Published: 27th January 2015
The Talyllyn Railway celebrates its 150th anniversary in 2015. To kick this momentous year off with a bang still reverberating around the preservation world the TR – in conditions of utmost secrecy – repainted its venerable Fletcher, Jennings pair 0-4-2ST No. 1 Talyllyn and 0-4-0WT No. 2 Dolgoch in their ex-works liveries to produce a sight nobody alive today has previously witnessed.
The secret was unveiled on Christmas Day to Talyllyn Railway Preservation Society members via the line’s website and social media feeds. This was immediately followed by a posting on the website of The Railway Magazine and an exclusive print media story in the January issue of The RM, Britain’s top selling railway journal.
No. 1 Talyllyn was completed at Fletcher, Jennings and Co’s Lowca Works in Whitehaven on September 24 1864, being delivered to the new railway the following year. The TR marked this event on September 24, taking the opportunity to also formally launch its 2015 TR150 programme - see http://www.rail.co.uk/rail-news/2014/talyllyn-the-loco-150-years-young/ - which celebrates not only the railway opening for goods traffic but securing an Act of Parliament which enabled it to operate passenger services. For that event, No. 1 Talyllyn and 1866-built 0-4-0WT No. 2 Dolgoch appeared in black and deep red liveries respectively. Recognised as attractive in their own rights, it was similarly realised it is unlikely either represented authentic colour schemes.
The third aspect of the September 24 event was the launch of the new book ‘Talyllyn & Corris Steam Locomotives’ (Volume 1: Pre-preservation and Manufacturers) by volunteer Talyllyn loco driver Martin Fuller. Within its pages are the words, “Perhaps one day the preservationists will elect to repaint Talyllyn or Dolgoch in a Fletcher, Jennings ex-works livery. There would doubtless be much debate about the colour!” That day came sooner than Martin could surely have anticipated!
While No. 2 Dolgoch remained at the railway, No. 1 Talyllyn appeared at the November 22-23 Warley Model Railway Exhibition at Birmingham’s NEC to be displayed with original TR van No. 5. Few were in on the secret that this would be the final time the 0-4-2ST would appear in black.
Research suggests the standard Fletcher, Jennings livery for new locomotives was a red/brown colour, often described as Indian Red and probably very similar to the livery carried by Furness Railway locomotives. Martin Fuller explains in his book that c.150 years ago paint would have been mixed locally around Whitehaven, where hermatite workings would have easily provided the required red oxide pigment.
When No. 1 returned to Tywyn the two locos went into the paint shops at Pendre where Ian Hewitt and his Heritage Painting team comprising Mike O’Connor, Teriann O’Connor and Leighton King set to work on transforming the locomotives during what turned out to be 300 person hours of work. “They received seven coats of paint in eight days. This took them from primer, through undercoats and gloss to varnish,” explained Ian Hewitt. “The lining is predominantly freehand and all freehand sign writing on both engines was carried out by my signwriter, Mike O’Connor.”
“The idea arose of repainting the locomotives in their original livery for the 150th celebrations and after checking with Martin Fuller and others we have restored them as close to their original appearance as we believe possible,” commented Chris Price, the Talyllyn Railway’s General Manager. “We would like to thank Ian and the team for the hard work they have put in to get this job into the tight schedule dictated by engineering requirements”, confirmed Chris Price. “The finish is stunning, and a real credit to their professionalism.”
“It has been a pleasure supporting the Talyllyn Railway and I hope we can continue to work together in the future,” Ian Hewitt commented.
No. 1 Talyllyn is scheduled for photo charter operations during March and the locos may possibly appear on early season service trains. The first definite operation of Talyllyn and Dolgoch in their new colours will be during the TR’s May 2-4 ‘The Quarryman Experience’ event, a gala celebration of the early years of the TR and its links with the quarrying industry. Special features include morning and evening Photo Specials incorporating demonstration slate, original passenger and mixed trains. There will be demonstrations in Abergynolwyn, possibly including relaying some of the old tracks in the village, and the launch of a new book ‘The Talyllyn Railwaymen’ by Sara Eade. The event has a Victorian theme and anyone visiting in Victorian costume will ride for free over the weekend!
Celebratory events continue through this year, each focussing on a specific theme to mark the past, present and future of the TR. After the May event, ‘The 150th Party’ over July 3-5 will be the major celebration to mark the July 5 1865 Royal Assent of the Talyllyn Railway Act. Subsequent events comprise August 7-9 ‘The 1865-2015 Gala’, August 29-31 ‘Heart of Gold Weekend’ (marking 60 years of the Talyllyn Railway Preservation Society – with trains running through the night) and a September 25-27 ‘Heritage Weekend’.
A 150th birthday deserves a party by any standards, but the TR is very special.
On being taken over by the TRPS in 1951 the Talyllyn Railway became the first railway in the world to be operated by volunteers, showing a way forward for every subsequent preserved railway project, narrow then standard gauge. Quite simply, it is the preservation pioneer.
The TR was the first narrow gauge railway to be promoted as a public carrier of passengers and goods and the first narrow gauge line to be designed from the outset for steam-worked public passenger services.
The railway’s 150 year history is also marked by it being a story of continuous operation – only a literal handful of heritage railways can claim such a distinction (and two others are narrow gauge, albeit neither as old as the TR!) since in most cases there was a closure period between the original operators ceasing to run a line and a preservation project undertaking a revival.
The Talyllyn’s ex-Corris Railway Hughes 0-4-2ST No. 3 Sir Haydn will return to Tywyn in February after nearly two years away on promotional duties. Following a tour of standard gauge heritage railway galas the out of ticket loco went on display in the Severn Valley Railway’s 'Engine House' at Highley from late 2013. After leaving Highley Sir Haydn will make a public appearance at the February 17-22 Caravan Show at Birmingham’s NEC, helping to promote the mid-Wales coast area of south Snowdonia, known as ‘Cadair Country’ after Cadair Idris peak at the heart of the region. Sir Haydn is set to be overhauled at the TR.
‘Talyllyn & Corris Steam Locomotives’ (Volume 1: Pre-preservation and Manufacturers) by Martin Fuller is a magnificently researched volume which could be summarised as presenting all you could wish to know about the Talyllyn Railway’s steam locomotive fleet – with more than a few bonuses.
The TR had just two steam locomotives throughout its pre-preservation lifetime. Both were built by Fletcher, Jennings at the Lowca Works in Whitehaven, but to very different designs. The first additions to the TR fleet following preservation were two locomotives from the nearby, but by then closed, Corris Railway (also differing designs, but for very different reasons) hence the Corris Railway and its locomotives (three Hughes engines from The Falcon Works and a Kerr, Stuart) are duly detailed. The same treatment covers subsequent additions to the TR fleet, an Andrew Barclay (from RAF Calshot), another (different) Andrew Barclay acquired from Ireland’s Bord na Mona to be reconstructed into an effectively new loco by the TR at Pendre. In every case the book provides background material on the lines from whence the locomotives originated and their manufacturer. A second volume is planned to pick up the story of the TR locos post-preservation.
The book, a 268 page hardback (ISBN 978-0-9565652-5-9)
is available from the Talyllyn Railway shop at Wharf Station, price £38.50. It can be ordered by email (firstname.lastname@example.org) or online ( www.talyllyn.co.uk ) or by calling 01654 711012 – add £4.00 UK p&p.