by Cliff Thomas

Talyllyn – the loco 150 years young

Published: 30th September 2014

150th anniversary of first volunteer run railway celebrations

The Talyllyn Railway, the first railway in the world to be taken over by volunteers and run as a preserved railway, celebrated the 150th anniversary of the line’s first locomotive on September 24.

Construction of 0-4-2ST No. 1 Talyllyn was completed at Fletcher, Jennings and Co’s Lowca Works, Whitehaven on September 24 1864, hence the birthday celebration. The loco was not actually delivered to the TR until the following April when the railway opened, thus the birthday party was also the occasion to launch TR150, a celebration running throughout 2015 of the 150th anniversary of the railway opening for goods traffic and the Act of Parliament obtained to enable the operation of passenger services.

Birthday girl parties with younger sibling

The September 24 birthday celebrations featured No. 1 Talyllyn working a train of restored TR wagons and the younger (by two years!) Fletcher Jennings 0-4-0WT No. 2 Dolgoch (delivered in summer 1866) handling a passenger train comprising the TR’s original four carriages and brake van.

As the vintage passenger train waited in the platform, No. 1 broke through a celebration banner at Tywyn Wharf station and proceeded to Pendre. Guests for the celebration train then boarded the passenger carriages and travelled to Brynglas to await the arrival of No. 1 and its ‘freight’ set.

At Brynglas the trains were combined, the two venerable locos double-heading the carriages, with wagons on the tail. The train paused for another photo opportunity at Dolgoch where No. 1 took water – not from the usual ‘modern’ water tower but from the original slate-built column utilising the old method of employing a wooden chute to direct the water into the loco’s tank.

The train continued to Abergynolwyn where, following speeches by TRPS President, Richard Hope, and Lord Dafydd Elis-Thomas AM, a 150th birthday cake was cut by Lord Thomas assisted by TRPS chairman, Jane Garvey. The celebratory day continued with the launch of an important new book, ‘Talyllyn & Corris Steam Locomotives’ (Volume 1: Pre-preservation and Manufacturers) by TR driver (and driver of No. 1 on the day) Martin Fuller. A short address by Martin was followed by No. 1 Talyllyn slowly steaming up the platform with a copy of the book on the buffer beam!

Big day rescued thanks to Ffestiniog

The long-planned special day had added significance since just a few months earlier there were fears the star would not be present for its big day. On April 6 the locomotive suffered a major failure as it approached Quarry Siding with a Tywyn-bound service.

The nut holding the right hand piston in place came adrift, dropped into the cylinder and was crushed against the cylinder end cover. This movement restriction caused the motion to lock, shearing the rear crank pin and allowing the rods to fall and snag a sleeper. The connecting rod bent while the coupling rod doubled back on itself until it snapped. With the wheelsets turning separately, the left side motion then jammed. An emergency brake application stopped the train and there was no derailment.

The Talyllyn Railway’s own engineering department was committed to several on going projects but the Ffestiniog Railway stepped forward, offering to undertake the necessary repairs at its Boston Lodge works to ensure Talyllyn would be returned to action for its anniversary. The loco arrived at the Ffestiniog on April 22, delivery of the 2ft 3in gauge loco being achieved by loading Talyllyn on a 1ft 11½in gauge flat wagon on a section of the Welsh Highland Railway in Porthmadog. The ensemble was hauled to Harbour station by Hunslet 2-4-0STT Linda, then across the Cob to Boston Lodge by 0-6-0DH Criccieth Castle.

Big donation for small railway

With the extensive repairs concluded, largely financed by a generous donation by Canadian TRPS member, Bryce Lee, Talyllyn returned home on August 19. With finishing off work completed and trials undertaken, the loco worked a service train on September 18. The crew for this return to service trip, a day-long Victorian train outing, were driver Andrew Young and fireman Jacinta Kal - the same crew as were on its footplate when the motion failure occurred some six months previously.

Railway celebrations in 2015

The Talyllyn Railway will celebrate its 150th anniversary with a series of special gala events during 2015, each weekend having a theme reflecting aspects of the past, present and future of the TR. These comprise:

May 2-4 ‘The Quarryman Experience’ (the early years)

July 3-5 ‘The 150th Party’ (the main celebration marking the July 5 1865 Royal Assent of the Talyllyn Railway Act)

August 7-9 ‘The 1865-2015 Gala’

August 29-31 ‘Heart of Gold Weekend’ (60 years of the Preservation Society TRPS – and featuring trains running through the night)

September 25-27 ‘Heritage Weekend’

To buy the book

‘Talyllyn & Corris Steam Locomotives’ (Volume 1: Pre-preservation and Manufacturers) by Martin Fuller is available from the Talyllyn Railway shop at Wharf Station, price £38.50. It can be ordered by email ( or online ( ) or by calling 01654 711012 – add £4.00 UK p&p.

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