The Talyllyn Railway
The Railway Today
|The Wharf Station|
The 2'3" gauge Talyllyn Railway has its headquarters at the lower terminus of
Wharf Station in Tywyn (or Towyn) on the West coast of North Wales, not to be
confused with the other Towyn on the north coast.
Wharf station is named for the high level siding which (in the railways slate
carrying days) was situated adjacent to the Cambrian railways siding and served
for the transhipment of slate. From Wharf station the line climbs gently to
Tywyn Pendre where the railway workshops and first intermediate halt are
located, on through the woods past Rhydyronen halt and so to Brynglas.
Oddly the steepest part of the railway is behind the train now and yet it is
from here on that the train comes out onto the open valley side and the
passenger begins to get a feeling of the scale of the scenery in which the tiny
train is almost lost.
at Brynglas crossing
The railway continues on past Dolgoch falls by crossing a substantial three
span brick viaduct (the only major structure on the line) to Dolgoch station.
The keen, and even the casual, walker can readily reach a footpath from which
the falls can be viewed by alighting here. The little halt is hidden well away
from the road, on the valley side, amongst the Rhododendron bushes.
The largest station on the line is Abergynolwyn, for most of the railway's life
the upper terminus of the railway as far as passengers were concerned.
Abergynolwyn station is equipped with a cafe and the longest narrow gauge
railway platform in Britain, long enough to hold two trains end to end. This
arrangement is enforced by the width of the ledge on which the station is built.
The line now continues to Nant Gwernol (once this section was fit only for the
slate trains) where the small platform is sited on a narrow ledge high above the
Nant Gwernol Ravine. This is where the little wagons, laden with slate from Bryn
Eglwys, were lowered down the Alltwyllt incline to join the railway proper. The
winding house of this incline still stands above Nant Gwernol and the rails still
plunge pointlessly into the ravine. At Nant Gwernol the engine, the climbing done,
runs around the engine for the leisurely run back down hill to Tywyn.
History and Origins
In 1847 A Slate Quarry was opened at Bryn Eglwys in the Hills above Aberdovey.
The Quarry yielded good quality slate which was carried by packhorse to
Aberdovey for transport to its final destination by sea. It does not take much
imagination to realise that a more economic means of transporting the slate out
of the mountains was badly needed. In 1864 work begun on construction of a
steam hauled narrow gauge railway. The slate wagons had to be lowered down
a series of rope worked inclines to Nant Gwernol where the railway proper began.
The route follows the upper part of the valley of the Dysynni and then crosses a
low ridge into the Fathew valley which it follows to Tywyn. Here the railway met
the Cambrian Railway and the slates were transhipped at the Wharf Station. Using
steam haulage was a brave venture as it was only a few years since the horse
drawn Ffestiniog had taken delivery of the very first narrow gauge locomotive amidst
great scepticism and the Talyllyn was the first narrow gauge railway in the world to
be designed from the start for steam.
Although originally intended as a freight only line by the end of 1866 the
railway had been inspected by the board of trade and accepted as suitable for
the carriage of passengers. The clearances (because structures were
designed for the freight only role) were so tight that the doors and windows on
one side of the carriages had to be permanently barred for safety reasons, a
situation which still holds today. The passenger service only extended from
Tywyn Pendre to Abergynolwyn leaving a short stretch at each end as a mineral
By 1911 the Railway and Quarry had become unprofitable and were closed, only to
be leased by Sir Haydn Jones who kept them open, subsidising them out of his
own pocket, to keep the local population in employment. It is hardly surprising
that very little money was spent on maintenance and Edward Thomas, manager of
the railway for many years, struggled to run a regular passenger service.
When Sir Haydn died in 1950 the line would undoubtedly have been closed except
for the efforts of a group of enthusiasts lead by the engineer turned author
Tom Rolt. They successfully negotiated with Sir Haydn's executors to run the
railway for a trial period of three years and formed both a limited company to
hold the railway company shares and a preservation society. Although not the first
enthusiast run railway and not the first rolling stock to be preserved the Talyllyn was
the first railway in the world to be preserved in-situ by volunteers. These people who
set out to save one railway started the preservation movement as we know it today
and, indirectly, brought so much pleasure to so many.
The society gradually restored the decrepit rolling stock, locos and track
whilst contriving to keep a service going and thus some money coming in. Two
Locomotives were acquired from the closed Corris Railway fortuitously already
numbered 3 and 4 (locos 1 and 2 being the only ones ever to run on the Talyllyn
before preservation) they proved to be unusable until the track was relayed. No
2, Dolgoch, had apparently hammered away at the permanent way over many years
until she was the only loco that could use the track!
|Tom Rolt has just arrived|
at Nant Gwernol
In 1970 the preservation society began work on improving the mineral extension
from Abergynolwyn to Nant Gwernol and after six years work the passenger trains
ran the length of the line from Wharf station to Nant Gwernol for the first time since
the railway opened 110 years before.
One last word on the Talyllyn, the preservation society have, rightly, honoured
those who kept the railway going through the difficult years. Locomotives named
Edward Thomas, Sir Haydn and Tom Rolt now run alongside Talyllyn and Dolgoch
who have now been in service for over 130 years.