The Monnow Valley Railway

Monmouth - Skenfrith - Pontrilas

The 1860s scheme is the dark green line between Monmouth and Pontrilas, while the 1883 one is represented by a purple line. The dark red lines are the 1888 scheme and the yellow line is the 1889 scheme. Primary roads are in red, secondary roads in orange, minor roads in yellow, very minor ones in white, other railways in black and rivers in blue. Any stations which you may be able to pick out are shut.

As railways go the MVR left a great deal to be desired - the principal thing on the "To organise" list being a railway. Two companies proposed links between Monmouth and Pontrilas up the attractive Monnow Valley and neither succeeded in organising anything much.

First up was an 1860s project, which appears to have been principally driven by its contractor Thomas Savin. It proposed a route with three tunnels - one at Monmouth and two at Skenfrith - and nine major river crossings - too many to list the locations of or, indeed, for any reasonable railway to afford. It announced plans to work with the Coleford, Monmouth, Usk and Pontypool Railway - then the only railway serving Monmouth - to develop what would later be known as Troy station as the junction at the south end of the route. It would have been a rather unusual junction, with at least three and possibly four platforms built around lines bursting out of tunnels in an impressive manner on the western side of the site and dropping to a single freight-only line (climbing over a viaduct and across the Wye to Wyesham Wharf) on the eastern side of the site. The single-track line would have provided an outlet for Forest of Dean traffic to the North - a long-running ambition of the era - since at the Pontrilas end it was to form a junction with the Newport, Abergavenny and Hereford Railway.

Work began in 1866, shortly after two more railways to Monmouth (from Ross to the north and Chepstow to the south) had been approved, and the odds looked rather good on Monmouth having four railways by the end of the decade. However, Savin had been spending the previous few years overstretching himself with heavy investments in his fleet of railways, of which the Monnow Valley was a fairly typical example - it ran through a hilly area of sparse population with lots of expensive earthworks en route. Indeed, the only point on which the Monnow Valley differed from its fellows was that it was under 30 miles long. It therefore shouldn't have come as too much of a surprise to too many people when Savin went to the wall within weeks of beginning work on Monmouth's new railway tunnel. The tunnel probably wasn't to blame for his bankruptcy - a more likely cause is his other project, the Mid-Wales Railway, which had just been completed at considerable expense to link up various isolated bits of Wales where very few people lived and industry was largely unknown.

Soon after any prospect of recovering the works and continuing the project were destroyed by the collapse of the Overend and Gurnley merchant bank - the last run on a bank until Northern Rock in 2007 and brought on by a crisis about the ability of its debtors to pay after a failed claim against the Mid-Wales Railway - and the ensuing economic recession, which also nearly killed the lines from Ross and Chepstow into the bargain. The Wye Valley Railway's eventual arrival from Chepstow was soon followed by bright ideas about the high probability of recommencing work on the line, which probably didn't please any of the three complete railways very much since their tidy Monmouth terminus was still marred by the incomplete (but rather large) hole in the wall of the approach road which was supposed to have become a railway tunnel for the last attempt.

However, it was equally now undeniable that a line from Monmouth to Pontrilas would make a very useful outlet for Forest of Dean traffic to the North, since the outlet which had ultimately been provided allowed trains from the Severn and Wye Railway network in the Forest to join the Ross and Monmouth Railway at Lydbrook - pointing south and towards Monmouth, which wasn't exactly the direct outlet wanted. An alternative was provided with a steeply-graded route between Mitcheldean (on the cross-country line between Hereford and Gloucester) and Cinderford (the northern nucleus of the Forest network) a couple of years later, but that went on to show that just because someone built a railway didn't mean that they were under any obligation to call in the Board of Trade and obtain permission to run trains over it. They could just leave it to rust away instead. Which they did.

So the 1880s dawned with no direct link from the Forest of Dean to the North - although since the junctions at Lydney, Awre and Bullo all pointed in a vaguely northerly direction, even if they were at the southern end of the Forest, one does have to wonder why there had over the years been so much fuss over it - and so a new project emerged. In fact it emerged three times over the decade, with various developments and alterations on each occasion which converted it from being an upmarket through line to a twisting chord of no real importance. It was to be built as part of a through line to Hay-on-Wye - the Golden Valley Railway was planning to link Pontrilas with Hay and thought that a southwards extension to Monmouth would be a useful connection to help boost their railway's credentials. (Their prospectus suggested that their line would form part of a direct link between Liverpool and Bristol. The bulk of the 100-mile route was to single track, with steep gradients and a maximum speed of 40mph. Bits of it hadn't been built yet.)

Hay was already served by the Hereford, Hay and Brecon Railway (another of Thomas Savin's jobs). Done correctly, the cross-country line from Monmouth to Hay could have given Hay some status as a railway junction, although since Forest industry wasn't doing exceptionally well and there was no industry or population to speak of en route there was no reason as to why it should have particularly flourished. In the event it never had the opportunity to flourish. The line from Pontrilas to Hay was an unmitigated failure from opening throughout in 1889 (it had managed to open part-way in 1881 and then struggled to even afford a begging bowl to raise the cash to cover the rest) and never found the money - despite its management having the inclination - to extend to Monmouth. In 1898 all services ceased - almost faster than a typical Golden Valley train - although in 1901 - after three years out of commission - the Great Western Railway reopened the route and ran it as a public service. In summer 1935 trains were leaving Hay empty and passenger loadings rarely scraped into double figures. It closed "for the duration" (of the Second World War) in 1941 and was eventually dismantled in 1957 after reopening was decided to be unlikely.

The villages of Rockfield, Skenfrith, Garway, Grosmont and Kentchurch therefore never got their much hyped railway and instead got to watch on with interest as Abbeydore, Bacton, Peterchurch and Dorstone went through the unenjoyable experience of being served by a transport company with barely sufficient funds to buy the next day's coal for the locomotive. The railways mentioned in this story almost all proceeded to close - the Severn and Wye began to vanish in 1929 and little remained after 1956 (although the Dean Forest Railway has preserved six miles); the Monmouth to Pontypool line mostly shut in 1955 and Monmouth lost all passenger trains when its other two branches closed in 1959. The Hereford, Hay and Brecon closed in 1963 and Pontrilas station closed in 1964, a few months after goods traffic to Monmouth had ceased. The Newport, Abergavenny and Hereford largely survives today.

The series of pictures below follow the route proposed in the 1860s; below them is a sequence on the 1880s lines.

Monmouth Troy

Thomas Savin's decision to build a new tunnel for his line to leave Monmouth Troy station through made a certain amount of sense; the tunnel that was already there pointed in the wrong direction and another expensive tunnel would have been required to allow the new line to pass out of the Trothy valley used by the Pontypool line into the Monnow valley to be used by the Pontrilas route. Monmouth Troy was less than ten years old at the time and bore little resemblance to the familiar station of the 20th century, which was largely the result of the late 19th century modernisation of the Coleford, Monmouth, Usk and Pontypool Railway. Intriguingly, the only section of the entire line to be built - this tunnel - is not on the deposited plan, which infers that a cutting was planned instead.

The bore was intended to be a short double track tunnel cutting through a low flank of the Gibralter Rock and made a good point at which to start construction of the line. Thus the Monnow Valley became the second railway at Monmouth Troy station. Soon after it gained the indignity of being placed on the list of "Incomplete Railways" alongside such commercial successes as the Forest of Dean Central Railway, although that at least got to operate a few trains over the line that it built. The only use ever found for this tunnel - which was only a score or so yards long, if that - was as the station store. Its historic importance as the last piece of railway infrastructure begun by Thomas Savin and the only feature of the Monnow Valley Railway was probably largely ignored when squeezing the station lorry around boxes to park it just inside the tunnel portal at nights.

Later lorry designs were too big to fit in the tunnel and it fell into disuse. In the 1970s its proposed course was sliced into little pieces by the arrival of the A449/A40 dual carriageway from Newport. At some point around this time it was attractively sealed up completely with a concrete wall. A 2002 housing development parked it squarely in the back garden of a private house whose owners have attempted to decorate the sulking arch with attractive garden plants. It is at least no longer suffering the indignity of being used as a storage space when it was intended to be a glorious transport link, although at least in those days it had some purpose in life.

Credit is due to the owners of said private house for kindly allowing us to take the tunnel's picture. It is the only piece of railway infrastructure you will see on the line until we reach Pontrilas.

West Monmouth

Once out of Monmouth Tunnel the line climbed slowly around the back of Monmouth and crossed the Rockfield Road just to the west of Monmouth's gated bridge. The 1860s scheme proposed an easy gradient of 1-in-582 for this stretch, with a 16ft high arched bridge. The ruling gradient was a length of 1-in-123 between Monmouth and Rockfield - this was to be a gently-graded line offering few challenges to even the locomotives of the era.

Putting this into the context of the photograph - which naturally shows no traces of the bridge or associated property demolition since the plans never left the proverbial drawing board - the gated bridge is behind the white house to the right (it is now the No Through Road indicated on the roundabout sign to the left). The railway would have passed through the far end of the fine bit of 1960s architechture on the far side of the roundabout, with the bridge suitably skewed so that the right-hand abutment was a little closer to Rockfield.

None of the plans provide station or junction layouts and instead make do with showing where the single pair of rails were essentially planned to run. Therefore it is not possible to conclusively say, based on the initial plan, whether or not there would have been a station around here. The answer is probably that there wouldn't have been however; had it not been for the Ross and Monmouth's financial problems, Monmouth would quite likely have had to make do with Troy as the railhead until the 1930s. That does, however, mean that in an incredibly roundabout and indirect way the Monnow Valley may have improved Monmouth's transport links.

Tregate Bridge

Open country, being open, features few landmarks of note to identify precisely where a railway would have run from a plan interested solely in the railway and the surrounding 20 yards of land. Guesses can be made from nearby farms and roads. It would seem to be a fairly good approximation that if the railway had been built it would have come up from Monmouth and Rockfield through the sparse line of trees in the centre, straight through where the sheep are grazing, across the road about where the picture was taken from and thence up the valley towards Skenfrith.

The road from which the picture was taken is that to the south-west of the "R" in "River Monnow" on the map at the top of the page.

One of the striking things about exploring unbuilt railways is that you are in essence seeing the ground as it was before the railway was built. Had events taken a different turn the sheep would probably not be grazing on a level field but on the side of a slightly raised track. The photograph would have been taken from a fine arch bridge about 20ft off the ground. Instead we have an attractive and largely untouched rural scene which has changed little over the century since the line was proposed.

East of Skenfrith

Skenfrith was to feature the most impressive bits of infrastructure, including two tunnels, so hopefully you'll forgive a lengthy pause here. Approaching Skenfrith from the south-west, the Monnow turns to the north-east, runs around a promontory, heads west into Skenfrith and then turns north around another promontory, before returning to a Pontrilas-bound course.

These sudden changes of direction were too much for the original railway scheme, which planned to skip all of them and bypass Skenfrith in the process with the help of three river crossings and two tunnels in the space of a mile. Few railways ever planned such intensity of major engineering features (the closest in the Monmouth area was the Hereford, Ross and Gloucester, which kept the bridges at least a mile apart) and they can't have done much in the way of encouraging the local bigger companies to build it.

This picture looks down the valley towards Monmouth. The river can be seen winding around the valley in a belt of trees. The railway would have approached across the brown fields in the centre. It was then going to cross the river, pass across the two green fields on the centre left and enter the a short cutting on this side of the avenue of trees climbing up the foreground field towards the farm on the right. The cutting would have swiftly ended in the first and longer of the line's two tunnels. The proposed styling of the tunnel is unknown.


The hill through which the longer Skenfrith Tunnel would have passed is crossed by a rather minor lane, from which both the previous picture and this one were taken. This picture looks towards Pontrilas; the river is hidden behind the bank of trees across the centre. Skenfrith is off to the left. The second promontory dominates the view; Pontrilas is a few miles to the north behind it.

The railway would have emerged from this hillside below the trees in the foreground, probably in about the centre of this image. Almost immediately it would have crossed the river on a short viaduct. After the river is a narrow field; then comes the Skenfrith to Garway road; once that was cross the railway would have plunged into the shorter of its two tunnels.

The proposed location of Skenfrith station is not marked. Here would have been the most convenient point in relation to Skenfrith but the site would have been quite tight and largely unsuitable. Stations were rarely built on bridges. The other end of both tunnels is getting a little more remote from Skenfrith, but to the north of the second tunnel and the third river crossing would have been a possibility (albeit lacking in road access, that area genuinely being all fields).

Of course, it is possible that the promoters envisaged a through route with no intermediate stops, but they were not very common on the whole and most railways built in the 19th century provided stops at frequent intervals, partly to appease the locals and partly to provide passing loops (useful on single track lines). Stations purporting to serve Skenfrith and Grosmont would therefore have ultimately been likely, even if they were omitted from the map.

West of Skenfrith

At the north end of the second tunnel the line was to cross this attractive minor lane and then immediately hurl itself out over the river, which is just on the other side of the trees to the right. It was to have climbed steadily all the way through the tunnels and over its three river crossings; on the other bank of the river is a low promontory pointing into the next meander which the railway would probably have been able to pass over without having to cut into too deeply. (The 1883 plans had the line staying on the valley floor and a tunnel would therefore have been necessary to pass through that meander. It would then have gone around the bottom of this one, passing close to Skenfrith, and through a long tunnel to pick up the Monnow again for the run down to Monmouth.)

All nine of the river crossings on the 1860s plans were to feature single arch bridges with 60ft spans, ranging between 10 and 20ft above river level. They would have made a rather fine sight and it is something of a shame that none were built for us to admire today. The low bridge across this road that would also have been required would probably not have been much of an impediment to the sort of traffic which uses it.

The proposal with regards to the tunnels was to drive cuttings into the hillsides until they were 50ft deep and then begin boring the tunnels. Since the hills are fairly perpendicular around here the resultant cuttings would have been quite short. The cutting on departure from Monmouth Troy was only expected to reach 46ft deep and so would not require a tunnel. Why it was decided to bore one is unclear. Since tunnels were rarely faced and lined until boring was complete it is unlikely that the single tunnel portal built for the line bears much resemblance to the planned appearance for the tunnels up here (apart from the fact that it is a tunnel portal and all tunnel portals have a certain familial resemblance).

Grosmont for Kentchurch

The 1860s scheme was one of these railways which saw a settlement of any particular size and promptly bypassed it. This was, however, entirely because the settlements weren't on a convenient through route between Monmouth and Pontrilas - Skenfrith is at one extremity of a meander and its fellow sizeable village in the area, Grosmont, is at the top of a very big hill.

Therefore the railway cut around the bottom of the hill and encountered the road from Grosmont at Kentchurch, which is a very small hamlet on the north bank of the Monnow with seven or eight houses and a pub. A farm on the south bank has erected a fine line of covered pens along a field boundary, roughly marking out where the railway would have passed. Some road relevelling was anticipated.

It is not far from Grosmont to Pontrilas and all four schemes had very similar ideas for the last leg up the valley. On the final approach the Monnow splits, with a tributary heading up into Pontrilas and the river turning south towards Abergavenny.


The Newport, Abergavenny and Hereford Railway has always approached Pontrilas from the south unencumbered by junctions. It opened in 1854 and provided the backbone for a number of branchlines winding off across country in various directions between Newport and Hereford. The bottom end of the line south of Pontypool was subsequently replaced by the Pontypool, Caerleon and Newport (which is still in use today, although it now serves Cwmbran rather than Caerleon) but the route is otherwise largely intact. Although the intermediate stations have all been heavily rationalised (and largely closed) the line is still covered by semaphore signals. Every single one of the branches along the way has closed and - with the exception of the Coleford, Monmouth, Usk and Pontypool Railway - lifted.

Thus it is statistically unlikely that if the Monnow Valley Railway had been built it would still be open today. (You may also wish to count the number of houses in the pictures above too to get a rough idea of the sort of passenger numbers that it might have obtained down the years.)

Skenfrith returned to a proposed railway map when Wells Owen and Elves, Engineers (of Westminster), became involved in planning the South Wales and Forest of Dean Junction Railway (generally abbreviated from hereon to the SW&FoDJR to save space), which was to be submitted to Parliament in the 1877-8 session. It never actually was - perhaps someone pointed out to the directors that a line with a fairly consistent gradient of 1-in-40 in one direction or the other was not really practical for heavy trains - so the plans for a line from Abergavenny to Lydbrook via Skenfrith and Llangarron, with a branch to Ross-on-Wye, were shelved. It was the sort of line for which the term "cross-country" was invented. Its main aim was probably to allow Forest and Midlands coal to be moved quickly and easily to Merthyr Tydfil and iron and steel to be removed to the Midlands without requiring trains to pass through Newport or wind around Hereford; the second half of the journey, over the Heads of the Valleys line from Abergavenny to Merthyr, wasn't really all that much better.

The 1880s saw the practically bankrupt Golden Valley Railway decide that a Hay to Pontrilas line was actually, on its own, going to be largely useless and plans were put in hand for a link between Pontrilas and Monmouth. The first scheme which was drawn up was presented to Parliament during the 1883-4 session. This provided a series of differences from the 1860s route:

  1. There was no connection into Pontrilas station, so trains to Monmouth would have bypassed the GWR station altogether by means of a 147-yard tunnel and an avoiding line looping around the north and west sides of the village;
  2. The straighter route would require a second tunnel in the Kentchurch area;
  3. The line would have passed around the outside of the main meander outside Skenfrith Castle, allowing a decent station at Skenfrith and eliminating the shorter Skenfrith Tunnel at the expense of building one to the north of the village instead;
  4. The approach to Monmouth would have resulted in a junction of remarkable size and expense, with Troy station and the only extant earthworks being bypassed to the north and the junction being built on the viaduct carrying the Wye Valley Railway into Troy instead. Presumably the idea was to connect with the GWR's Coleford Branch, then in the course of construction.
  5. There were also various miscellaneous realignments and gradient modificatios.

The Golden Valley was soon reminded that its core aim was to link Hay and Pontrilas and it had not actually yet achieved this. Its line petered out in a field somewhere in rural Herefordshire, several miles short of Hay. Such a railway should not be laying out plans to bore 1,684 yards of tunnel through lightly-populated low-industry areas on the offchance that some through traffic might come its way, so this one abandoned its expensive Monmouth scheme for a bit and went back to raising money for lost causes.

In due course the 1887-8 Parliamentary session saw the results of another survey of the area passed up for authorisation after the Hay extension began to show some signs of happening; there were four key differences from the 1860s route:

  1. The Pontrilas avoiding line, as seen in 1883 and using a similar route, would allow Golden Valley trains to pass Pontrilas without using Great Western metals (although, unlike the 1883 plans, there would be a direct link from Pontrilas station to the Monmouth line);
  2. The tunnels around Skenfrith were replaced with a series of meanders, following the river with the resultant tight curves;
  3. The rail network around Monmouth was approached from the north, with a cutting under Monmouth itself and the junction just north of May Hill station pointing south, rather than using Troy station with an approach from the west pointing east.
  4. A branch line from Garway around Symonds Yat to Lydbrook was proposed, linking in to the Severn and Wye network at Lydbrook Junction and featuring two tunnels to make up for the loss of the ones around Skenfrith. The GWR's Coleford Branch had been a flop due to its poor connection with the Severn and Wye Railway at Coleford and the traffic which would have been going that way was going via Lydbrook instead.

The engineers were the same as the ones used by the SW&FoDJR, who appear to have taken the opportunity to persuade the Golden Valley of the benefits of using the surplus drawings for the Garway branch. There were no practical benefits in terms of spare earthworks lying around on the moors above Garway, since the SW&FoDJR hadn't actually been incorporated and their only legacy was 16 pages of plans detailing the proposed line. Some slight variations to the route between Garway and Lydbrook were put in hand while the Skenfrith to Abergavenny section and the Ross branch were both torn out of the plans, but it was largely the 1877 route which the Golden Valley incorporated as their proposed Railway No. 4 in the 1888 scheme.

Despite the curves and gradients, the earthworks would remain quite impressive, with a viaduct to cross the Ross and Monmouth Railway and the River Wye to the east of Symonds Yat, several river crossings and a cutting under Monmouth, which would have left a 50-foot deep trench under the building which now houses the Nelson Museum. All-in-all the line was going to cost a fortune to build and it is unlikely that the Golden Valley managed to persuade many people to buy shares in the route, particularly since it was already known that the company was a basket case; certainly that would explain why the Bill which was actually put before Parliament would appear to have ditched the line between Garway and Lydbrook. (It also varied the proposed route south of Skenfrith to largely run on the north bank of the river.) The 1888-9 Parliamentary session featured a new Golden Valley scheme which eliminated the Pontrilas avoiding line as well, thereby reducing the scheme to a simple single track chord with a siding to be installed at May Hill. This will have had the benefit that the company could cut the amount it was trying to raise in new share capital and the number of shares that it was aiming to sell to raise this; once it had reached the resulting much lower hurdle it could take out some large loans to cover the remaining construction costs.

The lower hurdle doesn't seem to have been reached either and the proposal was never heard of again.

With the mainline from Pontrilas to Monmouth largely covered above, the pictures below deal exclusively with the proposed cross-country branchline from Garway down the Garren Valley to pick up the Wye north of Symonds Yat, from where the railway was to run to Lydbrook. The curvaceous line would have passed through some very fine arable country and crossed and re-crossed the Garren more times than is really decent. It would also have annoyed pretty much every major landowner in the area by slicing through their front gardens. Both versions of the scheme will be considered, since there was not that much difference between them.

Langstone Court

Langstone is home to a bridge, a court (the country house variety) and not much else; the surrounding landscape is typical of Herefordshire and its fertile nature has clearly made the local landowner very rich (the staff get rather comfortable houses adjacent to a large three-storey brick manor house in expansive gardens). It was deemed to be the sort of place that would like nothing better than a rail link; this photo was taken from the middle of the proposed running line at the point where it would have crossed the Langstone road. Behind the camera to the left is Langstone Court; the green trees running from the left into the centre of the view mark the Garren Brook, which passes under Langstone Bridge. We are looking up the line in the direction from which trains from Garway would have appeared (due north; Garway itself is a few miles off to the west. The railway was to meander around a bit).

Had the railway been built and lasted into the 1930s, it would probably have obtained a little wayside halt here. A full-blown station would have been unlikely. The Golden Valley scheme was to run along the opposite bank of the river to Langstone Court's front garden; the earlier South Wales and Forest of Dean Junction Railway would have run through the front garden and built its steeply-graded cross-country line (aiming to carry lots of lovely black coal) straight across the landowner's ornamental fish pond. Since the railway was never built the front garden remains tidy and undesecrated, except by a public footpath.


 Llangarron is the only decent settlement along the route that the railway was to pass through; since it is roughly halfway along the 13¾ mile line between Garway and Lydbrook and three-quarters of the way along the 24¾ mile line from Abergavenny to Lydbrook it is probably a pretty good bet that the village was intended to get a station (even though it isn't marked on the plans for either scheme). The proposed course of the railway past the village is still largely unobscured and, helpfully, the point where it would have crossed the road linking Llangarron to points east and north is marked by farm gates on both sides of said road. This is the view looking north into the most likely station area. The village church is off to the left; running trains through the station on a Sunday morning would have brought a whole new meaning to the old complaint that railways working such services were indulging in "desecration of the Sabbath".

Llangarron station - had it been built by either scheme - would have entailed levelling this attractive patch of land and building a suitable station building with platform, loop line and goods yard on it. The SW&FoDJR was proposing running through the station on a 1-in-59 gradient, rising towards Lydbrook, which would carry the railway over the road on a 25ft wide 15ft high arched bridge. A similar structure would probably have been built by the Golden Valley Railway had they ever come this way - which they didn't, so the road past the church is still nice and open with no obstructions, barring the odd tree, for 16ft high lorries.

Symonds Yat

 The railway then planned to pass down the Garren Valley to pick up the River Wye; it would the follow the Wye around the east side of Symonds Yat, from where this photograph was taken. The views would have been quite spectacular; while the view of the Yat from the Ross and Monmouth Railway was always somewhat spoilt by the fact that the railway passes through the bottom in a short tunnel, the line around the side would have offered a view straight up the side of the cliff from the bottom of the valley.

The line was to appear in this picture in the field on the left. It would pass through the gap about halfway up the hedge. It was to remain about halfway up the field for most of the inside of that meander, but the railway would curve slightly more gradually than the river. The result was that the line would neatly cross both the river and the adjacent Ross and Monmouth Railway, landing on the other bank around the start of the field in the upper left of the picture.

The Ross and Monmouth Railway ran around the outside of this meander, passing along the bottom edge of the line of trees in the centre before plunging into the trees and, eventually, its tunnel.

South of Lydbrook

The approach to Lydbrook was to be made by running along the hillside a little above the Ross and Monmouth Railway, with the Wye below the train to the west. Largely this stretch was to be level, with a slight rise at 1-in-66 over a ridge and a similar fall down the other side into Lydbrook Junction. The Ross and Monmouth rises into the station, so the line from Llangarron merely had to run level around the hillside until the line below it caught up.

This is the field seen in the upper left of the previous picture. The simple earthworks along this stretch would have required a ledge to be cut into the hillside somewhere around the location of the brown cows to the right of the picture. The mud track around the left is the remains of the Ross and Monmouth Railway. It left behind one centre of population - at Symonds Yat - plus the tunnel, a few miles of basic trackbed alongside the river and no major bridges.

The requirement for a three-arch viaduct over the Wye would probably have ensured that the unbuilt line wouldn't have lasted until 1959 even if the construction teams eventually had rolled in around here. Since it was intended to link into the Severn and Wye Railway's Lydbrook branch, which closed in 1956 after years of declining traffic, it would probably have gone at some point in the early 1950s. There was not due to be a direct connection with the Ross and Monmouth, so through trains to Ross were out of the question.

Prospects for opening the line are essentially nil. This website has certain connections to Dr H. J. Nicholson, noted Templar historian, and consideration was given to persuading her to back our evil scheme to capitalise on Templar popularity and the ongoing search by certain sectors of the world population for the Holy Grail by advertising Garway as its hiding place and ferrying passengers from Pontrilas to a station at Skenfrith for them to walk up to Garway and see the church in which it is occasionally claimed to be hidden. She explained that the Holy Grail doesn't exist and refused to compromise her professional integrity. Since Holy Grail connections are about the only way of screwing enough money out of people to make the line turn in a profit (that and cooking the books, although the experience of the Golden Valley suggests that some serious cooking would be required), there is no real potential of going for it as a commercial enterprise. A non-commercial enterprise would be hard-put to find the cash to build a brand-new line in rolling rural countryside. At the Monmouth end any effort to access the original stations at Troy and May Hill to link into the other trackbeds would cost a fortune and require mass property demolition.

Basically, don't expect to see a rail link between Monmouth and Pontrilas any time soon. Its continued absence will give Skenfrith the unusual accolade of being on five proposed railways yet never seeing the slighest trace of a rail service.

The Monnow valley south of Kentchurch is this page's background picture. It provides high quality agricultural country but has never produced the sort of traffic which is conducive to rail transport. This lack of heavy industry won't have helped the proposals to build a railway this way, but if the Forest had produced a bit more coal then building a railway out this way to carry it might have become worthwhile, with the result that the peaceful hills would have revertebrated to the sounds of coal trains scrambling over the gradients.

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Last modified 06/04/11

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