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Part 6: St Briavels to Redbrook

(calling at Whitebrook)

Map not to scale.WVR in dark blue. Proposed stations marked by red dots, none of which are currently open. Stations not due to re-open marked by white dots. Footpaths in brown (proposed and in place). Local roads in yellow. Major roads in red. Water in pale blue. North at top.

The third section largely follows the west bank of the river, but crosses back over the east at Redbrook by means of Penallt Viaduct. South of Whitebrook the railway runs through fields and North of Whitebrook it runs through woodland.

Riverbank north of St Briavels

North of St Briavels station the railway swings onto the riverbank and runs a few yards from the Wye for most of the way to Whitebrook. A little over quarter of a mile south of the former halt it curves away from the river again to cut off a corner. It was along the stretch that in 1927 an afternoon train derailed for no very obvious reason, the locomotive coming to rest down the bank to the right.

Now a public footpath runs along the riverbank between St Briavels and Redbrook; at intervals it is easier for it to run alongside the railway. As part of the re-instatement of the railway this will be diverted to run along the space to the left between the railway and the river, making a nice stretch for photographs. A couple of ditches are crossed en-route; the footpath will be donated the girders used by the railway, since they're life expired, and new bridges procured for the new railway.

With a decent bit of canting/ superelevation/ raising the outside rail of the track slightly on curves to get the same effect as a cyclist leaning into bends it should be possible to get trains running at a decent speed up this stretch and the length north of Whitebrook to take advantage of the gently curving alignment.

Whitebrook Halt


Whitebrook Halt was the first of the six halts to open; nowadays it appears to be an odd choice, but in 1927 the village was emerging from years as a centre of heavy industry with a minor port on the banks of the Wye (off to the left) so it was about time the railway arranged to serve it. The white house in the centre was provided - under duress - as accomodation for the keeper responsible for the crossing here which allowed a road access to the port.

The platform was the usual dirt and cinder affair with timber fronting. (This was in fact the most northerly of the halts built this way; Penallt and Wyesham were timber trestle jobs.) It was on the left-hand side of the line. We'd rather the replacement was on the right to save people from the village from having to cross the line in order to access it. However, the railway has to pass to the right of the white house and there's a road on the other side of the hedge to the right, so we don't have much choice in the matter.

As usual, the new halt will have an open-fronted brick shelter, nameboards, benches and possibly a couple of half-barrels of pot plants. The building will be located towards the crossing end of the platform to save people from walking halfway down the platform to the shelter on wet days. Passenger levels are not expected to be high.

The owners of the keeper's cottage will be provided with a new garage on the other side of their house to compensate for the current one being tidily bulldozed and replaced with a railway running rather close to their chimney.

North of Whitebrook

North of Whitebrook the line has been recycled as a forestry track, providing access to a couple of houses, some summer houses and an access route into the forest growing up the hill to the right. The Wye is hidden from view by the trees to the left.

Some tree thinning on the left may help to improve the view. The current footpath along the riverbank will be better signposted to direct walkers that way. Forestry Commission requirements can be met with a private siding along the way, with the timber being removed by rail.


Penallt Halt was opened in 1931 on the opposite bank of the Wye to Redbrook station - the platforms were separated by Penallt Viaduct and Redbrook goods yard, or a little under quarter of a mile. It was a timber trestle structure with the usual corrogated iron shelter. While no WVR halt officially accepted goods traffic, Penallt was occasionally used to unload barrels of ale for the adjacent Boat Inn. (The alternative was that the Inn had to go to Monmouth or St Briavels to collect them, since those were the nearest stations by road.)

Since the construction of the halt, a footbridge has been provided along the side of Penallt Viaduct. This was present in 1959 and has probably played no small part in the viaduct's survival. It also means that we're going to plead that there is no requirement for Penallt Halt to be reinstated, which will save on the substantial costs of building a modern platform and associated shelter.

The picture shows the site of the halt looking south.

Penallt Viaduct

Penallt Viaduct, seen here from the Penallt (Welsh/ west) bank of the river, was the second and more northerly of the two viaducts across the Wye that the WVR had to construct. The footbridge along this - the north - side of the structure was added in the 1940s; it has probably done a good deal to ensure that the old viaduct remains standing.

It consists of five girder spans resting on four sets of two piers. Each pier is topped by a cast iron pillow. Along the main structure are heavy longitudinal timbers which once supported the rails, in the style of old broad gauge track, with occasional transverse sleepers. The rest of the deck was once made up of planks which are now engaged in slowly disappearing. The whole affair was once painted a smart black. With no very obvious owner, it is now being left to rust quietly away. To make administration more awkward, the central span crosses the English-Welsh border.

Refurbishing the viaduct will be an awkward matter, but not impossible. A complete rub-down and some extensive patching will be necessary; it may be helpful to try to remove the girder sections for repair off-site, which would also make access to the "pillows" easier. The timbers will all be replaced, the planks re-instated and rails laid back across. A new coat of black paint will then be applied. The ivy and trees on the approach sections will have to be removed and the stonework repointed. After work is completed it will look like it did when new - apart from the footbridge.



Redbrook - later Redbrook-on-Wye - is seen here from the south end, looking north. Unlike St Briavels, Tintern and Tidenham, Redbrook station was in the middle of its village and was accordingly flattened after closure, having been subjected to vandalism. (If its any consolation, the adjacent Redbrook Motors has also completely disappeared, as has a restaurant which briefly took up residence on the premises.)

This is home to the only obstruction on the whole 15 mile line that we can't get around with some smooth talking or a quick deviation. The house in the centre is built where the signalbox and platform used to be and its garden stretches across the route of the running line. It will have to come out and there's not much we can do about that.

It should however be possible to rebuild it about 10 feet closer to the main road (to the right) and leave enough room to reinste platform and railway.

The level of the railway through the station will have to be altered due to a road crossing to the north of the site (see next panel). The local authority has kindly already converted the goods yard (to the right) into a car park and made that bit of the job much easier. Re-instating the railway will involve a single-platform station with a decent shelter along the alignment of the original running line - up the centre left and now covered by happy weeds. Consideration will be given to organising a ticket office but this will have to be staffed by volunteers. Even a fairly large ex-industrial village (Redbrook was once a tin-making centre) is unlikely to generate enough business to warrant paying someone to sell tickets.

Redbrook Road Bridge

The reason why a simple road bridge gets a page all to itself can be seen by looking at the external link here. The road junction in the lower picture is the one in the picture to the left. Since the original structure came out the main road has been widened, raised and realigned, while the house on the right has got used to the view. It would therefore be preferable not to end up putting the bridge back.

Instead a level crossing is proposed. Level crossings are accepted as undesireable - particularly when a north/south railway crosses a north/south road - but this one will be at the north end of a station where all trains stop and within a 30mph speed limit so won't pose a serious risk.

The railway embankment to the south of the crossing will be lowered slightly and the road raised a couple of feet. On the north side the road will drop back to its normal level and the railway trackbed along the hillside will be dug away to allow the railway to run close to its original alignment but at a lower level. Using modern electric trains will allow the railway to be put on a 1-in-35 gradient to climb back up to its original level as it heads north towards Wyesham.

The crossing will be fitted with full barriers controlled remotely. "Wig-wag" lights will be installed but, out of a spirit of decency towards nearby houses, efforts will be made to persuade the safety regulators that sirens are unnecessary.

The flangeways across the road will be filled with rubber. This will make it easier for cyclists to get across without dismounting. A 10-ton axleload train will squash the rubber and roll across as though it isn't there.

The Power Box marked on the map is just off to the left of the photograph. It should be possible to fit the railway round it, but since it will be left sitting on retaining walls on all sides it may be worth lowering it.

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Last modified 16/03/11

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