The Talyllyn Railway is a narrow-gauge preserved railway in Wales that runs for nearly twelve kilometres from the town of Tywyn on the Mid-Wales coast to Nant Gwernol near the village of Abergynolwyn. The line was opened in 1866 to carry slate from the quarries at Bryn Eglwys to Tywyn, and was the first narrow gauge railway in Britain authorised by Act of Parliament to carry passengers using steam haulage. The line remained open even after the quarry had closed for business, and on 14th May 1951 it became the first railway in the world to be preserved as a heritage railway by volunteers.
I have mentioned before that when I was younger and before cheap air flights holidays alternated between Norfolk on the east coast, Cornwall and Devon in the south west and occasionally Wales. I seem to remember that we weren’t that keen on Wales because it always seemed to rain but in 1971 dad came across the Plas Panteidal Holiday Village near Aberdyfi (it was called Aberdovey then and Tywyn was Towyn) and we travelled there some time during the summer for our annual holiday.
We found it about four kilometres east of Aberdyfi but to get to the reception and then to the wooden chalets involved a steep climb up a single track roadway and was a process designed to take years off of the life of the clutch especially on arrival with the car loaded with unnatural amounts of people and luggage. It has all been upgraded and modernised now but in 1971 the timber cabins could only at best be described as rudimentary with a basic lounge area and two poorly furnished bedrooms at either end.
But what the cabins lacked in facilities was more than compensated for by the magnificent setting in a wooded hillside and exceptional views over the Dyfi estuary on one side and the Cader Idris mountain range and Snowdonia on the other.
A short drive up the coast was Tywyn and the terminus of the railway and on a day out away from Plas Panteidal I remember taking the round trip to Abergynolwyn and stopping off half way up to visit the Dolgoch Falls.
The Talyllyn Railway is represented in the ‘Thomas the Tank Engine’ books as the Skarloey Railway; most of the fictional locomotives are based on real-life equivalents. The author, Rev. W. Awdry, visited the line on a family holiday in the early days of preservation and became involved as a volunteer soon afterwards.
The preservation of the Talyllyn Railway was also the inspiration for the 1953 film The Titfield Thunderbolt, an Ealing Studios comedy about a group of villagers attempting to run a service on a disused branch line after closure. The script writer for the film had heard about the preservation of the railway and spent a day there in 1951 and some of the early incidents in preservation were incorporated into the film.
I returned to the Plas Panteidel Holiday Village in 1976 and again in 1979 and on both occasions took a trip on the Talyllyn railway. Most recently in 2011 I took a short break in South Wales (my first UK holiday since 1986) and although I didn’t go to the Plas Panteidel Holiday Village I was close enough to take a trip to Tywyn and take a ride on the railway.