The Brecon Mountain Railway was conceived over 30 years ago when a search started to find a site to operate a steam tourist railway using various locomotives and equipment collected from Europe and further afield.
Merthyr Tydfil seemed ideal - located on the edge of the Brecon Beacons National Park with its beautiful mountain, lake and forest scenery. At one time it was the greatest iron making town in the world and most of the earlier railways used iron rolled by its mills. It also witnessed in 1804 the trial run of the Trevithick locomotive - the first steam railway engine.
Brecon and Merthyr Railway
The site chosen was on the old abandoned Brecon and Merthyr Railway opened originally in 1859 and finally closed in 1964. This Railway fought its way through the Brecon Beacons using steep gradients and the Torpantau tunnel which at 1313-ft above sea level is the highest railway tunnel in Great Britain. The 5.5 miles stretch between Pant and Torpantau seemed suitable but difficulties were soon found. The scrap merchants had not only removed the track but also all the bridge girders and even the manhole covers. The ballast had been taken for road material and no buildings remained except for the shell of the signal box at Pontsticill and the station house which was used as a sheep shelter. It was then discovered that the only part of the railway still in British Rail hands was one bridge abutment which they readily agreed to sell! The remaining land had been sold off and it took between 5 and 20 years to obtain the rest from 12 different landowners. At Pant the old station was not available so adjoining land was purchased for a deviation.
By 1978 the various planning and other consents had been obtained and construction started with the re-building of the Station House and conversion of the adjoining waiting room into a small workshop.
Then came a tin shed for storage and work started on the repair and replacement of the 7 bridges between Pant and Pontsticill. Track laying was commenced in 1979 but delayed for two months whilst a huge landslide was filled with a row of demolished terrace houses from Merthyr Tydfil.
Meanwhile the first carriage had been built at Pontsticill and "Sybil" - a small slate quarry engine from North Wales had been prepared to haul the train.
Track laying was completed late one summer evening in June 1980 and the railway opened to traffic the next day.