Baldwin No. 2 at Pant
In general I am not a fan of narrow gauge railways that are built on the track beds of an old standard gauge lines, but I'll make an exception in the case of the Brecon Mountain Railway (Rheilffordd Mynydd Brycheiniog).
The combination of the steep gradients and some bends so tight it is surprising that standard gauge stock could negotiate them, the track formation feels right for a narrow gauge line.
Its only the old station building at Pontsticill that seems out of scale, and even that is set well back from the current running line.
The choice of rolling stock is, however, a little surprising. The mainstay of the operation is No. 2. This was built by Baldwin of Philadelphia in 1930 for the Eastern Province Cement Co. in Port Elizabeth, South Africa, where it spent its working life hauling limestone.
In 1973 it ran away driverless, de-railed and was wrecked. It was bought as scrap by the owners of the Brecon Mountain Railway who set about restoring it.
Brecon Mountain Railway
Coupled to four carriages with open verandas and a reconstructed American caboose, the illusion of an American narrow gauge railway is complete.
Indeed the caboose is based on one from the Sandy River and Rangeley Lakes Railroad in Maine, and replicas of two engines from that line are currently under construction. They are also restoring a 1897 Baldwin locomotive that was built for the Mogiana Railway in Brazil.
On the one hand, all credit to them for not trying to produce a fake Welsh narrow gauge railway; on the other, the Brecon Beacons are not Maine and are certainly not South Africa. Slightly confusing, but very enjoyable.
For ticket prices, timetables, etc. please see the BMR's official site.
A Portable Engine
The line currently runs from Pant just outside Merthyr, for 4¾ miles (7.6 km) to Torpantau high in the Brecon Beacons some 1313 ft (400 m) above sea level. For the most part it runs along the track bed of the old Brecon and Merthyr Tydfil Junction Railway which closed in the early 1960s.
On the way back the train pauses at Pontsticill were there is a small museum, a cafe, a children's playground and fine views over the Pontsticill (or Taf Fechan) Reservoir.