|THE INDUSTRIAL RAILWAY RECORD
© JUNE 1969
SOUTH WALES MINERAL RAILWAY
K. P. PLANT
Very little information about the South Wales Mineral Railway is readily available and we feel that details of the accident which occurred in Gyluchy* Tunnel on 16th August 1902 will be of interest. The report, issued by the Board of Trade after an investigation by Major E. Druitt, R.E., was published in the November 1902 issue of "The Railway Engineer". To set the scene, we should mention that the South Wales Mineral Railway was incorporated on 15th August 1853 as a broad (7ft 0½in) gauge line which was leased to and worked by the Glyncorrwg Coal Company until 1870 and then by its successors, the Glyncorrwg Colliery Co Ltd. It was opened in stages between June 1861 and March 1863, and converted to standard gauge in May 1872. In 1902 there were five locomotives, all 0−6−0 saddle tanks; Nos.1 to 4 were built at Wolverhampton GWR Works in 1872/1873, and No.5 by Black Hawthorn in 1891 (works no. 1028).
MacDermot states that the SWMR was closed between Briton Ferry and Tonmawr Junction on 31st May 1910, traffic being diverted at the latter point on to the Port Talbot Railway. According to the Society's records the Glyncorrwg Colliery of the Glyncorrwg Colliery Co Ltd was closed down in July 1925 and dismantled. However, the "One-Inch" 7th Edition (1947−48) O.S. map shows a continuation of the SWMR running north-east for about another 1½ miles beyond the terminal point shown on our map; this line served other collieries further up the Corrwg valley. Pocket Book EL lists (page EL 230) a 2ft 9in gauge Ruston diesel at Glyncorrwg Colliery which we presume is the colliery owned in pre−NCB days by Amalgamated.
* The spelling was Gyluchy in "The Railway Engineer" account, although MacDermot says it was originally Gyfwlchau. Much later it was known as Tonmawr Tunnel. On the Ordnance map there is a place named Gyfylchi very near the tunnel. What was the official spelling?
Anthracite Collieries Ltd; the grid reference (SS 888998) shows the colliery to be about a mile beyond Glyncorrwg village.
From this, several queries come to mind.
(1) When was the Tonmawr Junction to Briton Ferry section lifted? The "One-Inch" 7th Edition (1948) O.S. map shows the line in situ for just over two miles beyond the Junction.
(2) Where exactly was the Glyncorrwg Colliery which closed in 1925? Was it nearer to Glyncorrwg village than the present Glyncorrwg Colliery?
(3) When was the line beyond Glyncorrwg opened, and under whose ownership was it built?
(4) What is the present state of the railway between Tonmawr Junction and the upper reaches of the Corrwg valley?
(5) What is the history of the line after 1902?
We shall be pleased to have answers to anyone of these queries, or in fact any information and photographs relating to the South Wales Mineral Railway. And now to the Accident Report.
The 4pm train from Incline Top, Briton Ferry, came into collision with the 4−30pm train from Glyncorrwg while the two trains were running in opposite directions on the single line of railway. Each train consisted of a 6−coupled tank engine fitted with hand brakes on all six wheels, an empty coal truck, and a guard's van. [It seems strange to us that an empty wagon should be running from Glyncorrwg I]
The drivers and firemen of both engines were injured, and a cashier of the Glyncorrwg Colliery Co, who was riding on the engine from Glyncorrwg, and seven passengers who had permission to ride in the guard's van were severely injured, two of the latter succumbing to their injuries.
The SWMR is about twelve miles long from Briton Ferry to Glyncorrwg. Between Briton Ferry and Incline Top is an incline of about 1 in 10. The coal wagons are let down by a wire cable controlled by a braked wheel at the top. From Incline Top to Glyncorrwg the line is a single one, about eleven miles in length, with passing places for trains at Ton Mawr and Cymmer, 3½ and 7¾ miles respectively from Incline Top. At Ton Mawr a connection is made with a branch of the Port Talbot Railway, and at this place is a signal box for working the traffic on to and off that railway. The signalman is appointed by the Glyncorrwg Colliery Co, and the Port Talbot Railway pays half his wages. This signal box is in telephonic communication with Incline Top only. At Cymmer there is a small office and a weighbridge with telegraphic communication to both Incline Top and Glyncorrwg. At this place there is a siding connection with the Great Western Railway. There are three trains daily each way, timed to pass at Cymmer unless special instructions are issued by the traffic manager at Briton Ferry or Glyncorrwg for the trains to be worked otherwise. The gradients are not severe for this class of line, the steepest being 1 in 70, and the trains are not as a rule very heavy.
The SWMR is used for mineral traffic only. It has never been inspected on behalf of the Board of Trade, and is not equipped in any way for the conveyance of passengers. Its termination at Glyncorrwg lies in a district difficult of access, and ever since the line was first opened it has been the custom to allow people residing in the neighbourhood to ride in the empty trucks or brake vans of the trains, in order to go to and from Neath, two or three miles distant from Incline Top, to do their marketing. No charge has ever been made to anybody for this privilege, so that such persons are not "passengers". The traffic is worked in a method that is not permitted on a passenger line, but if the authorised instructions had been carried out no such collision as the one now reported on could have happened, and no similar one has occurred since the line was first opened. The standing instructions at the time of the collision were "that trains pass each other at Cymmer unless special instructions to pass at Ton Mawr are issued, and no such special instructions are to be given until communication has been got through from both departing points that the line is clear."
On Saturday, 16th August 1902, Mr Perrott, a cashier of the Colliery Company, was going down from Glyncorrwg by the third train, and as he was anxious to get to Briton Ferry as soon as possible asked Mr Stephens, the traffic and telegraph clerk at Glyncorrwg if the train could run through to Ton Mawr, and pass the up train there instead of waiting for it at Cymmer. The conversation between the two on this subject was held in the presence of no−one else, and the evidence of the two is contradictory.
Just as the train started at 4−30pm, Mr Stephens says he wired to Cymmer to say the train had started, but got no reply. He then wired to Incline Top to ask where the other engine was, and received a message back that it had just left. He then wired to Incline Top to telephone to Ton Mawr to stop the up train, but the signal box there was shut up, the signalman having left. There was no possibility of communicating with either of the trains, which were thus proceeding in opposite directions on a single line, the down train with instructions to pass at Ton Mawr and the up train to pass at Cymmer. Naturally a collision ensued, as the up train could not see the down train approaching it, being in a tunnel with a curve at the top end. The tunnel being straight at the lower end, R. Hughes, the driver of the down train, caught sight of the up train as it entered the tunnel when he was about half-way through, and he succeeded in stopping his train just as it was run into by the up train. It was Mr Stephens' duty to have ascertained from Incline Top, before telling Hughes that he could run through to Ton Mawr, that the up train had received the necessary instructions to wait at Ton Mawr for the down train. He is to blame for the collision.
Barnes, the signalman at Ton Mawr, left his box without permission shortly after 4pm on receiving a message from the Port Talbot Railway that their traffic was finished for the day, and for this he is much to blame.
Immediately after the collision the managers issued printed instructions as to the train service and method of working. Any train required to pass another, except at Cymmer, is now not to start without first obtaining a special running permit ticket from the officer in charge at the departure point; and no engine is to pass the point named on such permit ticket until the driver has obtained a fresh permit ticket from the officer in charge at such point.
In addition, before a train is allowed to depart from any of the four points, viz., Incline Top, Ton Mawr, Cymmer and Glyncorrwg, definite information should be received by the signalman or person in charge that the line is clear to the next point in advance. To do this it will be necessary to connect Ton Mawr and Cymmer by telegraph, a distance of 4½ miles, but the expense would not be great, and the convenience would be very great for regulating the traffic and the passing of trains in safety.
The company would, too, find it advantageous to have only one traffic manager, as this would also help to regulate the traffic on the whole line.
"We regret to learn that Mr. Thomas Peckett, senior partner of Messrs. Peckett & Sons, Atlas Works, Bristol, locomotive builders, died on the 24th June, after a short illness, at Boulogne. The business will be carried on exactly as before by the remaining three partners."
("The Railway Engineer," August 1891 - KPP)