Hay Railway Notice of Meeting 1856
The Hay Railway Co. was incorporated on 25 May 1811, to make a railway or tramroad from the Brecknock & Abergavenny Canal basin at the Watton in Brecon to Hay and Eardisley. The line was constructed as a tramroad to a gauge of 3ft 6ins and was horse worked. The line opened from Brecon to Hay on 7 May 1816 and thence to Eardisley on 11 December 1818, and was extended as the Kington Tramroad reaching Kington in 1820, where there was an ironworks, and to the Burlingjobb limekilns in 1825.
The Hay Railway distributed a considerable tonnage of coal and coke from Monmouthshire brought in by the Brecknock & Abergavenny Canal, which connected south of Pontypool with the Monmouthshire Canal. The coal traffic on the Hay Railway amounted to 18,837 tonnes per annum at its peak, however the other main commodity lime and limestone only amounted to 2,285 tonnes in 1839.
The Hay Railway was purchased by the Hereford, Hay & Brecon Railway for conversion, an Act having been obtained for this on 6 August 1860. The Brecon & Merthyr and Mid Wales Railway's objected as they too wanted to purchase and convert the Hay Railway as an alternative access to Brecon, which would be much cheaper than proceeding with the original plans. After some argument, it was agreed that the Act of Purchase be amended to enable the B&MR to acquire the section from Talyllyn to Brecon and the MWR the section between there and Aberllyfni (Three Cocks Junction), leaving the HH&BR in possession of the remainder.
The section belonging to the B&MR included the Talyllyn Tunnel of 1816 which the B&MR had to re-bore to a larger diameter. The B&MR claimed it was thereby the owner of the oldest railway tunnel in existence. The Brecon Chamber of Trade placed a plaque above the eastern entrance to the tunnel in 1951 to mark the Festival of Britain. The plaque is now in the Brecknock Museum and it reads:
OPENED BY THE HAY RAILWAY
7 May 1816
John Hodgkinson Engineer
ENLARGED AND RE-OPENED BY THE
BRECON AND MERTHYR RAILWAY
1 May 1863
Henry Conybeare Engineer