Black Jack. In the latter half of the nineteenth century near the little town of Brynmawr, there lived a farmer named Dai Thomas. Dai was the proud owner of a fine big black stallion, who he called Black Jack (or just Jack for short). Jack loved to go out galloping on the moors with his master in the saddle. He was a very fine jumper and would clear even the tallest hedgerow with ease. But Jack had one strange peculiarity, he didn't like going under bridges. No one knew the reason why but he just would not travel under any. Dai discovered this fact the first time he rode Jack into town. For crossing the road to town from Dai's farmhouse was a small bridge, which carried a tramline. As they approached this bridge Jacks ears went bolt up straight and he suddenly accelerated into a gallop. Before Dai realised what was happening they were both flying through the air over this bridge, with Dai hanging on to Jacks mane for dear life. But Jack landed sound and safe on the other side and they carried on their way into town, although Dai was more than a little shaken by the incident. As time went by Jack continued jumping bridges and gradually Dai got used to his horse's strange ways, but he always prepared himself for flight whenever they approached one. One day Dai decided he would like to go and visit his cousin who lived at Abercarn, a little place about fourteen miles down the valley. So he saddled up Black Jack and off they went on their journey. Jack acted his usual self jumping each bridge in turn as they travelled down the valley. On they went passing through Nantyglo, Abertillery and Aberbeeg. Then after going through Llanhilleth with all bridges cleared safely, they rounded a sharp bend in the valley and there in the distance loomed the massive structure of Crumlin Viaduct. When they were about five hundred yards from the viaduct up went Jacks ears and off at full speed he galloped (he must have thought he needed a good run at this one). Closer and closer towards the giant hurdle they sped, then at the very last moment just as Jack was about to launch them both into flight, Dai heaved back hard on the reigns, forcing his gallant steed to slow down and finally stop. Dai gave out one long sigh of relief, then patting Jack consolingly on the neck he said, "Jack I think we had better go UNDER this one". Jack didn't put up any resistance to his master's wise decision; he just trotted quietly under the viaduct and on to Abercarn, clearing all the other bridges on the way. And from that day all through the rest of his life, right up until the day he died, Crumlin Viaduct remained the only bridge that Jack would ever go under. J.H.Smith.
Evan and the Texan A Texan tourist visited Crumlin one day, so Evan thought he would show him the local places of interest. The first stop was "Pen-y-fan" pond. Looking at the pond the Texan said, "what! you call that a pond, let me tell you boy back home in Texas we have bigger puddles on the side of the road". Kendon woods was next on the list. Walking through the woods the Texan said, "Evan, your little old wood is very pretty, but back in the states there's trees so high the tops of them are always covered in snow, winter and summer". Their final stop was at the Navigation Colliery. When the American saw the mine he said, "Evan you call that a coal mine, well let me tell you over in the states we have bigger rabbit holes than that there coal mine of yours." By this time Evan was more than a little cheesed off by the American's exaggerated comments, so he wasn't sorry when the time arrived for them to part company. The American thanked Evan for showing him around the "little old place" and he was about to leave when he looked up at Crumlin Viaduct. Seeing this magnificent structure he said to Evan, "my, what a marvellous bridge Evan, we ain't got nothing so grand as that in Texas". Evan trying to look bemused said, "what bridge do you mean?" "Why, that bridge stretching right across the valley and so high" said the Texan pointing at the Viaduct. Evan smiled and replied, "oh that, that's no bridge, it's just a fence to keep the sheep out". J H Smith
Picasso Edwin Jones, (or as he was known locally) Picasso. He was given this nickname on the account that he was a painter by trade. Not an artistic painter, or an ordinary run of the mill painter-decorator, oh no, not young Picasso, for he was employed painting Crumlin Viaduct. Crumlin Viaduct was such a huge structure, being a painter on it guaranteed you non-stop employment. Because the time it took to complete the painting from one end to the other, it would be in need of painting again from the start. As with most jobs, this painting job had its perk. Picasso was given a small allowance of Viaduct paint, provided that it was for his own use only. Being that the only paint that was used on the Viaduct was a sort of silvery grey in colour, (a very dull silvery grey at that) then it would be fair to say, as perks go this one rated very lowly. Never the less the free paint was gratefully received, because Picasso had only been married for a short time and all of his money was used setting up a home with his new bride and even though it was a very dangerous job, the wages for painters was very low. The first thing that Picasso painted at his home, was the iron railings that formed a fence around the small back garden of their terraced house. This didn't look too bad, after all the paint was meant for use on ironwork. But when he painted the doors and the window frames on the exterior of the house, well it looked ridiculous to say the least. Things didn't end there, soon Picasso got to work on the interior of the house, painting all the internal woodwork, skirting boards, doors, window frames and sills. His wife begged him to stop, but he just kept on painting everything in sight, like a man possessed. Perhaps it was because all the time he spent working with this colour, he had became accustomed to it and he didn't realise how ugly it looked within the house. Soon the whole inside of the house was painted silvery grey, walls, ceilings, everything, everywhere you looked in the house was this same dull colour. You couldn't tell where the walls ended or where the ceilings began. If you didn't know where the doors were then you would have to feel around to find them. His wife was livid with him and they argued day and night over his handy work. It got so bad she threatened him that she would leave the house for good, if he didn't do something about it. The mood in the house became as grey and gloomy as the decor. Picasso was in a quandary, even though his wife nagged him constantly about his paintwork, he loved her dearly. It would break his heart if she would ever leave him. What was he to do? He couldn't remove the paint and he didn't have any money to buy other paints, to cover it over. Usually Picasso was the life and soul of the small group of painters at his workplace, always cracking jokes and singing or whistling away as he worked. But since his problems at home with the threat of his wife leaving hanging over him, his character had changed completely and he became quiet and withdrawn. This change of mood didn't go unnoticed with his work mates, and they became concerned for him. They obviously knew all about his problems and they would do anything to help him, but how, what could they do? Then one of the men had an idea, "I've got some paint left over, not a lot, but there's some white and a little red" he said "and I'm sure we all have some partly filled tins stashed away somewhere" he added. "What if we give Picasso all our left over paints? Maybe between us he will have enough to repaint his house". Another one of the men suggested they sort the paints out by their colours, mixing all the reds together, the greens, and yellows, etc. This they did and between them they managed to fill several tins of different coloured paint. When they presented it to Picasso he was overcome with happiness and he couldn't thank his work mates enough. To see a smile on Picasso's face once again was very rewarding for the men, and they felt self satisfied with the result of their modest charitable deed. As soon as Picasso returned home and he had eaten his dinner, out came his paintbrush and he set about covering over the dreary grey. With each stroke of his brush the house became brighter and more cheerful. The whole atmosphere of the previous miserable dwelling changed like magic. The arguing ceased and his wife very quickly returned to be the happy and loving partner he had first married. Not one single drop of silvery grey paint ever crossed their threshold again. Not even for the garden fence. J. H. Smith.
My memories and thoughts of the Viaduct As I stated in my introductory I was born in Crumlin and if anyone was born in Crumlin they were born within sight of the Viaduct. The Viaduct was a dominant and permanent feature of our surroundings and just like the mountains and the valleys, it was always there. As children we didn't regard it as anything special because we never experienced life without it. It was just the Viaduct. I lived in Parry Terrace at the Treowen end of the Viaduct and as a young boy along with others of my age; I spent a lot of my free time playing in the Kendon Woods. There is a deep valley between Treowen and the Woods that was bridged by the Viaduct. Although the Viaduct was strictly out of bounds to all pedestrians, but as boys being boys who showed the usual disregard for all authority, we would use it as a short cut to the woods. Beneath the railway line on the Viaduct there was a "catwalk" this was a narrow open wooden walkway with handrails. On many occasions we have been chased across there with a railway employee hot on our tails, but we never got caught. I can recollect quite vividly being on the catwalk with trains passing over head, feeling the strong vibrations and hearing the rumbling and the groaning of the ironwork, as the heavy locomotives with their loaded trucks or crowded carriages, trundled on their journey to the other side. Every spring when the birds were nesting we would go on to the Viaduct to collect Jackdaw's eggs. There were flocks of these birds, they would nest in the recesses of the iron girders and it was quite easy to reach down from the catwalk and steal their eggs. You might think that this act alone was a very cruel thing to do, which now a days I am bound to agree. But it's what we did with the eggs afterwards you will find even more distasteful. For beneath the Kendon Viaduct is a road, the "West-Mon" double Decker bus travelled up and down this road on its twice hourly run to and from the town of Blackwood. We somehow got great pleasure at trying to drop an egg on top of this bus as it journeyed underneath the Viaduct. Although this was a very silly and cruel thing to do, never the less great skill (or luck) was required to hit the target. Because we had to judge the speed of the bus, combine this with the time the egg would take to descend from the great height and there was also the wind factor to be taken into consideration. So it wasn't surprising that a hit was more of a rarity than the norm. I have also travelled across the Viaduct (legally I may add) on countless occasions. My parents would very often take my brothers and me on excursions from Crumlin High Level Station to Pontypool, Hereford or farther a field, even as far as Blackpool, though the part of the journey we enjoyed most was always the ride across our Viaduct. We would lean out of the open windows waving handkerchiefs or the like at the people who looked like small dots far below. Getting our eyes full of smuts from the engine smoke for our trouble. I was in my early twenties when they closed the line and the decision to pull down the Viaduct was made. Thinking back on it I can't remember any public outcry, which in a way I now feel guilty about, the thought that my generation allowed it to happen. But I suppose those were different times and people then accepted the economic excuses put forward by British Rail. I doubt very much that they would be allowed to get away with such an act of destruction these days. Even while the Viaduct was being demolished, scenes for the film "Arabesque" starring Sophia Loren and Gregory Peck were being shot on it. The hillsides all around were lined with hundreds of bystanders, watching as the helicopter performed daring stunts flying over and under the Viaduct in spectacular fashion. I sometimes think how reminiscent that scene must have been to the crowds of people who turned out over one hundred years previous, to witness the grand opening of the Viaduct. Finally I often wonder what it would be like if the Viaduct if was still there. These days with the different parts of the country vying for the tourist trade, with Theme Parks being built left, right and centre. I can just imagine a steam powered locomotive pulling carriages full of tourists, up the Glyn valley from Pontypool through Hafodyrynys and over the Viaduct and perhaps taking the journey just a few more miles down the track, over the (still standing) stone Viaduct at Hengoed. J.H.Smith.
Crumlin Viaduct. Built in the eighteen fifties, to carry the railway line, A feat of engineering; the greatest of that time. It spanned the Ebbw valley, and the Kendon too, From the Swffryd to Treowen, the giant structure grew. Stretching across the valley, two hundred odd feet high, Made from local iron, it reached up to the sky. It bore the railway traffic for a hundred years or so, Until Lord Beeching said, "this railway line must go". So it was demolished, like "burglars in the night" And the Western valley lost its most famous sight. Now Crumlin's not the same, without its bridge so grand, Only empty skies where the Viaduct once did stand. J H Smith.
Across the tracks, the train came, linking the two valleys, things will never be the same. The viaduct was built for all to see, to linger on, in our memory.
In 1853 it all began, when Mr. Thomas William Kennard had a wonderful plan. The work was complete in 1855, the job that made us all feel alive.
In June 1857 the day finally came, the day when Crumlin, would never be the same. The first train to cross this famous viaduct, to bring the valley prospects and a bit of luck.
The most joyous of occasions, for us all to see, hoping this would remain and forever be. But in 1964, the sad day did arise, the last train to cross her, we could not believe our eyes. The sadness we felt, was hard to express, then in 1965, she was put to rest.