Later Wye Valley Railtours

Post-1959 a string of railtours ran up the Wye Valley Railway. They were not exceptionally numerous. There do not seem to have been any between 1959 and 1971 - hardly surprising, as during this period tour operators were far more concerned with saying goodbye to steam engines, saying goodbye to dying branchlines and ferrying people to the Talyllyn Railway's Annual General Meeting. Closure of the line to passengers was in any case prompted by Tintern Tunnel and the adjacent river bridge being deemed unsafe for further use by passenger trains (making Tintern station inaccessible), so trips to Tintern Abbey were out of the question.

By the time such workings began to go up the line again it was of fairly minimal interest to the general public, since the northern terminus was a quarry loading area with no platform and no convenient attractions. Consequently day excursions, "Merrymakers", Mystery Excursions and steam-hauled specials were pretty much unknown to this route. However, there was a large network of colliery branches around South Wales and Gloucestershire and so "track bashing" tours ran around the area fairly frequently for those who wanted to explore the more obscure sections of line; occasionally one would look in on the Wye Valley branch.

Eventually twelve tours appear to have worked the quarry branch. Once regular stone trains ceased the railway rapidly decayed and so these workings stopped running up the line. The demise of Wye Valley Junction means that no more can be expected to do so in the near future.

References to "Class", for the uninitiated, refer to the early-1970s TOPS computer system, which carefully numbered all of BR's vehicles so that they stopped disappearing. Vehicles were given various classifications depending on certain characteristics - for example, a general rule says that the higher a diesel locomotive's class number, the more powerful it is. Multiple units were given classifications for the set as a whole plus individual numbers for each coach. Modern Diesel Multiple Units (DMUs) have six-digit set numbers which easily denote what class they are (Class 150s, for example, have six-digit set numbers beginning with 150) and the coach numbers are (normally) set up to have the same last two or three digits as the set numbers. Check it against the next multiple unit you see. Unfortunately these six-digit set numbers were only applied to a handful of the older sets which actually worked tours on the WVR (most of which had been built in the 1950s) and then only from the late 1980s - primarily the Scottish ones. Furthermore, their coach numbers were not arranged to match up with the set number, so identifying what type these units were is quite fun. To make life even more fun, when these "heritage" DMU coaches were added to TOPS in 1983 lots of them were renumbered because they had the same numbers as locomotives which were already there. Consequently it is probably worth crediting The Railcar Association for the extremely handy website which shows which vehicles were in which class.

Six Bells Junction is the name of the main website for British railtours. It is occasionally incomplete but is generally very helpful.

The other Monmouth railway to survive Beeching - a stump of the Coleford, Monmouth, Usk and Pontypool Railway linking Pontypool with a Royal Ordnance Factory at Glascoed - also saw occasional tours. At present these tours are outside the scope of this website. They may be added to this page later. Do feel free to express your opinions in the usual manner.

 Tour name Date Visit time  Destination  Operator  Further details  Notes
 Unknown  22/03/1969  Unknown  Tintern Quarry  Branch Line Society  Six Bells Junction  Details unclear, but probably worked by a Diesel Multiple Unit (DMU) of some description. Do contact either us or Six Bells if you know anything.
 Tintern Rambler Railtour  15/05/1971  10:33 to 11:30  Tintern Quarry  Great Western Society (Bristol Branch) and the Wirral Railway Circle  Six Bells Junction  Worked by a DMU. Also visited Glascoed.
 Gwent Railtour  23/06/1973  10:53 to 11:42  Tintern Quarry  Railway Correspondence and Travel Society (Bristol Branch)  Six Bells Junction  Worked by a DMU.
 Tintern Thunderbolt  08/04/1978  15:49 to 16:56  Tintern Quarry  Monmouthshire Railway Society  Six Bells Junction  Worked by DMU vehicles 51324+59476+51309 and 50721+59275+50668 (Class 118 and Class 120).
 Tintern Totter  13/08/1978  Unknown  Tintern Quarry  F&W Railtours
- Six Bells Junction
- Rail Photoprints (1),(2) and (3)
- Profile of the Class 20s by J.A.M Vaughan (Plate 152; Oxford Publishing Co. 1984)
 Worked by Class 20 No. 20098 and three Mark 1 coaches (with Class 37 No. 37176 from Worcester to Severn Tunnel Junction, where 20098 took over for the WVR and return to Worcester). Being loco-hauled (by a solitary Class 20 - they normally work in pairs) it attracted more interest than usual. The Class 20 is now owned by the Type One Locomotive Company and is based on the Great Central Railway in Leicestershire.
 Reunion Railtour  25/11/1978
- 15:31 to 15:54
- 16:05 to 16:41
- Tidenham
- Tintern Quarry
 Railway Correspondence and Travel Society (West Midlands Branch) Six Bells Junction  Worked by DMU vehicles 50335+59123+50319 (Class 101). The WVR was a freight-only branch so points were not fitted with locks to stop them moving when a train ran over them. Therefore points had to be temporarily clamped to allow railtours to cross. This tour got to Tidenham and then realised that the clamps had been left at Chepstow. Also visited Glascoed.
 Caerwent Cannonball  15/03/1980  13:48 to 14:08  Netherhope Halt  Monmouthshire Railway Society and Railway Correspondence and Travel Society
Six Bells Junction
- Pictures of the tour at Blaenavon
 Worked by DMU vehicles 51304+59477+51319 and 51522+59546+51450 (Class 118 and Class 101 - a rather lost 101 which was originally allocated to the Scottish Region). Tidenham Tunnel seems to have been out of bounds to DMUs by this point.
 Severn Freighter  05/09/1981  Unknown  Tidenham  Hertfordshire Rail Tours  Six Bells Junction  Worked by DMU vehicles 51383+59493+51341 (Class 117). First tour to terminate at Tidenham. 59493 is now based on the West Somerset Railway and 51341 has a home on the Swanage Railway.
 Severncider Too (or Severnsider 2)  30/06/1985  15:51 to 17:20  Tidenham  F&W Railtours
- Six Bells Junction
- Branch lines to Monmouth by Vic Mitchell and Keith Smith (plate 104; Middleton Press 2008)
 Worked by Class 08 No. 08836, Class 20 Nos. 20022 and 20115, Class 31 No. 31447, Class 37 No. 37215 and Class 47 No. 47538 of which the Class 20s worked the Wye Valley section (this was a big "bashers" railtour for enthusiasts). Both Class 20s met their doom shortly afterwards at Vic Berry's scrapyard in Leicester - 20115 in 1988 and 20022 in 1990.
 Risca Cuckoo  05/04/1986  19:50 to 20:20  Tidenham  Monmouthshire Railway Society  Six Bells Junction Worked by DMU vehicles 53091+59041+53133, 51091+59422+51063 and 51395+59505+51353 (Class 116, Class 119 and Class 117). 51395 and 51353 have a home on the Swanage Railway while 59505 is based at the Long Marston secure storage base. Also visited Glascoed.
 Usk and Severn Rambler  26/03/1988  12:56 to 13:23  Tidenham  Branch Line Society  Six Bells Junction Worked by DMU vehicles 51369+59521+51411 (Class 117). 59521 now has a home on the Swanage Railway.
 Caerwent Cannonball 2  12/05/1990  17:19 to 17:49  Tidenham  Monmouthshire Railway Society  Six Bells Junction  Worked by DMU vehicles 51315+51330 and 51133+59248+51136 (a reduced Class 118 and a full Class 116). By this stage regular stone traffic had ceased.

What does a DMU vehicle do after working a Wye Valley railtour? Well, after the Risca Cuckoo Class 117 Trailer Second No. 59505 went back to normal work, was withdrawn, got preserved and ended up at the secure storage base at Long Marston, where it is seen during an open day in the rain in 2009 in the company of a TEA wagon. (Wagons don't have TOPS classes. They have three-letter codes and whacking great long numbers. T is for Tanker, E is the class and A is for Air Braked.)

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