There was still a fair amount of steam
around in '72 - not on the main lines, but
in industry. This was a railsoc day out,
with a minibus full of fellow students, to
the South Wales coalfield.
First (unplanned) stop was at Storridge,
just west of Malvern, where we found a
steam roller, in steam, and still in active
service for the county council. Quite a rarity even then - so of
course we had to stop and record it.
On reflection, from a photographic and historical record
standpoint, it would have been better if we hadn't planned, as
our first visit of the day, the Bulmer's cider factory in Hereford.
Less than 12 months had elapsed since the "Return to Steam"
special, hauled by GWR 6000 "King George V". No. 6000 lived at
the rail-connected premises, along with a pannier tank and
several industrial locomotives, providing ample justification
(excuse?) for a visit. The trip around the factory, with free cider
and perry ("any more, anyone?") was a mere side benefit, but
may explain why some of the photos taken later that day were
less sharp than might be expected...
The closest point of the South Wales
coalfield to Hereford is Blaenavon, the
historic former ironmaking town. The
mine here - "Big Pit" is now much better
known, and the remains of the iron works
are now preserved. In 1972, however,
much of the site was derelict, almost a
lunar landscape. The working locomotive on this occasion was
Barclay 1680 of 1920 "Nora", or, to use her full title "The
Blaenavon (blank) No.5 Nora". "Blank" wasn't on the nameplate
(obviously, I hope), but indicates where the NCB (?) had carefully
ground out "Co Ltd".
Both Nora and Toto survived into preservation - Nora still lives at
Blaenavon, at the Pontypool and Blaenavon Railway, while Toto
now resides at the Mangapps Farm Railway in Essex.
Our next stop was Hafodyrynys, between Pontypool and Crumlin
on the former GWR route (I seen to recall that we looked in at
Talywain on the way, but there was nothing doing there - didn't
take any pictures). Hafodyrynys was at that time home to
several locomotives - three "Austerity" 0-6-
0STs, and "Nasmyth" - a curious loco,
constructed from no less than three
locomotives (a couple of Pecketts and Ebbw
We left Hafodyrynys and followed the
slightly tortuous route across the valleys to
Mountain Ash, where we could expect much
more variety of motive power. In fact most of the variety was
inactive - once again, the loco in action was an Austerity. Seen in
the shed are "Sir John" (Avonside 1680 of 1914) and "Llantarnam
Abbey" (Barclay 2074 of 1939). On returning to the shed a little
later, pannier tank no. 7754 had sneaked in - I seem to recall the
visit was for repairs - we didn't see it working. The "Austerity"
seen in action is no.8 (RSHN 7139 of 1944, reb HE 3880 in 1961).
The out-of-use Peckett seen outside the shed is, I think, "The
Earl", Peckett 1203 of 1910. Look closely at the pictures below
for long-vanished relics - the mineral wagons, the aerial ropeway
and (just visible) the pit head.
It is pleasing to know that No 8, 7754, Llantarnam Abbey and Sir
John survived into preservation - No 8 and Llantarnam Abbey
are at Blaenavon, 7754 lives at Llangollen and Sir John (a long-
term project) at the Gwili Railway. "The Earl" was scrapped long
ago, just a year after our visit.
We passed Hafodyrynys on our return - for another shot of the
Austerity we had seen in action earlier,
posed beside the unique "Nasmyth",
mentioned earlier. And that was it - time
for home. My abiding memory of that
journey is the stop, somewhere near
Pontypool, for fish and chips. The fish
nearly stopped me in my tracks - it was a
battered cod steak, cut at 90° to the
usual angle - complete with a hefty piece
of backbone. Urgh!
Thanks again to Frank Webster for his help in
identifying some of the above locomotives.
Pontypool and Blaenavon
© Geoff’s Rail Diaries 2011