Victorian Powys for primary  schools
Powys Digital History Project
Talgarth and district
The Hay Tramroad
  A railway without any engines  
Drawing by
Rob Davies
Work started on the construction of the Brecknock and Abergavenny canal in 1794, and it reached Brecon at the end of December 1800.
Even before the new canal had opened local landowners and traders were planning new transport routes to link the canal wharf in Brecon with Herefordshire and Radnorshire to the north east.
Tramway in use

The route of
Hay Tramroad
from Brecon
to Hay

The Brecknock
& Abergavenny
Canal is shown
by the blue
dotted line at
bottom left.

Map of tramroad route

The main need in the early 1800s was for the cheapest possible way of moving large quantities of bulky and heavy goods like coal, iron, limestone, grain, and timber.
Canals could do this well, but they were very costly and took a long time to build. Most roads were in a poor condition and horses could not pull heavy wagons on badly rutted or very muddy tracks. Packhorses with relatively light loads had to be used on many routes.


At this time the River Wye was being used to carry coal from the Forest of Dean in Gloucestershire to western Herefordshire. But fully laden boats could only be used when the Wye was in full flood.
A new canal from Brecon to Whitney-on-Wye in Herefordshire was briefly considered. But it was the tramroad alternative that was to be approved, funded, and built, for this early form of railway was much cheaper and quicker.
Find out more about how the tramroad worked on the next page...

More about the horse-powered railway...


For more about the Hay Tramroad see our pages on Hay.
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