South Wales Adventure

Yoshi made it to the groomers last week, a slight delay on the original planned date for his appointment which couldn’t be helped and he came home looking beautifully coiffured and smelling like a dream. So it should have been no surprise at the level of attention he received from passers by and railway station staff on our trip to South Wales at the weekend. The purpose of our visit was primarily to see Pathfinder Tours ‘The Cwmbargoed Collier’ rail tour which was scheduled for top and tail Class 66 and Class 60 locomotives providing motive power during part of its journey.

In the event we saw the special train four times during the day at different locations; Undy, Bridgend, Cardiff and Aber near Caerphilly.

Our first port of call ( after mandatory breakfast muffins ) was a windswept and damp Undy near Newport. I had visited the over bridge at Undy before in May 2013 when I spent a few hours photographing trains. The location has changed vastly with the addition of overhead wires put in for the electrification of the Great Western mainline through to Cardiff. As part of the upgrade, bridges have been replaced as more height was required to raise them over the live wires. You can compare the location ‘then and now’ in the gallery of photographs below with the footage filmed this year in the video which follows it.

The motive power in 2022 was very similar to my previous visit as can be seen in the video below ( the weather however wasn’t quite as good as in 2013!), the main difference being the addition of modern Class 800 IET (Intercity Express Train) units and of course train liveries and operators have also changed over the years.

The Cwmbargoed Collier was hauled by Class 66 No. 66013 from its originating station of Banbury to Margam Yard where Class 60 No. 60040 was added to the other end of the train to facilitate traversing freight only branch lines. After seeing the rail tour at Undy and Bridgend, we moved on to park up at Cardiff Central. I’d like to think that our contributions to car parking will fund Transport For Wales for the next three months. Before heading onto the platforms and to break up the day a little, we had a quick wander into Cardiff City Centre where the pubs and cafes were full of rugby supporters cheering on their National Team. It was a thriving and friendly atmosphere even after the result of the game.

Yoshi made a quick visit to Cardiff Castle before heading back to Cardiff Central Railway Station

As can be seen in the video of our 5th February 2022 trip, we managed to catch sight of a few freight trains. One that I did miss the opportunity to record however was a Class 60 working through Cardiff Central on a DB Cargo operated Theale to Robeston train. Instead of a red diesel locomotive working hard, I managed to instead record a few seconds of me wrapping Yoshi’s lead around my foot for his safety and security. You win some, you lose some.

The one that got away! 60020 photograph courtesy of @da_buckley967

The railway arrived in Cardiff in 1850, even the River Taff was diverted to accommodate it. Brunel’s original wooden station structure was replaced in 1934 by a building designed by Percy Emerson Culverhouse who was the Great Western Railway’s chief architect from 1929 to 1945. The grade II listed building is pure proto-art deco with a handsome long low Portland stone frontage to the north with corner pavilions and large arched windows. The name of the Great Western Railway in stone relief stands out and sitting above this is a small clock tower which is also visible from the platform side. The main station concourse is a stunning display of panels and arches lit by an array of hanging Art Deco lights.

The concourse at Cardiff Central Railway Station

My earliest railway themed visits to Cardiff and South Wales were made in 1979 and I have scanned a selection of negatives taken with my Kodak Extra camera which had a built-in cover that flipped over to form a handle. I loved it, but unless it was a gloriously sunny day the quality of image it produced was, quite simply, terrible.

A visit a few years later in January 1982 included a walk down to Cardiff Canton diesel depot where a long since removed footbridge over the railway line was handily placed for railway enthusiasts and now armed with a 35mm camera I happily snapped away. My records show I next visited Cardiff in June 1982 on the same day Pope John Paul II become the first reigning Pope to visit Wales. Thousands of people turned out to see the Pontiff and there were a number of additional trains scheduled to bring visitors to the city and photographs from my visit are the sunnier ones in the gallery below. I remained on the station and declined the opportunity to see the Pope at Pontcanna Fields, although I do remember seeing his helicopter fly overhead. I waved, I don’t know if Pope John Paul II waved back.

Finally for this week, I’ve included video shot in South Wales on a day out in March 1999 which reflects a time of change on our railway network.

All in all, I had a wonderful day out with good company and I’ve enjoyed taking time to reflect on some of my visits to South Wales. Thanks for reading – any comments or corrections welcomed.

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