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Saturday, 6 December 2014

The Mumbles Railway Interviews.

1: Recorded on 28th June 1954, the day before the 150th Anniversary celebration.

2: Recorded in November 1959.

Friday, 5 December 2014

Changing Stations

Looking back at 30 years of music radio presentation.
Original audio produced in 1997. 

Sunday, 30 November 2014

What's Left of the Mumbles Railway?

(Main article first published in the South Wales Evening Post, 'Back on the Tracks' supplement,  Saturday 21 February 2004 and in edited form in the main paper, Monday 15th March, 2004.)

The Mumbles Railway was incorporated as the Oystermouth Tramroad, which began operating in 1806 and became the World’s first passenger-carrying line when a contractor was permitted to run a horse-drawn coach a year later.
The Oystermouth Tramroad, of course, eventually became the Swansea & Mumbles Railway which closed at the beginning of 1960 amongst much wailing and gnashing of teeth - sporadic outbursts of which continue to this day. 
Electrification of the Mumbles Railway took place in March, 1929.
 It is believed that this photograph was taken on the first day.
If one considers the emotions which are stimulated in Swansea by mention of the words “Mumbles” and “Railway” in the same sentence, it is perhaps surprising that so little of it has been preserved, particularly in comparison with similar situations elsewhere in the UK.
In January 1960, however, the transport preservation movement which has given rise to splendid organisations such as the Severn Valley Railway and the National Tramway Museum, was still very much in its infancy. And Richard Beeching was still eighteen months away from being appointed Chairman of the British Railways Board; abandoned railways were a relatively unusual concept.
Contemporary press cuttings confirm that there was very little interest locally in preserving anything substantial, not even by local museums. One of the electric cars eventually found a short-lived home at a fledgling preservation site in Leeds, but it was only relatively minor items which gravitated to local museums and, inevitably, to private collections.
Retired: Three gents contemplating the downward path of civilisation 
since the Mumbles Railway closed. 
(Swansea Museum, 22nd January 2006).
Those items which have survived now take on greater significance and a convenient place to start tracking down relics of the line is Swansea Museum. Exhibits include the end section of electric railcar no.7 which was operated the last service all those years ago and which later was left abandoned for over a decade at the rear of Swansea’s Royal Institution. Thankfully, it is now in excellent condition and can be seen daily in its proper context as the last surviving part of a fleet of thirteen similar vehicles.
The 1954-built replica horse car at Rutland Street depot. 
The car is now housed in the annexe of Swansea Museum.
Also at Swansea Museum is a replica of the first passenger vehicle of 1807. This yellow and black horse-drawn coach is itself of some vintage, having been constructed in 1954 as part of the railway’s 150th anniversary celebration. It was built at South Wales Transport’s Ravenhill depot and the underframe was part of a Hardy four-wheel petrol locomotive purchased in 1929 to shunt the electric cars at Rutland Street depot. The museum also has a number of smaller exhibits, such as a pantograph current collector, tickets, signs and photographs.

Older readers will be aware that the start of the Mumbles Railway’s route to the pier was from Rutland Street Terminus, alongside what is nowadays Swansea Leisure Centre. This fact is commemorated by a plaque on the seaward pillar supporting Oystermouth Road footbridge. The depot was on the site now occupied by St. Davids multi storey car park. 

In its heyday - 
the Mumbles Railway as it will be remembered;
 a line up of cars at Rutland Street depot.
From Rutland Street to St. Helens, the central reservation of the Oystermouth Road dual carriageway marks approximately the position of the railway with the only remaining structure being the short underpass opposite the Tesco store through which once ran the lines connecting the Mumbles Railway to the South Dock rail network. 
At St. Helens (the ‘Slip’) the Bay View pub - itself a landmark of some history - for a while acknowledged the railway in its overhanging sign. The Mumbles Railway formerly along what is now centre of the road here, with the LMS Victoria to Pontarddulais line between it and the beach.
A remnant of the railway can be found here on the landward side of the road where two old electricity control boxes exist alongside the footbridge. One bears the legend ’SWT Co. Ltd.’ and was once part of the power system of the railway.
There is little to be found between here and Blackpill, the trackbed having been totally consumed beneath the roadway until that point. It is worth mentioning, however, that Swansea University Library houses SWT and tramway minute books which give a significant insight into the operation of the railway. Included in the collection is a cash book from the very early days of the Oystermouth Tramroad.
On the approach to Blackpill, those with sufficient motivation to go exploring in the undergrowth alongside the service station will find evidence of the Clyne Valley tramway, formerly a branch off the Mumbles Railway and used to extract minerals from the Rhydydefaid area.

Electric car 11 at Blackpill during the final years of the railway 
with the electricity sub-station that converted power for use on the line.

Blackpill today, with the substation now converted to 'The Junction' cafe.
 After many years as a storage unit, the one time Blackpill substation now has found use as the commendable ‘Junction’ cafĂ©. This largely red brick building was constructed in 1927 and formerly converted power to 600 volts DC for supply to the railway’s overhead wires. The concrete ‘Blackpill’ name above the canopy still exists and from a distance on the seaward side the remains of wartime camouflage paint can just be made out.
The greatest legacy of the Mumbles Railway is the footpath-come-cycleway between Blackpill and Mumbles which is one of the finest short walks anywhere in the UK. Sharp-eyed walkers will spot evidence of the occasional traction pole footing in the sea wall. The traction poles were use to support the overhead wires, or catenary.
The whole raison d’etre of the Mumbles Railway was to collect the products of mining in the Mumbles area. There is ample evidence of quarrying to the rear of the guest houses on the approach to Oystermouth and, later, in the cliffs between Southend and Mumbles Pier. The remains of wooden sleepers dating back to steam days can be found in the grassy bank at the rear of the present Oystermouth bus shelter.

Car 3 departing from Oystermouth with 
the wooden station building much in evidence. 
The railway connected with bus services to and from Newton,
 Caswell and Langland at this point.
The present scene at the same spot as the previous picture. 
Note the two remaining traction poles and the last vestige 
of the station building.

The wooden building at Oystermouth car park is the last vestige of the station structure. One hears a lot about bus-rail interchanges these days, but prior to 1960 we had an excellent example here at Oystermouth with a spinal light rail route feeding into local bus services! Also nearby are two white traction poles dating back to the 1920s.
Approximately opposite the former station building is a plinth bearing a plaque commemorating the various stages in the Mumbles Railway’s history. The same story is told by a stained glass window unveiled in March 1982 at All Saints Church, Oystermouth.
Beyond Oystermouth most of the trackbed is still identifiable, although developments at Knab Rock have obliterated part of it. Incidentally, between Oystermouth and Southend a considerable amount of land was reclaimed from the sea when the railway was built and so the small park at this point is yet another legacy of the railway. At Southend, where the footpath widens, is the location of the former Southend Station. 

Car 9 leads a twin set at the Pier terminus. 
Note the section of rail acting as a marker for drivers.
The same spot today. 
The traction poles remain in situ, now acting as lamp posts!
On the approach to Mumbles Pier the former trackbed passes through a short cutting and ceases just before reaching the Pier Restaurant and the terminus of the railway. Many of the lamp standards at this point are former traction poles from the railway and the Pier itself, opened in 1898, once was owned by the same company.
One of the boundary markers situated in the roadway at  Mumbles Hill.
The final relics of the line can be found at the top of Mumbles Hill, the steep climb which leads from the Pier towards Bracelet Bay. At the top of the hill on the pavement is a small marker bearing the initials SWT which indicated the limit of the land owned by the company in railway days.
Car no.2 abandoned at the Middleton Railway, Leeds in about 1966. RIP.
As with all railways, total obliteration following closure is a process which can take many years and there is still plenty of evidence of the Mumbles Railway’s existence. One suspects that a great number of relics of the Mumbles Railway also survive in private collections; indeed, some emerge at auctions from time to time. Although they are not of any great monetary value, the surviving artefacts still remind us of a once very popular railway which continues to stimulate animated discussion whenever the subject is raised.
Cover of a 36-page souvenir 
brochure issued in 1928
 to mark the electrification
 of the railway.
1932 timetable and fares.
1932 fare table showing 
through ticketing arrangements
 between local bus services
 and season ticket rates. 
Summer 1947 timetable.

Cover of a timetable supplement 
issued in 1960 detailing revised
 bus services as a consequence 
of the line's closure.
Poster issued by the 
Light Railway Transport League 
during their campaign to 
prevent the line's closure.
1930s Bell Punch
 style ticket, for a 
child rate 3d. fare.

1930s 1/- Bell Punch 
style ticket for a return
 journey between 
Rutland Street 
and Mumbles Pier.
Integrated transport! 
Exchange ticket for
 through journeys between
 Craddock Street 
and St. Helens.
Bell Punch 'Bellgraphic' style ticket.
 Journey and fare details were 
handwritten by the conductor 
and details stored on a counterfoil 
ticket roll which was stored inside
 the ticket machine for auditing.
Destination blind from a Swansea 
& Mumbles electric railcar. 
This in fact is one of the smaller 
side displays which were seldom 
used in later years.
Enamel notice listing principal stopping points.
These were fixed to the electric cars
 on the rear of the drivers cab,
 at the foot of each stairway
 - one at each end of the car.
Adult (1/-) 150th Anniversary 
souvenir ticket issued in 1954.
Child (6d) 150th Anniversary 
souvenir ticket issued in 1954.
Cover of a commemorative brochure
 issued in 1954 to mark the 150th Anniversary of the railway.
Child (10d) souvenir ticket 
of 1960 issued in connection 
with the closure of the railway.

Adult (1/8) souvenir ticket 
of 1960 issued in connection 
with the closure of the railway.
Cover of a commemorative brochure 
issued in 1960 to mark the closure 
of the railway.

Notice placed on buses 
and trains advising travellers 
 of changes to bus services as a consequence of the closure 
of the railway on 5th January 1960. 
The morning 'peak' flow into 
Swansea was operated 
by the railway, with buses taking 
over from approximately 10.00am.
An incredible survival is
 this signwritten notice from the office
 at Rutland Street. 
It was recovered after the 
railway closed and was being 
 used for mixing cement! 
(Courtesy C. Riddle).
A set of steps from one of the electric cars
which was offered for sale online in 2007.

Saturday, 29 November 2014

Memories of SWT in the '50s and '60s.

John Evans of Leicester writes:

My name is John Alun Evans and am now 73 years of age who at this special time feels it appropriate to document some of my memories of the South Wales Transport operation in the late forties, fifties and sixties when I lived in Morriston during the first 20 years of my life.

The information is based on observations by myself and a late good friend Bill Joseph who spent many hours and sometimes days travelling around recording mentally anything relating to SWT vehicles of the time. Unfortunately cameras did not form a part of the pastime as such luxuries were only available to children of more wealthy parents. Nevertheless, the following represents observations between 1946 and 1960.

Both Bill and I lived in Morriston and I was fortunate to live on a bend on Pentrepoeth Road before the Vicarage Road crossroads. In many cases buses slowed to walking pace at this good vantage point. This was particularly true with the occasional double decker Renown returning to the Depot at Ravenhill.
The road served a range of routes such as 26 Neath to Llanelli, 40 Sketty/Caswell Bay, 9 Swansea via Treboeth, 90 Clase to Swansea in addition to the Swan Motor services to Swansea via Caemawr Hill and Bryn Rock.

Morriston was also the terminus of route 71 to Swansea Exchange. In addition, route 77 Guildhall to Cwmrhydyceirw/ Pontlasse passed through Morriston Cross.

My earliest memory was as an 8 year old waiting for the 71 bus in Waun Road and getting on one of the early 1937 High Bridge Weymanns ACY 4 with a producer gas trailer hitched to the rear. As this stop was one I frequently used to get to school at Martin St., other vehicles of this era such as ACY 21 to ACY 39 were all employed on the route in addition to some of the later AWNs such as AWN 554 and 557.
AEC Regent/Weymann 228 (ACY 27) which had its body 
destroyed (by enemy action?) in 1940 and was rebodied in 1942.
One of the ACY batch which always caused particular interest was ACY 27. Outwardly, this vehicle was of the same design as the others in the fleet but whilst the others had a protruding rectangular destination indicator this bus had a flush display with access via a hinged flap to the front upstairs. Furthermore, the vehicle had different seats which were brown in colour and an upstairs ceiling that seemed to be continually pitted with rust despite many attempts by SWT to eradicate the problem.

Even so the vehicle survived well into the fifties long after the demise of ACY 24, 34 and 44 which were the first of the remaining 30 vehicles to be withdrawn in 1953. Regarding this, we were informed at the time that the rebuilding of these vehicles by Jefferies Garages at Plasmarl was inferior to SWT rebuilding and hence their earlier scrapping.

A vehicle in this group of considerable notoriety was ACY 35. This vehicle was frequently despatched from Brunswick depot as a duplicate for the 4.05 pm 40 Morriston to cope with the extra pressure of students returning home from Bishop Gore school. Never once did the bus get beyond the top of Broadway hill. Steam used to issue from the cooling system in addition to loud ringing engine bearing noise. It is true to say that all regular passengers would refuse to board this bus if it turned up and wait for the scheduled service bus which was either an FWN HB or a 7' 6" GWN such as GWN 77. We could never understand why SWT persisted in sending this vehicle given its problems. What was more surprising however was that this bus survived for another 4 years being one of the last to be withdrawn in 1957 still with the same ringing bearing noise.
AEC Regent/Weymann ACY 9 which had been converted into 
a towing bus/tree lopper in 1952.

Other memories included FWN 361 breaking down on Chemical Road on route 77 and being recovered by ACY 9, the vehicle which SWT had to hide for some reason when inspectors from the Transport Ministry visited the company! This incident also proved to be ironic in that FWN 361 eventually was cut down in the same style becoming its replacement in 1961.

Another interesting observation involved the Swan fleet. In addition to the double deck Daimlers FCY 730-734 and GCY 740 and 741 there were two double deck HB AEC Regent vehicles with reg numbers FWN 636 and 637 which followed on from the five single deck Regals of SWT with Longwell Green bodies. We were never certain whether these two vehicles also with the same bodywork were originally destined for SWT and were purchased by Swan from SWT before delivery.
1939 Leyland TD7 590 (CCY 993) which had previously carried
 a wartime NCB body.
Returning to our observations on Pentrepoeth Rd Morriston, and the vehicles used on routes 40 and 9, it is true to say that between 1946 and 1953 the routes were virtually all served by Lowbridge Leylands usually one of the third batch CCY970-CCY 995. One regular performer up to about 1949 was CCY 993 which carried an unfrozen  High Bridge utility body. Apparently, this was a replacement for its original body destroyed in the Swansea blitz. Imagine our surprise when casually looking out of my window one morning in1952 to see the same vehicle on route 26 Neath with a conventional low bridge body!
We could only surmise that it had received its body from one of the earlier batches BCY 576-611 or BWN 426-450 many of which had been withdrawn by this time.

Regarding Route No 9, this was also served by LB Leylands up to their demise in 1953.
At no time during this period was an ACY or AWN used on these routes which was surprising (except ACY 35 of course which as a duplicate never reached Morriston when on Route 40).
After 1953 high bridge vehicles such as 1949 Regents FWN 357 and FWN 360-375 in addition to  the  narrow high bridge Regents GWN 73-81 were commonly used on these routes. One in particular (known as "all the threes" by drivers on the 40), FWN 371 always gave an outstanding performance on the hills involved and was a favourite with drivers.

With regard to the 26 route, post 1953, low bridge Regent IIIs such as GCY 521-524 became the mainstays of the route. If my memory serves me right I believe these four were based at the  Llanelli depot.
1946 AEC Regent II 273 (ECY 874) which had a complex pre-service history, 
involving an identity swop and a 'missing' chassis which later appeared as no. 305.
Turning now to service 74 Alexandra  Road to Sketty, this service was almost entirely a DWN route involving vehicles from the 1946 high bridge batch DWN 641- DWN 656 in addition to ECY 874 whose history is well known to bus enthusiasts of that era. (DWN 657-660 are not included since they were transferred to the Llanelli depot for local services on closure of the Llanelli trolleybus system in 1952.)

As Sketty was the destination for pupils like myself attending Bishop Gore school, extra demand was placed on transport during the morning and afternoon. Brunswick depot always supplied the relief vehicles which took many forms. Vehicles included ACYs or AWNs or any other vehicles available such as LB EWNs (EWN 340-354).

On occasions a single decker would be provided in the form of a Renown such as CCY 951-957 or CWN 395-398 (CWN 399 and CWN 400 had been withdrawn in the early fifties).

A bus that frequently turned up was an ex Llanelli Regal ABX 80 which had been allocated to Brunswick depot. Another vehicle often used for this work was the ex-Johns single decker Leyland BNY 671. A real surprise however,in 1955 was a Leyland Tiger TS7 of 1935 vintage WN 7757 which seemed in immaculate condition given its age.
1188 (JWN 915) waits to leave St. Mary's Square, Swansea 
on service 28 to Brecon.
 It is worth mentioning the Swansea Valley routes, nos 1 Ystradgynlais and 28 Brecon. These routes were operated by LB Leylands in the early days but these gave way to the new AEC low bridge Orion style vehicles. There were 15 buses of this type some of which were fitted with platform doors .These were JWN 901-904, JWN 907, JWN 910, JWN 912, JWN 914.   and earlier LB Regents (HCY 831-845). Other vehicles also used on these routes were LB Regents of 1953 origin (HWN 899-909)

With regard to withdrawn buses, we often saved our pocket money to finance our travel at weekends looking for abandoned vehicles in farmyards and fields (no parent today would allow 9-12 year olds to do this unsupervised).

One very productive Saturday in 1952 was spent in Pontlliw and Grovesend. In Pontlliw we discovered Renown CWN 400 in Rosser`s yard. Rosser operated a fleet of quite antiquated AEC vehicles used mainly to transport coils of tinplate from Port Talbot to Velindre for cold rolling. We could only conclude that Rosser had secured the bus from SWT for its 9.9 litre engine which was missing.

On moving on to Grovesend in the afternoon, we first came across the high bridge Regent ACY 10 in a back garden of a house. We were invited in and shown the inside of the bus whose downstairs had been converted into a dress making workshop. We were told that the bus had been acquired in 1950 from SWT. It was significant that the rear of the bus still possessed the post war British Buses motif.

Walking further along some deserted woodland we came across a farm with an SWT bus used to house chickens. We again knocked the door and were invited in and shown around a Dennis Lancet, CCY 960 which was acquired in 1949 from SWT.

On we walked through fields until we came across a deserted LB Leyland BCY 610. This struck us as rather surprising at the time as BCY 611 the last member of the batch was still very mach in service having only recently been overhauled.

Our final discovery however, was rather intriguing. In the distance we could see a rather faded red single decker with an oval rear window. By its appearance it had been there for quite a long time. On closer approach we were able to clearly identify the vehicle as a Dennis Lancet Reg no WN 8983 which was delivered to SWT in 1936. What puzzled us then was that we understood that all this fleet was acquired by the War Dept. in 1940 and were not seen by SWT again.
Llanelly 44 (CBX 910) a 1946 Karrier W/Park Royal H30/26R passes 
SWT AEC Regent ACY 7 which was engaged on retraining drivers 
to work on motorbuses prior to the closure of the system in 1952.
On another Saturday in 1952 we decided to  take the 26 to Llanelli as we had been told by a mechanic at Ravenhill that a large number of the fleet had been transferred to Llanelli garage to replace the trolleybuses on local routes. We did not know Llanelli had trolleybuses! We were therefore determined to find out which buses were at Llanelli.
When we got to the garage entrance the first bus we saw was AWN 561 which we had never seen before. It also had a long DWN radiator fitted as opposed to the short traditional ACY/AWN radiator. Furthermore we did not have to wait long before DWN 657 appeared with a short AWN radiator! On seeing other buses we had never seen before, we put our heads together to compile a list of all the transferred vehicles These were as follows:

ACY 40  ACY 50 (although ACY 40 was returned to Ravenhill in 1955).
AWN 560-562
DWN 657-660
FWN 352-356 and FWN 358-359 (for some reason FWN 357 remained a Ravenhill bus all its life.
GWN 82-85 (these were the first of the 8 ft wide vehicles in the number series GWN 82-95).
WN 7759 a sister Leyland single decker to WN 7757 based at Swansea was also spotted in very poor condition.
In addition to these there were, we were told of eight new HB AEC Regents although we did not see any of them. These turned out to be HWN 837-844.
With regard to single deckers none other than WN 7759 seemed to have been transferred.
This visit turned out to be the most exciting experience of our bus spotting days.
1935 Leyland TS7/Weymann357 (WN 7757) in service at Llanelli.
It is now an appropriate point to describe my own experiences as a temporary conductor with SWT during the Summer of my student days at Swansea University between 1960 and 1961. At the time it was a policy of SWT to take on students to help with the extra passenger demand particularly on coastal routes such as routes 77, and 40.
I was based at Ravenhill depot and worked on many routes such as 71 Exchange-Morriston, 77 Guildhall/ Mumbles Pier/Limeslade to Cwmrhydyceirw and Pontlasse (by this time the much lamented Mumbles Railway had closed and the track bed from Southend to the Pier had been converted to a 'buses only thoroughfare' enabling buses to carry out a three point turn at the Pier for the return trip).
Other routes I worked included 79 Gorse Avenue-Exchange, 23 Penlan-Exchange, 84 Blaen-Y-Maes-Exchange, 40 Morriston-Sketty or Caswell Bay, 24 Swansea-Porthcawl, 42 Swansea- Margam. In addition I was called to fill in as a relief or cover an absence of a regular member of staff on a particular route at short notice. I have many pleasant memories of this period in my life some of which were quite humorous.

One of the former was accompanying a very good and helpful driver Jack Hughes on No 77 Pontlasse to Mumbles Pier early one morning. It was fortunate that Jack had warned me in advance regarding the severity of the brakes on our virtually new 1961 front entrance AEC Regent YCY 901! Nevertheless it was a pleasant experience at the Pier watching the sun rise over the bay at 5.30 in the morning.

An amusing situation occurred on my first day out when I had to relieve a crew at the Exchange on the no 23 Penlan. I remember the bus well, a 1956 Regent with exposed rear platform NCY 455 a Weymann of the batch NCY 451-471. My driver Cyril Jones was forced to make an unscheduled stop outside Lewis Lewis in the High Street to come to my rescue and ask the eight or so people who were standing upstairs to get off. This taught me a salutary lesson in passenger control very early on.

Another very amusing but embarrassing incident took place at the traffic lights outside Woolworths on the High St. Apparently as I found out to my cost, it was customary for the conductor of a bus with rear entrance to lean out and change the destination indicator of a following bus to save time doing it at the  Exchange.
Well, this I attempted but whilst I was trying to find 79 Gors Avenue, my driver pulled away when the lights turned green leaving me hanging on to the destination indicator handle of the bus behind! Needless to say this bus had two conductors for the last stage of the journey!
A second view of trolleybus CBX 910, this time in service at 
Bradford after rebodying by East Lancs..
My memories of SWT would not be complete without some reference to the  Bradford connection. In 1966 I moved to the  University of Bradford to take up a lecturing post in Chemistry. Little did I realise at that time that SWT had forestalled me. My first encounter was with an immaculately turned out ex Llanelli trolleybus CBX 910 which seemed to be in good company with a number of its brothers although some were not in such good condition. This fleet had obviously been re bodied on acquisition in 1952.
AEC Regent V/Weymann 464 (NCY 455) which had passed to 
Ledguard, Leeds in 1967 and thence to West Yorkshire.
My second surprise which I could hardly believe my eyes involved a visit to the shops at Leeds in 1967. On casually walking along the Headrow, a rear entrance HB AEC Regent caught my eye. This was ex SWT  NCY 455 in red West Yorkshire livery which was the very bus on which I started my SWT conducting. Although I had been aware that the Leeds firm Samuel Ledgard  had purchased many ex SWT vehicles in the past, I felt it to be quite fortuitous that I should see not only the vehicle I had known so well, but to witness it at a time shortly after Ledgard had been absorbed into West Yorkshire.

In 1968 I moved to Leicester and have remained there ever since. Although my interests switched to the Leicester City Transport operation and its buses of the past, I have always kept in touch with developments on the SWT front particularly the sterling work currently being carried out by the South Wales Transport Preservation Society based at Swansea.
In this respect a continual source of disappointment to me is the fact that despite its very large post war fleet no vehicles prior to the preserved ex Llanelli based HB Regent 5 MCY 407 seem to have survived.
I therefore live in hope that one day I will hear that  ACY 25 or BCY 585 will have been discovered languishing on a farm or field and was scheduled for preservation!