One of the most significant and interesting aspects of The Swansea & Mumbles Railway comes with analyzing how it was run during different periods. Over the course of its 155 year history, the railway was used by a myriad of companies all with their own objectives and means of promoting the line. Understanding these companies can become further bewildering when we take into account the fact that these respective companies often leased the line from a larger company such as South Wales Transport.
Of course, with this amount of bureaucracy the companies were bound to argue and have differences of opinion. The following paragraphs outline a small selection of the disagreements that occurred between each company accompanied by a document from the Richard Burton Archives related to each disagreement.
1870-1880: Swansea and Mumbles Railway Company Limited Vs. Swansea Improvements and Tramways Company
The line lay practically dormant due for almost ten years to a dispute between these two companies. In 1865 the Railway was sold to an untrustworthy businessman called John Dickson who quickly defaulted on his payments. In 1877, the line was re-purchased by associates of John Dickson and continued to run trains . However, by this time the line was now being leased to Swansea and Improvements and Tramways Company. Soon a lengthy legal battle ensued and only reached a plateau when John Dickson began sabotage the actions of the Tramways company.
Eventually the dispute was resolved by a Bill of Parliament. The 1880 Act of Parliament allowed the Railway and Tramways Company to run alongside each other as long as neither service disrupted the other. Some further details can be seen in the image below. Please click on the image to read in more detail.
Swansea and District Transport Bills 1934-1937
In 1934 the South Wales Transport Company attempted to pass a parliamentary bill that would severely threaten the future of the Mumbles Train by increasing support for buses over-railway. By June 1937, South Wales Transport had succeeded in acquiring and closing down Swansea Improvements and Tramways Company which effectively ended Swansea’s inner-city trams apart from those that went to Mumbles.
The bill was universally unpopular with the public and with the shareholders of Mumbles Railway and Pier Company which formed a petition against any such action that could affect the Mumbles Railway. The issue was eventually resolved in 1937 in favour of the Mumbles Railway and Pier Company.
The extracts below are from a strongly-worded speech by the shareholders of the Mumbles Railway and Pier Company
The Pier now offers no attractions. In the past concerts were given in the pavilion, and bands were engaged to play on the pier-head, during the summer holiday season but now no attractions are offered. This is not likely to encourage traffic on the railway, or induce visitors to go on the Pier neither is it calculated to bring holiday-makers to this charmingly situated and delightful seaside resort.”
Anonymous Letter, LAC/85/E21
Source: Richard Burton Archives, Swansea University
Other documents related to these disputes and other controversies associated with the Swansea & Mumbles Railway can be found in the Richard Burton Archives.