The Society was established in November 1970 by, among others, Huw Phillips, John Beardsmore and Harry Rawlins, with some of the original founder members still active in the Society today. About half the members worked in the railways or heavy industry in South Wales, with the others from a wide variety of backgrounds. In the early days there were around 40-50 members and today membership stands at around 70, all united in an enthusiasm for steam railway traction.
The Society was set up at a time of significant change in the railways, with the demise of mainline steam traction and the long term decline of the railways after the Second World War continuing. Early members wanted to remember the days of steam traction and had aspirations (sadly unfulfilled) to acquire and reopen part of the closed line towards Merthyr. Regular meetings with speakers on a variety of railway topics were established from the outset, starting in the old LNWR Barracks and continuing over the years via a number of Abergavenny venues to our current ‘home’ in the Kings Arms.
The Society magazine The Coal Tank first appeared in rudimentary form in 1972 as a newsletter, starting with Huw Phillips and continuing to the present day with its current editor Pete Sutton. The magazine is called The Coal Tank after the last steam engine to be left on Abergavenny shed; the loco was subsequently preserved and visited the Pontypool and Blaenavon Railway in September 2013.
Today the Society provides members with a forum for monthly meetings and the quarterly Society magazine The Coal Tank, both of which are of a high standard and worth trying for yourself.