Pembroke Coast Express

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“What’cha gorra camera for?” the loud youth enquired as he swaggered past me on Brackla Street overbridge. “Taking photos of trains” I replied quietly and calmly. He went on his way, looking back at me as if I were not right in the head and I began to wonder the same, my memory was beginning to fail me.

The day before I had discovered that the steam locomotive planned for the Pembroke Coast Express excursion from Bristol to Pembroke Dock on Sunday 23rd August was not available and that running would consist of two diesel locomotives ‘top and tail’. If steam had been on the agenda I would have elected to go to Stormy Bank to see the loco pulling hard up the hill, but as locomotive-hauled passenger trains are now very rare I thought I’d go to the overbridge by Bridgend station to capture it passing through to add to my photographs taken over the decades at the same location. Big mistake, I had forgotten that the hideous new bridge on the station and all the trees that have now been allowed to grow obliterate any view of trains approaching.

It was too late to find another spot, I was on foot and had no time to walk round to the station itself, I’d just have to make the best of it. I couldn’t see the train approaching but guessed I’d hear it, I knew it was running early but didn’t know at this stage by how much. Fortunately it blasted its horn just as it came to the platform so I was ready to grab a couple of shots as it thundered through, a Class 57 on the front and another on the rear of the train. It was so fast that I didn’t have time to think or even move my camera so I just clicked and hoped I’d get something, I managed three, this is the best. I then dashed over the road just in time to capture the ‘tail’ locomotive as the train disappeared.

Bridgend Station 2015

I first took a photograph from this overbridge in 1973 as part of a project in which I was involved at the time. Looking at the view in 2015 shows very many changes, not the least of which is the obstructed view when comparing it with the scene of four decades ago, back then one could see trains approaching from nearly a mile away. The chimney in the background along with the large brick structure were part of Bridgend General Hospital, demolished in the 1980s. It’s also interesting to see the platform from which the Blaengwynfi trains used to depart was still in place, not sure when the last train left for Blaengwynfi but it was well before the date of this photo, I think about 1960. On the far side the platform now used for trains along the Vale of Glamorgan line was used for goods wagons, the passenger trains to Barry and beyond long gone at this date.

Bridgend Station 1973

The next time I took a photo from the overbridge was on a dreary day in February 1981, not much had changed although the track which formerly served the Blaengwynfi trains had been lifted but the unobstructed view remained. The Vale of Glamorgan line platform was still used, but on that occasion was storing an engineering train. One of the ubiquitous HST 125 passenger trains waited at what is now known as Platform 2, these trains were introduced in 1976 and after many refurbishments are still in use although due to be phased out by 2017.

Bridgend Station 1981

Of course, it was the memory of the older photos that prompted me to visit this bridge to capture the Pembroke Coast Express, I must remember in future, this is no longer a good vantage point.

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