Talyllyn Railway

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Talyllyn Railway
Rheilffordd Talyllyn
Locomotive No. 4 Edward Thomas stands at Tywyn Wharf station
Locomotive No. 4 Edward Thomas stands at Tywyn Wharf station – April 2005
Locale Wales
Terminus Tywyn Wharf
Coordinates 52°35′01″N 4°05′20″W / 52.5836472°N 4.0887833°W / 52.5836472; -4.0887833Coordinates: 52°35′01″N 4°05′20″W / 52.5836472°N 4.0887833°W / 52.5836472; -4.0887833
Talyllyn Location map.svg
Commercial operations
Name Talyllyn Railway
Original gauge 2 ft 3 in (686 mm)
Preserved operations
Operated by Talyllyn Railway Company, supported by Talyllyn Railway Preservation Society
Stations 7 and 5 halts
Length 7.25 miles (11.67 km)
Preserved gauge 2 ft 3 in (686 mm)
Commercial history
1866 Opened
1911 Sold to Henry Haydn Jones
1946 Quarry closed
Preservation history
1951 Taken over by the Preservation Society
1976 Opening of extension to Nant Gwernol
2001 Railway celebrates 50 years of preservation
2005 New station building and museum opened at Tywyn

The Talyllyn Railway (Welsh: Rheilffordd Talyllyn) is a narrow-gauge preserved railway in Wales. It runs for 7.25 miles (11.67 km)[1] from Tywyn[a] on the Mid-Wales coast to Nant Gwernol near the village of Abergynolwyn. The line was opened in 1866 to carry slate from the quarries at Bryn Eglwys to Tywyn. It was the first narrow gauge railway in Britain authorised by Act of Parliament to carry passengers using steam haulage.[2][3] Despite severe under-investment,[4] the line remained open, and in 1951 it became the first railway in the world to be preserved as a heritage railway by volunteers.[5][6]

Since preservation, the railway has operated as a tourist attraction. It has increased the amount of rolling stock it has. It has done this by buying and building new locomotives and carriages. In 1976, an extension was opened along the former mineral line from Abergynolwyn to the new station at Nant Gwernol. In 2001, the preservation society celebrated its 50th anniversary. In 2005 a major rebuilding and extension of Tywyn Wharf station took place. This included a much-expanded facility for the Narrow Gauge Railway Museum.

The fictional Skarloey Railway was based on the Talyllyn Railway. This fictional railway formed part of the Railway Series of children's books by The Rev. W. Awdry. The preservation of the line inspired the Ealing Comedy film The Titfield Thunderbolt.

Name and gauge[change | edit source]

The origin of the railway's name is uncertain. It could refer to the parish of Talyllyn, which contains its eastern terminus.[7] Or it could come from Tal-y-llyn.[b] Tal-y-llyn is a large glacial ribbon lake at the foot of Cadair Idris 3 miles (4.8 km) further east.[8] The 2-foot-3-inch (686 mm) gauge of the track is unusual. It was shared by only three other public railways in the United Kingdom: the nearby Corris Railway (which predated the Talyllyn), and the subsequent Plynlimon and Hafan Tramway and Campbeltown and Machrihanish Light Railway.

History[change | edit source]

Origins and construction: up to 1866[change | edit source]

Slate quarrying began in the hills above Tywyn in the 1830s. Although many small quarries and test levels were established, only one major quarry was developed in the region. It was at Bryn Eglwys, 7 miles (11 km) north east of the town. Underground working began in the early 1840s.[9] By 1847 the quarry was being worked by local landowner John Pughe. The finished slates were sent by packhorse to the wharf at Pennal. They were then transferred to boats for a river trip to Aberdyfi (also known as Aberdovey). Finally they were loaded into seagoing vessels. This was a complex and expensive transportation arrangement which limited the quarry's output.[10] In 1861 the outbreak of the American Civil War cut off supplies of cotton to the mills of the north west of England. As a result a number of prosperous mill owners looked for new business opportunities to diversify their interests. One such owner was William McConnel of Lancashire. In 1859 he purchased a house near Dolgellau, north of Tywyn. In January 1864, McConnel formed the Aberdovey Slate Company. The company leased the land including Bryn Eglwys from the landowner, Lewis Morris of Machynlleth.[11]

The remains of Bryn Eglwys quarry in 2008

McConnel set about improving Bryn Eglwys to increase its output. In 1865 his company earmarked money for the construction of a narrow gauge railway connecting the quarry with the port of Aberdyfi. The standard gauge Aberystwyth and Welsh Coast Railway was expanding rapidly from its base at Machynlleth however. In 1863 this railway had reached Tywyn, so McConnel decided to build his line from the quarry to Tywyn. This was the nearest point where slate could be transferred to the standard gauge railway. This was despite the line's initial isolation from the rest of the system because of difficulties in bridging the estuary of the Afon Dyfi to the south.[12] An Act of Parliament (28 and 29 Vict, cap cccxv) allowing the company to operate passenger trains as a public railway was given Royal Assent on 5 July 186.,[13][14] The company appointed James Swinton Spooner as engineer for the construction. He laid out plans for a relatively straight line climbing steadily from Tywyn to the quarry and work quickly got underway. By September 1866 construction had advanced to the point where the Board of Trade inspector Captain Henry Tyler could make an initial inspection and report.[15]

Tyler's report led to an unusual alteration. It was discovered that the loading gauge of the line was too small. The internal width of the overbridges was only 9 ft 1 in (277 cm), but the railway's passenger carriages were 5 ft 3.5 in (161.3 cm) wide. This left less than 2 ft (61 cm) clearance on either side, which was less than the minimum required clearance of 2 ft 6 in (76 cm). To alleviate this problem, McConnel proposed that the doors on one side of each carriage be permanently barred and the track slewed off-centre beneath the bridges. This would allow adequate clearance at least on the side with doors and mean that passengers could get out of the carriages if the train stopped underneath a bridge. Tyler agreed to this arrangement, and to this day all carriages on the Talyllyn have doors on one side only, an unusual feature for a public railway. This feature is however shared with the neighbouring Corris Railway, though for different reasons.[16] Tyler also required that improvements be made to the railway's first two steam locomotives, as locomotive No. 1 suffered from excessive "vertical motion" and No. 2 was said to suffer from "horizontal oscillation". No. 1 was returned to its manufacturer where a set of trailing wheels was added to reduce the rear overhang. The springs on No. 2 were adjusted and the crank pins shortened to reduce its oscillation.[17]

Other pages[change | edit source]

Notes[change | edit source]

^ a: The spelling of local place names has changed during the history of the railway; for example Tywyn was generally spelled as "Towyn" until 1975.[18] Modern place name spellings are used throughout this article.
^ b: According to the Ordnance Survey, the name of the lake is hyphenated. In the early days of the preservation society, it was decided that the name of the railway would be unhyphenated.[19] This convention has been applied to the railway ever since, and is used throughout this article.

References[change | edit source]

  1. Boyd 1965, page 85
  2. Mitchell and Eyres, 2005 page 7
  3. Boyd 1988, page 44
  4. Rolt 1965, page 50
  5. Thomas 2002, page 32
  6. Ransom 1996, page 139
  7. Johnson 1999, page 27
  8. Boyd 1965, page 61–62
  9. Richards 1999, page 195
  10. Boyd 1965, pages 62–63
  11. Boyd 1988, page 9
  12. Boyd 1965, page 64
  13. Boyd 1988, page 45
  14. Potter, page 11
  15. Boyd 1965, page 65
  16. Boyd 1965, pages 68–69
  17. Boyd 1965, page 70
  18. Bate 2001, page 186
  19. "No Names, No Hyphens, No Packdrill". Talyllyn News (Talyllyn Railway) 2: 1. November 1953.

Other websites[change | edit source]