Large crowds were drawn to Merthyr Tydfil on Sunday 13 Merthyr Tydfil Bus & Coach Wales rally with many visiting classic cars and heritage buses from all over South Wales. At 1pm Welsh book publisher Bryngold Books launched a new reference book “Remembering Rhondda” on the times and tales of the Rhondda bus company (1906 to 1971). On the day visitors to Merthyr Tydfil Leisure Centre were treated to three choices of free heritage bus rides – a half hourly link to the Brecon Mountain Railway, a Merthyr tour and an hourly run to the Rhymney Brewery at Blaenavon, thought to be one of the longest free heritage trips run by preservationist anywhere, at least in Wales. The free trips were popular with the visiting Swansea Group who brought their latest, newly restored double decker a South Wales 1203, a 1959 AEC Bridgemaster to Merthyr Tydfil. They decided to duplicate their runs with South Wales 38, a 1963 AEC Regent V single decker – the only one of its type in existence.
The Cardiff Transport Preservation Group ran for the first time in preservation their recently acquired open top 36 year old Bristol VR in a striking yellow livery. Thepreservationists will eventually restore it back to its original Cardiff Bus colourswhich were orange. Also a favourite were free trips on an old rear platform open top bus, a 1964 former Cardiff Corporation Guy Arab; whilst on the coach trips to Blaenavon, there was an even older 1962 AEC Reliance formerly with the Devon General coaching arm Grey Cars, used to do Exmoor and Dartmoor trips in the 1960’s.
At the show was former Rhondda 495 a red 1966 double deck AEC Regent V, but it had a special task. Welsh book publisher, Bryngold Books, launched a new transport and social history book by the valleys journalist Jonathan Isaacs, on the steps of the bus. The launch speech with the assistance of broadcaster Roy Nobel, relating tales by passengers and staff of the old Rhondda bus company. Prior to the National Coal Board, the bus company was the Rhondda’s largest employer, it had the largest bus depot in Wales and during the last war it was essential in helping Britain win the war. Whilst it was coal that fed the power stations that built the tanks, guns, it also had to fire the steam railways and the ships. People were needed to mine the coal. Petrol was extremely limited and rationed so the only way miners got to work and back home was by the Rhondda bus.
There was plenty to see for the car enthusiast, from American Chevys to the humble Ford Cortina, not forgetting a rather posh Bentley. There were three 1950s Austin A30s, a black, a white and a grey one all looking quite small compared to one of the last cars made by the British Motor Corporation firm with the Austin badge – the 1970’s Austin Princess, also at the show Interestingly there were also three classic police cars, again all from different eras: 1960’s Morris Minor “Panda”, many now associate this car with period TV dramas like “Heartbeat”, a 1980’s Ford Granada which would not have been out of place in re-runs of the TV series “The Sweeny”, and a late 1994 model Granada
Mike Taylor, the organising groups Chairman said “This years’ Bus & Coach Wales has been very successful with several thousand visitors. Considering the forecast was rain but it was dry and the sun was out which made such a difference otherwise we would not have used our double deck open top buses. All our free bus trips ran and many asked if were doing all again next weekend. It was also great to see a lot more children this year. With the pressure of budgets on Merthyr Tydfil council we want to thank them on their assistance, but I particularly want to thank the Leisure Centre, and our sponsors such as Sixty-Sixty Coaches, R.T. Williams, the Brecon Mountain Railway, Rhymney Brewery, and Griffin Mill plus all the volunteers and entrants – bringing classic old and new vehicles along making it worthwhile day out for visitors.