Narrow gauge heritage lines run on former standard gauge trackbeds in many parts of Britain. Mark Smithers outlines the history of one such line in South Wales and its motive power with a transatlantic flavour.
The abandonment of parts of the standard gauge railway network deemed to be of no further commercial use during the post-Nationalisation era provided the railway preservation movement with the opportunity to reutilise their trackbeds in the construction of new narrow gauge leisure-orientated lines. In many respects a precedent had been set for this trend many years earlier with the 1915 reopening of the Ravenglass & Eskdale Railway (admittedly a 3ft gauge line as built) as a 15in gauge system. More recent 2ft gauge
steam-hauled lines created in similar circumstances include the Launceston Steam Railway; the Bala Lake Railway; the South Tynedale Railway and the subject of this feature, the Brecon Mountain Railway.
This system owes its trackbed to the former main line of the Brecon & Merthyr Railway, opened progressively during the 1860s and closed to passengers in 1961-2 and freight in 1964. Following over a decade of dereliction, the part of the trackbed that offered the most potential for development as a 2ft gauge railway was the five-mile section between Pant, situated some three miles north of Merthyr Tydfil, and Torpantau, the summit of the original line and some 1313 feet above sea level.
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