The Coleford, Monmouth, Usk and Pontypool Railway


The CMUPR had the longest history and the longest title of all the railways to Monmouth (we apologise if the title doesn't fit on your screen). The first stretch of its proposed route began to be used for transport in 1810 with the opening of the Monmouth Tramroad between Coleford and Monmouth; the trackbed between Usk and Monmouth is at the busiest it has ever been in its new form as the A449/ A40 dual carriageway.

The first serious plans came very early on - in the 1840s - for a Dean Forest, Monmouth, Usk and Pontypool Railway, which would have done an even worse job at fitting on the screen. It was one of these lines that failed fairly early on, although more of it was eventually built than was usual for such railways; the largest single chunk and the first bit to be opened was that taken on and proposed again by the CMUPR in 1855. (The other end was built by the Forest of Dean Central Railway with even less success and the bits in the middle were bungled together from tramways, except for a proposed tunnel under a hill in the middle of the Forest which was never built at all.)

The actual railway was opened from Pontypool to Usk in 1856 and reached Monmouth in 1857 after a rather tricky construction featuring several financial problems and a collapsing tunnel. None of the Monmouth railways had easy births - three struggled financially before they even opened, one was considerably overdue and obsolete by opening and the fifth was stillborn - but the CMUPR should really have had it easiest, given the largely flat or gently rolling terrain that its route passed through between Pontypool and Monmouth. The terminus, at Monmouth Troy, was built on the outskirts of the town with the aim of converting it to a through station for trains to Coleford. The decision was farsighted and showed the great plans that the Company had for its railway.

When you see a modern road and think that it doesn't seem to have been built for the traffic levels that it's carrying, that's partly because the Governments of the 1950s and 1960s learnt from the railways and didn't pour money down holes that they could make much smaller. Monmouth Troy became a through station, but it never obtained the importance planned for it and its atrocious location, well away from the centre of Monmouth, could be held partially responsible for the loss of Monmouth's rail services in 1959. By then the CMUPR was already dead; the last regular through train to Monmouth had run in 1955. The Company managed to extend across the Wye to Wyesham in 1861 (with considerable outside support); it survived in theory to see the completion of the extension to Coleford over the Monmouth Tramroad in 1883 four years before it was officially absorbed into the Great Western, which had held a lease on the line since 1863 and had run trains over it from the outset. This somewhat delayed completion of the Company's scheme was little more than winding branch line which, isolated from the main rail networks in the Forest of Dean, disappeared in 1917. The CMUPR, uniquely amongst Monmouth's railways, was built for the subsequent provision of double line (both tunnels and most bridges were wide enough) but the second track was never laid.

A closure proposal in 1954 was rejected and replaced with a remarkable service increase from four trains each way each day to eleven. Six months isn't really long enough for a new service to bed in (although the response was still a remarkable increase in traffic), losses continued and the line closed in the middle of a national rail strike the following year. In 1960 the line between Usk and Monmouth was removed and today just a stub remains at the Pontypool end to serve a Royal Ordnance Factory. This was a rather security-conscious starting point and the line was somewhat out of the way and insignificant, so pictures of this stub don't seem to be exceptionally common. A couple of photos from 1989 in The Ross, Monmouth and Pontypool Road Line show a train that is so anonymous (unnamed blue Class 47 diesel loco, unbranded Speedlink van, rake of 1950s four-wheeled vans, equally anonymous 1980s four-wheeled van) that it is suspiciously so and obviously carrying something which is trying too hard not to be noticed.

Monmouth's first railway is also its last; like the Wye Valley line, nowadays the Coleford, Monmouth, Usk and Pontypool Railway's stub is derelict and overgrown. It lasted to the age of 137 and the mainline connection - uniquely for the four - remains in place.

The presence of the dual carriageway on much of the route is in many respects a compliment - the railway has been approved for use into the 21st century and passed for 70mph running. Sadly it is no longer a railway however, and reopening throughout is unlikely. Usk could be reunited with the rail network for the cost of 1½ miles of track - all but one of the bridges along the route are still in place, the station platforms at Usk are intact and the site is vacant. The junction is fully signalled (unlike that at Wye Valley Junction, which was set up as a siding). A link to Monmouth would involve realigning bits of the dual carriageway (particularly between Usk and Llandenny) and modifying a couple of junctions, which would allow the railway to run along the western side of the road through Raglan and Dingestow stations. At Monmouth a new tunnel could be bored to carry the railway to a new Riverside station just yards from the town centre or the road could be extensively rebuilt to allow the railway to pass under it and head into Troy station. Alternatively the line could be allowed to pass under the new road at the former Cefn Tilla Halt and run up the east side of the road, free to swing away on the approach to Monmouth Tunnel and somehow working around the sliproads on the road junction at Raglan. Unfortunately all these options would cost huge sums of money and for that reason it will never happen.

Meanwhile Troy's main station building survives at Winchcombe station on the Gloucestershire and Warwickshire Railway, Dingestow station is a private residence and Raglan is part of a road maintenance depot. There are proposals to move Raglan station building to the Museum of Welsh Life at St Fagans - the Museum has a large gap in its collection, with a complete absence of mass-transport related artifacts to cover the contribution that railways and canals made to Welsh life. The entire line between Monmouth and Pontypool is currently regarded as being in Wales and a complete plan of the railway can be found in the National Library of Wales at Aberystwyth, although the rolling landscape is hardly typical of the Principality. Unfortunately the six fine pine trees which used to stand over the Raglan station cannot go with it - five were felled to make way for the A449, although the survivor will probably survive the removal of the building. The only remaining building along the entire line will then be the station building at Dingestow.

Despite through trains between Ross and Pontypool ceasing after the two lines came under one owner in 1923, the route is still counted as one line for the purposes of maintaining the few surviving structures and is accordingly catalogued as "ROS". Mileages are counted from Ross on Wye. What the management of the senior railway would think of this is unrecorded.

Pontypool Road

Pontypool Road opened in 1854; it was then a fairly insignificant station on the Newport, Abergavenny and Hereford Railway. The following year it became a junction when Pontypool got a decent station in the town centre with the opening of the Taff Vale Extension line to Crumlin Junction in the Ebbw Valley a few miles to the west. The year after that it became the junction for Usk via the railway that is the subject of this article. That was extended to Monmouth the next year. Within another year the Taff Vale Extension had been extended to the Taff Vale and made a junction with the Taff Vale Railway at Quakers Yard. (The neighbouring Rhymney Railway had been planning to use this extension too, but it took so long to be completed that they got bored and built another line.)

Two lines to nearby Blaenavon followed. The lower line was run by the Great Western Railway and terminated at Blaenavon Low Level. The upper line was run by the London and North Western Railway and ran through Blaenavon High Level, over the highest point on the standard gauge rail network in England and Wales at Waenavon and down the mountainside to join the Newport, Abergavenny and Hereford just south of Abergavenny station. The Pontypool, Caerleon and Newport Railway opened in 1874 and provided a second connection from here to the docks at Newport.

Pontypool Road thus got to be a major junction. It was rebuilt in 1908 to feature one great island platform with bays at each end (the south one serving various branches and the north one exclusively for Monmouth trains). Signals arrayed themselves impressively around the station area. A massive loco shed, rakes of carriage sidings and masses of marshalling yards around the station and the triangular junction to the south of the station to the south completed the scene.

The two lines to Newport began to be rationalised in the 19th century before the network had quite reached its peak. Passenger services through Blaenavon High Level were suspended "for the duration" (of the Second World War) in 1941 and never resumed. The north bay lost all traffic in 1955 when Monmouth services ceased. Then in 1962 Blaenavon Low Level closed, along with the older line to Newport. The Taff Vale Extension went in 1964; a collapsing viaduct beyond Quaker's Yard (opened in 1864) probably helped the case for the closure of the only one of Pontypool's branches to be condemned by Beeching. The station was cut back - literally. Apart from the loss of the bay platforms, buildings, canopy and most of its services, the core platform was also sliced back at each end. Its former extent is particularly obvious in the upper picture; much of the area of grass between the two main running lines used to be platform.

The remaining colliery traffic from the London and North Western route ceased shortly after the Miners' Strike in the 1980s. All claims to junction status were finally swept away when the first branch to be completed became the last to completely go in 1993. Only one signal remains in the entire station site - signal LM104, visible with its back to the camera in the upper picture. It is controlled by the signal box at Little Mill. It is a very stark contrast to "Pontypool Roads" "out on the mainline" featured in Ivor the Engine - although Ivor himself can still be seen occasionally on the Pontypool and Blaenavon Railway, which has preserved a particularly steeply-graded section of track heading north for a couple of miles from Blaenavon High Level.

The lower picture shows one of the Class 175 "Coriada" units which now operate services over the Newport, Abergavenny and Hereford and provide Pontypool and New Inn, as the station is now known, with one train in each direction every two hours. Northbound trains tend to head either to Manchester or to Holyhead; southbound ones variously terminate at Cardiff Central, Carmarthen or Milford Haven.

Trains for the Monmouth branch would head north from their bay platform - there were no regular passenger trains from starting points beyond Pontypool Road and branch passengers would have to book another ticket at the junction if they wanted to go further afield - and run up the mainline for about a mile to the junction at Little Mill. Unlike Pontypool Road, Little Mill has lost little of its old importance - partly because it never had any importance.

East of Little Mill Junction

Little Mill Junction does not actually feature in this picture. It is one of those annoying junctions which isn't near any handy overbridges, passed by a footpath or sat by a station, so you have to either engage in a spot of trespassing or take pictures out of train windows. The former is a trifle dangerous and results in images which we can't show you; the latter is a bit expensive for the quality of the image which can be obtained but will have to be used for Little Mill at a suitable moment.

The junction had a junction station, but it was really only for branch trains. The result was a reasonable service for the little village connecting them to Pontypool and Usk from a little wayside platform with a decent building. It was the most impressive of the four junctions at the non-Monmouth end of the Monmouth branchlines, with a set of sidings and a tidy array of signals.

After the line closed to passenger trains the station was demolished, but the access road remains with no warning at the outer end that it leads exclusively to railway property (although it is tidily padlocked occasionally). Little Mill signal box remains and the junction has survived intact, complete with signalling and a modern 10mph speed restriction board. Trains can no longer run to Glascoed whenever they like, however, since some cad has put a bufferstop across the line a chain or so from the 15mph speed limit board which allows trains to accelerate to that daredevil speed for their journey along Monmouth's last railway.

Branch Lines to Monmouth cites the 31st of January 1993 as the last freight train over the branch. The track is now overgrown. The ominous warning sign, seen here at a foot crossing on the south-western outskirts of Little Mill, seems a little amusing upon looking up and seeing the rails behind. A board at a crossing further up demands that you "Stop, Look, Listen" on a line clearly not used in many years when you want to use an equally derelict track over the railway.


Glascoed is a very small and quiet village a mile from the railway, but nonetheless once boasted three stations. However, only one of these - sited on the other side of this bridge - was intended to serve the local population; the other two were provided for the benefit of the workers at the nearby Glascoed Royal Ordnance Factory. They were a little further up the line - the diminuitive Glascoed Factory West Access Halt was quarter of a mile up the line, while Glascoed Factory East Access Halt was three quarters of a mile beyond that.

Glascoed Halt, located just to the east of a fine stone overbridge with a brick arch, was a little timber trestle platform with a standard GWR "pagoda" shelter which opened in 1927. It was on the right-hand side of the single running line which passed under the left-hand side of the bridge. When a loop was laid for the factory it was moved to the left-hand side of the running line - such are the benefits of kit-built stations. Books on the line all agree that it was 27¾ miles from Ross on Wye. This is unfortunate, because this is the only bridge in the area which qualifies but the milepost on the other side proclaims that it is 27½ miles from Ross on Wye. It is, of course, quite possible that when the new milepost was being made up (it is a modern metal milepost rather than an old wooden one) someone forgot how to count to three. Equally, the books could be wrong. The bridge is rather unobliging and does not carry an engineer's code announcing how far from Ross it is. Since the matter is of little importance we won't bother to cast a vote on it.

The entire CMUPR was originally set out for double track but only a single line was laid. Like most other railways in the country which were set up this way the railway remained single track for its entire career. However, it did have the benefit that a loop line for the Royal Ordnance Factory could be provided without having to widen the bridge. Glascoed thus became one of the very few halts in the country with full signalling and a signal box. The three halts all closed when the passenger service was axed and the signal box went with the section from here to Usk. However, unlike the Wye Valley line, the bridges all seem to be in reasonable condition.

Usk and Usk Tunnel

Usk station was the initial terminus of the line, opening on the 2nd of June 1856 pending the completion of the line to Monmouth. It and Monmouth Troy would ultimately both be laid out in a very similar manner, with a double track line running into a tunnel (inside which the double line reduced to single), the goods yard and main buildings both to the right of the tunnel and a river crossing at the opposite end of the station to the tunnel. The fact that both had many detailed differences - for example, the bridge here was over the Usk and carried double track while at Monmouth there were two single track bridges over the Wye - merely shows what variations can be made to an unoriginal theme.

The extension to Monmouth met many little difficulties, the principal of which was the tunnel at the east end of Usk station (west portal in the middle picture, inside in the bottom picture). It notably fell in during proceedings, resuling in some rather interesting internal profile variations. (Other tunnels on the Monmouth rail network have little oddities - Lydbrook, on the Ross and Monmouth, has two styles of lining, while Tidenham, on the Wye Valley line, has lengthy unlined sections - but none of the other nine have mis-matching portals and wobbles in the lining.) However, the line was successfully completed and subsequently opened on the 12th October 1857.

The station was lightly described by one J. H. Clarke in 1891 as a "miserable little hut" which had been opened with the line and seen minimal improvement since. Progress was made and in 1897 a new set of facilities were completed to provide passengers with greater comfort. Edwardian views of the station show a very tidy site with handsome structures, a covered footbridge to link the two platforms and the station name written in creepers trained to climb appropriately up the cliff to the left of the tunnel portal.

Decline then duly set in. The station's resemblance to its younger sibling at Monmouth began to vanish with the loss of the footbridge in the Second World War. Trees grew up and hid the rockface, though a drop in staffing levels meant that there was less time to train the creepers anyway. Business slackened slightly in the inter-war years. All passenger trains and through goods services to Monmouth ceased on the 28th of May 1955 when driver's union ASLEF held a national strike; formal closure came on the 13th of June, the day before the strike was settled and services on all other lines in the country were able to resume (not quite as normal, however - the pay rise demanded was obtained at the expense of the long-term future of the network when the country used the two-week cessation of services to realise that it could largely manage quite happily without railways).

The line to Monmouth was then used for wagon storage - a fate to which several abandoned lines succumbed while British Railways worked out how many wagons they had actually inherited at Nationalisation. (They had also inherited the official documentation on how many wagons they should have inherited, but said documentation turned out to be slightly less reliable than tea leaves.) On the 12th of October 1957 a final passenger train celebrated the line's 100th birthday by running to Monmouth and back. The track through the main platform (left in the top picture, right in the middle) was lifted in 1959 and swiftly followed by the line from here to Monmouth. The remains of the station closed on the 13th of September 1965. Subsequently the line was cut back to Glascoed; a bridge on the west bank of the Usk over the A472 Pontypool to Usk road was removed soon after and the continuity of the trackbed broken.

Yet 45 years on this bridge remains the only point on the line from Little Mill to Usk where the continuity of the trackbed has been broken. Re-instating the bridge would now be more acceptable (it would impose a height limit on passing lorries, but there's one of those at the Little Mill end of the road too so it wouldn't prevent its use as a through route). Passenger trains funding the upkeep of the line would encourage BAe Systems to start using it again. Usk station is largely ready for the return of trains with its still-intact platforms (see upper picture). The double-track infrastructure would allow a half-hourly service to and from Newport or Cardiff with a footpath remaining over the river bridge.

Why not?

East of Usk

Once out of Usk Tunnel the line ran through a cutting along the north flank of Usk before heading out on a slight embankment into open country (railways are very bad at deigning to run at the same level as the surrounding land). The open country duly carried it around to Cefn Tilla Halt, where the line picked up the Olway Brook (which was straightened to make life easier) and followed its valley up to Raglan.

The trackbed is seriously broken for the first time in this area. This picture looks roughly eastwards along the line towards the end of a linear nature reserve now developed along the old cutting. The heavily overgrown bridge allows a suburban road to cross on a skewed route. Beyond is a short length of cutting which has been partially infilled to allow a new suburban road to be run across the line. After that the trackbed disappears into the general landscape for a bit, although it doesn't appear to have been seriously built over.

Should the line be reopened to Usk it would be worth giving serious consideration to making this the eastern terminus, rather than Usk station. It would serve a few hundred additional people and allow a Park and Ride station conveniently situated for the A449, which has a junction about a mile away. The trees to the left would make it feel like a real Great Western station. On the downside, half of the attractive and secluded nature reserve would get turned into a railway and it would become a substantially narrower green avenue.

 Cefn Tilla Halt

Cefn Tilla Halt was the last new station to open on the Monmouth rail network. The 1954 timetable change brought an additional 7 trains each way each day between Pontypool and Monmouth and accompanied this by slowing services slightly with a nice new halt at Cefn Tilla. This had the benefit that the express locomotive named after the Court of the same name could now stop at the local station - although the line was not noted for the frequent visits by express locomotives and the cab of your average Great Western express loco was larger than the halt platform.

Cefn Tilla was the ultimate display of low-cost service improvements (nobody asked at this point if unremunative services were really best improved by providing additional isolated stops however). The platform was located in a slight cutting just north of a minor road overbridge a mile out of Usk adjacent to an attractive stone cottage; the six-foot long wooden structure, with the nameboard on the cutting wall behind it, was sat on the half of the cutting set aside for the never-laid southbound track. It did not last long enough to appear on maps, though it is reported to have managed around ten passengers a day (which meant that during the peak timetable it got one passenger for every two trains). Closure came less than a year after it opened.

Nowadays the insignificant halt is well up in the "Disappearing stations" rankings. The slight embankments on each side of the cutting were swept away after closure. Bridge, halt and house all vanished under four lanes of tarmac with the opening of the A449 dual carriageway between Newport and Monmouth. A slight gap in the trees in the centre of the image marks where the railway once headed northwards from the little halt.


Llandenny station was the smallest of the four intermediate stations on the branch; it had no platform shelter and fairly minimal facilities. Curiously it was also, of the three stations between Usk and Monmouth, the closest to the village that it intended to serve, which was only a few yards away.

The station was split across a level crossing, with the station buildings, platform and signal box on the south side of the crossing (about where the van is in this view) and the loop and cattle dock on the north side. A couple of sidings branched off to the right and lay behind the main station building.

The only real changes over the station's entire existence were that after closure the grass got a bit longer, the buildings and crossing gates got a little more dilapidated and the nameboard and seat vanished. Otherwise it was a largely unchanging station in the shadow of some gently growing pine trees in an attractive rural spot.

It is rather less attractive and rural now. Llandenny is less of a place for the curious to get off the train and nose around too. Instead, traffic swoops past at 70mph. A "Spot the Difference" competition between this view and pictures of the active station (though it never was a real centre of activity) resulted in the eventual verdict that the background hills look more or less the same. The local road now has a bridge rather than a level crossing.

Raglan Road Crossing Halt


The original station at Raglan was, for some obscure reason, two miles from a village which the railway passed within half a mile of - probably something about the main road in the area crossing the line here, thus saving them the bother of building a road to link the railway and making the railhead for the area accessible to lots of people. It is also about equidistant between Dingestow and Usk, allowing that section of line to be broken neatly in half and thereby maximising the capacity of the single line. The reason as to why the inhabitants of the largest centre of population should have to walk two miles to their station was so obvious that the traincrew were unable to persuade the passengers of the indisputable and entirely logical reasoning behind locating the station as far away from any habitation as it is possible to get in this area and took to depositing passengers at the platformless Raglan Footpath instead. Subsequently (in a largely unprecedented and almost never-to-be-repeated move) the railway company realised that it had put its station in the wrong place and built a new one at Raglan.

The original site completely fell into disuse and was largely ignored by trains for some years, but when the GWR decided to slow down trains on this line a bit by adding a few extra stops re-opening the original Raglan station was fairly high on the agenda and services to the new halt began on the 24th of November 1930. This was a railway with a long name, so appropriately Raglan Road Crossing Halt seemed to be named with the intention of competing with Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch in the "stupidly long name stakes".

The halt, with its little dirt-and-timber platform, did a fairly good job of serving the local community (which can be seen to the left of the picture) over its career. It had a small corrogated steel shelter of the type used on the Wye Valley line. After closure it soon became overgrown; both it and the level crossing were swept away for the dual carriageway built on the alignment in the 1970s.


Raglan was the last station on the line to open (although a few halts would come later). Trains stopped here from very early on due to the fairly convenient location of the point in relation to a footpath to the village with its rather fine, if not particularly medieval, ruined castle. After the Great Western took over the line in 1863 steps began to be taken - rather slowly - to upgrade the route and Raglan Footpath was relaunched as Raglan station in 1876.

Like all the other stations on the line, goods facilities were provided at one end of the station site (the north end on this occasion) rather than opposite the platform. The platform instead overlooked a rather fine row of six pine trees. On this platform was a fairly handsome, if slightly basic, brick building with a simple awning. It was not in character with any of the other stations along the line.

The station was still not exactly in Raglan - the walk is not unattractive but is equally not likely to encourage traffic. The poor location of the station in relation to the second largest intermediate centre of population (after Usk) won't have helped business. Nonetheless, the dead station has done rather well in terms of simple survival. Unlike Llandenny, the building escaped demolition to make way for the A449 and still stands today on one side of a road maintenence centre alongside the dual carriageway, which is out of view to the left. One tree also remains. A prefabricated goods shed which once stood in the goods yard is apparently now at Norchard on the Dean Forest Railway.

Elms Bridge

Elms Bridge was the last of the three halts opened on the line by the Great Western, leaving Cefn Tilla to be opened under British Railways. The little dirt and timber platform was located just north of a high stone bridge at the bottom of the deep cutting used by the railway to pass into the Trothy Valley for the remainder of the journey to Monmouth (in which direction this picture was taken). It was on the left-hand side of the line and accessed by a steep path. The nearest named centres of population are Coed-y-fedw (on the left hand side of the road three-quarters of a mile away) and Pen-y-clawdd (about a mile away right), both of which are fairly minor, although the latter does warrant a church with a tower. Unfortunately they are linked by the next bridge on the line towards Monmouth, which did not get a halt; Elms Bridge Halt was on the road that linked a small hamlet a few hundred yards up a hill to the left with Kingcoed, two miles to the south and already served by Raglan Road Crossing Halt. One feels that whoever decided where trains on the CMUPR should stop had some very strange ideas as to the best way to select stopping locations.

When your station is named after the adjacent farmhouse ("The Elms" - the actual trees have probably been dead since the 1970s) it is not exactly setting out for a great career. (Other surrounding farms include Twyn-yr-argoed and The Warrage.) However, it did manage 22 years before closure, after which the photographers turned up and made it look really unsuccessful by photographing its grass-grown shelter-free platform. The cutting was dramatically widened for the A449 (augmented by the A40 north of Raglan) and the road bridge replaced by one which is twice as wide as it needs to be. Were it not for the road, it would be very easy to picture exactly how rural these stations once were.


Dingestow station holds the record for being the most intact of the CMUPR stations, since it retains its building, station master's house and platform, which all survive in a station footprint which is completely intact. It is evidently well-looked after with someone still living in the station house; consequently obtaining a decent photo really requires their permission to wander around the place and they seemed to be out on both occasions when we called, so a photo over the gate had to suffice.

The brick building most closely resembles Llandenny and bears little resemblance to the buildings at Usk, Raglan and Monmouth Troy, which were built during the 20-year-long upgrade of the line. It is therefore more likely that it is original; if so, it is probably the only CMUPR building in decent condition.

The village is an attractive place and produced an average of over 15 passengers per day in peak years. Levels of business then slowly slipped (to about 6 passengers per day) and staffing levels were reduced by two-thirds (to 1) by the 1930s. After closure the site slowly became overgrown, but seems to have been doing well enough by the time the road came along to justify the planners showing a spot of imagination and finding the road its own course for a few yards to pass the station behind the line of trees. It is not as quiet as it used to be, but its future seems assured.

Monmouth Troy

Monmouth Troy station, situated in the shadow of the Gibralter Rock, marked the end of the line for the first four years but was always intended as a through station. Trains arrived from Usk through a short tunnel and immediately entered the two-platform station, with the crossover into the Usk-bound platform being situated in the tunnel. The platforms ran in a straight line away from the camera; the goods yard was off to the left. Its facilities were initially fairly basic, but as its importance rose the station was developed and its building tally increased.

An extension to Wyesham came in 1861 - a short extension, but nonetheless expensive. The Monnow Valley Railway began work on another tunnel off to the left in 1865, which would have carried it under the north flank of the Gibralter Rock, around the south flank of Monmouth and up the Monnow Valley to Pontrilas. This scheme collapsed, leaving a short isolated tunnel which would have required new platforms on another alignment across the goods yard were it to carry passengers. The Ross and Monmouth Railway arrived in 1874 and was worked with the line from Pontypool as a through route until 1923. The Wye Valley Railway came from Chepstow in 1876; it was due to provide a turntable for the station to allow tender engines to frequent the lines, but that fell through. Expansion finished with the completion of the Coleford extension by the GWR in 1883.

After the Coleford Branch closed in 1917 the station settled down as a country junction at the centre of three independently worked branchlines. Each supplied four daily passenger trains and a daily freight train. Passenger services peaked in 1954 with 19 arrivals each day. This then dropped back to 12 for the first half of 1955, slumped to 8 after the closure of the CMUPR and collapsed to one daily freight (Sundays excepted) from Chepstow between 1959 and 1964.

Looking down from above the tunnel portal now it is hard to believe the bustle that could once have centred on the station at peak times. It was used as a lorry base and coal distribution centre for about two decades after closure. The footbridge between the two platforms was removed in July 1957; the buffet and the shelter on the second platform were removed after total closure in 1964. The main building was removed to Winchcombe station on the Gloucestershire & Warwickshire Railway in 1986. The goods shed was demolished in 2001. The goods yard is now a housing estate, but the platform area, linking the bridges at the west end with the blocked-up tunnel portal at the east, remains clear. The station is still the epitome of the rural country station - quiet, attractively sited and closed, though perchance not forever.

Wyesham Wharf

Wyesham Wharf was at the eastern end of the 1862 extension of the line, most of which was located on a highly expensive viaduct. The wharf was a standard transhippment wharf with the tramway from Coleford to Monmouth May Hill up on the platform and the CMUPR providing a few sidings alongside.

When the Wye Valley Railway arrived in 1876 it created an end-on junction with the older railway and the line over the viaduct was given the necessary overhaul to allow it to carry passenger trains. The wharf fell into disuse and disappeared when the Coleford Branch was built. Thus in 1883 the site became a proper junction, although the actual junction proper was at the far end of the layout.

The WVR passed into Great Western control in 1905, bringing all rails at the junction under a common owner. Junction status was lost when the Coleford Branch closed in 1917, but some importance was regained when a halt was built behind the camera in 1931. Passenger services ceased in 1959, with snowballs being thrown at the final special train on the 4th of January; the last train was a goods working from Monmouth Troy five years and two days later.

Now Wyesham holds the record of being the only place on the WVR to build significantly on its railway past; the trackbed runs between the fence on the left and the thin strip of rough ground towards the right to vanish under the houses in the distance. Happily there is plenty of room around the back for a new formation to veer around the obstruction.

Reopening possibilities are dealt with above; for some reason a spur to Usk has never been considered at the same length as Wye Valley regeneration. The disappearance of much of the trackbed and the lack of a suitable inspiration point (the refurbished Tintern station probably has a lot to answer for) will be factors in this. Reinstating the line to Usk also doesn't have the same "big bang" quality as a large-scale expensive link overcoming the odds to run trains through Tidenham Tunnel again either. Usk would undoubtably benefit from the link and it would put Raglan within a reasonable walking distance of the rail network (and within a comfortable cycling distance), showing the ability of short rail spurs to pierce potential tourist areas and widen the area accessible to those from further afield without a car.

But if the WVR is deemed to be little-known then that almost leaves no category to put this railway in. Which may be why the main page for this part of the website is headed with "The Wye Valley Railway" rather than "The Coleford, Monmouth, Usk and Pontypool Railway". That and the fact that the latter is just too long-winded to head an internationally-read webpage. "The Trothy Valley Railway" would have been so much snappier; sadly the very briefly proposed cut-off from Abergavenny to Raglan, which would have followed the Trothy for a little longer, was never built.

The background image on this page shows the line from the overbridge on the east side of Usk, looking back down the nature reserve towards Usk Tunnel and the former station.

More information and "past" photos can be found in Branch Lines to Monmouth (Vic Mitchell and Keith Smith, Middleton Press, 2008) and The Ross, Monmouth and Pontypool Road Line (Stanley C. Jenkins, Oakwood Press, 2002, 2009). The National Archives hold the GWR survey of the line under RAIL 274/56

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>>>Ross and Monmouth Railway>>>

>>>Coleford Branch>>>

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Last modified 06/04/11

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