If the North East is known as the ‘cradle of the railways’, then the Welsh seaside town of Tywyn is the ‘cradle of railway preservation’. Tom Rolt discovered that the 2ft 3in gauge Talyllyn Railway was not dead (it was not included on the list of railways to be nationalised) but had simply been forgotten. The 7¼-mile line opened in 1865 to transport slate from the quarries at Bryn Eglwys down to the Aberystwyth & Welsh Coast Railway (later Cambrian Railways) main line. The quarries had been abandoned for three years when Rolt paid a visit, but the railway was still running… just!
The death of its owner prompted Rolt to rally some like-minded souls, who took the railway on themselves from the spring of 1951. This inspired other bands of enthusiasts to take on railways, such as the moribund Festiniog Railway (as it was spelt at the time). The Talyllyn Railway has gone from strength to strength in the subsequent 66 years. It has become one of Wales’ premier narrow gauge railways, conveying tourists to the foot of the old quarry incline at Nant Gwernol, while Tywyn has become the home of the Narrow Gauge Railway Museum, with its unique collection of artefacts.
Tywyn Wharf is bustling on September 24 1966: ex-corris Railway Kerr Stuart 0-4-2ST No. 4 Edward Thomas waits to run round its train, while EX-RAF Calshot Andrew Barclay No. 6 Douglas is topped up with water. Above: With the Pwllhelimachynlleth main...