NCB mineworkers' passenger train services

Timetables, traffic, industries served, operational issues

NCB mineworkers' passenger train services

Postby RichardMaund » Tue Nov 03, 2015 5:24 pm

I'm seeking to find the following details:

Graig Merthyr Colliery: such a train ran from Pontardulais (A48 level crossing) to the colliery (I rode it in 1967); it was running in June 1970 but is reputed to have ceased that same year. Can anyone put a specific withdrawal date to the service? Details of the schedule? Its colloquial name?

Tower Colliery: a service from Hirwaun Pond is reported to have been running until the 1950s (or even 60s?). Similar details would be very helplful for that service.

I have all the details I need about Blaenserchan/Talywain which was well written up by Desmond Coakham. I gather its colloquial name was "the carriages".

Details would be welcome of any other services working to a regular schedule during the NCB era, worked by them (i.e. not those services run by BR which appeared in their working timetables).
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Re: NCB mineworkers' passenger train services

Postby RichardHC » Wed Nov 04, 2015 7:06 pm

I lived in Aberdare in the 1950's and early 1960's but have no recollection of such a service to Tower Colliery. There is no mention of it in John Mear's book "Aberdare: The Railways and Tramroads". In any case it would have been a rather circuitous route for most people as the colliery was pretty well in walking distance from Hirwaun village and I think was it served by a workman's bus service provided by Aberdare UDC Transport Dept. (The Aberdare UDC buses had wooden slated seats, a bit like park benches, to avoid upholstery being soiled by the miner's clothing.) I don't know what the condition of the track was but by the 1960's the output from the colliery was carried on a very long conveyor to a loading point near the former Hirwaun Pond Halt. (My brother worked for the company that manufactured and erected it.)
I wonder if some confusion has arisen with the "Workmen's Trains" (some of them unadvertised) to Hirwaun Pond Halt which served the wartime Royal Ordnance Factory and the post-war Trading Estate. Some of these continued to Rhigos Halt and were stabled in a few sidings during the day time.
It might be worth contacting the Hirwaun Local History Society to see whether they know anything. Their website is http://www.hirwaunhistorical.org.uk.
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Re: NCB mineworkers' passenger train services

Postby RichardMaund » Thu Nov 05, 2015 8:32 pm

Delighted to have the response about Tower - about which my original "source" writes further:

Memory is fallible, but I have a strong visual image of an NCB loco
propelling a single disreputable carriage over the level crossing on the
A465 just west of Hirwaun. Difficult to date the memory, but certainly no
earlier than 1953 and probably prior to 1960 (by when I was more keen about
details). Most likely time, say 1953-56. Certainly many years before the
conveyor was built.

It is, of course, possible that I have confused the place in my memory, but
I think not and in any case I cannot begin to think where else it would be.
The alternative is that the train was not for passenger use and the carriage
was being moved for some other reason, perhaps being required as a store or
messing vehicle.


Anyone care to comment further?

And I'm still hoping for info about Graig Merthyr......
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Re: NCB mineworkers' passenger train services

Postby RichardHC » Wed Nov 11, 2015 1:31 pm

Just some further thoughts on this.
In my copy of “Industrial Locomotives of South Wales” (1951 edition) there are many NCB locomotives listed but none are shown as being located at Tower Colliery. Also in the Working Timetable for 1951 under the “Authorised Shunting Engines” section it shows one locomotive at Hirwaun with the duties “Shunts R.O.F. and Tower Colliery, Hirwaun Pond and works trip to Aberdare”. This suggests to me that at the time the line from Hirwaun Pond to Tower Colliery was owned by British Railways.
However I have come across this website which gives some additional information:
http://www.rhigosmemories.org.uk/rhigos ... l/rail.htm
The relevant section says:
“This area has seen many changes over the years. Where in recent years we are used to seeing the conveyor system from Tower colliery, there was in 1882 the Tir Herbert brick works. These works had gone by 1919, and by 1944 new sidings had been laid for the Royal Ordnance factories use and later the industrial estate. By 1964 all these sidings were taken out of use except for the line to the Tower colliery which was transferred to the ownership of the National Coal Board, and they had their own locomotives to move coal and supply trucks up and down to the colliery.”
It looks as though your friend is correct in seeing a NCB locomotive here though he might be mistaken a little on the date. Another possibility is that NCB locomotives were permitted to work over BR metals. Is this likely?
I still doubt that the carriage your friend saw was in use as a miner’s train. Tower Colliery was a very large operation with, in the 1950’s, in excess of a 1000 miners. A single coach would clearly not be adequate.
One final point. It is 50 or so years since I lived in the area and one’s memory fades and can be unreliable. I had forgotten about the level crossing over the A465 and cannot remember how it was controlled. Were there gates and a gate box or was there a flagman, remembering that the A465, even in those days, was a very busy road.
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Re: NCB mineworkers' passenger train services

Postby Noel » Fri Nov 13, 2015 6:45 pm

The Sectional Appendix for the Cardiff District dated July 1960 makes no reference to NCB locos working on BR at Hirwain. It does, however, mention that the Penderyn Limestone Company's engine can work into the BR sidings. Since the quarries are some distance from Hirwain, could this line be where your enquirer saw the single coach train?

So far as the colliery workforce is concerned, did Aberdare UDC [or someone else] run bus services to it?

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Re: NCB mineworkers' passenger train services

Postby RichardMaund » Mon Nov 16, 2015 3:53 pm

Graig Merthyr:

The Branch Line Society had a special trip on 4 July 1970. The NCB had retained the stock specially for that trip because it was after the regular miners' service had ceased. The BLS organiser recalls that the normal miners' service finished 6-8 weeks beforehand but he can't be more precise about the date: that would put it during the month of May 1970.

Any offers of a more specific date for the last miners' trains at Graig Merthyr?
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Re: NCB mineworkers' passenger train services

Postby RichardMaund » Wed Nov 25, 2015 5:55 pm

Noel wrote:The Sectional Appendix for the Cardiff District dated July 1960 makes no reference to NCB locos working on BR at Hirwain. It does, however, mention that the Penderyn Limestone Company's engine can work into the BR sidings. Since the quarries are some distance from Hirwain, could this line be where your enquirer saw the single coach train?


Two points:

The lack of reference to NCB locos working on BR track is not surprising: if the miners for Tower were coming from e.g. Aberdare, they would change at Hirwaun Pond, so there would be no need for NCB to run on BR track.

Penderyn quarry surely had a ready source of labour in the eponymous village! It was certainly not at Hirwaun that this (mysterious) coach was observed but at Hirwaun Pond.
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