]

Transport for Wales are using certain units on certain routes.

Class 170 cascaded from East Anglia on Cheltenham Spa, Ebbw Vale, Maesteg routes

Class 769 on some Rhymney services

Class 175 on Hereford services

Class 150/2 on everything else

More new units are on order

They also have class 67 and coaching stock with DVT on Holyhead services

This is the planned day we had expected but we made a change at the end of the day.

Cheltenham 07.45-Cardiff 09.05

CC 9.35 - Radyr 9.50 via Danescourt

Radyr 9.56 - Aberdare 10.46

Aberdare 10.51 - Pontypridd 11.24

Pontypridd 11.35 - Treherbert 12.12

Treherbert 12.16 – CC 13.21

CC 13.40 - Bridgend 14.39 via Barry

Bridgend 14.45 - Maesteg 15.10

Maesteg 15.14 - CC 16.10 direct

CC 16.1 6- Rhymney 17.18

Rhymney 17.27 - CC 18.31

Cardiff 18.45-Cheltenham 19.58

CC = Cardiff Central

The service to Rhymey turned out to be a very crowded 2 car 150/2 unit – not what we were hoping for, so we got out at Caerphilly and luckily caught a 769 unit going south to Penarth.

So, we did the Penarth Branch and returned to Cardiff which enabled us to catch an earlier Cross-Country service to Cheltenham as we had open day return tickets.

Several things to see in the valleys including the old station at Pontypridd, new footbridges and platforms. signal boxes of which Tondu is still manned, and at Cardiff you can see class 166, 800 and castle class HST from GWR as well as various Cross-Country services.
 Planning ahead is advisable – we had the map and printed timetables downloaded from the internet.

Pictures by Ken Jones

170208 seen arriving at Cheltenham. This would form our service to Cardiff

150227 arriving at Cardiff – typical of older ATW units in service

769421 is seen arriving at Cardiff

150250 seen arriving at Radyr – the orange bands on top of the station sign are the interim South Wales Metro

150285 at Aberdare

150285 at the old ornate platform at Pontypridd

 Part of the historic Pontypridd station

The new footbridge and platform at Pontypridd

Refurbished 150253 is seen entering Pontypridd

150253 at Treherbert where disused sidings are still in situ

Modern way of using single line tokens but the equipment is definitely not new

150236 at Bridgend

170271 seen arriving at Bridgend

 170206 at Maesteg

Tondu signal box

150208 is seen departing Caerphilly for Rhymney

 Interior shot of 769 unit

769002 at Penarth

67014 and 153913 seen at Canton depot

170208 seen at platform 0 at Cardiff with a service to Ebbw Vale

All photos © Ken Jones

Note 1 – The South Wales Metro is not just a system of trams like in West Midlands or underground as in Paris but an integrated system of heavy rail, light rail and buses

Ken Jones