Wednesday 22 August 2012

Tale of a Tal-y-Llyn Truck

Yesterday's holiday visit was to ...
... the Dyfi Osprey Project located just outside Machynlleth and recently featured on BBC's "Springwatch". We arrived at an opportune moment as two of these magnificent birds were on live camera. Mum Norah had already left for Africa leaving chick Ceulan ...
... to be looked after by dad, Monty. Within a few days both birds will be emigrating and the project will close until next year. Meanwhile, Monty was busy trainspotting and waiting for the local from Aberystwyth (track top left). What a magnificent sight it was!
And the osprey was pretty impressive as well.
So back to the truck.

It all begins with Henry!
In 1889 Henry Haydn Jones was elected as a member of Merioneth Council, and a year later he was the chair of the council. He was eventually elected an Alderman. Jones continued to rise in the political world being elected as the Member of Parliament for Merioneth at the January 1910 general election. He continued to serve in this role until the 1945 general election, and received a knighthood in 1937.
In 1909 the Bryn Eglwys slate quarry, the Abergynolwyn estate and village came up for sale. Aware of the distress which would be caused by permanent closure of the quarry, Sir Haydn bought the lot himself in 1911 for £5250, and became the sole owner of what became the Abergynolwyn Slate and Slab Company. By buying Bryn Eglwys, Haydn Jones had become effectively owner of the Talyllyn Railway (1909  timetable extract below) ...
... built to carry slate from the quarry to Tywyn. The line also provided a spartan passenger service. After the quarry's collapse and closure in 1946 (1948?), the railway had little reason to continue operating. Haydn Jones declared that the railway would remain open for locals while he remained alive and it continued to run until he died in 1950, by which time it was running (unreliably) a couple of trains only on certain days of the week.

Having been the first narrow gauge railway in the world to be built specifically for steam traction, this little line became the first railway in to world to be run by a preservation society. It was the enthusiasm of Lionel Thomas Caswell Rolt (1910 to 1974) ...
... that brought this momentous piece of transport history to reality. Thus from 1951 onwards a near moribund and largely pointless little line began to transform itself into a tourist attraction.

Oddly the line has never been anywhere near the settlement of Tal-y-Llyn ...
... which is 3 miles north east of the original terminus station named Abergynolwyn. In fact the newest station at Nant Gwernol is closer to Abrgynolwyn that the former end of the line!
The Nant Gwernol extension was built using the track of a bit of the "tramway" used to carry the slate to the Talyllyn terminus.

But was in the late 1950s that a very youthful and not very fat pre-fbb arrived with his father to travel on the line. This was whilst on the annual family holiday when, surprisingly mother and younger sister did not participate in this exciting adventure. Inspired by an article in the "Meccano Magazine" the lad had begged the old man to take him on the expedition. What had enthralled the little chap was (a) the "preserved" nature of the line and (b) the fact that dad would have to buy the tickets from the guards van (seen here next to the loco in 1935).
It is now 2012 and a much older and chubbier bus bloke is back in North Wales, staying at Abergynolwyn, and wondering whether any pictures of the said van-cum-ticket-office still exist. The problem was that most publications concentrate on the locomotives. fbb searched diligently at the bookshop at the Tywyn Wharf station. He found a drawing for model makers ...
... and a possible picture of the real thing.
Sadly uncertain of the accuracy of his nostalgia ego-trip, fbb adjourned to the cafe for a cuppa with Mrs fbb. As he supped the refreshing beverage his gaze wandered to the train waiting for its departure to Abergynolwyn.

On the back of the train was a brake van, THE brake wan, seen here shaded in the bright sun ...
... but better illustrated by an on-line pic.
This very truck was where fbb's dad bought their tickets at a spartan Abergynolwyn Station nearly 60 years ago. Still going strong after 60+ years in preservation and who knows how many under the ownership of Henry Haydn Jones!
And, in the late 60s and early 70s, British Railways thought the "Paytrain" was a new idea!

 Next Blog : Thursday 23rd August 


  1. Excllent article as always, but don't you mean the first NARROW GAUGE railway in the world to be built for steam traction

  2. Sure thing Anonymous! Sorry for the bludner, now corrected in the above.