The Trevithick Trail runs for nine and a half miles from the site of the old iron works in Penydarren along the route of the old Merthyr tramroad to Navigation in Abercynon.
For several miles the modern day cycle route, bridleway and footpath follows Richard Trevithick’s amazing first ever railway journey of 21 February 1804 when he drove his high pressure steam locomotive along the iron rails of the tramroad – hauling five wagons laden with 10 tons of iron and carrying 70 passengers.
The journey took just over four hours – including stops to deal with rocks, overhanging branches and broken rails.
The tramroad – one of the largest in the world at the time – took two years to build and was completed in 1802. It included new bridges, embankments, cuttings and the world’s first tramroad railway tunnel.
Flanged iron rails were set on stone beds or plates so horse-drawn trains of wagons could haul the basic iron products from the four great Merthyr ironworks – Cyfarthfa, Dowlais, Penydarren and Plymouth – to the Glamorganshire canal basin at Abercynon.
The Trevithick Trail follows the old tramroad from Penydarren to Pentrebach and from Merthyr Vale through Quakers Yard to Abercynon. In some sections the original plates can still be seen.
From Pentrebach – where a new feature cycle and footbridge takes the trail across a modern dual carriageway – to Merthyr Vale there is a new section of hillside pathway giving panoramic views across the Taff Valley.