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The Barry Railway Steamers (X 80)
Oakwood Press

The Barry Railway Steamers (X 80)

Regular price £10.00 £0.00 Unit price per

Almost a century has elapsed since the Barry ‘Red Funnel Line’ steamers disappeared from the Bristol Channel excursion scene, and although Barry Pier has gone, as has the railway that served it, the remains are yet visible, and so the memory of the handsome fleet of paddle-steamers that were based there lingers on. The recollections of those that travelled on the former Barry vessels that survived until the Second World War have been the stimulus to ask why it was that the White Funnel Fleet of Bristol was so challenged, at a key time of the evolution on the British paddle-steamer, by the upstart South Walian Barry Railway Company.

To understand the story of the so-called ‘Barry & Bristol Channel Steamship Company’ it is necessary to consider – on the one hand – the origins of the parent Barry Railway Company and – on the the other – how P. & A. Campbell Ltd of Bristol with its ‘White Funnel Fleet’ became the dominant excursion-steamer operator in the Bristol Channel by the 1890s, the era in which this story starts.

The Barry Railway was very much a company created to serve a docks complex for the export of coal. Here, passenger train operations were somewhat secondary to the primary purpose of moving minerals traffic down from the various valleys. The company had succeeded in gaining access to numerous valleys already served by other railways in order to tap the abundant minerals traffic of the South Wales coalfield for export through its large new Barry Docks.

The White Funnel Fleet of the Bristol-based company of P. & A. Campbell Ltd had its origins as a purely excursion-steamer business trading in the Bristol Channel without any particular railway interests or involvement. The Campbell brothers saw how their rival Cardiff-based company Edwards, Robertson developed valuable links between its 'Yellow Funnel Fleet’ and the powerful Taff Vale Railway for through ticketing between South Wales valleys towns and resorts in Devon and Somerset, via Cardiff and Penarth. But by the late 1890s the White Funnel Fleet of P. & A. Campbell Ltd had taken over the vessels of its Cardiff-based competitors, and the supremacy of the Bristol ships was clear to see.

Perhaps it was only natural that the Barry interests should seek to challenge those that were perceived as threatening. As the Barry Docks complex had taken shape, it was a relatively straightforward matter to extend passenger railway operations from Barry across to Barry Island for leisure traffic, and then to push further through tunnel to what was to become Barry Pier Station, immediately adjacent to the main entrance lock to Barry Docks.

Although the Barry Railway thought in terms of controlling its own steamship operations from the outset, it was realised that this would meet with opposition from Campbells at Bristol with its large fleet, and so the Barry company initially settled for an alliance whereby the White Funnel Fleet of steamers served Barry Pier when it opened in 1899. But it was to be an uneasy alliance, and so the point was soon reached where the Barry company would feel obliged to go it alone. The struggle that followed was to be both litigious and complicated and the structure of this book is thus based on four distinct periods in the life of Barry Pier, in order to present a comprehensive picture of the passenger shipping activities of the Barry Railway Company. The first period covers the years up until 1904, before t he railway company opted to purchase its own fleet. The second period, which comprises the larger part of this account, spans the years 1905-1909 when this new fleet was operated directly in connection with the Barry Railway, and when the head-on competition between red and white funnel interests was intense, and the legal battles were high-profile. A third, brief period, came after the railway sold its three remaining vessels to a wholly separate undertaking who operated in the two seasons, 1910 and 1911. After this the red funnel disappeared from the Bristol Channel excursion passenger scene and the fourth and final period takes the story forward from 1912. This was when P. & A. Campbell Ltd took control, and ended in the 1970s, after services at Barry Pier had dwindled and were finally given up, and the pontoon dismantled.

Softback, 224 pages, 128 black & white photographs, maps

Condition: Very Good

ISBN: 9780853616351

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Updated: 29 December 2021