smtramfi - The Swansea & Mumbles Railway

In 1889, 1929, 1954 and 1959 there were four important milestones for the railway that ran along Swansea Bay. The first was a change from what was then called the Oystermouth railway to the Mumbles Railway & Pier Company, authorised by the act of 26 August 1889. That made the Oystermouth railway into the line everyone knew and came to love. The pier was built and a new line constructed south from Oystermouth to Mumbles Head. The new line became popularly known as the Swansea and Mumbles Railway.

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Very early form of Mumbles train – prob late 1850s for all we know! Source: Twitter

The Oystermouth had started with horse drawn trains, experimented with sails, then moved onto steam, which the newer company of 1889 continued with. In 1928 it was decided to dispense with steam operation and convert the line to a electric railway based on the cantenary system, opening in 1929

This, the final form of the Mumbles railway, is the most memorable. Its huge rail cars were an iconic sight along Mumbles Bay for three decades and the line was practically Britain’s one and only true interurban railway.

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Another early form of Mumbles train! Likely to be 1860s. Source: Twitter

That in June 1954 was the 150th anniversary of the railway (which translates as the 205th anniversary this week) since the 1804 act which allowed the railway to be built.

The next, marking 1959, is one of sixty years. This was the passing of the South Wales Transport Act on 9th July 1959. That act sadly allowed the Mumbles Railway to close and be replaced by bus services.

By October 1959 part of the line had been closed and ripped up to make way for a new road for the buses. The remainder soldered on three more months. The famous railway made it to the first week of 1960 before shutting for good.

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Old horse rail coach and map of the line. Source: Graffeg (Note: As of Feb 2020 the website seems to be incorrectly configured thus an archive image has been used.)

The story of the “Mumbles Train”, as it came to be known, is as heart breaking as it is fascinating. Considering its myriad achievements and world records, it’s incongruous that the railway isn’t more famous. It is disgraceful also that the railway was abruptly dismantled in 1960… (Source: Welsh Wales)

This week is the 205th anniversary of the line’s act. Billed as the world’s first passenger railway, on 29th June 1804 an act was authorised to permit a railway to be constructed between Swansea and the quarries at Oystermouth. Work on the line began in that year and it was completed a couple of years later.

In 1807 the company came up with the idea of transporting people. This was a totally novel idea at the time. The date this began was 25th March 1807, the same day the Slave Trade Act was passed. The Oystermouth Railway thus became the world’s first passenger carrying line, a role it performed for 153 years with a record number of motive power used on any single railway – horse, sail, steam, battery, petrol, diesel and electric.

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The Mumbles Railway and Pier Company – authorised by the act of 1889. Source: Twitter

The Oystermouth Railway was in fact the oldest surviving passenger line in the world, not only that it was the oldest private railway still in existence. The line’s final form as a electric inter-urban railway with its huge double deck railcars is perhaps how everyone remembers it. In that form it was widely known as the Swansea and Mumbles Railway.

How this came about is the railway entertained the idea of an extension to the Mumbles by announcing its company from 31st March 1879 as the Mumbles Railway Company. It wasn’t a straightforward idea however. To extend the line to the Mumbles involved firstly a new act and then a substantial amount of work reclaiming land from the sea as well as blasting a line through the rock face nearest to the Mumbles.

The first attempts at passing legislation took place in the summer of 1879. It was a further ten years before any legislation was successfully passed, and then it was another ten years before line could be opened to the newly built Mumbles pier.

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Mumbles and back the same day – if you’re lucky! Humorous postcard prob 1920s. Source: Twitter

In 1877 a simple steam tram was first used to replace the horse drawn trains before 0-6-0 tank engines were utilised as the norm. These tank engines could pull trains of perhaps fifteen tramway coaches in length. The line was extremely popular – as many as three million a year were being carried annually. By the early 20th Century electrification was discussed but deferred on grounds of cost. Finally in 1928 it was decided to go ahead with that scheme at a cost of £125,000:

Much interest will be aroused by the intimation that the Mumbles railway, well known as one of the sights to visitors at Swansea, is to be electrified. This railway is the oldest in the United Kingdom and probably the oldest in the world, having been incorporated in 1804 and opened in 1807. For seventy years horse-drawn trains piled its five and half miles track, and for the last fifty quaint steam trains, still running on the open road for a considerable part of the route, have carried on the service. Electrification of the line has long been discussed, and is now to be undertaken by the Swansea Improvement and Tramway Company in conjunction with the Swansea Corporation. It is expected that the change will be completed by March of next year. (Source: Manchester Guardian, 27 August 1928)

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1950s map of the Mumbles electric train depot and terminus at Rutland Street, Swansea. Source: RMweb

The new electric railcars could carry 110 people, and a pair working on the line 220 passengers. The new electric service offered a train every seven and half minutes in the peaks and fifteen off peak.

Before we go on, why do I have any interest in the Swansea and Mumbles railway? Simply like many others its held a strong attraction. During May 1981, just twenty one years after the railway had closed, I had a short holiday in South Wales and ventured round Swansea Bay to find any former traces of the Mumbles line. Sadly there was little to see – Blackpill station being the most obvious remnant.

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The Mumbles Railway sheds in the late sixties before it was swept away. The roads hereabouts had already been widened. Source: Swansea Recalled

Practically the entire length of Oystermouth Road had been widened (apart from the bit at St Helen’s) thus there was absolutely no trace of the old railway depot and terminus at Rutland Street. The road’s widening had taken place about 1970 in connection with the new car parks and shopping centre. Clearly the area had changed beyond recognition at least ten years before my visit!

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Mumbles railway sheds – the same site in 2018. Source: Google Streets

The sea front walkway from Blackpill which had once been the old railway route was enjoyable plus the numerous tram poles that still existed between Oystermouth and Mumbles pier. As my diary shows I rued that other than these, much couldn’t be seen of the former railway. What’s worse is this was an extremely hot day and I simply ended up walking along the beach and enjoying the sights from Mumbles pier. Photographs were taken in the form of slides however the quality of that batch was poor.

The line from Swansea to Mumbles Pier:

The Mumbles railway began at Rutland Street station, directly opposite the Great Western’s Swansea Victoria station. Although the electric trains stopped here and went no further, the tracks themselves continued eastwards into the docks and at one time also connected with the wharves on the Swansea canal.

The Mumbles line rain parallel to the Great Western’s tracks as far as Blackpill where it then obtained an unobstructed view of the Gower and Mumbles Bay for the remainder of the journey.

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Train at Rutland Street in 1877-78 with the Hughes coke fired steam tram engine on the right. This was used on the railway between 1877 and 1881. Source: Swansea Recalled/I Did It This Way

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Rutland Street station in 1951. Source: Swansea Recalled/I Did It This Way

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Rutland Street station with the depot behind. Source: Swansea Recalled/I Did It This Way

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Swansea’s Rutland Street terminus in the late forties possibly. Source: Twitter

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The line’s first passing loop by Swansea gas works. Source: Twitter

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Beyond the first passing loop at Langdon Place the route was particularly tram-like. It wasn’t a tramway however. Source: Twitter

There have been many times when the Mumbles line has been described as a tramway and the trains as trams and it was quite a popular notion. The fact is it was never a tramway at all, it was officially a railway. This has however not stopped people calling the railcars ‘tramcars.’ As one forum on RMWeb discussed, no-one really knew the official designation for these huge railcars, but I think that word is pretty okay to go by for the rest of this article.

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The Argyle Street stop. Source: You Tube

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En route to St Helen’s. Source: Twitter

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Nice view of the Mumbles train at St Helen’s. Note the GWR style semaphore signal! It was actually on the adjacent main line. Source: Twitter

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Another view of St. Helens/The Slip probably early 20th Century. The same GWR style signals evident. Source: Swansea Recalled/I Did It This Way

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View of the Mumbles train from the other side of the road at St. Helens. Source: RMWeb

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St Helens Road (the Slip) stop. The railway signals are now upper quadrant. Source: Wales Online

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The same view about 1966. Both the Mumbles and the Western’s Swansea Victoria – Pontardulais line (formerly LMS) have gone! Only the boundary wall, advertising hoardings and corrugated iron hut remain. Source: Twitter

The above photographs were taken from the rather large footbridge (called the Slip) that stood here. Today only the steps remain. Both railway lines have gone and the road is now four lanes with clear views towards the Gower. Here it is on Google Streets. Meanwhile shown below is one of the railcars with the Slip bridge behind it.

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Mumbles train at the Slip Bridge. Source: Twitter

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The Mumbles steam train at the Slip, 1908. Source: Twitter

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Train about to enter the St. Gabriel’s loop. Note the guard with red flag! Source: Twitter

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The old Mumbles train in the loop at St Gabriel’s. This was sited the Swansea cricket ground between St Helens and Brynmill. Note the right hand running. Source: RMWeb

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Day trippers on the train at St Gabriel’s. Early 1900s. Source: Twitter

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Trippers trying to get onto an absolutely full Mumbles train at Brynmill in 1908. Source: Twitter

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A Swansea bound working on the double track section near Brynmill. Source: Twitter

Beyond Brynmill the railway was double tracked for a fair distance. By now one will have observed the line had an extra pair of tracks bonded together in the middle of the single line sections but none on the double tracked sections. The explanation for this is fairly simple…

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On the double track section between Brynmill and Blackpill. Source: Twitter

Not all the single track sections had this extra pair of rails. The final bit to Mumbles Pier managed without. It has been said the extra rails were placed to provide better bondage with the return current (which is why it wasn’t seen on the double tracked sections of line.) Let’s have a look at a cropped picture of the section at Blackpill station further up…

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The centre pair of rails are very obvious in this view.

These centre rails were simply bonded to the running tracks, providing a circuit which could be used to detect whether single line sections were occupied. When a train was occupying a section of single line it completed a circuit which set the line signals to danger. (More on the signals later..)

What it meant is the railway had a very early form of electronic track detection. Crude of course, but it worked. If a train was occupying a singe line section the signals controlling that section would show danger. No train on the single line meant the circuits were open and the signals automatically set to clear. This meant that the drivers knew whether it was safe to proceed onto a single line section or not.

It must be said it was a system that relied on drivers strictly observing the signals. It was pretty basic and there was no fail-safe mechanism to prevent trains being driven onto occupied single line sections as the accident at Blackpill in 1959 showed.

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Another view of the Brynmill to Blackpill double track section. Source: Twitter

Just before the railway bridge at Blackpill, there was once a direct connection to the Great Western Railway’s line near Mumbles Road. It led up an incline and onto the embankment which the main line railway was sited. It seems this connection existed right up to the closure of the Mumbles railway in 1960.

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The line just before Blackpill. Source: Pinterest

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Blackpill. Source: Twitter

The iconic station at Blackpill with its awning and columns is now a cafe. The building was a substantial one but it wasn’t for passenger use bar the canopy side. The building housed the line’s electrical supply and it was unique. It was the first automated switching gear in the country to allow electricity to be delivered to the line on a usage basis, which meant that excess electricity wasn’t being pumped into the wires where there was no use for it. Similarly if there was a sudden demand the system complied and boosted the power accordingly. See the building as it is today on Google Streets.

The line was single track from Blackpill all the way to Oystermouth, apart from the West Cross loop and what appears to be a long siding north of Oystermouth, which purpose it was for I do not know. In steam days however (between 1900-1928) it was double tracked.

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The Mumbles line at The Grange. (The date 1973 is wrong should be 1873.) Compare this with picture below! Source: Twitter

The Oystermouth railway used to run along the edge of the Mumbles Road all the way from Blackpill to Norton Road as the above image shows. It was actually moved from here to run along the seafront itself and the track doubled. This work was done in the early 1900’s. The old roadside alignment was touched upon briefly for around 75 yards where Fairwood Road is and this is the point where the sea front promenade too briefly runs alongside the modern Mumbles Road.

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Not quite so evident but this is roughly the same location more than a hundred years later! The railway was later diverted along the seafront promenade (visible on the right.) Source: Google Streets

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Another view of the former roadside alignment near Lilliput Lane. Source: Swansea Recalled

The Grange is also where the railway’s other station along this section, Lilliput, existed. It was at the bottom of Lilliput Lane. West Cross was the replacement station for Lilliput.

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The loop and station at West Cross. Source: Pinterest

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The old order at Norton Road in 1908. Note the right hand running. Source: Twitter

It might come as a surprise to some that the original line – after it had been moved from its roadside alignment to run along the seashore itself – was converted to double track. This lengthy section ran from Blackpill to Norton Road and in the picture above the steam train is about to enter the single track section from Norton Road to Oystermouth.

Very surprisingly this long stretch of double track was done away with when electrification of the line was undertaken. In lieu of this the section between Oystermouth and Southend was instead double tracked. I do not know why they could have made it entirely double tracked between Blackpill and Southend. Presumably it was due to costs.

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Norton Road station. Source: Swansea Recalled/I Did It This Way

The original Norton Road station was a little further south. It was moved north when the railway was singled along this section.

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The line just after Norton Road station. Source: Twitter

Very soon the original railway reached its terminus. This was by the Oystermouth diary, opposite what is now the Quarry car park. The name of the car park indicates the original reason for the building of the railway – to serve the quarry that once stood here.

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The site of the Oystermouth Railway’s original terminus. This terminus existed until the late 1890s. The later Oystermouth station – built for the extension to the Mumbles was about 200 yards (or 183 metres) further south. Source: Google Streets

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Constructing the railway beyond its old terminus at Oystermouth towards the Mumbles. Source: A History of Mumbles

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The new Oystermouth station. The scene depicts the line as extended to the Mumbles in the late 1890s. Picture source: Britain from Above

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Mumbles train at Oystermouth 1950s. The station building and the large house are the same as those seen in the previous picture! Source: Twitter

The extension to Mumbles pier required an entirely new alignment further out but parallel to the old foreshore. Thus the new Oystermouth station was built on land reclaimed from the sea. The new station later had a loop built, and in due course this was extended to meet the other loop at Southend, creating a lengthy double track section.

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On the promenade between Oystermouth and Southend. Source: Pinterest

Speaking of loops on the line, this brings us back to the signals again! It may seem the electrified railway had no signals but in fact it did (as has briefly been mentioned earlier.) These signals are rarely shown on photographs however they were set in large wooden cabinets for controlling the various switches and single track sections.

This was in fact an early form of automated signalling and again, this was the reason for the quite odd four rail system seen on the single track sections of the line, the extra tracks providing a return circuit by which the signals could detect whether the single line sections were occupied.

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A pair of railcars between Oystermouth and Southend. Early fifties maybe? Source: Twitter (Note: The account Railwayana UK has been suspended or deleted thus an archived image is used.)

The final section to Mumbles Pier didn’t have this extra rail. The first section out of Southend did have it but the final stretch to the pier was straight and didnt have it. The reason for that was to allow any extra workings (driven on sight as it approached the final bit of line) to proceed once the preceding train had cleared the section.

This allow two separate workings (one being, say a special following a scheduled train) to work as far as the pier. Obviously the crews had to be swapped at the pier so the special could become the scheduled train and so on. And the same would happen in reverse.

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The only example I can find showing the Mumbles railway’s signals. The picture was taken in 1954 and shows the one at the pier controlling the single line to Southend. Source: Dewis Trains

Conversely the same methodology applied to the stretch of single line approaching the Swansea terminus which meant once the line to Rutland Street had cleared, another train in service could draw up and then both railcars tethered together to form a double unit. Alternatively the first train may have been going to the depot thus the line had to be clear for the second to proceed.

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The old order at Southend in the late 19th Century. The double track here was in fact a very long loop, which was extended to meet up with that at Oystermouth when electric services began. Note again the right hand running. Source: Twitter

Of the many pictures I have seen of the old Mumbles steam train, these all depict a practice of running right hand. This apparently was unique to the privately owned Welsh railways (take the Ffestiniog for example.) Upon electrification left hand running was adopted as standard practice.

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The station at Southend in the 1950s. Mumbles Pier is visible. The waiting room at the side of the train is the same as the one in the previous picture. Source: Britain from Above

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Railcar about to enter the loop at Southend en route from Mumbles Pier to Swansea. The huge green cabinet on the right houses the railway’s signal and this one protects the single line section to the pier. Probably mid 1950s. Source: Twitter

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Southend in late 1959. The line beyond here to the Mumbles was in the course of being lifted in preparedness for the railway’s ultimate closure. Note the huge cabinet to the right of the train which is one of the line’s automatic signals. Source: Twitter

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Southend again – no doubt easily identified by its footbridge. A Mumbles Pier working enters the single track section to its destination. Source: Twitter

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Mumbles Pier was opened on 10th May 1898 by Lady Jenkins. An early view with a train at the station. Source: Twitter

From this point onwards via Google Streets one can follow the old route of the line right to the pier itself. This is part of the bus only road that South Wales Transport built in 1959 to replace the Mumbles Railway. Several of the lamp posts along here are in fact the old traction poles used for new purposes!

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The old order at Mumbles Pier. Source: World Steam Site

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Train at Mumbles Pier, probably 1900. Source: Welsh Railways Research Circle

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Steam train just arrived at the pier station, 1924. Source: Mumbles Pier

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Train leaving Mumbles Pier. Notice how many are on it! There’s something like fourteen double deck carriages! Source: Twitter

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Twin car working running along the cliffs near the Mumbles pier. Source: Swansea Recalled

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The line’s terminus at Mumbles pier in the early fifties. Source: Twitter

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The same view today. Source: Google Streets

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The pier head stop in the later years when it had been moved back slightly. Note the lack of bonded return rail on this single line section. On Google Streets can be seen a similar scene today. Pic source: Twitter

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Nice colour photo of car no.12 at Mumbles Pier. Source: Pinterest

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The crew of no.10 at Mumbles Pier. Mid 1950s. Source: Swansea Recalled

The 1954 celebrations:

On June 29th 1954 the Mumbles railway celebrated its centenary and half, much of it based on the fact it had been the earliest passenger railway in the world. The celebrations included special run pasts, processions and replica carriages from the early and mid 19th Century and there was a huge festival atmosphere.

Thanks to a certain bus company, the next rail based festival atmosphere at Oystermouth wouldn’t be any sort of jovial one, but instead mournful – and this would be to see the Mumbles trains bow out of service for good.

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The commemorative plaque on on of the electric railcars. Source: You Tube

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Replica horse railcoach built specially for the 150th anniversary. It was based on a painting made in 1819. This vehicle is now in the Swansea Museum. Source: You Tube

Despite the special significance of these celebrations the railway soon disappeared off the map completely. The usual vested interests no doubt had their eyes on this famous railway and wanting it gone because it was a threat to their bus services.

South Wales Transport had been the line’s operators since the 1920s when they gained lease rights over the line. Alas their main interest was buses and not railways, not even if these were historically significant. Pretty soon after the line’s 150th anniversary had passed, South Wales Transport bought up the railway and then announced their intent to close it down

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The 150th celebrations on June 29th 1954 – the scene at Mumbles pier after a special procession of trains from Southend. Despite this happy jubilation the railway had soon gone for good. Source: Wales Online

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The 1954 brochure for the 150th anniversary of the line.

The railway’s final years:

By this time there were just two public electric railways left in Wales (out of a total of ten), and both of these ran along the seafront and around a bay. One was in South Wales and the other in North Wales. The celebrated Llandudno and Colwyn Bay Electric Railway had closed in 1956, leaving the Mumbles line in South Wales as the sole survivor.

In due course South Wales Transport (SWT) made the usual noises which were of course the precursor leading up to the inevitable closure of any railway line, let alone the Mumbles. SWT had bought the line in 1958 and then claimed the railway was losing lots of money. It was said these losses alone in 1958 were £8,000. SWT claimed it would cost £300,000 to replace the worn out track and provide new double deck rail cars.

Naturally SWT insisted they could offer a better and cheaper service with the buses they owned.

A piece of legislation, entitled rather ambiguously The South Wales Transport Bill was put before Parliament in 1959. This sought permission from the government to close the railway and it generated considerable opposition. A petition of 14,000 was drawn up to stop it and debates ensued in Parliament on the railway’s proposed closure.

The old and tired excuse of ‘losing money’ was misleading. The Mumbles railway had a huge patronage and had in fact been making a profit – and even better, it’s fares were cheaper than the buses! The railway too had been a very economical user of electricity. A lot of people were quite cynical of SWT’s claims.

One M.P. pointed out the bill was titled differently in order to invoke the least opposition possible:

A petition presented by a noble Lord contains the signatures of about 14,000 objectors to the Bill. I am quite satisfied that objections to the Bill would have been more formidable, even more vociferous, had the Bill been more appropriately named. It has been brought forward as a sort of wolf in sheep’s clothing. The title, “The South Wales Transport Bill,” arouses no emotion, and, indeed, seems designed to lull suspicion. A Bill entitled “The Mumbles Railway Closure Bill” would have aroused instantaneous interest and concern and I believe fervent opposition.

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Hours before the debate on the line’s closure began, a head on crash occurred at Blackpill 8th July 1959. Source: Facebook

Sadly just before Parliament would debate the bill on whether to close the line the railway suffered a head-on collision. That didnt bid well in favour of the line’s retention. Despite researches in the British Library, its not know how or why this happened. Either the track circuits failed or the driver of one of the trains drove onto the single line section without checking the signals to see whether the section was occupied by another train.

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Another view of the crash at Blackpill. Source: Swansea Recalled

Mr. Percy Morris, the M.P. for Swansea West said of the accident “the incident will invest the Bill with a greater element of urgency.” Clearly the accident had some impact on the debate in Parliament and quite possibly instilled a sense among MPs the railway was indeed getting rather long in the tooth.

9th July 1959 – the day after that accident – Parliament passed the bill authorising the closure of the Mumbles railway. South Wales Transport, true to their form closed the Southend to Mumbles section in October of that same year. That was for the purpose of building a road upon the closed railway alignment in order to give their fantastic buses direct access to the pier!

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The Mumbles section of the line being ripped up in readiness for a new road. October 1959.

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No more trains to the Mumbles! Instead a win for South Wales Transport whose buses now had a dedicated roadway to the pier. Source: Twitter

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The same scene today. Bus travel wasn’t the same & no surprise those too stopped! The former railway is now a public access road to the pier. Source: Google Streets

The end of public services – 2nd January 1960:

The line from Rutland Street to Southend hung on for a further three months. Public services were operated right up to the end of the day on Saturday 2nd January 1960. There would of course be one more train after that and this one no doubt was intended by SWT to show Swansea it was absolute curtains for the famous railway and their buses would in future be completely in charge of all public conveyance between Swansea and the Mumbles.

Huge crowds turned out to see the final public service train reach Southend on its outward journey, and then more came to see it arrive at Rutland Street at 11.45pm that night. Well wishers wore black, some even carried a coffin to mourn the passing of the line.

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The last public service on the Mumbles railway. Saturday night 2nd January 1960. Source: Twitter

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Women weep for the Mumbles railway at Southend station. 2nd January 1960. Source: You Tube

The railway’s finale – 5th January 1960:

The line’s public services had indeed ended on the 2nd January. It wasn’t quite the finish however. As mentioned earlier, there was just one more train. Only those who had purchased special tickets or were invited VIPS could ride that special service and it was to be just over 200 people who had this special privilege.

With a fair bit of celebration, including a commemorative brochure specially printed for the occasion, the final train of all left Rutland Street station just before noon on Tuesday 5th January. The time? 11.52am to be exact. Three thousand people followed the train all the way to Southend and back either by car, motorcycle, or bike.

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Tickets for the final run 5th January 1960. Source: Michael Clemens

Even a TV crew flew all the way from Colombia just to film this final day of South Wales’ best loved railway!

Nevertheless people were quite angry at what was happening. Contrary to rumours, the council was in fact annoyed at the railway’s closure. The Guardian for 6th January 1960 in fact describes Swansea council as being ‘rather angry.’ The newspaper goes on to say:

Certainly South Wales Transport has had some explaining to do, and the only convincing argument for abandoning so loved a thing was that it had not been paying its way.

January 5 1960 it is the end of an era as the last tram runs along the Mumbles at Swansea - The Swansea & Mumbles Railway

The final train waiting at Rutland Street 5th January 1960. Note the special 1954 plaques have now been modified to read 1960… Source: Wales Online

There were crowds all the way along the line and Oystermouth was absolutely packed with well wishers. It took police some effort to keep the tracks clear so the final train could make progress towards Southend.

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The special 5th January 1960 brochure to celebrate 155 years of service. The irony? As if a reward of some sort, the railway was closed and dismantled immediately.

Progress is a funny word…. South Wales Transport bizarrely asserted the line’s demise was just one element in a ‘chain of progress’ (being more something like, ‘we’re pretty glad to be shot of it because our buses are better…’)

The railway was dispensed of in the shortest time possible. The fastest railway demolition job in the world possibly and one for the Guinness Book of Records…

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Another view of the railway’s final day. Source: Twitter

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The final train arrives at Oystermouth station. Source: You Tube

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View from the top of the railcars during the final run at Oystermouth. Notice the advert ‘Take the train from here to Mumbles Pier Hotel.’ Source: People’s Collection Wales

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Dignitaries on the final train. Source: Facebook

No sooner than the celebrations were completed, work was begun to rip up the tracks and scrap the huge rail cars. This full colour film from the BFI shows the fateful day in question, with the line’s one and only diesel shunter escorting the final train back through the streets to the depot, and the cars being cut up immediately the railway had closed. As the film shows, workers toiled very hard to slash, smash, chop, and burn the famous trains. It in fact took a few days but nobody was going to waste any more time than was necessary to finish the job.

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The inside of no.3 being ripped out – before being turned over and its remains set on fire. Source: Swansea Recalled

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The fate of no.3. This would be the fate that too befell all the other railcars in the shortest time possible. Just one and a quarter railcars were saved for prosperity. Source: Facebook

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Tracks were removed almost immediately. This is the first passing loop at the gas works. Half of it had already been taken up. Source: You Tube

The big let down? South Wales Transport soon admitted the railway had been making a healthy £5,500 a year profit – and they also got other costings terribly wrong because, surprise, surprise, they were in fact renting the railway from…. themselves! Some claim it was a set-up job. (See Wales Online for more detail on the costings.)

Below – news report showing thousands attended the line’s last rites. Note the picture with coffin at the bottom of the page. This was taken 2nd January 1960.

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Mumbles railway epilogue:

One Mumbles car was put aside and eventually taken to the Middleton Railway in Leeds for preservation. This was car no 2. It was moved to Swansea Victoria where preparations were made to transport it to Leeds. The top and bottom halves were separated and loaded onto rail wagons.

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No.2 on a rail wagon at Swansea Victoria station ready for its ill fated journey to Leeds. 10 June 1960.

On 12th June the two halves set out on the main line. The journey took two days and went via the Central Wales line, Shrewsbury, Crewe, Stockport, Huddersfield. No.2 saw service at Middleton briefly but neglect and vandalism soon saw the railcar rendered beyond repair and it was scrapped.

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The end for Mumbles Railway no.2 in the late sixties. It was scrapped soon after this picture was taken. Source: Twitter

A quarter front end of one of the railcars was put aside for the eventual Swansea museum. It was put into store for some time before being used as a main exhibit in the new museum. The railcar can now be found in the Swansea museum’s Tram Shed as well as the replica of the early 1819 railway carriage.

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In 1984 (the line’s 180th anniversary) the Royal Mail commemorated the Swansea and Mumbles railway on a book of stamps. Source: Twitter

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Seen at the Swansea museum – the 1800 replica coach built for the 1954 celebrations of the Mumbles railway. Source: Twitter

The only ‘railway’ along the seafront today is the Swansea Bay Rider, a road-train affair. This runs between Blackpill and Southend Gardens largely on the old railway’s alignment. Its called Tren y Mwmbwls or the Mumbles Train.

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The ‘locomotive’ at Blackpill. Source: Twitter

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The Swansea Bay Rider waiting to commence a round trip to Southend. Source: Twitter

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The ‘replacement’ Mumbles train service at Oystermouth. Source: Twitter

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Robert Meyrick

i was there at Oystermouth on the last day of the Mumbles Train and also the 150th anniversary…..even at 11 or 12 the closure gave me a sickening feeling at the loss of something which was so much part of the village….no longer that distinctive screeching noise of the wheels as the train came around the corner from Norton…….no long playing shuv halfpenny on the table upstairs…… longer waving to the driver or our neighbour Mr Secombe one of the inspectors… longer putting pennies on the line before the train came along at Southend… longer waiting in the cold at Rutland Street for the last train……no more rock and roll…..

John Powell

Dear Sir,
Like the earlier reader who previously commented, I was present the closure in 1960 (in West Cross) & the 150th event 1954 (in Oystermouth Station).
I enjoyed reading this history of the Mumbles Railway and viewing the collection of photos.
But one photo is I understand, incorrectly captioned –
‘View from the top of one of the electric railcars at Oystermouth during the 150th celebrations. Notice the advert ‘Take the train from here to Mumbles Pier Hotel.’ Source: People’s Collection Wales’
I have always understood, from other publications, that this photo was taken the final journey of the Mumbles Train, in 1960. This seems to be confirmed by ‘People’s Collection Wales.’
Carry on the good work,


Thanks! I looked at the image and despite spending many days of work on this post, I must have put it in the wrong place thinking it was a ‘150th’ picture rather than a 5th January picture.

John S Powell

Yes, I have done the same kind of error.

John Davies

You mention the GWR but the line running around the bay alongside the Mumbles Train as far as Blackpill was LMS (1922-1947 and prior to that was LNWR). The Victoria Station opposite the Mumbles Train Depot in Rutland Street was an LMS station. It was not part of the GWR network.

derrick henry davies

Has anyone any information of competition during the lines history between horse and carriages operating between Victoria station and oystermouth owned by my grandfather Ruben Jones who was also the coal merchant