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Part 4: Tintern Station

(the main intermediate station on the WVR)

 Name  Tintern (Tyndyrn)
 Opened 1876
 Closed  1964
 Site length  About an eighth of a mile.
 No. of platforms  3 (2 infilled)
 No. of buildings  5 (main building, water tower and signal box still in place; island platform shelter and goods shed demolished)
 Location  One mile north of Tintern Abbey, on the right of the A466 on the way to Monmouth and between the road and the River Wye (SO537006).

Left: Tintern station, looking north, at Easter 2010.

Tintern Station was constructed in the knowledge that it was going to be the Wye Valley Railway's main station. Its location was constrained by the geography of the valley and the railway's need for a straight route, which meant that the station was well outside Tintern. Once southbound trains had passed through the station, they crossed the Wye into Gloucestershire and passed through Tintern Tunnel, which brought them out into the open again south of Tintern itself. The station had a large goods yard with the biggest goods shed on the line, several sidings and a cattle dock. Its three platforms were intended to allow railtours to work to the station with heavy loads of visitors, particularly from the West Midlands, come to see the beauty of the Wye Valley and gaze at Tintern Abbey. It was merely unfortunate that the station was surrounded by fields and the Abbey was a twenty-minute walk.

The station opened with the line in 1876. It was conveniently about halfway along the Severn Tunnel Junction to Monmouth Troy route which was used by branch line trains for much of the railway's career. It saw quite a few railtours, most of which used the third platform, and was occasionally used as a passing loop. Its platforms were, however, distinctly intended for branch trains at only 70 metres long. Its goods yard was not terribly well used, being so far from Tintern. Most of Tintern's heavy stuff used the Wireworks Branch anyway and so joined trains south of Tintern Tunnel, rather than work all the way up to the station. This meant that the Great Western Railway was able to find a spare bit of siding and park a camp coach at the station in the 1930s, which was very successful. A large number of parties stayed there, for about a week each, travelling around on the slightly sparse service. For a brief period the station was renamed "Tintern for Brockweir" which managed to be translated onto the official plans of the line as "Tintern for Blockley". Blockley was a station on the Oxford, Worcester and Wolverhampton Railway, about 50 miles away.

After the Second World War, which largely passed the line by, the camp coach returned for the 1950s. Some additional traffic came to Tintern as wagons from the stone quarries to the south of the village tended to be brought up to the station for shunting. Special trains continued on an occasional basis. Regular passenger traffic ceased at the beginning of 1959 and Tintern station closed altogether in 1964. The track was lifted from station in 1967, with the bridge over the Wye being demolished, and although the main station building and signal box survived they soon became completely overgrown.

A resurgence of interest in the line in the 1980s saw Gwent County Council begin work to transform the site. The undergrowth and some trees were cleared away. The signal box and the station building were refurbished. The gap between platforms 1 and 2 was filled in and a staircase cut into the face of platform 3. Picnic tables were provided, footpaths were created, facilities were offered for car parking, gardens were re-planted, some rail vehicles were parked alongside a new side platform to contain a permanent exhibition on the WVR and a miniature railway was installed. Subsequently a play area has gone in and some timber statues have been installed in a circle on the trackbed. Recent proposals to replace the miniature railway with a new, larger line appear to have been dropped; it is now running occasional trains. There are suggestions that it should be reorganised to accommodate a cycleway.

The miniature railway at Tintern remains a popular attraction, even if it is only worked by a small loco and one coach; on this occasion a model of a Class 08 shunter does the honours.

The timber circle features such figures as King Offa and Geoffrey of Monmouth. The station is behind the camera and the goods yard was where the cars are parked now. The miniature railway is on the left.

The station building and signal box are now a cafe and a craft centre. The two coaches are now a gift shop and an information display centre. The goods van poking in at right houses a small model railway.

How to Re-open the Station

As a tourist attraction in its own right, the Old Station at Tintern presents a rather difficult challenge from the public relations point of view. Engineering-wise the main issue is the bridge over the Wye at the southern end of the station, although even that should be a fairly simple task these days once the abutments are deemed to be sound. However, ramming a railway straight through a picnic site, wooden circle and play area may be a bit difficult for people to stomach. Even the people who watch the video on the WVR in the station's Mark 2 Tourist Standard Open coach and murmur things about closure being a "great crime" (of which there are an awful lot) might think twice about it upon seeing the implications of the crime being reversed.

There would therefore be various points to bear in mind:

  1. It would minimise argument if there were minimal changes to facilities already present. So the car park, station building, signal box and museum will be left pretty much as they are. The extra overflow car park (once known as "the station throat") will have a railway built on it but, with a nice new rail link in place, people should be able to live with that.
  2. It would also help to keep the site as a tourist attraction, as well as a station, if other facilities which obstruct the railway trackbed could be retained. This would encourage some people to trundle up the line to spend the afternoon at the station. Thus the statues would be moved to somewhere more convenient (say the back of the overflow car park), the picnic tables would be re-arranged on the island platform (laid out to avoid inconveniencing trains using the inner face- not a difficult exercise), the play area would be shifted to avoid interfering with the running line and the miniature railway would be re-organised to cross the river on the railway bridge and thereby move the southern turntable to somewhere more manageable.
  3. Tree felling would be kept to a minimum.
  4. Signalling should be in keeping, even if controlled from Tidenham. Track layouts should be kept to the minimum. However, it would also be nice to have a couple of sidings off to one side.
  5. Major construction should be limited to that which can be achieved in about two weeks. It should primarily be rail-based. It should not involve extensive earthworks.
  6. Maximum speeds for WVR trains through the site will be low - probably 10 miles per hour. The aim will be to have flat crossings over the tracks at each end of the platforms. During peak periods (Easter and certain summer weekends) there will be some effort to arrange for these to be manned.

The 1920s layout. Brown marks railway land. The A466 is the red bit on the left; the Wye is the blue bit on the right; buildings are in bright yellow; rail lines in black; access roads in a darker yellow. Monmouth and North are to the left.

The current layout. The miniature gauge railway uses platform 3; the vehicles are on the track at the west end of the old station. The gap between the platforms and the goods shed have gone. An overflow car park occupies the yard.

Our proposed layout. Two of the three platforms are re-instated, along with a link to a headshunt which feeds back into the museum track. A new miniature railway would be accommodated somehow. Platform 3 would remain unused.

The station will be the sole passing loop on the line, so disruption will be limited to a block of three minutes in any given hour. Summer may see a more intensive schedule operated over the bottom end of the line and Tintern would be the northern terminus of such services. It would be nice to operate some form of "bus replacement rail service" which would involve coach parties being deposited on a train at Tidenham and brought up to Tintern by rail, relieving pressure on the A466 and on the car park at Tintern Abbey. Such services would quite likely be steam hauled during the peak season and the loop would be used to run the loco around (although the train would probably have run empty from Tintern Abbey station). To support this, the water tower would also be restored to working order.

A little before and after comparison at the south end of Tintern station. The "after" picture is described in more detail here.

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Last modified 23/03/11

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