Barry Island Railway
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The Barry Island Railway is no longer based in Barry. The
Vale of Glamorgan County Council (VoGCC) withdrew funding for the project,
and in December 2008 served notice on the Railway that it was to vacate the
site by January 2009.
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The Railway has negotiated a new home at Pontycymmer on the Garw Valley Railway (GVRC). The GVRC (link at bottom of page) has been active in establishing a five-mile preserved railway between Tondu and Pontycymmer. The line closed to passengers in 1953, but the line remained open for freight. After its eventual closure, plans were drawn up by Bridgend County council to reclaim land near Pontycymmer by recovering coal from the spoil tips in the area, and the line was reopened. The last coal recovery train ran in March 1997, which led to the establishment of the Bridgend Valleys Railway Society (the forerunner of the GVRC) to open the branch as a preserved railway.
The need to move has caused much bitterness among the 300 or so members of the BIR. Originally formed as the Butetown Historical Railway Society at Bute Road in Cardiff, when the Cardiff Bay Development Corporation indicate that it did not want a preserved railway in the redeveloped former dockland, the BHRS was welcomed with open arms by the VoGCC, which saw it as an important attraction to further the council's plans to restore the port of Barry to its former glory as a major tourist resort on the Bristol Channel.
A change of policy by the council saw the railway as untenable, and following a tender process, the BIR's proposals were turned down in favour of Cambrian Transport, a company with which the BIR had closely worked during its Barry tenure.
Now, much of the BIR locos and stock has been
dispersed far and wide across the UK. Some of the Barry Ten - the collection
of steam locomotives representative of the types which operated in Wales -
have been used to provide parts as the basis of building 'extinct' classes
of steam locos which did not survive into presentation. Those remaining
will be moved into storage at the shed at Plymouth Road . It is thought that
they will be on public view very rarely. In its tender, Cambrian Transport
promised that it will have running days at Barry, but when and how often
these will be is unclear.
Pamela, the BIR's Hunslet 0-6-0ST has moved on hire to the Lincolnshire Wolds Railway, where it will be overhauled. The Hunslet Diesel mechanical shunter No 6688 of 1968 and a VDA van have a new home on the Dean Forest Railway, but the RSH 0-4-0ST shunter No 7705 has been bough by a consortium of BIR members and will be restored at Pontycymmer.
One of the diesel multiple units which were based at Barry as part of the Barry Railcar Project will be based at Pontycymmer, and is expected to be operational when the Garw Valley line opens to passengers later this year.
Use this link to view the WalesRails page on the Garw Valley Railway.
As stated, the Barry Island Railway is no more, but by way of providing a record of what was, and what might have been, the last WalesRails page on the railway is shown below.
Do not travel to visit the Railway, as Cambrian Transport is a private company and its facilities at Barry are not open to the public. When Cambrian do have open days, the dates will be announced in the railway press.
(Pictured right) Hauled by visiting locomotive 813, built for the Port Talbot Railway, the first train leaves Woodham Halt
on April 8 2004. The platform sign was unveiled by Dai Woodham's widow, Netta.
The new extension to Woodham Halt was inaugurated on April 8 2004, which gives two possible destinations of trains from Barry Island: the Waterfront platform at Hood Road or Woodham Halt. Now, in April 2007, the track from Woodham Halt is being further extended to a new terminus near the Morrisons Supermarket, some 400 metres distant.
The VoGRC was formed in 1977 as the Butetown Historical Railway Society (BHRS) which was based in the historic Taff Vale Railway (TVR) station of Bute Road (now Cardiff Bay) in Cardiff. It was from near this site that the very first train in South Wales ran in October 1840, when the TVR opened the line to Abercynon, extending to Merthyr Tydfil - then the largest town in South Wales - in April 1841.
The station was at the heart of the coal export trade which saw countless millions of tons of best steam coal shipped to the seafaring nations of the world. Around 1870, the TVR set up its Bute Road headquarters, and it was this almost-derelict building which the BHRS acquired in 1977. Over the years, society members refurbished the building and landscaped the surrounding area to establish its railway centre, with the intention of operating steam trains along the Bute Road branch and on to tourist attractions on the British Rail network in South Wales.
A highspot came in 1988 with the arrival on site of ten locomotives from Woodham Brothers' scrapyard at Barry. The locomotives were intended as the centre-pieces of a Wales Steam Heritage Centre which would be established at Bute Road, however, it soon became apparent that the BHRS proposals were in conflict with those of the Cardiff Bay Development Corporation which had been set up to transform the derelict former dockland area into a vibrant housing, leisure and light-industrial complex worthy of the capital city of Wales.
Relocation became a priority, and eventually agreement was reached with the Vale of Glamorgan Borough Council to move the Society's base to Barry Island, where its dream of a rail heritage centre could be realised. The centre was formally launched in June 1994, at which time the society also announced its change of name to the Vale of Glamorgan Railway Company (1994).
Work started on the heritage centre in February 1996, and all the locos and rolling stock were transferred from Bute Road to Barry Island on the 6th and 7th of February the following year.
In the course of 2006, the name was changed to the Barry Island Railway, for marketing purposes, but it continues to be operated by the Vale of Glamorgan Railway Company.
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While the Barry Island building was being refurbished and a replica goods was being built, the VoGRC continued operation at Bute Road, where visitors could take a 200-metre trip along the platform face of the station riding in an ex-British Rail Class 108 DMU trailer vehicle.
There was also the opportunity for looking around a display of photographs and artefacts which, along with a refreshment room and cafeteria, were housed in the station building which was formerly the headquarters of the Taff Vale Railway.
The Vale of Glamorgan Railway Company moved from its base at Bute Street in Cardiff, adjacent to Cardiff Bay (formerly Bute Road) station in February and March 1997. A series of Santa Specials on December 7th and 14th 1996 marked the end of rail operation at Bute Road, where, as the Butetown Historical Railway Society, the Society had its base in the former headquarters of the Taff Vale Railway Company. The end of an era was marked by a fusillade of track detonators placed in the path of the last train.
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The railway today
The Barry Island base was opened on June 1 1997, and almost a year later the
first high-spot in the VoGRC's calendar came on May 3 1998, when contracts and agreements
were completed to allow the first steamings at the centre, the Company's Peckett 0-6-0
Saddletank locomotive Sir Gomer giving visitor-rides in a former Class 108 DMU
At the end of the month, May 30 was another red letter day when the nameplate of the Hunslet 0-6-0 saddle tank was unveiled by Mrs Pamela Haines, after whom, as a child, the locomotive was originally named.
Steady progress has been made on developing the site, and extending over the causeway to Hood Road, while on the loco and rolling stock front, the Smith Rodley steam crane has been restored to working order and was used to lift the boiler and chassis off the frames of the ex-Ely Paper Mill Robert Stephenson & Hawthorn 0-4-0ST No 7705 locomotive.
Barry Island station
In the overview of the Heritage Centre, seen on the first day of operation with Sir Gomer in action, the Goods shed is served by two roads, while the storage sidings are seen to the right. The train is seen heading into the goods shed platform, which was first used by Santa Specials in December 1998. Since then, the track was extended into the Valley Lines' platform (upper left) in time for the 1999 Santa Special programme, and laid across the causeway (glimpsed above and to the right of the main shed) to Hood Road Goods Shed..
The station building on Platform One celebrated its centenary on 3rd August 1996, and has since undergone a high standard of refurbishment to become a display centre with ticket office, shop and refreshment room.
Now the track along the causeway is open, trains travel to the Waterfront station alongside the goods shed at Hood Road - where the VoGRC will establish its main works and restoration site - or the new Woodham Halt platform near the Skills Centre.
At Hood Road visitors can detrain to stroll around the Waterfront development or look around the shops in the main shopping thoroughfare a short walk away.
Woodham Halt opened on April 8th 2004, and is named in honour of Dai Woodham, the Barry scrap metal merchant who played such an important part in the UK rail preservation movement.
Barry Tunnel closed in 1971 and is currently used by a shooting club, but the long-term hope is to reclaim it for the heritage centre to run trains through it to the Pier Head. It is hoped that steamers operating in the Bristol Channel will once more visit Barry, giving the opportunity for combined steam trips by train and boat to other coastal resorts along the Bristol Channel and Severnside.
To mark the opening of the track across the causeway, a new commemorative issue of the Railway's handbook was published, which contains the detailed history and development not only of the VoGRC, but of the resort of Barry Island as well. An update detailing developments from 2001 until mid-2005 is incorporated. It is obtainable from the above address, price £4.95 plus post and packing 60p. (Please enquire about postal rate for overseas)
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Shunter Day: March 1
Easter Bunny Specials: March 22, 23 and 24
Volunteer Recruitment Day: March 29
Days out with Thomas: April 26 and 27; May 3, 4 and 5; July 12 and 13; July 19, 20 and 21
DMU Day: May 17
Barry Transport Festival: June 8
Rail Ale: June 21 and 22
Ordinary Passenger Service: July 5 and 6; 26 and 27; August 2 and 3; 9 and 10; 16 and 17; 30 and 31
Bumper Diesel Weekend: August 23, 24 and 25
Waterfront Festival: September 6 and 7
DMU Day: September 20
Shunter Day: October 11
Halloween Ghost Trains: October 30 and 31
Bonfire Night at the Waterfront: November 5th
Santa Specials: December 6, 7, 13, 14, 20, 21 and 22
Mince Pie Specials: December 28
There is a basic 45-minute service from 11.00am to 4.00pm. The timetable
and fare structure may vary for Special Events. Check with the VoGR for details.
On November 5th, trains run every 15 minutes between 5.30pm and 9.00pm
How to get there
...is served by a twenty-minute train service from Cardiff and the valley branches, though there is a reduced service on Sundays, particularly in winter. Cardiff Bus and Thomas Coaches run from Cardiff and Bridgend, but check times as there is limited ticket interchangeability between the companies. Some buses operate only to Barry, from where there is a pleasant walk along the causeway - which, incidentally opened in 1889; prior to which Barry Island really was an island! - past the Old Harbour. On the left at the Barry end is the former wagon works which closed in September 1999 and is the home of the remaining locos of the Barry Ten, as well as privately-owned DMUs and mainline diesel locos which are used by the BIR.
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Some of the locos listed have been moved off site so that they can be cannibalised to provide parts for schemes to reconstruct locomotive types which did not survive into preservation. Some of those listed are not on site.
The VoGRC has a number of locos and rolling
stock, though much of it is not on view except on certain Special Events days.
Eight steam locomotives, two tenders and three coaches are among those on view on
The Centre has also taken delivery of a number of items following the closure of the Welsh Industrial and Maritime in Cardiff.
More recently, a number of Class 115 and 117 DMU units have been brought to Barry and are stored in the former EWS depot. These will be used on extra operating days, at times when it is not economical to steam a locomotive.
Full list of locomotives and stock:
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These details of the attractions around the former Bute Road site (served by Valley Line trains from Queen Street station, and Cardiff Bus services from The Hayes, and Wood Street) are included for the benefit of visitors to Cardiff Bay. Though the Vale of Glamorgan Railway Society quit at the end of February 1997, the former Taff Vale Railway headquarters is a listed building and will remain on the site until councillors and the Cardiff Bay Development Corporation decide to which use it will be put.
The Bute Road headquarters were at the heart of the Cardiff Bay regeneration, which concentrates on leisure development alongside light industry. A little further along Bute Street was the Welsh Industrial and Maritime Museum which once housed a number of rail exhibits, including photographic displays harking back to the heyday of Cardiff as a major port, and the part which the railway played in its development. Unfortunately, the Museum closed in 1998 and has been re-established in Swansea, though many of the exhibits have been dispersed to various Welsh museums and preservation Societies. These included the VoGRC which took delivery of a steam shunting locomotive, a steam crane, handcrane and match truck, and lengths of narrow-gauge track which will be used to provide a circular ride in the goods shed area.
County Hall has been built in a Chinese pagoda-style on the former quayside of Bute East Dock, now renamed Atlantic Wharf. During summer a number of watersport events are staged here including dragon-boat races. The Pier Head building, once the headquarters of the Bute Dock Company is now the visitor centre of the Welsh Assembly Government. The Assembly, which met for the first time in June 1999, is presently housed in Crickhowell House a short distance away, while its new debating chamber opened on St David's Day (March 1) 2006. Throughout the Bay, modern sculptures mix with the old, and the Norwegian Church - in which children's author Roald Dahl was baptised - is now a cafe and a show-case for art. The new Millennium Centre for the Performing Arts opened in November 2004 and is home to the Welsh National Opera and seven other performing arts groups.
Techniquest is a hands-on science centre, which demonstrates scientific principles and
phenomena in entertaining - and often astonishing - ways.
From the promenade can be seen the Cardiff Bay barrage, which, from November 4 1999 dammed the mouths of the Rivers Taff and Ely to create a waterfront environment free of the tidal effects of the Bristol Channel, which has the second highest tidal rise and fall in the world.
Watertaxis cross the bay and take visitors for a close up view of the barrage, as well as travelling up-river to landing stages close to the city centre, one just south of the Millennium Stadium and the other just to the west of the castle.
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At Barry Island, the rail heritage centre is a
high-profile attraction at the town which has been a traditional kiss-me-quick, (cotton) candy
floss, and fish and chips holiday
resort for around one hundred years.
Not far from the Paget Road entrance to the Heritage Centre is Quasar, a three-storey family amusement centre, while directly opposite Barry Island station is the pleasure park, now refurbished after several years of neglect. As well as rides such as the Log Flume and Viper roller-coaster, KR's is a night-spot offering dining and dancing with waiter services.
Beyond the pleasure park is the promenade which runs from Friar's Point to Nell's Point.
Open all year round on the prom is the Barry Rollerdrome, South Wales' premier rollerblading centre.
Below the promenade is the broad sweep of Whitmore Bay, one of two bathing beaches in the resort. The other is Jackson's Bay, reached via the road which skirts the former site of the Majestic Holiday Camp, now being redeveloped as a residential and leisure complex, away to the left outside the station.
In the opposite direction, the causeway is flanked on the left by the Old Harbour, and on the right by the former docks which have been transformed into the Waterfront development with a marina, and housing and light industrial units.
Further away, yet within easy reach of Barry station, are Cold Knap and Porthkerry
Park, while a steep climb up the streets leading away from the station, leads to the ruins
of Barry Castle.
Close to Barry Dock station is the pedestrianised shopping area, while the leisure centre is mid way between Barry and Barry Dock stations, the latter intended as the long-term terminus of the VoGRC project.
Link to the Garw Valley Railway Company from here.
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Copyright © 1996/7/8/9/2000/1/2/3/4/5/6/7/8/9/10/ 11 /12/13/14 by Deryck Lewis. All rights
Page created July 14 1996; Redesigned March 29 1999; Last Update February 23 2011
If you have any suggestions, comments, or glitches to report, please contact the author at WalesRails