Swansea and Mumbles Railway
In 1804 the British Parliament approved the laying of a railway line between Swansea and Oystermouth in South Wales, and in the autumn of that year the first tracks were laid. At this stage, the railway was known as the Oystermouth Railway. It later became the Swansea and Mumbles Railway, but its popular name was the Mumbles Train.
In 1807 approval was given to carry passengers along the line and Benjamin French paid the railroad company (The Oystermouth Railway Company) the princely sum of twenty pounds for the right to do so. On March 25 1807, the first regular service carrying passengers between Swansea and Mumbles began, thus giving the railway the claim of being the first passenger railway in the world. Steam traction was introduced only in 1877.
The line was electrified using overhead cables – so this line has seen three forms of locomotive power over the years – and on March 2 1929 the first electrical cars were used. These cars were the largest built for use in Britain and each could seat 106 passengers. They were double-decker.
During the late 1950s, The South Wales Transport Company (which operated a large motor bus fleet in the area) managed to purchase the railway and despite vociferous local opposition proceeded to close the line down. At 11.52 on January 5, 1960, the last train left Swansea for Mumbles driven by Frank Duncan, who had driven the train since 1907. Within a very short time of the train returning to its Rutland Street base, work began on dismantling the track.
Railway or tramway?
After the electrification the Swansea and Mumbles Railway became more tram-like, because of the type of vehicles and operation style (the signalling was used only on the loops). The British book (see sources below) states that Swansea and Mumbles Railwaywas was usually considered to be a tramway. It should also be noted however that definitions change. In the nineteenth century a tramway was a line for mineral wagons (trams), the term railway being used when edge rails replaced plates.
Julian Thompson. British Trams in Camera. London, Ian Allan LTD 1978 ISBN 0-7110-0801-9