Tag Archives: Milford Haven

Railways in West Wales Part 1C – Pembrokeshire Industrial Railways – Section A – The Milford Haven Area

A holiday in West Wales in the early Autumn of 2022 led to a little research on the railways in the area.

This is the third article about Pembrokeshire’s Railways. The first focussed on the pre-railway age, the second focussed on the mainline railways of the county. The links to these two posts are provided below. This article looks specifically at some of the industrial railways in Pembrokeshire, particularly those in the vicinity of Milford Haven.

Railways in West Wales Part 1A – Pembrokeshire – Before the Railway Age

Railways in West Wales Part 1B – Pembrokeshire – the Mainline Railways

Industrial Railways

The industrial railways of Pembrokeshire include:

  • The Saundersfoot Railway (covered in a later article)
  • The Milford Haven Docks Railways
  • The Milford & St. Bride’s Bay Light Railway and proposals for expansion of the Docks at Milford Haven
  • The Royal Navy Armaments Depot at Newton Noyes (RNMD Milford Haven)
  • The Royal Navy Armaments Depot at Trecwn (RNAD Trecwn) (covered in a later article)
  • Milford Haven Oil Refineries
  • The Freystrop Colliery Railway.
  • The Hook Colliery Railway.

1. Milford Haven Docks Railways

In 1790 an Act of Parliament granted William Hamilton permission to: ‘make and provide Quays, Docks, Piers and other erections and establish a Market with proper Roads and Avenues’. Several plans were proposed for the construction of quays, piers and all weather docks in the first half of the 19th century, but nothing was done. In an attempt of kick start the town to life the Milford Improvement Bill of 1857 led to the construction of a pier and two wooden bridges: Black Bridge and Hakin Bridge, both now replaced by modern structures. [51]

Once construction of the Milford Junction Railway was completed in 1863, further work became essential to the docks. This was completed in the early 1870s and more railway track was laid towards the docks complex in 1875. A spur to Newton Noyes, known as the ‘Estate Line’, was completed in 1882. It connected with a cast-iron pier, which was reached via a lifting bridge at Castle Pill; the junction with the Milford line was opposite the station. [53]

The docks were finally opened in 1888, with dry-dock facilities in Castle Pill. The docks were intended for the transatlantic passenger trade, but were only very sparsely used for this purpose. [51]

The port development highlighted Milford station’s less than favorable location, although equidistant between the two major populations of Milford and Hakin, it was at a distance from the quayside and with no discernible pedestrian access. To rectify the issue, the short-lived Hakin Dock Station was constructed in 1889. [52][53]

Hakin Dock Station was ideally placed to be the alighting point for passengers embarking to North America. Wing Commander Ken McKay notes particularly the Gaspesia. [36] Hakin Station also welcomed passengers disembarking from New York, the inaugural voyage being the City of Rome in 1889. [54]

Train waiting to depart Hakin Dock Station with passengers arrived from New York on the City of Rome, 1889. Public Domain. [54]

Ultimately, Hakin Dock Railway Station’s proximity to Milford Haven railway station, and the fact that transatlantic trade did not develop at the port, meant that the station was quickly dismantled and absorbed into the Milford Haven Docks complex. [53] The track was later used for freight traffic servicing the fishing industry. [52]

As the 20th century dawned, Milford Haven Docks became a significant fishing port and maintained this role throughout the first half of the 20th century. Sharp decline in the fishing industry occurred in the 1950s. [51]

Hakin Dock in 1907 with HMS Aurora berthed alongside the quay. Public Domain. [53]
This photograph was taken in 1911 from a similar location, photographer unknown sourced from martinshaven.com. [78]
A view across Hakin Wharf in the 1950s, photographer unknown sourced from martinshaven.com. [78]

The railway lines and facilities at Milford Haven are shown in a series of map extracts below. …

The line’s down to Milford Haven Docks ran through or around Milford Haven Railway Station which is shown in the bottom half of this extract from the 6″ Ordnance Survey of 1906 which was published in 1909. One arm of the railway (the most western line) crosses an infilled portion of Hubberstone Pill to serve the West side of the docks. The remainder of the lines shown run down the East side of Hubberstone Pill, two lines at the quayside. [62]
The same area shown as it is in the 21st century on the ESRI satellite imagery supplied by the National Library of Scotland. Much of the Hubberstone Pill has been infilled. [65]
Google Maps shows Milford Haven Station still in place. The line to the South now only provides enough length to be used as a headshunt. The buildings to its West are part of a retail development which includes a Tesco Superstore, Boots, Iceland and Home Bargains. [Google Maps]
This extract from a 1929 aerial image included on the Britain From Above website is of a higher resolution than images taken in 1921 which appear elsewhere in this article. Milford Haven Railway Station can be seen at the top-right of this extract. There are a very significant number of wagons stored on a variety of different sidings suggesting that the port was very busy at the time the photograph was taken. The infilling of the Hubberstone Pill has yet to reach its fullest extent. The bridge which is St the centre of the image spanning all of the rail lines is Victoria Bridge. [75]
Milford Haven Railway Station in around 1880, © Pembrokeshire Virtual Museum, Hywel Davies Collection, Public Domain. [70]
Milford Haven Railway Station in the 1890s, photographer unknown sourced from martinshaven.com. [78]
Milford Haven Railway Station in the 1900s, photographer unknown sourced from martinshaven.com. [78]
Milford Haven Railway Station in 2021. [Google Streetview]
Victoria Bridge was at the head of the Dock a little South of Milford Haven Railway Station. The Dock can be seen to the left of this image which shows construction work going on over the railways. A variety of wagons are in evidence to the left and right of the photograph, photographer unknown sourced from martinshaven.com. [78]
This next map extract shows the area immediately to the South of the last extract. The line’s to the West of the Docks fan out into the sidings visible in the monochrome photograph from 1907 (above). The short-lived Hakin Dock Station was in this area. On the East side of the Dock three lines travel southwards, two on the quay, one further back from the water, but all three run alongside the fish market. [62]
The Docks are in use as a marina in the 21st century. The railway line along the quay on each side of the Docks are long-gone. [66]
This image is an extract from a 1921 aerial photograph which can be viewed on the Britain From Above website. It shows the main access channel to the docks close to the bottom-right of the picture. Alongside it to the left is the Graving Dock. On the left side of the image running front-to-back are the Hakin sidings and wagons can be seen sitting at various locations. [74]

The next two aerial images are extracts from the same aerial image and show the western dock wall and the railway sidings which served them

The more northerly section of the Western dock walls with railway sidings behind. This is an extract from the aerial photograph taken in 1929. [75]
The more southerly length of the Western dock wall. The Graving Dock can be seen bottom-right. This is an extract from the same aerial photograph as the extract above. [75]
On this next extract from the 6″ Ordnance Survey published in 1906 and immediately to the East of the last image, we see the fish market building between the railway lines entering the extract from the left. Lines run Southwest-Northeast along the dock wall serving warehousing occupying the seaward dock wall (now Mackerel Quay Car Park) and the area alongside the entrance channel and lock. In addition, there is a line running East along the sea wall. [62]
This image and the map extract above show the grid-iron pattern of streets which made up the original design of the town. The route of the old mineral railway is now tree-lined. [67]
An extract from another Britain From Above aerial image of the docks in 1921. This shows the Fish Market running diagonally across the picture, the Mackerel Quay in the foreground with the buildings shown on the 1906 OS Map still very much in evidence. Towards the top-left of the image the lines running alongside the Fish Market can be seen curving away towards the Railway Station. [73]
A view from the West across Hakin Wharf sidings with the Fish Market on the far side of the Docks, photographer unknown sourced from martinshaven.com. [78]
Milford Haven Docks views from the Southeast, the Fish Market is in the centre of the photograph, Mackerel Quay to the left. The dockyard railway is much in evidence in front of those two buildings,photographer unknown sourced from martinshaven.com. [78]
From the same aerial image but just a little to the East, this extract gives us a chance to see the mineral railway snaking away towards Castle Pill. It appears on the extreme right of the picture. Approximately in the centre of the extract are storage sidings for the docks with wagons awaiting their next duty
Another extract form an aerial photograph, this time from one taken 1929, shows a new looking fish market building (bottom-right) and gives a better impression of the railway sidings serving it and curving round the dock wall towards Victoria Bridge and the Railway Station. [75]
The view North in 2021 across the marina from Mackerel Quay Car Park. This shows the modern buildings on Nelson Quay which sit on the site of the old Fish Market. [Google Streetview]
The line running East off the last map extract is shown on this extract (immediately to the East of the last). It is marked as a Mineral Railway and serves, first, sidings close to the Old Castle. It then crosses Castle Pill which can be seen on the next map extract. [63]
The railway route is tree-lined as it approaches the castle and is known in the 21st century as Pier Road. Development has taken place beyond the park on the shoreline. The industrial area adjacent to the castle has gone. [68]
The view to the West from adjacent to the Castle along the line of the old mineral railway in 2009 (Pier Road). [Google Maps 2009]
The Mineral Railway continues to the Southeast crossing Castle Pill by means of a swing bridge. [63]
The location of the swing bridge over Castle Pill can easily be made out on this next ESRI image. The buildings in the bottom right if the image are new. [69]
The industrial area on the South side of the Castle mound in 1921 in an extract from a Britain From Above aerial photograph. Careful inspection will show wagons on the old mineral railway and sidings. [71]
The swing bridge carrying the mineral railway over the entrance to Castle Pill in 1921. This another extract from the same image as above, © Britain From Above. [71]
The swing bridge in the 21st century, © Michael Whan. Michael shared his photograph on the Milford Haven In Picture Facebook Group in response to a post by Darrel Walkers on 31st December 2021. Shared by minx permission. [81]
The view West across the swing bridge towards Milford Haven in 2008, ©Shaun Butler use authorised under a Creative Commons Licence (CC BY-SA 2.0). [90]
The final destination of the Mineral Railway is the pier shown on this extract from the 1906 6″ Ordnance Survey. The area later was part of Thomas Ward’s shipyard. [64]
Although the old mineral railway has gone the pier remains it’s present form was determined by its use for a Royal Navy Armaments Depot on the site (see below). [64]
The RNAD Milford Haven pier photographed in 2006, at what was the end of the mineral railway (see below for more information), © Richard Webbx, use authorised under a Creative Commons Licence (CC BY-SA 2.0). [91]
This aerial photograph from 1922 looks Northwest toward Milford Haven from above the pier shown in the last two images. The mineral railway can be seen running behind the shoreline. At the top left of this extract from Photograph No. WPW029654 from Britain From Above, the swing-bridge at the mouth of Castle Pill can be seen. In the bottom right mineral wagons sit on the line. [72]

Milford Haven Docks Co. Locomotives – this short section will need expanding as and when more details are available. …..

Three photographs of Milford Haven Docks Company Locomotives can be found on Smugmug by following this link: https://transportsofdelight.smugmug.com/RAILWAYS/BRITISH-INDUSTRIAL-LOCOMOTIVES/DOCK-PORT-HARBOUR-COMPANIES/i-mfQ7gHk/A

The images on the link are all protected by copyright and so cannot be reproduced. They show the following Milford Haven locomotives:

  • AJAX (2 photographs) – Fletcher NER Class 124 LNER Class J76 0-6-0T – built 1882 by Darlington Works as NER No.598 – 1926 sold to MDC and named AJAX – 1944 scrapped – seen at Milford Haven, 04/39.
  • NEPTUNE – Fletcher NER Class 964 0-6-0T – built 1875 by Robert Stephenson & Co. as NER No.973 – 1914 sold to Milford Dock Co. as NEPTUNE – seen at Milford Haven, 07/38.

A number of Peckett locomotives were based at Milford Haven. [76]:

  • PARIS – 0-4-0ST Peckett Locomotive, built June 1938 under works number 1949 was sent to Milford Docks Company. [77]
  • Swansea Harbours’ 0-4-0ST Peckett  No. 929 was loaned to Milford Haven Dock Co. It was recorded as present at the GWR engine shed to the North of the railway Station on 5th April 1947. [79]
  • Other locomotives are referred to in the sections below which relate to specific branch-lines.

2. The Milford & St. Bride’s Bay Light Railway and proposals for expansion of the Docks at Milford Haven

This railway was a proposed industrial line which would have brought coal from the St. Bride’s Bay area to Milford Haven Docks. Correspondence dated between 1911 and 1926 can be found in the Milford Docks Company Records and Correspondence which were deposited in the Pembrokeshire Records Office and are held by Pembrokeshire Archives and Local Studies. [84]

As early as 1865 proposals had been put forward for a link between pits on St. Bride’s Bay and the port of Milford Haven. The possibility was raised again in 1911 when colliery owners put forward a plan for a pontoon in the middle of Nolton Haven with an aerial ropeway carrying the coal to the pontoon for onward distribution by ships. [1: p141][85]

The Port Authority at Milford Haven saw the potential competition as a problem and put forward a railway of 11 miles in length and some significant improvements to the port facilities at Milford Haven. Connop-Price provides plans of the the proposed railway and the enlargement of the Docks. [1: p139-141][86]

Apparently, the Order for the Light Railway was obtained in 1916. Attention during the war years, was focussed on the operation of the existing docks. After the War ongoing objections from local landowners seem to have prevented further work on the proposal. [1: p141][87]

3. The Royal Navy Armaments Depot at Newton Noyes (RNMD Milford Haven)

RNMD Milford Haven is a decommissioned Royal Naval Armaments Depot located on the North shore of Milford Haven between Milford Haven and Llanstadwel in the County of Pembrokeshire, Wales. The area is known as Newton Noyes. [88]

The Newton Noyes area was previously occupied as a ship breakers yard. Known locally as Wards Yard, it was connected to the mainline railway via a spur from Milford Haven which crossed Castle Pill via a swing bridge. A cast iron pier was built in 1872 with the intention of encouraging transatlantic traffic to unload, allowed a rail / marine interchange.[88][36]

With developing tensions in Europe in the 1930s, the Admiralty began preparations for possible conflict. In 1934, Thomas Ward’s ship breaking yard was purchased. Construction work began the following year and by the outbreak of war in 1939 the Depot was ready for action.[88]

Wikipedia tells us that, “The site consisted of an extensive storage facility of six armament sheds, comprising tunnels built into the neighbouring valley. A reservoir was constructed on higher ground to the north in case of explosion or fire. All of the tunnels were connected by rail, which also extended to the pier. Housing for the naval officers was located near the former mansion of Castle Hall. At the height of World War II, it employed 1,000 people, and thereafter hundreds of people from the local area. By the 1970s its future was identified as being at risk.” [88][89]

“The tunnels that ran beneath the site were about 100 meters (328 feet) long and provided access to the underground storage. The mines were stored on a raised platform at the height of a railroad car. There was also an overhead crane with a lifting capacity of 10 tons that was used to load and unload the mines.” [92]

The site was closed in the 1980s. It was subsequently purchased by Gulf Oil, then considered as a potential large scale development site for a retail and residential complex. It was sold again in 2015 and then again in 2017. The most recent purchase was by the Port of Milford Haven. [88]

Some excellent pictures inside the depot and underground can be found on Flickr, taken by Newage, (Flickr @newage2). The following pictures are used by kind permission. [96]

There were a series of tunnels stretching back into the land behind the shore, each one secured against accidental ingress. In the 21st century the metal doors are not all secure and the site itself has been fenced off but not before a number of different people were able to make a photographic and video record of the site.

Two pictures of the tunnel entrances, (c) Newage on Flickr (Flickr @newage2) [96]
The tunnels curved back into the hill side. The narrow-gauge tracks can clearly be seen in the tunnels (c) Newage on Flickr (Flickr @newage2)
The tunnels were around 100ft in length, (c) Newage on Flickr (Flickr @newage2)
Each tunnel led to an arched vault with a platform level to match the height of the wagon floors. In this image the narrow-gauge tracks can be seen at a lower level on the right-side of the picture, (c) Newage on Flickr (Flickr @newage2)
Turning round this image shows the end wall of the vault and the travelling crane which was installed in each vault to aid in movement of armaments stored there, (c) Newage on Flickr (Flickr @newage2)
A close-up photograph of the travelling crane/telpher in one of the vaults, (c) Newage on Flickr (Flickr @newage2)

Coflein’s Maritime Officer (RCAHMW) described the site in May 2012. The previous use as a shipyard is recognised and their webpage continues: “The depot utilised the site of the Newton Noyes farmstead (NPRN 4176748) and the former Oil and Manure Works (NPRN 416749). It was served by the railway line and steamer pier built in 1872. Incoming deactivated mines were transferred from the standard gauge railway to a narrow gauge system linking the massive armament sheds and the six underground magazines (see NPRNs 270769-771). Each of these magazines was sealed off by ventilated blast door and thick concrete walls. The tunnels providing access to the underground magazine are some 100m in length which opens into a large storage bay with a raised platform to allow mines to be stored at the height of the railway wagon. An overhead 10 ton crane faciliated loading and unloading. A large reservoir (NPRN 416750) was constructed by damming the stream to provide a water supply in case of fire. During World War II, the depot was used to arm minefields in the Western Approaches. After 1943, when the U-boat threat diminished, the depot’s role change from activating mines to preparing them for shipping to the North Africa for use by the Mediterranean Fleet.” [93]

After decommissioning, the above-ground facilities which remained were recorded in a baseline aerial reconnaissance survey for the CHERISH Project. (Crown: CHERISH PROJECT 2017). Produced with EU funds through the Ireland Wales Co-operation Programme 2014-2020. All material made freely available through the Open Government Licence. [93]

Royal Naval armaments depot. Baseline aerial reconnaissance survey for the CHERISH Project. (Crown: CHERISH PROJECT 2017). Produced with EU funds through the Ireland Wales Co-operation Programme 2014-2020. All material made freely available through the Open Government Licence. [93]

28dayslater.co.uk paid a visit to the site in 2011 when access was relatively easy. Their site provides photographs of these buildings from ground-level and some internal photographs. [94]

The first of a series of photographs published by 54Strat on 28DaysLater.co.uk. The full series of photographs can be accessed here. [94]

A video of the site can be seen below. … [95]

4. Milford Haven Oil Refineries

Milford Haven Refinery (Robeston) began operating in 1973 under Amoco’s ownership, but in its final days it was owned by Murco Petroleum. It was on a 1200 acre site close to Milford Haven. [97]

The closure of the refinery was announced in November 2014. The site was sold to Puma Energy in 2015 for use as a petroleum storage and distribution terminal. [97] The branch-line which served the refinery remains open as of 2022. Regular movements along the branch continue.

The branch-line from Herbrandston Junction to the refinery at Robeston. [103]
Herbranston Junction with the line to Robeston Refinery heading off the image to the West. [Google Earth]
Two bridges – an accommodation bridge to the right of this satellite image and Lower Thornton Road Bridge at the centre of the image. [Google Maps]
Lower Thornton Rail-over-Road bridge from the North in September 2021. [Google Streetview]
Lower Thornton Rail-over-Road bridge from the South in September 2021. [Google Streetview]
Two more bridges – another accommodation bridge to the right and Upper Thornton Bridge close to centre of this satellite image. [Google Maps]
Looking East along the branch-line from Upper Thornton Bridge [Google Streetview, September 2021]
Looking West along the branch-line from Upper Thornton Bridge [Google Streetview, September 2021]
The Junction between the Robeston Line and that which used to serve the Esso Refinery to the South. [Google Maps]
The rail-over-road bridge shown on the Google satellite image above, from the South [Google Streetview, October 2021]
The rail-over-road bridge shown on the Google satellite image above, from the North [Google Streetview, October 2021]
The sidings at the Western end of the branch-line appear at the centre of this satellite image. [Google Maps, October 2021]
The sidings at the Robeston Refinery site. Some of the tank wagons still bear the Murco logo. [Google Streetview, October 2021]

The Gulf Refinery, Waterston was opened in August 1968 by Queen Elizabeth II. The plant, constructed at a cost of approximately £35 million, produced a range of petroleum products and occupied an area of 300 acres (121.4 ha).[2] Up to 119,000 barrels (18,900 m3) of oil could be processed a day at the facility. [98]

Gulf Oil’s crude oil was principally obtained from Nigeria and Kuwait through joint ventures with BP. Crude was shipped to Bantry Bay in Ireland in 312,000 DWT (deadweight ton) ships. From there it was shipped in 100,000 DWT ships to Gulf’s refineries in Milford Haven, Denmark and Rotterdam. The Milford Haven refinery was integrated with a petro-chemical plant, using oil products from the refinery as feed-stock for the chemical plant. It employed about 280 people. About 23% of the refinery output was exported by train via a rail link to the national rail network. About 75% was exported by ship. [98]

The line ran roughly North-South from to the refinery which was sited to the East of Milford Haven just a short distance beyond the RNMD Milford Haven site referred to above.

The Gulf Oil Refinery close to Milford Haven. This small extract from the Ordnance Survey Landranger map shows the site and particularly the rail link entering the site from the North.

The line ran roughly North-South from to the refinery which was sited to the East of Milford Haven just a short distance beyond the RNMD Milford Haven site referred to above. The pier and rail connection to that site at Newton Noyes can be seen on the left of the image above.

The video below comprehensively covers the design and construction of the 4 km long branch serving the oil refinery. [99] The refinery closed, eventually, in 1997.

The construction of the Gulf Refinery Branch in 1967/1968. [99]

The route of the old branch leaves the national network to the West of the A477 as can be seen on the satellite image below.

The Gulf Refinery Branch left the national network to the West of the A447. [Google Maps]
Curving to the South, it passed under Neyland Road (A477) to the East of the junction between the A477 and the A4076. [Google Maps]
The view North along the route of the closed branch-line from the bridge at Neyland Road. The cutting is becoming overgrown but its route can still be made out. [Google Streetview, March 2022]
The view South from the road bridge. Again, the cutting can be made out relatively easily, although the parapet height is increased on this side of the bridge. [Google Streetview, March 2022]
The route of the line turns back towards the East before again turning Southwards and approaching Waterston and the Refinery site. [Google Maps]
The view North from Main Road, Waterston (B4325), the old line is in cutting. [Google Streetview, March 2022]
Looking South from the same bridge, the route of the line is marked by the parallel lines of trees heading into the distance. [Google Streetview, March 2022]
The fan of sidings at the southern end of the branch still appear on the satellite imagery of the 2020s. [Google Maps]
A view into the old refinery site in August 2010. The photographer comments: “The former Gulf oil refinery at Waterston closed in 1997 and the site is now used for oil storage and the import of liquid natural gas (LNG). The railway that served the plant is evidently no longer in use.” (c) Stephen McKay, authorised for use under a Creative Commons Licence (CC BY-SA 2.0), [104]

The Esso Refinery was opened in 1960 by the Duke of Edinburgh. Construction cost £18 million and the refinery had the initial capacity to process 4.5 million tons of crude oil a year. As originally conceived the refinery worked in conjunction with Esso’s older, larger refinery at Fawley on Southampton water. Milford Haven refinery supplied the west coast and Fawley the rest of the country. Milford Haven also supplemented Fawley’s fuel oil deliveries to the London area. The refinery shipped semi-refined heavy gas oil to Fawley for further refining. There were also shipments to Ireland and northern Europe. Most of the refinery’s crude came from the Persian Gulf shipped in tankers such as the Esso Scotia of 249,952 deadweight tons. [101]

Wikipedia tells us that most of the product from the refinery, about 95%, was sent out by ship. However, the refinery was connected to the national rail network. Trains carrying liquefied gas were sent to the Midlands and Scotland. The refinery closed down in March 1983. [101]

This extract from streetmap.co.uk shows the line of the railway access to the old refinery as a dotted line extending from the remaining branch-line to Robeston Refinery. [103]

The rail link ran from the national network at Herbrandston Junction via the refinery at Robeston to the Esso Refinery. The picture below, at first sight (and in the light of the notes reproduced beneath the image), suggests that it is a picture of that link, but actually shows sidings at Milford Haven Station. The line to the Esso Oil Refinery was build much later than 1910!

Postcard titled “Glam. R.E.(T) en route for South Hook Fort 23/07/10”. Shows the Glamorganshire Royal Engineers marching from Milford Haven railway station en route for South Hook Fort, 23 July 1910. Line of private owner railway wagons including “J.W.Paton” in the background. The Esso Oil Refinery later occupied the site. Unused. [102]
The junction with the Robeston Branch is just off the top-right of this satellite image. The route of the branch to the Esso refinery appears as a light sand coloured line through the scenery to the East of the road which follows the East boundary of the Robeston plant and sidings. [Google Maps, October 2021]
Looking North along the branch-line from the track shown close to the bottom of the satellite image above. The view South was obscured by bushes across the line.[Google Streetview, April 2011]
This next satellite image shows the line entering at the top-right before passing under Dale Road and curving to the West and to the South, leaving the image at the bottom-left. [Google Maps]
The line ran in cutting and then under Dale Road. This view looks back to the North from Dale Road bridge. [Google Streetview, November 2021]
Looking South from the same location. The bridge visible beyond the parapet of Dale Road bridge appears to be a pipe-bridge. [Google Streetview, November 2021]
The final length of the old branch line is shown on this satellite image as it approaches the site of the refinery. [Google Maps]

The Pembroke Refinery is to be found at Rhoscrowther in the community of Hundleton on the South side of the Milford Haven opposite the town of Milford Haven. It first came on stream in 1964 and was Regent/Texaco’s only British refinery. The refinery occupies a prominent position on the south bank of the Milford Haven Waterway and can be seen for many miles. Around a quarter of the site is within the Pembrokeshire Coast National Park which was created in 1952. [100]

The refinery came on stream in 1964. It was initially owned by the Regent Oil Company, a large domestic marketer of Trinidad-produced oils. Regent was fully acquired by Texaco in 1956 (although the brand name was only phased out in the UK in favour of Texaco in the late 1960s). When it first came on-stream, most of the crude oil for the refinery came from the Middle East with some from Libya, Venezuela and Trinidad. Products were shipped to all parts of Britain 96 per cent going by ship as there was no rail link to the national rail network. [100] Valero, who currently own the site say: “The refinery receives all of its feedstocks and delivers some of its products by ship and barge via deepwater docking facilities along the Milford Haven Waterway, with its remaining products being delivered through our Mainline pipeline system and by trucks.” [105]

Pembroke refinery also supplied fuel oil to the nearby oil-fired 2,000 MW Pembroke power station (commissioned in 1968). Chevron acquired Texaco in 2000. Valero Energy Corporation bought the refinery from Chevron in 2011. [100]

5. The Freystrop Colliery Railway

The Freystrop Colliery Company was formed in July 1900 to take over and redevelop the site of the former Cardmakers’ Pool at Freystrop. [1: p134, 136][107]

On 10th July 1901, the Haverfordwest and Milford Haven Telegraph and General Weekly Reporter for the Counties of Pembroke Cardigan Carmarthen Glamorgan and the Rest of South Wales reported That works at Freystrop Colliery were in an advanced state and that prospects for the coal industry were promising. At the beginning of their article they wrote:

“The works at the newly-opened colliery at Freystrop are now in a very satisfactory state of progress. The company have laid down the latest machinery and have spared neither trouble nor expense in providing the best possible plant available. The main shaft, which has been sunk in the centre of their taking (extending from the Freystrop road to the railway line at Johnston) has now been brought down to a depth of over 50 yards. For 35 yards of this distance an excellent brick lining, with occasional patches of concrete where extra strengthening was required, has been laid on the sides, but, as the rock has now been reached, there is no necessity for continuing it further.” [106]

At that time, the Company still had a great deal of work to do before all the preliminaries were finished. The prospects were seen as very promising, and, as around £100 was already being expended on weekly wages, locally hopes were high for a great future. [106]

The reconstruction of the mine took time, “but it became obvious that the anticipated output would make the previous practice of carting coal and culm either to the quays on the river or to Johnston station quite impractical. As the colliery was only one and a half miles east of Johnston, the natural solution was the construction of a rail link.” [1: p136]

Much of the land between the colliery and the railway station was a marsh. Nevertheless the Pembroke Herald reported in the Autumn of 1901 that work would begin on the branch-line. [108]

Connop-Price tells us that the construction of the railway and ancillary works took the best part of two years. He tells us that the Pembrokeshire Herald reported that, ” now it is possible for the wagons belonging to the company to be filled under the huge screen, five at a time, with different qualities of coal.” At the time of this report the company output was around 400 tons of coal and culm per week and expected to rise significantly. [1: p136][109]

Connop-Price notes that directors of the Milford Docks Company were on the board of this venture and that as a result the connection to the mainline was laid facing south to Milford Haven. The venture encountered geological problems and output was intermittent. Eventually it was decided to abandon the enterprise and the branch-line was closed officially in 1911. Connop-Price goes on to state that, “In its brief career it had been worked at different times by two tank locomotives. The first cannot be identified now., but the second was an 0-4-0 saddle tank built in 1905 by Andrew Barclay and Co. of Kilmarnock. [110] The locomotive shed was situated about 300 yards from the junction at Johnston, facing towards Freystrop.” [1: p136]

The Freystrop Colliery Line as shown on the 6″ Ordnance Survey of 1906 and which was published in 1908. Enlarged extracts at Johnston Station and at the Colliery are shown below. [110]
The thin red line shows the approximate route of the branch line leaving Johnston Railway Station as it appears on modern satellite imagery. [111]

Coflein describes the site of Johnston station as, “formerly Milford Road Station on the South Wales Railway, now merely site of a halt, with all buildings demolished.” Their site carries two photographs of the original station, these are shown below. [113]

Johnston Railway Station before its demolition and the singling of the line through the station. [113]
Johnston Railway Station looking North from the South end of the platform. This picture was taken in 2018, (c) Stehen McKay and made available under a Creative Commons Licence (CC BY-SA 2.0). [112]
The modern satellite image at the location of Freystrop Colliery has the approximate line of the railway and the colliery and screens locations highlighted. [111]
Looking West at the point which the old branch line crossed Vine Road (A4076). [Google Streetview, March 2022]
Looking East at the point which the old branch line crossed Vine Road (A4076). [Google Streetview, March 2022]

6. The Hook Colliery Railway

The National Library of Wales holds the papers associated with Hook colliery. They tell us that “Hook Colliery, Llangwm, Pembrokshire, was opened in 1850, and operated until 1947. An attempt was made in the 1950s to re-open it as a private mine by Hook Colliery Co., under T. W. Harcourt Roberts., geologist and mining engineer, and General Manager and Managing Director of Hook Colliery, Pembrokeshire.” [115]

This photograph was shared by Mark Lewis on the Pembrokeshire – I LOVE IT! Facebook Group on 30th May 2018. It shows Hook Colliery but is not dated. [119]
This photograph was shared by Stephen Hughes on the Pembrokeshire – I LOVE IT! Facebook Group on 31st May 2018. It shows Hook Colliery again but is dated 1912-1928. [120]

At its peak, over 40,000 tons of anthracite was mined at Hook colliery each year and employment provided for well over 100. Until the rail link was built in the early 1900’s to link the village with the main line at Johnston the vast majority of coal left by sea from Hook Quay. [114]

Connop-Price tells us that the “Margaret Pit was sunk at Hook in 1910, and initially coal was moved to Hook quay in small trams over the narrow-gauge railway built in 1888 to serve the older West Park colliery. This was an endless rope-worked tramway, driven by a stationary engine at the colliery. The side-tipping trams … were not grouped together as a train, but spaced out about thirty yards apart along the line. This space was needed to give time for the loaded trams to be knocked off when they reached the incline, and the empties hooked on. .. At the quay the coal had to be transferred to barges which were then worked down to Llangwm Pool for loading onto sea-going vessels. Later the river was dredged in the vicinity of Hook quay to allow small coasters to come alongside for loading, but this system of transport was still slow and labour-intensive, and a handicap to the colliery.” [1: p136]

This photograph was shared by Mark Lewis on the Pembrokeshire – I LOVE IT! Facebook Group on 30th May 2018. It shows one of the trams used by Hook Colliery in the years before the railway was constructed. [118]
Hook Colliery again, this time one of the trams is visible on the right side of the image. This photograph was shared by Stephen Hughes on the Pembrokeshire – I LOVE IT! Facebook Group on 25th May 2017. [120]

The Colliery Company owned several sea-going vessels most of which traded to the French and London markets. The coal was in great demand for smelting and also heating the sophisticated homes of the capital city. It has been recorded that Queen Victoria had a distinct preference for the practically smokeless Hook anthracite and it was used extensively in the Royal palaces. [114]

Some detail of the operations of the various sea-going ships owned and used by the colliery can be found here. [114]

The Pembrokeshire Virtual Museum entry for Hook Colliery tells us that, “Hook Colliery Railway operated as a standard gauge mineral line and ran from Johnston station on the G.W.R. to Hook Colliery some 4 miles away. During the late 1920s the Pembrokeshire coal industry appeared to be on the verge of collapse with only the collieries at Hook and Bonvilles Court (closed in 1930) still in operation. It was clear that if Hook Colliery was to survive then new investment was necessary especially in moving coal to its markets. … It was decided in 1929 to build a railway line to move the coal instead.” [116]

Despite the need for a railway being recognised as early as 1919, nothing, however, was done until 1929 when the decision was taken to construct a railway. [1: p136/137] “The railway was built in 1930 and was completed by November of that year. It ran for part of its length along the route of a disused railway line to Freystrop Colliery (please see the section on this line above), which saved considerable engineering work.” [116]

Connop-Price tells us that the cost of the work was around £40,000, and “this time the junction at Johnston was laid facing North to allow direct running towards Haverfordwest and Carmarthen. … Pembrokeshire Council raised an objection to the level crossing over the main road near Johnston (one of five such crossings on the line0 but eventually the problem was resolved. A siding for the use of the nearby Johnston brickworks was also provided. a permanent connection with the GWR mainline was made on 13th November 1930, and the railway opened to traffic.” [1: p137]

Hook Colliery Railway sometime in the 1930s or 1940s. This photograph was shared by Stephen Hughes on the Pembrokeshire – I LOVE IT! Facebook Group on 31st May 2018. [121]

“Once completed the railway enabled easy export of coal and production then rose until it peaked in 1934 when 40,000 tons were produced, the largest ever annual total from a Pembrokeshire colliery and some 35,000 tons were moved by the railway. From that point on, however, output declined and in 1945 only 20,000 tons were produced. The colliery and its railway were nationalised in January 1947 (Hook was the only Pembrokeshire colliery to be nationalised) but the pit flooded in that year and it was considered uneconomic to put it back into operation. In early 1948, the railway closed after moving the last of the stored coal.” [116]

“The railway operated two of its own 0-6-0 saddle tank locomotives, neither of which appear to have carried names. It also had its own private owner wagons which moved the coal on the railway and then via the G.W.R. to its markets. At Johnston station exchange sidings were built from where Hook wagons would be collected and deposited by G.W.R. freight trains.” [116]

Connop-Price mentions the two locomotives: “The contractors’ locomotive, D.M.D.Ltd No.10, an 0-6-0 saddle tank built by Peckett of Bristol, was retained, but another engine said to have been at Hook, an 0-4-0 saddle tank built by Hawthorne Leslie, was transferred to Davies, Middleton and Davies at Caerphilly.” [1: p137]

Later, by 1934, “the colliery railway had acquired an engine from the Mersey Docks and Harbour Board, an 0-6-0 saddle tank built by Avonside of Bristol in 1910.” [1: p137/138]

The company owned a modest number of open wagons.

This photograph was shared by Mark Lewis on the Pembrokeshire – I LOVE IT! Facebook Group on 30th May 2018. It shows one of the fleet of wagons owned by Hook Colliery. [117]
The first length of the new branch to Hook Colliery, as shown on the 6″ Ordnance Survey of1948, published 1953. Note the North facing junction with the GWR mainline. The remnants of the old branch are still visible curving to the south to the railway station. [124]
The north facing connection to the mainline is illustrated in this modern satellite image. The newer alignment rejoins the older alignment to the West of Vine Road. The newer line followed the earthworks of the older line as far as the Freystrop Colliery location where the old line terminated. The route can be seen under the section about Freystrop Colliery Railway above and then picked up again in the satellite image below. [126]
Two level crossings feature in this next length of the line. Freystrop Colliery was in the woodland North of the line on the left-side of this image. The line curved sinuously through the landscape crossing first a lane which ran North/South between Targate Road and Cardmakers’ Pool Colliery then Targate Road itself (at the bottom-right of this image). [127]
The location of the Targate Road level crossing the red line shows the approximate line of the old railway which ran in front of what is now a white-painted wall on the left across into the bushes and undergrowth on the right, just behind the first car travellign towards the photographer. [Google Streetview, March 2022]
The of the branch South of Freystrop village and running through to the western edge of the Hook Colliery site, as shown on the 6″ Ordnance Survey of1948, published 1953. [124]
The left-hand half of the area shown on the map above shows the line crossing to the North of Puddleduck Bridge. [128]
Looking West towards Johnston. The old railway followed the dirt track before crossing Troopers Inn/ Freystrop Cross at level. [Google Streetview, July 2021]
From the same location looking East towards the Colliery. The old line followed the line of the dirt track after crossing the road. [Google Streetview, July 2021]
The terminus of the branch at the Hook Colliery site, as shown on the 6″ Ordnance Survey of 1948, published 1953. [125]
The approximate lines of the standard gauge railway and the tramroads at the Hook Colliery Site. [129]
Hook Colliery again, this time showing the terminus of the standard-gauge branch-line. This photograph was shared by Stephen Hughes on the Pembrokeshire – I LOVE IT! Facebook Group on 25th May 2017. [123]


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