The Talyllyn Railway and its Royal connections

Spectacular scenery from the mountains to the coast and an abundance of things to see and do. Travel editor, David Powell visits The Talyllyn Railway in Snowdonia.

Covering approximately 840 square miles, the Snowdonia National Park in North Wales is truly an area of outstanding natural beauty. There are unsurpassed views, mountain ranges, with Snowdon peaking at 1085m, mountain railways, historic castles, beautiful coastal towns and villages, wonderfully restored ‘Little Trains of Wales’, woodland parks and the slate heritage of days gone by. For the more adventurous there are pursuits such as rock climbing, hiking and mountain biking. There’s great locally sourced food and a wide variety of accommodation choice.

On my recent visit to Snowdonia I was able to experience some of the excellent attractions this region has to offer, including a day at the Talyllyn Railway.

Talyllyn Railway

Talyllyn RailwayI travelled from my base at the Portmeirion Village and Hotel down the coast to Tywyn. It was here I found the historic, steam operated railway and met the friendly volunteer staff.

A ride from Tywyn Wharf station into the Snowdonia countryside was a fantastic day out, and highly recommended! The railway was originally built by the Victorians to carry passengers and slate from the slate quarry, and opened in 1865. However, like many narrow gauge railways after the demise of the slate industry, the Talyllyn Railway fell into serious disrepair in the 1940’s. Luckily a group of enthusiasts got together in 1950 and the Talyllyn Railway became the first railway in the world to be preserved, a fact that the Talyllyn team are very proud of.

Tadpole cutting!

Imagine this – wonderful steam locomotives pulling beautifully restored carriages that take you on a leisurely steam journey through unspoilt Snowdonia with the chance to stop for a lovely walk and picnic.

Talyllyn RailwayFrom Wharf Station I caught the 11am train, right on time. Sitting in an expertly restored first class Pullman Coach I now definitely felt as if I had travelled back in time! My journey took me through spectacular scenery and places with wonderful sounding names like Tadpole Cutting, Six Bends, Broadwater and Dolgoch Falls, where the mountain peak of Cader Idris can be briefly viewed. Not as high as Snowdon, but a wonderful sight nevertheless. The Dolgoch Falls are in fact three sets of waterfalls and it’s here the train takes on mountain water for its onward journey into the beautiful Nant Gwernol Valley.

Since the 1950’s its many volunteers who come from all walks of life have put a remarkable amount of hard work into the railway. No special skills are required, just interest and enthusiasm, as full training is given for the tasks that members choose. The dedication of the volunteers and the raising of necessary funds over the years have resulted in a wonderful preserved railway experience.

Extensive renovations completed

In 2005 extensive building work was finally completed. Buildings had been renovated, new platforms and a refreshment room constructed. A narrow gauge museum was also built at the end of the platform and this now houses some amazing exhibits and modern interpretive displays telling the story of Talyllyn and many other railways. The museum has a special section dedicated to Thomas The Tank Engine, whose creator Rev. W. Awdry was one of the pioneer Talyllyn volunteers. The new buildings were officially opened by HRH the Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall in July 2005.

In total the railway has an astounding 23 carriages, 6 steam locomotives and 4 diesels and operate a daily service. All the passenger trains are steam hauled and every aspect of this fascinating railway, together with timetables, can be seen on their website

Riding the footplate!

Talyllyn RailwayDuring my journey I was privileged to ride part of the way on the locomotive footplate – a sensational experience! I was also able to view one of the secure signal boxes where all train movements on the single-track line are safely monitored. The Talyllyn Railway offers members of the public the opportunity to drive one of its historic steam locomotives, which would make a great gift for a special occasion. Contact one of the Talyllyn team for more information on this.

When visiting Snowdonia I would urge you to experience the sights, sounds and all the dedication and professionalism this preserved railway has to offer. Perhaps you could keep a lookout for the Corris Railway Coach, which Diana, Princess of Wales travelled in during a visit to the railway in 1982.

For further information on the attractions of Snowdonia you can have a look at the following websites:

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David Powell

Travel editor

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