The Talyllyn Railway runs seven and a quarter miles along the beautiful Fathew Valley from the seaside town of Tywyn (on the Cardigan Bay coast) to Nant Gwernol. There are some lovely walks en-route, including woodland walks at Dolgoch and Nant Gwernol and should you fancy a longer stroll, you can walk to the ruins of Castell-y-Bere and Bird-Rock “Craig yr Aderyn” from Abergynolwyn.
The railway is a 2 feet 3 inches (686 mm) gauge, built to carry slate from the Bryn Eglwys quarries near Nant Gwernol to Tywyn. The line was opened in 1865 and closed in 1946 due to a major rockfall in the quarry. It was the first narrow-gauge railway in Britain authorised by Act of Parliament to carry passengers using steam engines.
The Talyllyn Railway Preservation Society was formed in the 1951 and has gone from strength to strength. Talyllyn was the world’s first railway to be preserved as a heritage railway by volunteers and was the inspiration of the Ealing Comedy film “The Titfield Thunderbolt”. Work started to extend the route along the old mineral line from Abergynolwyn to Nant Gwernol in 1968 with regular passenger trains running in 1976.
Every August you can also “Race The Train” from Tywyn to Abergynolwyn and back. The aim is to run the fourteen and a half mile cross-country course before the train does (the train takes around one hour forty-five minutes). You can read more about the race at racethetrain.com.
The line featured in the short film “Railway with a Heart of Gold” by American producer Carson Davidson in 1953 and one of The Rev. W. Awdry’s “Railway Series” of books, “Skarloey Railway” was based on the Talyllyn Railway.
A Sign at Nant Gwernol Station, Reads.
“When the railway was built, all of the buildings were of brick or timber construction because even though the slate quarries were already in operation, no slate came by this route until the line opened. Although Nant Gwernol has always been the limit of locomotive haulage, passenger services only ran as far as Abergynolwyn and there was no station here until 1976.
Slate wagons and supplies for the quarries were brought here and waited in one of three sidings to he hauled up to the quarry tramway, with wagon loads of slate going the other way.
With the closure of the quarries in 1947 the line from here to Abergynolwyn lay derelict until upgraded for passenger trains in the early 1970s. The station here is a slightly scaled-down copy of the 1866 wooden buildings at Tywyn Pendre and Abergynolwyn and was built for the opening of the extension in 1976.
It is possible to imagine the amount of work done, mainly by volunteers, to widen the trackbed sufficiently to take passenger vehicles. Look at the curve off the far end of the platform and you will see a short length of track parallel to main line. This is about where the original line ran; very close to the edge of a 150 drop and just wide enough for the engine to scrape by with its train or small wagons”.
Map showing all The Great Little Trains of Wales