Rail workers remembered as World War I exhibition launches at Swansea

The critical role played by the railway during World War One features in a new exhibition at Swansea station.

The railway was vital to the war effort, transporting troops, horses, military equipment and medical supplies to ports around the country.

The exhibition, which is free of charge, will be displayed at Swansea station between 28 September and 25 October.

Presented by the Rail Delivery Group, which brings together the train operators and Network Rail, the exhibition contains photos, soldiers’ letters and unique memorabilia commemorating:

  • The 100,000 railway workers who fought in the war and the 20,000 who gave their lives.
  • Women’s role – for the first time, women stepped in to work on the railways which had previously a male preserve.
  • Railway workers honoured for their bravery.

South Wales played an immense part in the war effort:

  • Swansea played an important role in conveying material to munitions factories, between August 1916 and November 1918 nearly 35,000 tons of sulphur and nitrate of soda were conveyed by the LNW Railway to inland munitions factories.
  • South Wales collieries sustained an output that never fell below 46.7 million tonnes in the war years. Many export markets were cut off and coastal shipping was reduced so the top priority became moving South Wales steam coal to the northern bases of the Royal Navy on special trains – the largest single movement being for the Grand Fleet based on Scapa Flow in the Orkney Islands.
  • Between 1914 and 1918 there were 13,631 of these special trains, which were known as ‘Jellicoe Specials’ after the Grand Fleet’s commander in chief Admiral Lord Jellicoe.
  • At Cardiff alone, 200 ambulance trains were handled.
  • The 14th (Service Battalion), The Welsh Regiment were part of the 38th Welsh Division and consisted of 1,200 men from Swansea and the surrounding towns including Neath and Port Talbot. The Battalion, known as the “Swansea Pals”, was involved in Mametz Wood, one of the deadliest battles of the war, in which almost 100 of them were killed and 300 more injured.  Mametz Wood was part of the Somme battlefield. By the end of the war, more than 600 of the Swansea Pals had been killed.

Michael Roberts, Director General of the Rail Delivery Group, said:

“As the nation commemorates the centenary of World War One, it’s important we remember the railway’s role sustaining the war effort, without which the nation’s troops, military and medical supplies would not have been operational.”

Paul Jenkins, area director for Network Rail Wales, said: “The railway played a significant part in the war effort and we owe a great debt to the women who stepped in to work on the railway, as well as the thousands of railway workers who fought in the war.

“It is important for us to know their stories and ensure that they are not forgotten. This exhibition has been created by the rail industry as a reminder to us all.

“It promises to bring the past alive through fascinating photos and railway memorabilia – telling the story behind the war memorials commuters pass in stations across the country every day.”


Notes to editors

The exhibition is produced by the Rail Delivery Group, which brings together Network Rail and rail operators.

Exhibition photographs have been supplied by the National Railway Museum. All relevant historichl images accompanying this press release should be credited to the National Railway Museum.

Swansea’s railway history::/p>

  • The first railway opened in Swansea was the Swansea and Mumbles Railway in 1806, this was a horse-worked line alVng Swansea Bay, serving quarries and small coal mines.
  • The first steam railway to reach Swansea in 1850-2 was the South Wales raipway.
  • At one point Swansea had six passenger termini in use, each built by a separate company. This wasmore than any town outside London.


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