Thursday, 1 September 2011

Preserving our History

I've blogged before about the importance of preserving our transport history for future generations. To many, keeping old steam trains and buses may seem a fairly pointless activity, but as in all aspects of history, learning from the past is so important in understanding where we are now.
Last Sunday I attended an event on the Llangollen Steam Railway which was celebrating 100 years of the formation of Crosville Motor Services - the former largest operator in North Wales. "Former", as it formed the backbone of what is now Arriva Buses Wales.
For me, as I suspect many others, it brought memories flooding back of childhood memories consisting of green double deckers by the seaside, in 1970s holidays in Rhyl and Llandudno. There were also more recent examples of Crosville's post-deregulation 80s-style Leyland Olympians in their lighter shade of green as "Coastliner" branded buses - a name that has been brought back this year by Arriva for some of the Llandudno-based routes - history repeating itself!
The highlight was a ride on the free bus service a few miles up from the event at Glyndyfrdwy to Corwen (where the former tiny Crosville garage, capable of probably housing no more than 4 or 5 vehicles, is now a van sales business). Riding on 4227 FM - a 1964 Bristol Lodekka - was fascinating, if only to prove what a comfortable ride it provided! But is that a lesson we can learn? Here is this lumbering giant from the 1960s actually providing a smoother ride than can be experienced on some of today's vehicles?
Coupled with a steam train ride to and from Llangollen as well as a ride on a 1960s preserved DMU, it made you wonder just what the rail industry (and it's passengers) made of the huge transition from steam to diesel. We may gaze fondly at old steam locomotives but a friend told me that many of the drivers and firemen were very pleased at the time to leave the arduous, often dirty surroundings of steam locos for the new age of diesel.
And so it is sad to hear of the impending demise of the Aston Manor Transport Museum in Birmingham. I'm as guilty as everyone else of being an infrequent visitor. It's the age-old thought that when you live so close to a tourist attraction, you hardly ever go, as you think it's always going to be there.
Whatever the politics behind Aston Manor's closure, it is a shame that, inevitably, some of our transport heritage will be lost. Whilst we may be fortunate in having nearby Wythall Museum still there to preserve our memories, the closure of Aston Manor serves to remind us how important and precious our heritage really is.

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