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Pontypridd Railway Viaduct
Mill Street, Prontypridd, Rhondda Cynon Taf, Wales, UK
associated engineer
Isambard Kingdom Brunel
date  1837 - 1840, 1861
era  Victorian  |  category  Railway Viaduct  |  reference  ST069901
ICE reference number  HEW 1220
Pontypridd (Newbridge) Railway Viaduct was the first major work to be started in the building of the Taff Vale Railway, engineered by Isambard Kingdom Brunel (1806-59). It spans the River Rhondda and Mill Street in the town of Pontypridd, and is notable for its wide skew main arch. A less daring bridge with a mid-span pier was constructed alongside when the railway line was double tracked in 1861. The viaduct is still part of the national rail network and is Grade II* listed.
The Taff Vale Railway ran between Cardiff and Merthyr Tydfil. The first section, north from Cardiff to Navigation (Abercynon), opened as a single line on 8th October 1840, with trains running at timed intervals. It carried iron, iron ore and coal, and passenger services were included from the start. It was constructed to the standard gauge (4ft 8.5in or 1.435m), and was the first railway in Wales to be powered solely by locomotives, which at that time were steam-driven.
The railway incorporated several major engineering works, the principal one being the Quakers Yard Viaduct (Goitre Coed Viaduct) over the River Taff. The others include the tunnel and cutting at Goitre Coed, the tunnel at Ynyscoi, the bridge at Melingriffith and the Pontypridd Viaduct, known as Newbridge Viaduct at the time.
On 16th August 1837, Lady Charlotte Elizabeth Guest (1812-95), wife of John Josiah Guest (1785-1852) ironmaster of the Dowlais Ironworks and leading member of the Taff Vale Railway Company, laid the first stone of the Pontypridd Viaduct. This also marked the beginning of the construction of the whole railway.
The viaduct is constructed of pennant sandstone and is 76.2m long and was originally 4.6m wide. It skews across a bend in the river. From south to north, its four spans measure 10.1m, 10.1m, 33.5m and 9.1m. The impressive main span is an elliptical arch, the others are semi-circular.
The Taff Vale Railway track-doubling works were completed in 1861, and the Pontypridd Viaduct was widened to 7.9m. To accomplish this, a second masonry structure was added to the west side of the original. It is similar in style but has two segmental arches and a river pier instead of a wide main span.
A weir, presumably built around 1861, controls flow through the river arches. Its dam of coursed stonework is about 1.2m high, with stone paving to the downstream (east) side. An arched sluice is located at the north end and the main bypass channel is to the south.
Mill Street now passes through the viaduct on multispan plate girders and cylindrical cast concrete piers. An abutment and a modern plate girder bridge have replaced the original 9.1m northern approach span over Rhondda Road.
In February 2001, Pontypridd Rail Viaduct was given Grade II* listed status. In 2006, commemorative plaques were fixed to the viaduct during Brunelís bicentenary anniversary events.
Contractor: John Edmunds
Research: ECPK
'Brunel in South Wales, Volume I: In Trevithick's Tracks' by Stephen K. Jones, Tempus Publishing Ltd, Stroud, Gloucestershire, 2005
"Brunel in South Wales, Volume II: Communications and Coal" by Stephen K. Jones, Tempus Publishing Ltd, Stroud, Gloucestershire, 2006
"Brunel in South Wales, Volume III: Links with Leviathans" by Stephen K. Jones, The History Press, Stroud, Gloucestershire, 2009
reference sources   CEH Wales

Pontypridd Railway Viaduct