Here is an outline of the key moments in the history of The Swansea & Mumbles Railway.
During the Industrial Revolution, Swansea developed into an important centre and a seaport town. The Swansea & Mumbles Railway was formed so that lime produced from the Gower kilns and coal from the Clyne Valley could be transported to the wharfs at Swansea.
There was a growth of industry along the river Tawe during the 18th century and Swansea became famous for its Copper Industry. The Swansea & Mumbles Railway (or the Oystermouth Railroad as it was then known) was originally constructed as a mineral line and not as a passenger service.
Becoming the World’s First Passenger Service
In the year 1807, the Swansea & Mumbles Railway began to carry passengers. It was the first railway in the world to do so. The first passenger carriages were made from the mineral wagons used on the tramroad. The man responsible for this was Benjamin French, an initial shareholder in the railway.
Horse drawn trains remained on the Swansea & Mumbles Railway until 1896 (albeit intermittently with steam powered locomotives). The change from horse-drawn to steam trains did cause anxiety. It was thought that the idea of a noisy, speeding steam locomotive through the streets would frighten people and horses.
Full Steam Ahead
Steam trials took place on the Swansea & Mumbles Railway between 1878 and 1885 and also between 1892 and 1896. Three of the Swansea & Mumbles Railway steam trains were given names. They were called ‘Crumlyn’, ‘Swansea’ and ‘Hampshire’.
In 1893, The Swansea & Mumbles Railway was extended to Southend. Previously the terminus was at Oystermouth. The extension to the Mumbles was completed in 1898. This made the Swansea & Mumbles Railway very popular with day trippers and tourists who visited the Mumbles Pier.
The 1920’s was the last decade when the Mumbles Train was hauled by steam locomotives. Steam locomotives ran on the railway until March 1st 1929. Electric trains took over the following day.
“During the War”
The Second World War (1939-1945) affected Swansea very badly. Heavy bombing raids known as ‘The Blitz’ caused chaos and severe damage to many buildings in the centre and suburbs. The Swansea & Mumbles Railway became an important form of transport during the war years. The electric powered trains were unaffected by petrol rationing.
Goodbye to the Mumbles Railway
In October 1958, 90% of the shares of the Mumbles Railway Ltd. passed into the hands of the South Wales Transport Company (SWTC). The Swansea and Mumbles Railway finally closed on the 5th January 1960. The last train entered the Rutland Street terminus at 12:20 am.