...when there were mines in the valleys...
South Wales Steam
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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
Geoff’s Rail Diaries
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 Vale 2). 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. Links: Pontypool and Blaenavon Railway Gwili Railway
May 1972
Herefordshire County Council Steam Roller, Storridge Peckett 1579 of 1921 at Bulmers "Carnarvon" Kitson 5474 of 1934, and GWR Pannier tank 5786 "Nora" at Blaenavon "Nora" and tender (!) at Blaenavon Nora arrives at the shed, Blaenavon Nora and debris, Blaenavon Nora and Toto (AB 1619 of 1919) Austerity at Hafodyrynys Austerity at Hafodyrynys Outside Mountain Ash shed - Peckett and Austerity Sir John and Llantanam Abbey at Mountain Ash Out on the line - Austerity at Mountain Ash Austerity in action at Mountain Ash 7754 at Mountain Ash Austerity and Nasmyth, Hafodyrynys