Memories of the Mumbles Train 1807 - 1960 edited by Carol Powell

 Its story told by those who loved it

March 1807 to January 1960


Edited by Carol Powell

 
The historical facts of the railway cannot bring to life the atmosphere and excitement of those times, as can memories, writings and memorabilia.
Everyone had their own particular experiences of riding on the Mumbles Train, whether by horse, steam or electric locomotion.


Over the years, locals and visitors alike have contributed their reminiscences to Oystermouth Historical Association in the form of paintings, poems, prose, photos and souvenir items.


They were the people who had travelled, lived and worked alongside and on the Mumbles Railway and who captured the essence of the world’s first passenger railway in such a unique way.

 



Mumbles Train by Roy Kneath



RIDE ON THE HORSE-DRAWN RAILWAY


One of the first people to record their warm memories was one Miss Elizabeth Isabella Spence, an authoress, who wrote excitedly in a letter to her friend Turnour, the Dowager Countess of Winterton in 1808, ‘I never spent an afternoon with more delight than the former one in exploring the romantic scenery of Oystermouth. I was conveyed there in a carriage of a singular construction, built for the conveniency [sic] of parties, who go hence to Oystermouth to spend the day. The car contains twelve persons and is constructed chiefly of iron, its four wheels run on an iron railway by the aid of one horse, and is an easy and light vehicle.’

 

MEMORIES OF THE STEAM TRAIN
Margery Bowden (née Jenkins), a member of an old Southend family regaled her family with tales of long ago, when as an old lady she recounted her memories of summer life along the ‘concrete’ before the Great War.
‘We would build a grotto and trim it up smart. Then we would wait for the old steam train to come along and we sing ‘patronize the grotto please, a ha’penny or a penny!’ The people sitting on the top would throw us pennies and with the people passing on the ‘concrete’, we would make quite a bit, which we would save up and go to the shows.
As I grew up, I had to do my share of work as my father was a fisherman, dredging for oysters in winter and fishing in the summer. So I had to learn to pull the boat, pump out the skiff, bag oysters, open them and help to sell them with my father. We used to send some to London or anywhere they were wanted. We used to bag them and wheel them to the old Mumbles Train at Southend and send them by rail.
My father and brother were also lifeboat men and my youngest brother Ernest, a lampman. The lifeboat in those days was in the old boathouse and when called out, the Mumbles Train used to have to stop for the men to get the boat down and up, as it had to cross the line to get to the sea. So in our house every night during the winter, my brothers and father would put three jerseys, coats and pairs of wellingtons, ready in case there was a call’.



Edward Solomon lived alongside the railway at Lilliput Cottage near Blackpill in the 1920s and recalled that ‘A particular event, which sticks in my memory is the annual tea given for the pensioners by Mr. Folland in the grounds of his home, Llwynderw House [photo]. In those days, the steam train stopped outside my home and I can still see the people alighting all dressed up in their best clothes, walking up Lilliput Lane and along the main road to the entrance of the long wooded drive to the House. There, they would have a grand day, returning later to pick up the train at Lilliput Halt.’

George Webborn of Village Lane was another of the village youngsters who, in the 1920s, made oyster shell grottoes. As the old Puffing Hilly steam train trundled past, they would call out the words ‘Patronize the grotto please?’ The passengers always responded by throwing them coins from the top of the open carriages, which they soon gathered up. On Regatta Day, there would always be a competition for the best grotto, which was usually judged by the Mayor.


Frank Dunkin, the longest-serving driver on the Mumbles railway recalled that ‘I always wanted to be a whistle-boy. The job was to sit on the front of the engine and blow the warning whistle. I was born in Blackpill and the trains went right past. I was fifteen when I started work and stayed on the railway for 57 years (1903-1960) moving on to firing, cleaning and by 1911, driving the steam train. I liked the steam train better than the electric, where we just stood there with the controls. I took the train on its last journey’.

His daughter, Hilary Lewis, ‘Everyone has memories of the Mumbles train, but my many special ones are of a much more personal nature, as I was his eldest daughter. He was a popular man whose beaming smile greeted all who boarded the train.
During the lunch hour, it was my job to go down Cornwall Place from our home in Park Street, Mumbles and along the back of the bowling-green to give ‘Dada’ his dinner, which he would eat on board the steam train at Oystermouth Station. It was always a cooked, gravy dinner, which I would carry in a basket, lined with newspaper.
My younger sister, Gwen, would then sometimes accompany him for a ride to the Pier and I, being older, would have to walk up Dunns Lane to attend afternoon school. Even now, I can still hear the ‘toot’ of the steam train and smell the acetylene of its lamps.’

 



Taxi drivers waiting at Oystermouth Square

Kitty Horsley (née Ladd) was fascinated when visiting Oystermouth Station, to watch Mr. Peachey waiting to pick up passengers from the steam train. They gave him the nickname, the ‘Saluting Sergeant’ as he would invariably raise his whip to his hat in salute, probably hoping for a fare to take to the bays.

Esther Edwards (née Flowers) lived at Southend and many years later wrote her autobiography. This extract records one memorable journey home from school. ‘Sometimes we used to make the trip home more interesting by finding a different route each time. One day when I was about six, we decided to have a ride home from school and got on the train, climbing into the end carriage and hiding under the seats. Unfortunately, the Guard saw us and shouted, “Come on, out of it!” But he was laughing; he was very amused as we thought he couldn’t see us, as small children do. “Come on, stand up!” he said, and we got off. We didn’t try it again’.

Wilfred Mock, ‘I had 51 years in service, except for one week. I began when I was thirteen. I used to work 12 or 14 hours a day, 365 days a year with only a half-day on Wednesday and I remember I was paid £3 a week. We also worked Christmas Day, Boxing Day and bank holidays, but we were paid double time then.’


Owen (Ashley) Davies, a Conductor remembered that, ‘I worked on the train for 47 years until its closure in 1960. I started in 1913 on the steam trains and the wages were 4/3d because of all the tickets you had to carry.
Some of the drivers then were Henry Davies, Bill Andrews, Arthur Richards and Frank and Ernie Dunkin. The firemen were Jack Winston, Alf Williams, Jim Davies, Philip Williams, Raymond Loaring and William Zeale. The uniform staff were Bill Shaddick, Carl Mock, Roy South, Gordon Griffiths and Harry Bailey.
At the end of September, what we called the toast rack, which had brass rails along it and was an open carriage, was taken off for the winter as the weather was beginning to decline. Many people loved it and travelled in it year by year. I can see them now, some talking, some knitting.
We would sometimes have eight coaches in winter and on a bank holiday, fourteen coaches could carry up to 2,500 passengers and six open cattle coaches, with 200 children in each, would be taken for an outing to Clyne valley. The train would be packed but there was no queuing and everyone would get home. I brought up the last steam train before the days of electricity. People were singing “Auld Lang Syne” on Oystermouth Station and there were tears in the Senior Guards’ eyes’.

These are just some of the lovely memories, which lived on in the minds of our contributors and are recorded for posterity. The Mumbles train was, to re-quote Grafton Maggs, very much more than a mere form of transport, it was the Mumbles Train— a much loved part of our way of life.


The next article below continues the story from 1929 to January 1960


 

PART TWO: THE ELECTRIC TRAIN

In 1929, the red electric train appeared and many of those of my generation remember it with affection—an emotion much echoed by Grafton Maggs. ‘The coming of the new electric Mumbles Train in 1929 was indeed, an eye-opener. As a child, living in The Vic, public House in Gloucester Place, Mumbles, I was impressed by the concertina doors controlled by the driver and loved the noise, which accompanied the smooth acceleration of the vehicle. It was to become as familiar as the train itself, being a rhythmic “Le-Lul, Le-LuI, pause, Le-Lul, Le-Lul, pause” and so on, the rhythm increasing to a steady cadence at thirty mph. It was a noise that carried for many miles and on many a still, cold, bleak winter's morn, one could hear the 6.30 a.m. train leaving the Mumbles Pier for Swansea, encouraging one to snuggle deeply down beneath the warm blankets for another hour or so.
But it was very much more than a mere form of transport, it was the Mumbles Train— a much loved part of our way of life.’

 

Collage- The footbridge at Southend, The LMS Railway Bridge over the railway at Blackpill and Oystermouth Station



Michael Llewellyn, who lived at Thistleboon, remembers the 1930s when out at Southend, the bridge crossing the railway line was a point of focus, with boats in winter laid up each side of the railway track. Day-trippers from Swansea and the Valleys would arrive in large numbers on the Mumbles Train. One lovely summer's evening, a group of them were waiting for a train to Swansea at Oystermouth Station, sitting on the sea-wall and singing hymns to pass the time. A strangely moving experience, for they sang so beautifully.


Joan Gleig recalled that occasionally, she went to Swansea on the train and she knew exactly how long she would have to wait because she could follow its progress all round the bay. There was usually time to go into Forte’s Ice Cream Parlour outside the station—now gone together with the trains and the row of shops, not least Harry Libby’s travel Agents.

 

Fortes Ice-Cream Parlor at Oystermouth Square

 

THE MUMBLES RAILWAY IN THE SECOND WORLD WAR

Owen Davies described one occasion in the train during the Second World War. ‘We were going to West Cross and there was a train in front of us, which we were supposed to pass. It was stationary and had no intention of moving as it was the second night of the blitz on Swansea. I said to my friend, ‘Look at Brynmill, it’s on fire! I’m not standing here, I have a wife and kiddies up there!’ We decided to change trains, take the other train in to Swansea and then go home. We had stopped at Brynmill for a passenger to get off when a plane flew over. We were on the floor, a bomb was dropped on the promenade and we were in total darkness. A woman was next to get off and just after that, another bomb came. I often wonder what happened to her.’

 

Bert Harris, then a pupil at the Grammar School recalls one of his wartime journeys to school: ‘The 8.10 a.m. Mumbles Train daily departed Oystermouth Square Station with a large group of Mumbles boys and girls travelling to their respective Grammar Schools in Swansea. In company with a group of friends, smartly dressed in our red blazers (with yellow badge), red caps, short grey trousers, knee-length grey socks with red and yellow hoops at the tops, we always tried to sit on the upper deck in the semi-circular seat at the front or rear of the carriage. . . . I clearly recall the morning when The Mumbles Train was halted just past “The Slip” (the St. Helen’s train stop) because of bomb damage further along the Mumbles Road (normally there were two more train stops to complete our daily school journey) . . . A small group of young schoolboys, looking around in bewilderment, walked with some trepidation through a part of the devastated, still-smoking town centre.’

 

Electric Train at the Pier C1950



POST WAR RECOLLECTIONS


Jennifer Giannini (née Secombe) remembers with affection her holidays at West Cross when she stayed with her Gran and Bampi Atherton. ‘Most summers in the 1950s, we could spend hours on the beach, laughing, talking and playing make believe games and not notice time passing. We'd sit on a tree branch to wave to the passengers on the Mumbles Train and hope to catch a glimpse of our great uncle, Cyril, in his Inspector's uniform.’


Carol Powell 'My own memories include the time when I was seven or eight years old, before Grange school opened, when I had to travel to Oystermouth School every day on the train from West Cross to Oystermouth for a fare of 1d. Sometimes, during the holidays, my friends and I would climb the trees in the “cutting” at West Cross, to wave to the upstairs passengers on the Mumbles train, which startled them somewhat!'

My husband, John Powell remembers that, ‘As a teenager, I and other schoolboys used to travel to Swansea Technical School on the Mumbles Train. I got on at West Cross and went as far as Rutland Street Station, on the site of the Leisure Centre LC2.

 

The crowds surround the Electric Train on its final journey from Rutland Street on 5th January 1960

 

We used to play shove ha’penny upstairs on the stairwell cover. I remember that outside Swansea Prison, there was the width of the road and then the railway, which was immediately outside a row of houses, whose front doors opened directly on to it. On summer days, there were often ‘baby gates’ in the open doorways to prevent the baby of the family getting out, but enabling him/her to see out.

One thing I saw, which reminds me of the reason why the railway was constructed in the first place, were engines travelling from the Docks railway system alongside the Museum and on to the Mumbles railway. At that time you could also still see the lines going up from Blackpill to Clyne Valley—as the line had been a freight system originally.

We children used to place pennies on the track to let the train run over them and flatten them. Another thing we used to do (which would probably be forbidden today) was to walk along the track—the sleepers being correctly spaced for our steps. Today, the outlines of some of these old railway sleepers are still visible in the tarmac just outside the Junction Café at Blackpill.

 The Final Train crossing the road at Rutland Street

 

My girlfriend (now my wife) had recorded some of the last few sounds of the train from her house near the line at West Cross a few days before. This may have given me the idea to record the occasion on cine film. We spent almost two days filming with my father’s cine camera, on the first day, making the journey from Rutland Street, filming from within the train. On the final day, Carol and I recorded the last train from the trackside at West Cross and the first of the number 77 buses, which were to replace them. Our film now forms part of Roy Kneath’s films, Sentimental Journey, which is published and on sale in Video and DVD format and his new DVD, Ticket To Ride.

 

These are just some of the lovely memories, which lived on in the minds of our contributors and are recorded for posterity. The Mumbles train was, to re-quote Grafton Maggs, very much more than a mere form of transport, it was the Mumbles Train— a much loved part of our way of life








 
THE MUMBLES TRAIN

At Victoria busy sound,

Summer song and story,

I am gaily Mumbles bound,

Sailor hated glory,

Pass the Slip and sandy shore,

And swinging round the bay,

Rocking down to Gower’s door,

On a summer’s day.

 

See the bobbing yachts afloat,

White topped waves a-rolling,

Racing cloud and rocking boat,

Swooping seagulls sighing,

Humming at the end of pier,

And my heart it tumbles,

I remember yesteryear,

And train that ran to Mumbles.

 

Time long past no longer runs,

The lovely Mumbles train,

No carefree ride for Swansea sons,

Around the bay again,

Rusty now the silver track

Its path a mossy green,

I wish we could bring it back

To dear old Mumbles scene.

by

Alwyn Thomas

Previously published in the Mumbles News, March 1978

 
 
 
 
RIDE ON THE HORSE-DRAWN RAILWAY
and
MEMORIES OF THE STEAM TRAIN
My grateful thanks go to:-

Margery Bowden (née Jenkins)
H. Daniels
Owen Davies
Frank Dunkin
Esther Edwards (née Flowers)
Joan Gleig
Kitty Horsley (née Ladd)
Hilary Lewis (née Dunkin)
Wilfred Mock
Ivor Owen
Edward Solomon
Elizabeth Isabella Spence
George Webborn
and
Norman Thomas, The Mumbles—Past and Present, 1978
Susan Thomas, The Mumbles Railway, An unpublished dissertation, 1975
Oystermouth Historical Association archive
Ein Newyddion, Staff Journal of South Wales Transport Co. Ltd., July 1954 & Jan/Feb 1960
1890 OS Map by kind permission of the West Glamorgan Archive Office
 
 
PART TWO: THE ELECTRIC TRAIN
My grateful thanks go to:-
 

Margery Bowden (née Jenkins)

H. Daniels

Owen Davies

Frank Dunkin

Esther Edwards (née Flowers)

Jennifer Giannini (née Secombe)

Joan Gleig

Bert Harris

Kitty Horsley (née Ladd)

Hilary Lewis (née Dunkin)

Michael Llewellyn

Grafton Maggs

Wilfred Mock

Ivor Owen

Carol Powell (née Symmons)

John Powell

Edward Solomon

Elizabeth Isabella Spence

George Webborn

and

Norman Thomas, The Mumbles—Past and Present, 1978

Susan Thomas, The Mumbles Railway, An unpublished dissertation, 1975

Oystermouth Historical Association archive

Ein Newyddion, Staff Journal of South Wales Transport Co. Ltd., July 1954 & Jan/Feb 1960

1890 OS Map by kind permission of the West Glamorgan Archive Office