The Mumbles Railway: From Waiting Room to Café by Carol Powell M.A.
The old waiting room, now used as a Cafe, 2010.
A Victorian Landmark
in twenty-first century Mumbles
In the 1890s, with the growth of Mumbles as a tourist mecca, the Swansea Improvements and Tramways Company decided on a major new project. The track of the Mumbles Railway was to be diverted along the shore from Blackpill to Norton instead of running at the road-side as it had been.
The old terminus at Castle Hill (opposite Clements quarry) would be demolished and at ‘the Square’ there would be a new station and ticket office-cum-waiting room where, in winter, there would be a roaring fire.
Views of Oystermouth, the first, c1890, as work on the scheme begins and below, the men building the sea wall, at the Castle Hill terminus, shown with a steam train stopped at the old waiting room, now the site of the Dairy Car Park.
Below, it is shown c1895, after the line was extended across Mumbles' natural harbour, The Horsepool, to the gardens at the Parade and thence to the other part of the development—the new Pier.
In the Edwardian era, the Station Master at Oystermouth Station was Bob Millard, dressed in a frock‑coat and a peak cap, who would ring a huge hand-bell to signal the Mumbles Train to leave for the Pier. The other staff included two porters, Jim and Fred Martin and a van driver, Reg Hoyle. Some of the other employees on the railway at that time were Firemen, Georgie White, Jack Winston, Will Veal and Raymond Loaring; some went on to be Drivers, like Gordon Davies, Frank Dunkin, Ernie Phillips, Bill Phillips and Alf Williams. Harry Bailey, Owen Davies, who went on to be an Inspector in 1912, and Fred Williams were some of the Conductors; W. J. Shellock was the Senior Guard; Joseph Bailey, a Guard and an Auxiliary Guard was W. Gibson.
Mr. Peachey, the ‘Saluting Sergeant’, was one of the cab drivers who met the train at Oystermouth Station (photo). He would be hoping for a fare to take to the bays and would invariably raise his whip to his hat in salute. He has been immortalised in Dan Morgan's ‘Ballad of the Old Mumbles Train’, part 9, verse 4:
And in the station yard you'll find
Many a horse trap waiting there
Our old friend Peachy—ever kind,
Lifts whip to hat—he seeks a fare.
On August bank Holiday 1913, some 48,000 arrived in Mumbles alighting at Oystermouth or the Pier! As can be seen in the photos, there would inevitably be long queues to get transport home again on the train or buses. Down the years, many thousands of people have had occasion to use the Station office, whether to buy tickets, ask for information or hire a taxi.
As children in the 1950s, we used the train to get from West Cross to school at Mumbles and many older children and grown-ups used to travel in the reverse direction to school and work in Swansea, so all of us often came in contact with this splendid little building.
When this photo was taken in 1951, some of its adjacent rooms had been demolished and in January 1960, the Mumbles train ceased to be operational, but the Square and the Office continued to serve the bus passengers.
Then the building became a Taxi Office for a time but for the next few years, it stood alone and vacant.
Postscript: And beyond
In January 2016, The old 'Tivoli Cinema & Entertainment' site is changing into the new Oyster Wharf development and the old 'Waiting Room-Café' building in the Square has lost its café sign.
Is that a sign of more changes to come?