Transport in South Wales

Wales was late in developing from the motor transport aspect and less than one would like is known about early ‘bus services and motoring in that country. Before the First World War even Model-T Fords would have been few and far between, on the not-so-prosperous Welsh farms. But profits must have been made from the coal-fields in the South during the war, when an almost continuous shuttle-service of trains travelled between there and the Northerly British Naval Bases, trying to appease the savage hunger of the battleships and dreadnoughts for coal and ever more coal. In that area cars would have been seen, new and expensive, after the Armistice, Otherwise, Wales seems to have developed slowly in this direction, with Overlands and Austins popular makes, as far as cars were popular there.

To sort out some of the obscurities of early motor transport in this region, Stewart Williams has edited a book called “Vintage Buses & Trams in South Wales”. Although, as its title says, it is devoted to Public Service transport, I found it quite fascinating. It is divided into sections covering Cardiff, the Rhondda, Pontypridd, Barry, Bridgend, Monmouthshire, Neath, the Swansea and Mumbles Railway, Swansea, Aberdare and Merthyr. There are a great many good pictures of the ‘buses and trams that served those districts, from the commencement into the ‘twenties and ‘thirties. Because most of these were taken professionally at the time, there are seldom other vehicles to be seen in the background. But the Commer ‘buses and char-a-bancs of S. Wales Commercial Motors of Bridgend are shown with motorcycles and a GN cyclecar belonging to the staff in the foreground and the inevitable Model-T Ford can just be seen behind an ex-London S-type Leyland ‘bus photographed in Barry. The radiator variations of the Leyland ‘buses depicted are interesting and the model ‘bus shown with a South Wales Dennis single-decker will not be missed.

Although this is a book mainly for tram and ‘bus enthusiasts, the period glimpses of road scenes in town and country (even in 1928 Cardiff UDC was complaining that ‘buses waiting at Sycamore Cross, Bonvilston, were a cause of congestion) will be of interest to others, especially those who know the places depicted. Some of the routes were obviously severe, sprags being used, apparently as late as 1930, on the Leylands that had to ascend Bargoed Hill, and air and magnetic brakes were fitted to the trams on the difficult Stow Hill route. The historians who compiled this book seem to be experts and with its many photographs, maps, old advertisements, timetables, etc., I regard it as good value for £3.75. It is available from Stewart Williams, Publishers, Bryn Awel, Buttrills Road, Barry, S. Glamorgan. Incidentally, I suppose someone has already checked up on what happened to the 1909 30 h.p. Daimler private-car chassis with body from a horsebrake (illustrated) which operated in Barry until it was sold to a local grocer in 1926? -W.B.