Past The Tracks

The Cowbridge Line

History

The railway line which used to run from Cowbridge to Aberthaw in South Wales was only part of a larger line, which even in the early part of the 20th century failed to be successful. The northern section of the line between Llantrisant in Mid Glamorgan and Cowbridge was opened in the mid eighteen hundreds. The local population had been pressing for a railway link to their important market town for some time, and many schemes had been considered and rejected before the line was finally built.

Once completed as far as Cowbridge, attention then turned to possible extension of the line. The main support was for an extension southward to the small harbour of Aberthaw on the Bristol Channel, but there was also support for a cross country line to the small town of Llantwit Major. Eventually, the Aberthaw proposal won out and the line was constructed, following the line of the River Thaw southward to the coast.

Both sections of the line were fairly quiet in terms of traffic, with the majority of freight activity on the northern section being based around the Llanharry iron works and that on the southern section revolving around the Aberthaw lime works. Most passenger traffic was between Llantrisant and Cowbridge, with the southern section fairing rather badly in this respect, despite having three stations: at Aberthaw itself, St Athan Road and St Mary Church Road.

Matters were complicated somewhat when in the last quarter of the nineteenth century the Vale Of Glamorgan railway opened their line from Barry to Bridgend which also passed through Aberthaw. However, the two stations where at substantially different levels, with a long walk facing passengers wanting to transfer between the two. While both stations where open, the Cowbridge station was known as Aberthaw Low Level and the VOG station as Aberthaw High Level.

Traffic on the Cowbridge line declined rapidly after the first world war, and the southern section to Aberthaw was taken out of use to passengers in 1932. Closure to freight happened some five or so years later, but the track was left in situ for some years until the middle of the second world war when it was finally lifted. At this time the large over bridge near Aberthaw would also have been removed.

The northern section lasted considerably longer, with passenger traffic to Cowbridge remaining until 1955. Freight to Cowbridge lasted some ten or so years after this, and the final section of the line closed in the late 1970's when the Llanharry iron works finally closed.

Today the station site in Cowbridge has been built on, but the trackbed both north and south of Cowbridge is still easily traced. This is especially true to the north of Aberthaw, particularly impressive given that this section of line has been out of use for nearly seventy years.

Given it's isolated location and also the demise of the railways in general, it's no surprise that the Cowbridge line finally succumbed to it's fate. It's interesting to wonder if the line had been extended to Llantwit Major as planned if the line would have survived?

Probably not, seeing as the Vale Of Glamorgan line itself was closed in 1965. However, it remained open for freight, and having finally reopened to passengers in 2005, it just goes to show that the railway as a means of transport is still alive and well.

 

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