Penarth Dock, South Wales - 150 years - the heritage and legacy  
Penarth Dock, South Wales - the heritage & legacy . . .

about . . .

Introduction . . .

The story reveals some interesting facts and the actual events surrounding its demise you may find entertaining, mildly amusing, deeply saddening, or deem it a gigantic calamity! I suppose it depends upon your age amongst other factors. However, the blunders made nearly half a century ago are, I believe, a serious issue for local residents, many of whom I feel sure are completely oblivious of what went on before and what remains under their feet or in close proximity to their homes.

The industrial revolution in South Wales starts with the iron manufactories of Merthyr, which is relevant and important, but our story commences with the fact that the South Wales coalfields produced Welsh steam coal, the best coal in the World for firing steam engines! Good thermal properties, low levels of smoke and ash, and less clinker than other coals.

As early as 1845 trials were undertaken by the British Admiralty and South Wales steam coal replaced coals from Newcastle-upon-Tyne as the preferred fuel for the ships of the Royal Navy. Not only the preferred “smokeless fuel” specified by the Admiralty but of other major steamship owners and on a Worldwide basis.

Steam engines didn't blast out dirty black smoke but dirty white smoke and the fires burned with such intensity that, in the case of railway engines, the fire-grates and other critical thermally stressed engine parts had to be replaced more often than on other regions of British Railways due, in part, to the high calorific value of the coal.

My brother, Clive, was steeped in the traditions of coal since he left school at 15 years old and worked, initially as an engine cleaner at Cardiff Canton loco works (oily rag and waste in hand), then as a fireman (shovel in hand), an assistant driver (rule book and mug of tea in hand), and finally as a driver (arm on deadman’s handle) dedicating his entire working life to the Western Region.

I once took him to the National Railway Museum in York where he went up to the 'Evening Star', kicked one of the driving wheels and declared “Ruddy thing, I always burnt my knuckles cleaning that when it came in from Paddington!”

Clive was at least the fifth generation of railway workers in our family. Father was a railway guard and rose to the giddy ranks of ticket inspector after overseeing the demise of the majority of the rail network of mid-Wales on Dr. Beeching's orders.

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150 years of Penarth Dock History and Heritage

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