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Transport Recalled: North and Mid-Wales (Hardback)

Colour Books Transport > Trains & Railways World History > UK & Ireland > Wales

By Martin Jenkins, Charles Roberts
Imprint: Pen & Sword Transport
Pages: 192
Illustrations: 160 colour illustrations
ISBN: 9781526787071
Published: 27th April 2022

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This book takes readers on a spectacular journey across North and Mid-Wales in the thirty-year period from the mid-1950s onwards. In full colour, it features scenic railway main lines and branches; ports, canals and shipping including the Liverpool & North Wales Steamship Company; cable and electric tramways; all manner of connecting bus and coach services in urban and rural settings; and a few surprises along the way. Highlights include superb views of the trams owned by Llandudno & Colwyn Bay Electric Railway; long-gone branch lines; much-loved locomotive types; very rare colour views of some Crosville bus types; and a remarkable assembly of horse drawn, steam-powered and electrically-operated narrow gauge railways which survived in industrial locations barely changed in well over a century. These include the imposing slate quarry settings of Dinorwic and Penrhyn, recorded by intrepid photographers, who captured the arduous and dangerous working conditions of the miners as well as the hustle and bustle of the internal rail systems and their links to the coastal ports. The historic nature of these sites has now been recognised globally, with the awarding of UNESCO World Heritage status to the Slate Landscape of Northwest Wales. With the authors drawing on their own early personal memories, this book should evoke nostalgic memories for local residents as well as for those who were fortunate enough to have holidays or arrive as day-trippers. It will also hopefully encourage today’s travellers to seek out the spectacular coastlines, dramatic hills and mountains, rolling countryside and farmland – not to mention the Great Little Trains of Wales – for which the region is renowned.

This is one of those books where one seeks out the narrow gauge amongst a greater amount of standard-gauge content (and in this case also buses and even ships) – in this case it’s certainly worth doing as the narrow gauge pictures are fascinating and in many cases unusual.

The narrow gauge may be the minority element but the book is worth a look – certainly those involved in the pioneer years of the ‘Great Little Trains’ will have many memories sparked.

Narrow Gauge World Magazine

An excellent addition to the library of anyone who knew North and Mid-Wales and its transport delights, perhaps like this reviewer through childhood holiday memories, which will certainly be revived by the many absorbing photos in this book.

Tramway Review, no. 272 (December 2022)

In the square bound format used for a couple of similar books showing transport variety published by Pen & Sword in recent years, the present volume features an amazing variety of colour views taken in the northern half of Wales between the 1950s and the 1980s. As such, it could happily sit on a bookshelf alongside those previous books, although it does not seem to be part of a planned series.

This part of Wales is famous for its early development of narrow gauge railways, and these are well covered here, as are buses, trams, narrow boats and canals, quarry tramways, shipping and all sorts of other railway subject matter, ranging from main line expresses, industrial shunters, local goods trains and enthusiast specials. In fact it is hard to think of much that has been omitted, apart perhaps from commercial road haulage. The authors have given due credit to the many photographers featured, some famous and many not, for taking the trouble to seek out and record a fast-vanishing scene, and many of the images are now in the safe keeping of the Online Transport Archive, a UK-based charity of which both authors are trustees.

The book is 192 pages of pure nostalgia, all in colour, with one or two images to each page. The photographs are presented as a tour of the area in a clockwise direction, starting in Llandudno with the arrival of the Liverpool and North Wales Steamship Company’s “St Tudo”, built in 1926. Particular highlights of the intervening journey are hard to pick as there is such a huge range of interesting subject matter, much of it probably rarely caught on colour film. Some of this reviewer’s favourite images are: the trams of the Llandudno and Colwyn Bay Electric Railway, including a rare view of one of the stylish Darwen cars actually in service; a 1930s vintage Crosville single decker bus cut down to open top ‘boat’ form for seafront services; a Hunslet diesel shunting at John Summers’ Shotton steel works; steam-hauled enthusiast specials at Brymbo and Rhosllanerchrugog; and the last surviving Dean Goods 0-6-0 at work near Welshpool. There is much, much more to see in this book, and full advantage is taken of the sometimes spectacular locations such as mountains, hills, estuaries, harbours and quarries.

The over-riding verdict is that this is a truly remarkable work which will enable current readers to enjoy a host of transport subjects which have passed into history.

West Somerset Railway Association

This is a book that is likely to induce a severe attack of nostalgia amongst those of us who are old enough to remember the public and private transport systems of North Wales in the period from around 1950 to the early 1980s. At the same time it will also provide younger readers with a remarkably comprehensive overview of what there was to be seen, and to a large extent experienced, on both rail and road journeys during that period, graphically illustrating the remarkable variety of what then existed, and the rapidity with which much of it disappeared.

Only those who are now of pensionable age will have witnessed scenes such as the Llandudno & Colwyn Bay Electric Railway’s open ‘toastrack’ tram trundling along the middle of Gloddaeth Avenue in 1956, which graces the front cover, but it precisely conveys the atmosphere of Llandudno at that time, and there are many similar photographs in what is essentially a photographic album with extended captions. The content includes trains, with a large element of the preserved narrow-gauge variety, also buses and coaches – classic Crosville buses feature in many views but independents are by no means neglected.

Ships get their fair share of attention with the Liverpool & North Wales Steamship Company receiving good coverage, as do the Holyhead to Dublin and Dun Laoghaire ferries. The various, often large, industrial railway systems also feature extensively. Unsurprisingly, most of the standard-gauge trains illustrated are steam-hauled, and include such rarities as a former Cambrian Railways 0-6-0 photographed in colour during World War Two. As a portent of what was to come there is a smattering of early diesels – classes 20, 24, and 25, and first-generation DMUs, in the main.

FR coverage is unusual in including a couple of shots of the Deviation under construction. There are also a number of atypical views of the Penrhyn and Dinorwic quarry railways, and of the Nantlle Tramway, including an ‘enthusiast special’ hauled by a farm tractor on the latter. Heartily recommended!

Ffestiniog Railway Magazine - Autumn 2022

Despite my view that most transport picture books deserve oblivion I was impressed with this book. The authors are long standing transport enthusiasts and have compiled a remarkable range of quality photographs, nearly all in colour, supplementing these with informative captions. They have generously donated their fees to that excellent charity the Online Transport Archive.

The approach is area by area, for example Llandudno pictures feature the Great Orme Tramway, Llandudno Urban District Council buses, Cream’s coaches, the Llandudno and Colwyn Bay tramway plus main line trains and the Blaenau Ffestiniog branch. This approach works well giving a rounded picture of transport around North Wales. Even coastal shipping is covered with pictures of Mostyn quay and Holyhead Harbour, also the pleasure steamers St Tudno and St Seriol.

For anyone who holidayed in North Wales this must bring back memories as it did for me. I am sure I travelled on the Llandudno and Colwyn Bay tramway and can just recall a day trip on the St Tudno round Puffin Island, plus seeing the steam winding engines on the Great Orme shortly before conversion to electricity.

Industry is not neglected with pictures of the John Summers and Bymbo steel works. There are several impressive pictures of coal mine, stone quarry and slate mining operations. Even a tractor hauled “special” on the Nantlle Railway features. The pictures of the Padarn, Dinorwic and Penrhyn Quarrry railways are enough to justify buying the book.

Most pictures are from the 1950’s and early 1960’s with a few from the 1970’s including the post fire Britannia Bridge. Several images are indeed rare views. Although the author’s Mid Wales extends no further south than Aberystwyth there is still plenty here for transport nostalgics. It is an excellent book and I hope others will follow.

Welsh Railways Research Circle Newsletter

Featured by

Light Rail Transit Association - Tramways & Urban Transit

As featured in the article: 'Look back in Bangor: Memories of steamship trips to North Wales'

Liverpool Echo

About Martin Jenkins

MARTIN JENKINS was born and educated on Merseyside and has had a lifelong interest in all forms of transport, most particularly Glasgow trams. Starting in the 1990s, he researched, directed and narrated over 100 best-selling, transport-related DVDs for Online Video. He was the first chairman of UK charity Online Transport Archive, and is still a trustee. For much of his professional life he was a drama director with the BBC and today still works as a freelance director, lecturer and performer. He has now authored or co-authored over 20 transport-related books.


About Charles Roberts

CHARLES ROBERTS was born in Wirral, Merseyside, and worked in the bus industry in London, the Midlands and the North East. From 1989 until 2017, he lectured in transport and logistics subjects at Liverpool John Moores University, latterly heading the MSc and BSc programmes in Maritime Management and Logistics. A keen and much-travelled transport enthusiast and photographer, he is currently the Chairman of Online Transport Archive, and has co-authored a range of books based on material held by the Archive.

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