Twice hourly the passenger trains on the Barry line trundle past my house, not so close that they rattle my windows but near enough to distract me whenever I hear them. The trains pass by 34 minutes past every hour on their way to the terminus at Bridgend and return ten minutes later on their way back to Barry and thence more distant destinations. The trains are operated by Arriva Wales and are either two-car sets, or four cars sets made up of two coupled, two-car sets of the very elderly Class 150 introduced in 1984. These are mostly fitted with high density seating of the 3+2 configuration and provide an interesting, if not restful, journey through the Vale of Glamorgan. As the trains pass, one is only able to catch a glimpse at this time of year as the railway embankment is covered in tress, mostly Ash and Sycamore, which are in leaf from May until November; also roofs of the houses behind get in the way so one has to be rather alert to see trains at all and the best view is from my bedroom or the raised section in my rear garden.
On Saturday, whilst working in the garden I noticed a slightly different pattern in the trains, I caught a glimpse of a three-car set and noticed it a few times that day. I also noted that the four-car sets were made up of one set of Class 150 and one set of what looked like Class 158, the type known as an Express Sprinter; now this really is a superior class of ride and would make the scenic journey through the Vale of Glamorgan even more of a pleasure.
The regular trains passing by are something of a novelty at the moment having recently moved into my new house, but seeing trains on this section of the line is nothing new as when I was a young boy we lived about 100 yards away from this house and at that time had no houses to block the view. We moved there in 1955 when I was six and in those days passenger services were operated by GWR 2-6-2T “Prairie” tanks similar to the one shown in this photograph. There were no turntable facilities at Bridgend so they would usually operate bunker first from Barry and then run-round the train at Bridgend for the return journey. At this time there were also large numbers of coal trains passing along the line usually hauled by GWR 2-8-0T tank engines. These would be travelling either to the coal-fired Aberthaw Power Station or to Barry Docks. Coal trains still pass by, lengthy great lumbering sinister-looking things with uninteresting brownish hopper bogie wagons, hauled by locos of yet undetermined class with over-sized EWS lettering on the sides.
Later in the 1950s the passenger trains were sometimes operated by BR Standard 2-6-2T tank engines hauling four or five coaches, but all steam trains were soon to be withdrawn as the new diesel multiple units were beginning to arrive on the scene. The first of these appeared in January 1958 and it wasn’t long before no steam passenger trains operated on the line. Coal trains suffered a similar fate and were taken over by the Hymeks in the early part of the 1960s.
Although the line was an important link to Aberthaw Power Station, the passenger services were beginning to suffer as more and more people were taking to using their cars as regular transport and use of the services slowly declined. As a result passenger trains were withdrawn in 1964 during the “Beeching” years and some of the stations removed. For many decades the line only saw passenger trains when work was being done on the main Cardiff to Bridgend route and the line was used as a convenient loop, but in the mid 1990s plans were made to re-introduce passenger trains to the line and this involved building a number of new stations to replace those that had vanished in the intervening years. In 2005 the line was re-opened to passengers after a period of forty one years of closure.