The Pontypool & Blaenavon Railway, a volunteer-run preserved railway, was first formed in the 1980s, running trains between a platform in a former colliery furnace site, up a steep but short section of railway line to a halt platform opposite the Whistle Stop public house (famed for its collection of miner's lamps) .
It has not increased in track size since opening, but it has increased as a going concern, with a larger number of volunteers, a larger amount of operational rolling stock, and more definite plans for the railway's future. It is planned to first extend the railway towards the town of Blaenavon, the nearest town to the railway's headquarters by roughly a mile, to the site of the former Blaenavon High Level station (once the London & North Western Railway's station in the town). After this is hopefully achieved, the railway will turn towards extending the line north wards, under a small road bridge and along the still intact track bed.
The railway runs every weekend between spring and September. There are also a selection of special weekends through the spring and summer, as well as Santa Specials nearing Christmas.
The Pontypool Blaenavon Railway Company has finally been granted an Order under the Transport and Works Act to extend and operate its line from the Whistle Inn in the north to Blaenavon (High Level) some two miles to the south. TWA Orders granted in Wales are relatively rare, as they have to be both applied for, and granted, in both English and Welsh and such a requirement adds considerably to the work involved.
Work, which started in December 2004, was initially complicated by difficulty in determining who built the railway. The order allowing most of the initial construction was the Brynmawr and Blaenavon Act of 1866, but a short section in the south was built under the LNWR (Wales &c) Act of 1875. Once the two months spent on this research was complete matters progressed rapidly so that a formal application to the Welsh Assembly was made on 3 May 2005. By the end of June 2005 the application became public with a two month subsequent period allowed for formal objection.
Fortunately there were none, and by 28 November 2005, the inspector appointed by the National Assembly for Wales, one Stuart B Wild, MRTPI, MCMI reported in as glowing terms as parliamentary speech would permit. Subsequently a full meeting of the planning Decision Committee of the National Assembly for Wales, chaired by Carwyn Jones, the Assembly minister for Environment, Planning and Countryside, approved the application on 24 January 2006. The minister in turn wrote to Winckworth Sherwood on 31 January. After further delays and frustration, doubtless caused by the assembly moving into its new home, the Order, called the Pontypool and Blaenavon (Phase 1) Order 2006 was finally Made on 20 June 2006 and Came into Force on the 21 June 2006.
In response to the news, the railway will now be concentrating all its efforts to extend the line southwards a further 1 ¼ miles from its existing main station at Furnace Sidings to Blaenavon (High Level). The route southwards is made difficult by the need to refurbish a number of bridges en route. A substantial report which has just been issued by the Company to Torfaen County Borough Council, the successor to the Welsh Development Agency, and other interested parties, estimates the lowest for the extension and the provision of a minimal station at High Level at between £235K and £395K, with cost of the bridges lying between £162K and £323K – by far the dominant item in the total cost. The Company is now actively seeking partners to help raise funds to meet the refurbishment costs. Blaenavon (High Level) station is close to the centre of Blaenavon town, and, as a result a substantial increase in passenger numbers is confidently expected. Blaenavon is the epicentre of the World Heritage Site of the Blaenavon Industrial Landscape, a landscape which includes Big Pit and the famous Blaenavon Ironworks. The presence of the railway there is expected to significantly add to the visitor experience and tourist potential of the town
- GWR 2-6-0 2800 class No.2874
- GWR 2-8-0 3800 class No.3855
- GWR 2-8-0T 4200 class No.4253
- GWR 4900 Class "Hall" No.5967 "BICKMARSH HALL"
- GWR 0-6-0 5600 class No.5668
- GWR 0-6-0T 5700 class No.9629
- Barclay 0-4-0ST "Harry"
- Barclay 0-4-0ST "Tom Parry"
- NCB Austerity class No.8
- BR Bo-Bo Class 73 Electro-diesel No.73133
- English Electric 0-6-0DH, No.104 "Llanwern"
- English Electric 0-6-0DH, No.106
- Hunslet 0-8-0DH, No.17 "Ebbw"
- Rolls-Royce Sentinel 0-4-0DM, No.1 "Panteg"
- John Fowler 0-6-0DM No.RT1
- Hudswell Clarke 0-6-0DM, Shell-BP No.14
- Hudswell Clarke 0-4-0DH, NCB DL16
- Wickham 6947