Partners In Steam On The Talyllyn Railway: WOO-HOOOOOO


Take two steam enthusiasts


It has to be the best day out in Wales – a trip on the historic narrow gauge Talyllyn* Railway, setting out from Tywyn on the west coast and meandering up the hills to Nant Gwernol. The line was built in 1864 when the McConnell brothers of Manchester decided to branch out from cotton spinning into slate mining. The railway brought in supplies for the miners, and later carried a few passengers between the various valley communities. But mostly it delivered slate wagons which, from the railhead in Nant Gwernol, were winched on cables up mind-boggling inclines to the the heights of the slate quarry, and thence returned laden with slate for export from the port of Aberdovey.

As a preserved line, Talyllyn is the world pioneer. The Preservation Society was set up in 1951, and ever since has run with the help of passionate volunteers who have supported the small corps of paid staff. One of the early volunteers was the Reverend W V Awdry who wrote the Thomas the Tank Engine books, still much loved by children big and small. But Thomas apart who cannot fail to fall in love with a locomotive that looks like this? It’s an original Victorian  engine too.


For our first trip on the line we had booked to go on the special Victorian Train Experience, a four-hour potter on an original period train which departed Tywyn Wharf at 11.15 am and aimed to return around 3.20 pm in time for a cream tea in the station restaurant. Our guide, David Leech (seen here in his guard’s uniform) informed us that we would spend that time “wombling around” on the line, fitting in between scheduled services which we would have to give way to at various points. He also explained that the train would stop in several scenic locations so we could get out and photograph it. This also included having the train reverse a mile or so back down the track so we could position ourselves on, or above bridges and catch it on the return, steaming at us for all it was worth.

It was all extremely silly, but thus enormous fun. And we didn’t even mind that it kept pouring with rain. We shared our carriage with a retired British Rail signal man and his wife, and a young extant signal man with his mate. For the first leg of the trip David Leech sat with us telling us daft anecdotes – Tales of the Talyllyn Railway. He had once been the railway’s traffic manager as well as being a life-long volunteer.

The entire Talyllyn enterprise is infused with the most enormous goodwill, humour and enthusiasm. It embraced us from the moment of our departure, and went on hugging round us as we rattled up into the hills to Dolgoch Falls and beyond. At Abergynolwyn we stopped for lunch in the Quarryman’s Tea Rooms where we were warmly welcomed by the serving staff who were dressed in Victorian costume while managing to not look naff.

After lunch we had to wait on Abergynolwyn Station while another train came through so the platform was crowded with waiting passengers just like a main-line railway – the difference being the palpable excitement was all for the train ride itself rather than the destination. While we waited, and rain pummelled the platform roof, the Station Master told us jokes.

All this and the beautiful Welsh landscapes.  A steaming good day all round.


Taking on water at Dolgoch Falls





End of the line at Nant Gwernol and the incline ahead; the slate trucks were winched up and down here to and from the Bryn Eglwys quarry. Sometimes the winch cable broke.



Looking down on Abergynolwyn village from the train. It began as a slate miners’ community in the 1860s.



Our driver taking a break while we wait for another train to pass on the line.



Heading back to Tywyn. The Brynglas crossing.



At Brynglas Station, and behind the slate fence, is the Talyllyn Railway’s Memorial Garden. The ashes of supporters may be interred here. Those attending the funeral service get go there by train. What a send off.





* ‘ll’ in Welsh is roughly pronounced ‘cl’

copyright 2016 Tish Farrell


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55 thoughts on “Partners In Steam On The Talyllyn Railway: WOO-HOOOOOO

  1. Ah, those lovely Welsh names just roll off the tongue don’t they?
    Love your photos, they have a beautiful clarity to them. The view of Abergynolwyn with the dark clouds is simply divine as is the rather old-fashioned image of the signal box below.

  2. Good Morning Tish, I can never express enough just how fortunate you are to live in such a beautiful country as England is! So many beautiful things as this is, beautiful countrysides, ancient structures from antiquity, castles and palaces, beautiful gardens, villages, hamlets!

    I love your blog, as it brings the beauty of England and all it has to offer to my part of the world, here in the US. Sure we have things to see, many but for you, in a country I am told which is the size of my state of Virginia, you have so much packed into a small space, here you have to be able to travel far and wide to get to anything.

    Between your photography and that of Bren Ryan (also UK) I have gotten to see so many places of natural beauty! Indeed one day I would love to come to the UK. Yes it would be nice to see London and all it has to offer, however I have always been one to want to visit the places where the “REAL” people live and work, the countryside. I feel as though I have traveled with you in your posts. Thank you Tish!

    1. Mitchell that it is the loveliest comment. I’m so glad to take you along on our trips around the UK. And yes, we are very lucky to have so many wonderful places close to hand.

  3. Oh, land of my childhood holidays! I have an old transparency taken by my father of me and my sister in front of an engine filling up at that same water tank……

  4. simply the best way to travel – down memory lane and across your green Welsh hills. Great character captures in your atmospheric shots Tish. p.s. have a steam trip to Weymouth booked for next week – watch this space!

    1. Thank you, Paula. And you’re right. It was time travel and in all sorts of ways. Four hours seemed to stretch into a whole holiday away. We came back feeling our spirits had been freshly aired and laundered.

      1. Thank you, dear. I am a bit worried about that. My knee hasn’t healed and hubby seems to have rheumatism and feels pain all the time.

  5. Oh this does I like fun and some great characters as well. We went on a holiday in Wales is 1987 and i thought at first it was a train ride we went on, but it was Blaenau Ffestiniog, also very lovely.

  6. This is a truly marvelous post, Miss T and the photos are a real treat. When we eventually come visit this will be on our list of Things To Do, and you and Mr. G will be obliged to play guide!

    Since England (the team) were booted out of Euro one of my dear friends who comes from Holywell has promised to vouchsafe me as an honorary Welshman!

  7. Pugh, Pugh, Barney Magroo, Cuthbert, Dibble… why does this make me think of Trumpton? There’s a disconnect somewhere, Tish. Some random synapse 🙂 🙂 3 cheers for Wales, from a footballing household. Happy weekend!

    1. This made me smile a lot, Jo. There is a Trumpton element here, but so much the better, don’t you think, in the face of less smileworthy events. Happy weekend to you too.

  8. I adore train travel and this journey of yours down memory lane in a cute little “Thomas Train” with evocative photos of the cast and scenery had me virtually sitting in the carriage with you.i hope no one was ever at the bottom when that winch gave way. 😱

  9. Gorgeous potos, Tish. You have captured this special atmosphere very well.
    Like I wrote on your last post from today; cheers to the volunteers keeping up this tradition and spreading so much joy.:-) One of the biggest attractions in North Norfolk is the The North Norfolk Railway, also known as the Poppy Line. We love to watch the various steam engines when we go for walks. The train stations look like out of a history book its old interior. There’re so many dedicated helpers and volunteers, I’d say 95% men, we very seldom see women.
    Have a happy Sunday, Tish,
    with love from Norfolk,
    Dina & co

  10. Absolutely charming landscapes, Tish! What a lovely place to live surrounded by all this beauty. Your posts are not only a delight with images but very informative. 🙂

  11. What a marvelous day out. Adventure, beauty and a good back story! I adore steam trains! The restoration of the ones pictures here is meticulous! Thank goodness for the volunteers who keep them going.

  12. Wow! what a fantastic day out. I’d love to do this. Your post has inspired me and I’ll try to schedule this trip in soon. the engine looks fatastically well cared for so all credit to the volunteers and staff at the railway.

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