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Visitors can take in the sights and sounds of more than 300 years of Welsh industry at the National Waterfront Museum.

Located on the quayside of Swansea Marina--originally the South Dock of 18 59 --the National Waterfront Museum stands in the heart of one of Wales's foremost industrial towns. Copper sheets made in Swansea once sheathed the hulls of the Royal Navy--to this day the term copper-bottomed implies quality and reliability.

The museum is an impressive-looking place, being housed in spectacular fashion in a listed waterfront warehouse linked to a new, ultra-modern slate and glass building. In total, there are 15 themed galleries, each telling the story of a different aspect of a crucial period in history using a mix of touchscreen technology and real objects, enabling visitors to be in charge of tracing their own experience of the fascinating--and still evolving--story of industrial Wales.

The galleries cover a broad range of topics such as energy, the sea, metals and coal. In each case, the information boards provide historical context, while plenty of exhibits, such as the M A James, a beautiful model of a slate schooner from Portmadog built in 1900, add meat to the bones.

One of the most prominent displays is a replica of the Penydarren locomotive. It is a copy of the pioneering tram-road locomotive built in 1803-04 by the Cornishman Richard Trevithick for the Penydarren ironworks at Merthyr Tydfil. On 21 February 1804, this locomotive ran on the nine-mile tramway from Penydarren to Abercynon, hauling a load of 10 tonnes of iron and about 70 people who hitched an unofficial ride. This was the first successful journey made by a steam locomotive on rails and initiated a worldwide revolution in transport.

The replica has been abroad twice to celebrate the 150th anniversaries of the Dutch and German state railway systems.

Then there is the Robin Goch, a 1907 monoplane built by Cardiff engineer Charles Horace Watkins, one of the very few survivors of pre-1914 aircraft built by practical amateurs. It joined the collections at the National Museum of Wales in 1995 from RAF St Athan and was one of the first objects to be installed in the museum.

Outside in the courtyard garden, meanwhile, is Britain's only surviving canal boat weighing machine, made in Pontypridd in 1834 and capable of weighing boats up to 40 tonnes to enable tolls to be calculated.

In addition to displays, the museum houses an extensive research library comprising more than 25,000 volumes and a photographic archive of 40,000 images relating to the industrial, maritime and transport history of Wales. The library also holds technical and instructional works and includes a complete set of Lloyd's Registers from 1836 to the present day (plus selected volumes from 1764 to 1832), and a series of volumes listing the shipwrecks that have occurred around the coast of the British Isles. The library also holds good runs of published lists of working mines and quarries from the 1850s to the present day.

Some serious money has been spent on the National Waterfront Museum in recent years. It's a bright, spacious facility which provides a full day's entertainment. Families are particularly well catered for, with a cafe and a play area.

For more details, see the website:



1 Cultural connections:

Discover the many artists, poets and writers who have drawn inspiration from the industrial communities in Wales.

2 Well armed on the job:

Find out why women working in the Welsh tinplate industry used swords to go about their working day.

3 Small screen:

Watch three mini films about how working life has changed in Wales over the past century. Informative and entertaining.

4 Work of art:

A lovely glass model of a sea anemone in the landscape gallery, produced by Leopold Blaschka and his son, illustrating marine life in Swansea Bay.

5 Monument in metal:

Learn about the massive tinplate rolling mill which operated from 1911 to 1957 at Melingriffith Tinplate Works, Cardiff.
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Title Annotation:Worth a detour: PE finds places to go and things to do
Author:Hibbert, Lee
Publication:Professional Engineering Magazine
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:Jun 1, 2015
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