We’ve recently returned from a few days away in South Wales (thankfully before the devastation caused by Storm Callum came through).
We now have an unwritten rule on holidays that we try and “do” a train trip if we can. One of my favourites is the Brecon Mountain Railway which runs from Pant to Torpantau in the Brecon Beacons National Park. Its a little different from other Welsh narrow gauge – it is built on the line of the old standard gauge Brecon and Merthyr Railway, and it runs largely imported stock.
I’ve ridden behind both of their operational locos, but my favourite is their current source of motive power, a 4-6-2 tender loco made by Baldwin in 1930 for service in a cement works in South Africa. It tows a gaggle of balcony carriages with a caboose at their rear end. All very different from ‘normal’ narrow gauge stock – whatever that is!
We took a trip up the line on a drizzly day – not that the weather matters really when you’re under cover, in fact it made it quite atmospheric heading up into the mist lingering in the mountains.
At times the fir trees coming down off the hillside to the track felt a little like they could be in British Columbia.
This trip was a little different to all the ones we’ve made in the past as it was the first with our dog, Bentley. He’s a four and a half month old border collie, and this was his first sight of a train. A trip on some form of public transport was one of the only things left to do on his socialisation list to get him used to real life – so i took the opportunity to substitute a tin box of a train for something more fun 🙂
Largely he coped very well, only being scared when the loco blew off as it moved, the whistles didn’t phase him, nor did riding on the balcony briefly – which is encouraging as he’s going to be subjected to plenty more steam train trips during his life!
On the return trip from Torpantau the train always stops for around half an hour at Pontiscill to enable passengers to see their small museum, wander round the reservoir or stop in the cafe. Due to the weather we just grabbed a cuppa and a sandwich this time. However, when getting back on we jumped in the caboose. It brought back memories of riding the line when I was much younger and could easily fit in the observation seat up the steps more easily. It was fun recreating that, though I don’t think I’d have been comfy for a whole trip any longer.
If you’re ever in South Wales and have a hankering for a train trip, this one is well worth doing. Very picturesque, and something a little different as you don’t get many opportunities to ride behind a fairly large narrow gauge tender loco in the UK. Or try to squeeze into a seat above roof level that you probably oughtn’t to try as an adult.
There’s also an impressive workshop on show at Pant. At the moment they’re restoring a Baldwin 2-6-2 from 1897 to active service.
One bonus of riding in the caboose was the opportunity to chat with the guard. He was saying that during our incredibly dry summer the line was forced to run under diesel power, despite the steam locos having built in spark arrestors the national park authority requested they used diesel to avoid fires.
Afterwards we stopped at the reservoir next to Dol-y-Gaer and watched the last train of the day make its way up to Torpantau. I have some video footage, but will have to edit several sections together into something coherent. I’ll add it to the blog when I get round to that.