© Geoff’s Rail Diaries 2011 One of the oldest "Rail Diaries" pages is South Wales Steam”, a record of a trip made to some of the pits then using steam locomotives. I was able to take one or two quite pleasing pictures of "Nora", a Barclay 0- 4-0ST, as she returned to the shed. Thirty years later, I made a return visit to a somewhat changed Blaenavon. We were on the way home from Cardiff - "let's go and have a look". The mine is perhaps more generally known today as "Big Pit", open to the public as an outpost of the National Museum of Wales, complete with a trip underground - miners lamps and no contraband - great fun! As well as a fascinating and well-led trip to the workings 300 feet below the surface, we were able to take on essential supplies (cup of tea and a bite to eat...) A few hundred yards from the pit, the Pontypool and Blaenavon Railway is gradually taking shape - we paid a visit and took a ride on the BR blue-and-grey DMU, along the short but scenic line to Whistle Inn. Ride duly completed, a quick inspection of the "work in progress" was in order. A number of ex-Barry "long termers" stand in the compound, along with sundry other items of motive power. A pair of class 50 diesels stand in extremely faded NSE livery, while numerous items of coaching and multiple unit stock are in various states of repair and renovation. Two steam locos are subject to considerable attention - No 8, the "Austerity" from Mountain Ash, appears to be very close to the re-assembly stage, while a friendly group of enthusiasts worked on pannier tank 9629 - the one that once stood outside the Holiday Inn in Cardiff. And there, parked behind the 50s, and looking very pleased to have survived into preservation, was "Nora" - my friend from 30 years ago. Perhaps a couple of hours passed by here - great fun! - before I succumbed to an excellent pork and stuffing bap, necessary fuel for the short journey to Bromyard and further interesting things. Keef's are to be commended for making this event possible, and for passing the proceeds - just over £1800 - to the local school and church. The Pontypool and Blaenavon is gathering momentum, and its proximity to Big Pit must be a major "plus point". Hopefully a longer run soon will start to bring in much-needed funds - it's a long way to Pontypool... Link: The Pontypool and Blaenavon Railway Big pit - tub tracks Big Pit Hunslet flameproof diesel no 6049 of 1961 DMU at Blaenavon station The other end of the line - Whistle Inn Ready to depart from Whistle Inn The end of the line The end of the line An ex-GWR clerestory undergoing restoration 50 030 "Repulse" - looks more like Nelson to me.... "looking very pleased" - Nora, AB 1680 of 1920, ex NCB Blaenavon