special feature
What difference?
At the dawn of the Railway Age, timber
was in widespread use for the construction of railway infrastructure. Explore the story of timber rail structures in Wales, source of materials
vital to the Industrial Revolution.
This essay was funded by
the ICE R&D Panel
Institution of Civil Engineers
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Timber Railway Viaducts in Wales
introduction |  use of timber |  Brunel in South Wales |  Rhys William Jones
South Wales Railway |  Vale of Neath Railway |  Cambrian Coast Railway
other timber railway structures |  sources + reading list
Rhys William Jones
Rhys William Jones (1804-64) was a Welsh-speaking civil engineer. He trained as a land surveyor and, like his father Rees (c.1769-1836) and grandfather William, he practised mineral or mine surveying in the Llanelli area. His training included study under George Rennie (1791-1866), and employment with Henry Robinson Palmer (1795-1844) working under Thomas Telford (1757-1834) on surveys for the improvement of the turnpike roads through Wales.
Suitably qualified in the profession, he moved to London, working under the Rennies on the Plymouth Breakwater, the new London Bridge (opened 1831) and other works. At one point he considered accompanying Lord William Bentinck (1774-1839) to India to undertake engineering works but was called back to South Wales in 1830 on the sudden illness of his father. Resigned to staying and working in Britain, he was engaged on the Liverpool & Manchester Railway under Charles Blacker Vignoles (1793-1875) for the survey of the line projected by the Rennies.
In 1835, Jones was elected a Member of the Institution of Civil Engineers. In 1840 and 1841, he acted as a sub-commissioner for the Childrens' Employment Commission looking into children working in industries such as ironworks and underground mining.
In 1846, he was engaged to work for Isambard Kingdom Brunel (1806-59) on the survey of the broad gauge South Wales Railway through the counties of Glamorgan and Carmarthen. The branch line to Swansea was projected at his suggestion. He also laid out Brunel's Vale of Neath Railway and was engineer to the Swansea Vale Railway.
In addition, he was engineer to the Llanelly Harbour Commissioners and worked on various harbour schemes such as Saundersfoot Harbour and proposals at New Quay. He worked as mineral engineer to Lord Milford's Pembrokeshire estates and for landowning industrialists like David Lewis of Stradey Castle, where his brother, solicitor Richard Bevan Jones, acted as land agent. He continued with the valuation of land for railways, arbitration cases and tithe commutation surveys in Wales.
A major work relevant to the subject of this essay, and largely overlooked, is the road crossing Jones designed for the tidal estuary of the River Loughor west of Swansea, completed in 1834 (now gone). It is likely that he was assisted here by another brother who also became an engineer. Jones' timber trestle structure carried the Swansea and Llanelly main road as part of the route from London to Milford. This bridge pre-dates Brunel's Loughor Viaduct, which was completed in 1852. It's possible that this bridge influenced the design of Brunel's railway structure.
Now let's turn to a closer look at the various timber viaducts that formed part of significant early railways in Wales ..... next >
introduction |  use of timber |  Brunel in South Wales |  Rhys William Jones
South Wales Railway |  Vale of Neath Railway |  Cambrian Coast Railway
other timber railway structures |  sources + reading list

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