Since the earliest days of photography modes of transport have been a topic to inspire photographers.
Some of the earliest photographs taken in Wales were of sailing ships at Swansea docks by Calvert Richard Jones. Like most early photographers who turned their attention to shipping, his photographs were taken at low tide when the vessels were firmly settled into the harbour mud. Exposure times were too long to contemplate a vessel bobbing around on the water.
Other noteworthy items in the collection include albums dedicated to docks at Port Talbot and Swansea, and views of sailing ships along the Meirionydd coast.
Of a slightly different nature are the 20 prints to be found in photo album 5. This album was from the library of railway enthusiast Sir Henry Owen Philipps Scourfield, Bart., of Williamston, Pembrokeshire. The album dates from the 1870’s. Each photograph captures a different steam engine and tender, owned by one of many Victorian railway companies.
Wales’ rich heritage of narrow gauge railways has also received its fair share of attention, notably Brian Renders’ work on the Ffestiniog Railway. Arthur Lewis, the Aberystwyth photographer, took many fine photographs of the Vale of Rheidol railway.
The swift evolution of the motor car in the 20th century is also well documented throughout the collection. Charabanc trips and early cars were frequently photographed by amateur and professional photographers alike. Many are of makes and models long since forgotten.
The ancestral home of Charles Rolls, one half of Rolls-Royce is at Hendre, Monmouthshire. The house and family is the subject of a number of photo albums in the National Collection of Welsh Photographs.
Throughout the 1950s and 1960s Geoff Charles acted as motoring correspondent for Y Cymro, testing and photographing numerous cars. It was his interest in motoring that led him to attend the Le Mans 24-hour race in 1955. While Geoff was outside getting refreshments Pierre Leveque’s Mercedes was involved in a collision and exploded. In all 77 people were killed. The resulting photographs are some of his most harrowing.
Air Transport has been less of a feature of Welsh life but is still reflected in the collection. Hot air balloons were sometimes to be seen in the early years of the last century, though it was not until the 1910s that aeroplanes made occasional forays over Wales. One notable incident was the unscheduled arrival of the Vultee V-1 ‘Lady Peace’ near Llandeilo in 1936. This created an international sensation as the plane had just set a new record – 18h 36 minutes for a transatlantic flight.