Cledrau'r Pyllau Glo Cledrau Coll


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Cledrau'r Pyllau Glo

Bydd Arfon Haines Davies a Gwyn Briwnant Jones yn ymweld â hen linellau'r pyllau glo yn ne Cymru. Arfon and Gwyn visit the railways of the former coalmines in south Wales. (S)


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-Welcome again to Cledrau Coll.

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-This week is a little different

-as we focus on the coal lines.

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-These were independent lines,

-separate from GWR, LMS and so on.

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-In fact, you probably had to be

-a collier to travel on these lines.

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-Joining me as usual is

-the rail expert Gwyn Briwnant Jones.

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-Gwyn, why didn't the likes of GWR

-enter into the mining industry?

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-They would have been busy enough,

-but their standards were different.

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-GWR had quite a clear notion of

-the way they wanted to run things...

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-..and the collieries were

-more relaxed and less stringent.

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-They would transport the coal

-to wherever GWR would pick it up.

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-Did every colliery

-have its own line?

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-Yes, some long and others short,

-some simple, others complicated...

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-..but there were plenty of them.

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-Can we still see their remains?

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-Can we still see their remains?

-

-Yes, some are still visible.

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-Let's get looking, then.

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-Let's get looking, then.

-

-Yes, away we go.

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-Barely a hundred yards from

-the old coal mine in Blaenafon...

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-..there are ample remains, Gwyn.

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-Too many, in fact. It's surprising

-to find so much in one place.

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-Here we have what's

-left of the line...

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-..connecting the mine

-to the original line from Brynmawr.

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-Down in that cutting,

-you can see where it ran...

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-..from Blaenafon

-to Aberserchan and Talywain.

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-Our journey starts in

-the valleys of south-east Wales...

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-..at Talywain and Blaenserchan,

-not far from Pontypool.

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-On this higher level, we have

-some old and rusted remains.

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-Would they have used

-these old wooden wagons?

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-Wagons like these made of wood

-are unusual today...

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-..and British Rail got rid of them

-some twenty-five years ago.

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-Today, you have larger wagons

-made of iron.

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-I'm surprised these have survived.

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-They were probably used

-within the mine's network.

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-Let's take a closer look.

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-Cars travel along this route today,

-but once it was coal trains...

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-..that passed beneath this bridge

-near Aberserchan and Talywain.

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-The valleys have been transformed

-over the last twenty-five years.

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-Coal mines have almost disappeared

-as green woodland has returned...

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-..and the coal tips have either

-been flattened or transformed.

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-Gwyn, having walked

-the Blaenserchan line...

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-..do you think it was different

-to any other colliery lines?

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-There was one unusual feature.

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-Very few of these lines

-were allowed to carry colliers.

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-Most colliers went to work on foot,

-or perhaps travelled by bus.

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-But Blaenserchan

-is such a remote mine...

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-..the colliers were brought here

-on a special train.

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-They didn't ride in carriages

-of any usual description...

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-..but arrived at work

-in ordinary wagons.

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-Many of those wagons were previously

-used to carry goods such as bananas.

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-The train eventually became known

-as the Blaenserchan Banana Train.

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-Others called it

-the Blaenserchan Donkey!

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-Having walked a mile,

-I must admit that further back...

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-..it was hard to imagine a railway

-or a colliery ever having been here.

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-There is so much greenery here now.

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-To one side I'm reminded of views

-in Merioneth or Montgomeryshire.

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-But round the corner you're reminded

-at once that this is South Wales.

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-The signs that this was once

-a coal mine are still evident.

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-It's very exposed here in the wind,

-even on this fine summer's day.

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-We're certainly feeling the cold.

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-We're certainly feeling the cold.

-

-Let's walk to warm up.

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-On today's programme, we'll take

-a leap from one location to another.

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-Across the mountain

-from Blaenserchan is Hafodyrynys.

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-There's nothing left today

-apart from the water tower.

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-The gorge is so narrow it's hard

-to believe the main line to Neath...

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-..and the old road shared

-this valley with a coal mine.

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-Moving further west

-to the Cynon Valley...

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-..Mountain Ash was once

-an important and busy centre.

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-Space was at a premium, with the

-Taff Vale line along one side...

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-..and the old GWR line along

-the other side of the valley.

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-Between them ran the private lines

-from the coal mines.

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-Save for the Valleys Line,

-everything has disappeared.

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-Mountain Ash in the rain -

-nothing unusual in that this summer!

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-But here's the site where three

-separate company lines converged.

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-To our right, across the river,

-was the old Taff Vale company.

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-On this side, to our left,

-was the Great Western.

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-We're actually walking where

-the colliery line tracks ran.

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-The mines in this part of

-the valley were Penrhiwceiber...

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-..and then Middle Duffryn,

-and things did get very busy here.

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-The colliery lines

-were extremely busy here...

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-..not to mention the

-other two lines on either side.

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-Two bridges crossing the river

-connected everything...

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-..and you would have heard tireless

-whistles and shunting going on here.

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-There was an engine shed here

-- it really was busy.

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-Imagine three lines.

-Did they have two stations here?

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-Yes, two stations. The Taff Vale

-had its Cardiff Road station...

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-..and GWR had

-its Oxford Road station.

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-GWR were a little more posh

-with Oxford Road!

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-Gwyn, one of the Rhondda's most

-famous collieries was the Maerdy.

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-Or Little Moscow

-as it used to be known.

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-The remains of the colliery

-are still clearly visible.

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-The original Taff Vale line

-came up as far as those trees.

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-Then the colliery line carried on

-along the valley floor...

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-..and on to the pit itself

-at the head of the valley.

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-Another line went back further up,

-leaving its refuse along the way.

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-I suppose both lines would have had

-trucks constantly moving along them.

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-Yes, there was a lot of movement,

-but nature has reclaimed the land.

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-But beneath the surface

-there are still rich coal seams.

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-We continue along the colliery lines

-to the west...

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-..starting in Horeb

-with the Llanelli-Mynydd Mawr line.

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-The route of the old line

-is now a cycle path.

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-Here I met an old line worker,

-John Edmonds.

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-My father was a ganger,

-as was his father before him.

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-Then my brother was a fireman,

-and I followed him.

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-My other brother

-worked as a shunter in Llanelli.

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-What was a ganger's work?

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-The ganger was responsible for

-the track and the men working on it.

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-He was responsible for maintenance

-and was answerable to the company.

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-During the time the line from

-Mynydd Mawr was run by the GWR...

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-..you had nothing but ashes

-underneath the sleepers.

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-When Cynheidre colliery opened

-they renewed the track...

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-..bringing in ballast stone and

-even altering parts of the route.

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-They tidied up and straightened it.

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-What did the fireman's day involve?

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-You'd start off in the engine,

-cleaning the ash from the smoke box.

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-When the ash was thrown out, you'd

-have to brush it off the footplate.

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-Now, if you had a small engine

-you had to prepare the fire...

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-..and make sure you didn't have

-pieces of coal that were too big.

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-Then you'd fill the water tank

-and get on with your work...

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-..out on the shunters, the main line

-or the passenger services.

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-If life was hectic

-in the days of steam...

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-..it's no less busy today.

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-And no less dangerous!

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-The most recent colliery to open

-on the Llanelli-Mynydd Mawr line...

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-..was here at Cynheidre.

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-Several local mines were closed and

-considerable investment was made...

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-..yet despite the colliery's success

-there is nothing left of it now.

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-My earliest memory dates back to

-the late '20s and the early '30s.

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-We lived at Bryn near Llangennech

-at the time.

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-My father used to walk

-from Bryn to Felinfoel...

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-..and catch the loco at Adulam

-and go to work at Sylen.

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-Sometimes, if the tracks were wet,

-the loco couldn't go.

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-He'd have to walk all the way to

-work and back whatever the weather.

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-That's how hard it was

-on the colliers at that time.

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-How many people worked at Cynheidre?

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-How many people worked at Cynheidre?

-

-As many as 1,500 at one time.

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-Blaendderwen and Carway collieries

-were closed...

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-..as were Mynydd Mawr near Tumble

-and Pentre Mawr.

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-The colliers from those works

-fed Cynheidre.

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-In my opinion, they would have been

-better to keep those mines open.

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-They ploughed all that money into

-Cynheidre and what do we have left?

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-Nothing but cattle grazing.

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-The wagons came full from Tumble.

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-It was a pleasure to see them.

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-There was quality there.

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-They'd come past - thirty wagons

-at least, with one engine.

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-You had three engines

-that came down in the morning...

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-..each one of them

-with at least thirty wagons.

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-There were a few places near Tumble

-where coal could be found cheaply.

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-They'd go and cross over the line...

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-..down the lane near Ty Isa farm.

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-You'd see the men and women there.

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-They knew the train

-was coming from Llanelli.

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-We had a police sergeant here then

-and he was alright with it.

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-Good old Sergeant Thomas!

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-Everyone knew him around here

-and he knew everyone too.

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-The women had

-their baskets or buckets.

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-The empty trains

-would come back from Llanelli.

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-The lads who had been working

-would head over to the Cwm works...

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-..but I remember once how one of

-them lost a leg falling off a truck.

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-Everyone knew how the lads

-used to climb into the trucks...

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-..and the trucks were

-never completely cleaned out.

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-So they'd take a look inside

-for leftover lumps of coal...

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-..and when they threw them out

-the women would gather them up!

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-The weather on the other side of the

-world could affect things in Wales.

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-They'd be out in all weather

-and the cold of winter.

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-It's strange to think that

-that's when I learned my geography.

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-In the cold of winter,

-in January or February...

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-..you'd have somewhere like the

-St Lawrence in Canada freezing over.

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-When that happened, it meant

-we didn't have any trucks here.

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-There'd be no empty or full trucks

-to move between here and Swansea.

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-So I learned of the St Lawrence

-in Canada freezing over...

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-..and I'd be idle for four or five

-days until the trucks were moving.

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-It's clear that such collieries

-as Caer Bryn and the Emlyn...

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-..produced high quality anthracite.

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-But Annie Owen has memories of

-other things apart from the coal.

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-We sometimes rode on the step of

-the guard's van...

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-..which we weren't supposed to do.

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-But when the train started off,

-slowly we could jump on the step.

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-I was quite nimble as a child

-in those days.

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-When the train slowed down

-to pull into the station...

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-..it gave us children

-a chance to jump off.

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-Then we'd innocently

-walk past Tir Dail station.

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-I remember once how the first one

-among us jumped and fell...

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-..and it had a domino effect

-until we were all piled in a heap.

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-We got up and dusted ourselves off

-before heading to school.

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-We counted ourselves lucky

-that no one had seen us falling.

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-But the very next day, our

-schoolmaster George Owen Williams...

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-..who was the son of Watcyn Wyn,

-and a very kind man...

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-..he said, "I want to see you

-Penygroes children".

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-He called us in to tell us

-the station master at Tir Dail...

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-..had told him we were putting our

-lives at risk on the guard's van.

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-He had heard that

-we'd all fallen in a heap.

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-He asked those who had fallen

-to raise their hands but no one did!

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-The last colliery we'll look at

-today is the famous Graig Merthyr.

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-This line was nearly

-three miles in length...

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-..winding its way from Pontarddulais

-to the head of the Dulais valley.

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-There were nearly a hundred coal

-mines in Wales when this line ran.

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-Some 60,000 men

-worked underground...

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-..mining 20 million tons of coal

-each year.

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-We're here at Graig Merthyr, some

-ten minutes from Pontarddulais...

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-..and it's hard to imagine a busy

-colliery in this beautiful spot.

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-That was only about 20 years ago.

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-It really is hard to imagine the

-toil of mining here over the years.

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-There are still

-some tell-tale signs.

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-You can see where

-the old track was...

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-..and the slopes have been cleared

-away on the far side of the valley.

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-Now the tips have gone,

-the valley is green again.

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-And this rhododendron pontica

-looks wonderful.

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-This is the best time

-to see it in all its glory.

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-Let's take a closer look.

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-Today, as nature reclaims the land

-and erases every sign of industry...

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-..it's easy to forget the past.

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-But it has been a joy to walk along

-some of these unusual old tracks.

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-We've been reminded of the hard work

-to free the riches from this land...

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-..and were it not for coal these

-lines would never have existed.

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-Without them neither would the

-major railway lines have prospered.

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-S4C subtitles by

-Testun Cyf

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Bydd Arfon Haines Davies a Gwyn Briwnant Jones yn ymweld â hen linellau'r pyllau glo yn ne Cymru. Arfon and Gwyn visit the railways of the former coalmines in south Wales. (S)