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When was it built?
Who built it?

Why was it built?
What did it look like?

What was its route?
What did it cost to build?
How was it operated?
When (and why) did it close?
What is left of it now?
How did it affect Caerleon?

At first it carried materials to build the canal, which opened in 1797. We know this because, on the 21st of November 1792, Nicholas Blannin's brother, John, had a contract to supply stone from Caerleon for the building of the canal. Later it carried:

· coal to the quay at Caerleon to be loaded onto ships,
· raw materials to the Tin plate works at Ponthir
· raw materials to the Caerleon Forge (just outside Caerleon on the Ponthir Road)
· finished products from the Ponthir and Caerleon Works to the Quayside at Caerleon


It was one of the first 'railways' in the country - certainly in the area. The term 'railway' referred to the use of iron rails; previously wooden rails had been used, this system being known as a 'wagon road'. Originally it was a 'plateway' - with rails 4 feet long (approx 1.25 m), 'L' shaped in cross section, fastened to stone sleepers by means of spikes driven into wooden plugs fixed in holes in the stones. The stone sleepers were roughly circular in shape and weighed approximately 1cwt (50 kg).
These illustrations come from the excellent book "Portraits of the Past" by Chris Barber and Michael Blackmore, published by Blorenge Books of Abergavenny.

Though not the Caerleon Tramroad, the picture to the right clearly shows a plateway and demonstrates how the wheels rolled on the horizontal surface of the track.
Right, an actual section of rail from the Caerleon Tramroad. As far as we know, this is the very first photo of the track to appear ANYWHERE. Notice the wear. This was a problem, caused by the wheel resting on the horizontal surface rather than being supported by a flange.
This section of rail was discovered by Mr Michael Fry who lives in Tram Road, Caerleon. He came across it while rebuilding part of his house. It had been employed as a lintel above a window.
The tramroad probably underwent several reconstructions and may well have later had rails which resembled those in use on modern railways. However, there was no compulsion for the use of a standardised type of rail or gauge as this tramroad did not connect with any other.
Wagons were pulled by horses. Often, trains of wagons were pulled by teams of horses. This saved on labour costs as only one man was needed to lead the team.

Above: Photo of the Little Eaton Tramroad, Derby, 1908.
Click here for more superb illustrations of this tramroa


Left: Tramwheel in track showing how the rail wore down. (Forest of Dean Heritage Centre)

Below: Stone sleepers still in situ - Forest of Dean

The hunt is now on for stone sleepers from Caerleon's Tramroad.