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Book Of The Month

Swansea's Burning
The development of the South Wales Coalfield during the seven decades of the Victorian era led to the creation of a series of huge undertakings. Among these was the development of various methods of transport for the distribution and global export of the vast quantities of coal produced as a result. This book does a magnificent job of recording the key elements of the history of just one of those organisations, the Barry Dock and Railway Company, later known as the Barry Railway. It provides a pictorial record of that company’s fascinating infrastructure.
The dock and railway were conceived to break a monopoly and as such, the company was a latecomer to the transportation scene. Because of this, the most advantageous site for the dock and the easiest routes for the railway, had already been developed by those companies that had gone before. As a result, the infrastructure that had to be established by the company was far more dramatic in size and scope than anything that had previously existed. No expense was spared in construction. The best quality materials and workmanship were used, something clearly evident in the structures that remain to the present day.
Much has been written about the early private railway companies that served the coalfield such as the Cardiff, Rhymney, Taff Vale, Pontypridd, Caerphilly and Newport, Brecon & Merthyr and of course, the Barry Railway. The story of the latter company is nothing if
not fascinating as the development of Barry docks and its railway network is examined will reveal. The story is also brought up to date with significant reference to the achievements of the current Cambrian Transport Company in its bid to save and record something of what is left at Barry Docks and Barry Island.
The book has been a labour of love for author Brian Mills, who since boyhood, has harboured an unbridled passion for railways and how they worked. As his life unfolded he studied in great depth the history of the Barry Railway and, in particular, the infrastructure that made it tick so successfully.
As well as looking in detail of the railway infrastructure of the Barry Railway, there are many references and photographs in the book which will arouse much interest among anyone who has ever lived or loved Barry and its environs.
Brian was an Associate Fellow of the Permanent Way Institution from 1965 and in 2006 was awarded Honorary Life Membership of the organisation.
Among other recent achievements, he has published, through the Permanent Way Institution, a detailed book on Western Region Semaphore Signalling, which specifically reflects South Wales and Bristol area mechanical signalling practice.
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