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The First Preserved railway in the World
Having faced potential closure in 1950, the 7¼ mile narrow gauge (2' 3”) Talyllyn
Railway was saved by a group of enthusiasts and became the first railway in the world
to be operated by volunteers. But 85 years earlier it boasted two other firsts.
The Talyllyn Railway was primarily built to transport slate from the quarry at Bryn
Eglwys, east of the village of Abergynolwyn, to Tywyn where it would connect with
the national standard gauge (4' 8½”) railway network.
Much of the land needed was acquired by negotiation and work on the line began. However,
some small parcels of land could not be acquired so an Act of Parliament was applied
1865 - The Act was granted in 1865 and the Talyllyn Railway Company was formed with
powers to compulsorily acquire land. The Act also authorised the railway to provide
a passenger service, the first time for a narrow gauge railway.
Compared to some of the Welsh narrow gauge railways, the route was relatively straightforward.
The line threads its way along the south side of the River Farthew valley, for much
of it's length sitting on a shelf on the hillside with a ruling gradient of 1 in
60. The only major engineering work required was the viaduct at Dolgoch.
The statutory railway ran from Tywyn Wharf station to Abergynolwyn, the mineral extension
east to Nant Gwernol at the foot of the quarry inclines was only used for slate.
1866 - The Talyllyn Railway opened with two steam locomotives, four four-wheeled
passenger coaches, a brake van and various wagons. It was the first narrow gauge
railway to be built for steam traction at the outset. The locomotives and stock have
remained in use into preservation.
1911 - The local MP, Mr Henry Haydn Jones bought the quarry and railway and formed
the Abergynolwyn Slate and Slab Co. Ltd. to operate the quarry.
1946 - Following a major collapse, the quarry was closed but Sir Haydn Jones said
that he would run the railway as long as he lived.
1950 Sir Haydn died, there had been no investment in the railway for many years and
the railway and it's locomotives and stock had fallen into a state of disrepair.
The railway closed at the end of the season and it seemed unlikely that it would
Attractions and Facilities
What is there to see and do along the way? Here's a summary:
Tywyn Wharf - King's Licensed Café, Narrow Gauge Railway Museum (free admission)
Railway Shop and toilets.
Pendre – The station is on the eastern side of Tywyn and is the operational centre
of the railway. The locomotive and carriage sheds and engineering workshops are located
Rhydyronen – Village, caravan and camping park, starting point for walks.
Brynglas – Hamlet of Pandy, starting point for walks.
Dolgoch Falls – Picnic tables and toilets at the station, walks around the falls
Abergynolwyn - Quarryman's Caban Tea Room, shop, toilets, adventure playground and
picnic area, starting point for a forest walk to Nant Gwernol.
Nant Gwernol – Eastern terminus of the railway, no road access, starting point for
walks to explore unspoilt woodland and mountain waterfalls and to Abergynolwyn Station.
A daily steam hauled passenger service is provided from April to October and over
the Christmas and New Year holiday. Services are also provided on certain other days,
refer to the Talyllyn Railway website for full details (see link below).
The Talyllyn Railway still has it’s two original locomotives together with four other
steam locomotives acquired and restored or built since the TRPS took over operations.
The current steam locomotive fleet is now as follows:
Fletcher Jennings 0-4-2ST No. 1 'Talyllyn' originally built as an 0-4-0ST in 1864.
Fletcher Jennings 0-4-0T No. 2 'Dolgoch' (back & well tank) built in 1866.
Hughes 0-4-2ST No. 3 'Sir Haydn' originally built for the Corris Railway as an 0-4-0ST
Kerr Stuart 0-4-2ST No. 4 'Edward Thomas' built for the Corris Railway in 1921.
Barclay 0-4-0WT No. 6 'Douglas' built for the Airservice Construction Corps in 1918.
Talyllyn Railway 0-4-2T No. 7 'Tom Rolt' built at the TR's Pendre Works in 1991.
There are also a few diesel locomotives for use on engineering trains.
The original Talyllyn four-wheel carriages have been restored and are used on special
The majority of trains now consist of bogie coaches built by the TR at Pendre Works
in the same style as the four-wheelers.
Since the Talyllyn Railway Preservation Society took over, the railway has been fully
restored and the track, structures, locomotives and stock are all in excellent condition.
1976 - The Nant Gwernol extension and station were opened, passengers can now travel
the full length of the original line.
The map below shows the location of all the stations on the Talyllyn Railway and
Tywyn National rail Station, click on any of the markers to see the station name
and postcode (where known). Use the zoom and pan tools to explore the map.
By train - Tywyn main line station on the Cambrian Coast line between Machynlleth
and Aberystwyth is approximately 300 yards from the Talyllyn Railway's Wharf Station
- leave the station via the car park and turn right.
By bus - Buses are operated by Bws Gwynedd, Relevant bus routes are
See the link below for Bws Gwynedd information on the Gwynedd council website.
By car - The car park at Tywyn is on Ffordd Neifion, off the A493 a short walk from
Wharf station. Car parking is also provided near Dolgoch Falls and Abergynolwyn stations
off the B4405. See the map above for details.
1951 - A group of enthusiasts created the Talyllyn Railway Preservation society,
the first of it's kind in the world. Lady Haydn agreed to hand over the railway to
the preservation society who operated it on membership fees, donations and volunteer
The story of those early days of the Talyllyn Railway is vividly told by Tom Rolt,
the TRPS General Manager in 1951-52, in his engaging and often amusing book, Railway
Adventure. When I read the book, I couldn’t put it down, I highly recommend it.
I visited the Talyllyn Railway in 2008 whilst on holiday in Snowdonia. We arrived
with plenty of time to spare so that we could have lunch in the King's Licensed Café,
look around the Narrow Gauge Railway Museum and browse in the Railway Shop.
We bought our tickets on arrival which turned out to be a good thing as quite a queue
had formed shortly before the train's departure. It's surprising how many people
were using the railway in October!
The 7¼ mile journey to Nant Gwernol takes about 55 minutes with delightful views
over the River Farthew valley towards the peak of Cader Idris and through the woods
past Dolgoch Falls.
Upon arrival at Nant Gwernol the locomotive runs around the train on the loop for
the return journey. The train departs for Abergynolwyn about 10 minutes later, the
locomotive is then uncoupled for watering.
The train waits at Abergynolwyn for half an hour so there's time for a cuppa in the
The Quarryman's Caban Tea Room. The journey from Abergynolwyn back to Tywyn Wharf
takes about 45 minutes, a few minutes quicker in this direction as it's downhill!
We had a very enjoyable day out, it was especially good to see the railway after
reading so much about it in Tom Rolt's book. We will definitely be returning.