A Week Around The Talyllyn Railway and DRIVING EXPERIENCE!!!!

A Week on and Around The Talyllyn Railway

Arrived at Abergynolwyn Station in time to photograph Edward Thomas waiting at the station and Dolgoch (resplendent in his new/old livery) arrive. It was heartening to discover that I was still able to dash down the platform (the longest narrow gauge platform in Europe) and photograph the train in the station and subsequently leaving for Nant Gwernol.

Dolgoch Loco` 045 (2199)

The arrival of The Loud One and long-suffering husband was well-timed for the arrival of Talyllyn (THE loco number ONE). The race down the platform this time, keeping pace with the train was something that perhaps should not be repeated for one so old and decrepit....

However, the photo`s were worth it.

The cottage at Cynfal Cottages is excellent; swallows and pied wagtails providing good photo` opportunities against the BLUE sky!


Unsurprisingly it rained today...

However, the lighting proved generally quite kind to the locomotives at our halt, Dolgoch, Abergynolwyn and Nant Gwernol although the very heavy rain at the latter station was a bit of a challenge!

No 2 at Nant Gwernol Station 045 (2696)
The falls were certainly full of water (!) although light levels were very low. A grey wagtail showed well near the lower fall although as I had left my telephoto lens in the dry back at the cottage I had to `make-do` with the short lens instead. A further visit in better light and with the usual birding lens will be a good idea later this week.

Lower Fall - Dolgoch falls 045 (2469)


Carrie came to visit but as the weather was very cloudy (and rain was possible) we decided to walk from Abergynolwen up to Nant Gwernol and then up to the quarry. It was very humid and midges were as issue under the trees which have regrown since our last visit twelve years ago but the effort was worth the views at the quarry. Hopping over the fence provided close views of the remains of the water wheel shaft etc. No lizards today though as it was not sunny at all.

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The walk back down through the oak woodland to the river was sublime, the river being impressive after the night of rain!

A cup of tea at Abergwynolwyn Station before returning to the cars was very welcome!

Fish and chips on the front at Tywyn finished the day (sunny now) and provided good views of Herring Gulls and rooks as they drifted overhead in the hope of a chip...

herring gull 045 (3058)rook 045 (3132)
No sunset though.


Casell Y Bere today: took the train to Nant` and walked down to Aber`. This new route then took us up over the mountains with the chance of a good high view of the castle but the very dull light was not helpful.

However, butterflies, birds (including Garden Warbler and Redstart) and damselflies were more than adequate compensation!

Redstart 045 (3473)Garden Warbler 045 (3376)
Once back at Aber` station the cup of tea was very welcome (!) and I felt revived enough for a few more shots of Edward Thomas ....


It was supposed to be sunny! We walked up to Dolgoch Station and photographed Edward Thomas over the viaduct and then walked up the `falls.

The grey wagtail showed well but it was very dark.

The walk back down was well timed and a photograph of Talyllyn over the viaduct was obtained in the overcast conditions.

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A second attempt at photographing the wagtails was more successful although the midges were unpleasant!

We then drove/walked up to The Bearded Lake in The Happy Valley where wheatears, grey wagtails and stonechats were in evidence although distant. The lake yielded excellent dragonfly pictures - even in flight as the sun had finally put his hat on...

Emperor Dragonfly 045 (4246)


We started the day by photographing the train passing through Rhydyronen Station from the bridge in bright sunshine (!) before returning to the cottage and setting-off for The Precipice Walk which proved as lovely as I remembered it; the sunshine helping of course!

Precipice Walk 045 (5015)

A drive up to Cregenan Lake then finished-off the day nicely with great views over Barmouth and Wheatears on the rocks.

Barmouth 045 (5072)

Cregennan Lake 045 (5102)-Pano
The drive back to the cottage also took in Talyllyn Lake in the SUN! A perfect day! 

Talyllyn Lake 045 (5223)  

Once back `home` and tea had been eaten it seemed likely that the TV would have to provide `entertainment` for the rest of the evening (it was Referendum Day after all) when Sue presented me with a large envelope....

An `early birthday present it seemed`.

I was a little surprised to find a piece of paper in there that appeared to suggest that I would be DRIVING THE TRAIN the next day...

This was a tad exciting.....

.... and intimidating.


The day began with a drive up to Dolgoch to see the train (Talyllyn) pass over the viaduct in bright light ( even though it had rained heavily earlier) and photograph the grey wagtails again before returning to the cottage in time for an early lunch (WE MUSTN`T MISS IT!) to discover that Carrie just `happened` to be waiting there as she would also be on the train that day!

A present from the ducks was handed over - not to be opened until 12th July of course - and then a debate began as to how early/late we should go to Tywyn Wharf....

We got there quite early (!) as it happened and were able to take some nice shots in the bright sunlight. All was set....

Then Sue came out of the shop with flags....

And I was presented with a mug by Adam and a HAT......

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At this point I think the passengers were more excitable than me! They had better behave themselves!

The time duly arrived for me to have the health and safety briefing - parts of the engine are hot etc...

With everything ready and Douglas awaiting his next trainee driver I followed Driver Graham Thomas onto the footplate, followed by Andy, our fireman. There ensued a brief explanation of the key controls and a `test run` along the siding. When in control it felt very fast... I was immediately struck by the way nothing happens when the regulator is moved quite some distance and then ALL the effect occurs over perhaps an inch of travel! The engine (steam) brake was also not exactly immediate! The fact os that steam has a long way to travel after a control is altered and this was something to learn...

Douglas was backed onto the train and coupled by the experts (thankfully) and we were ready to set off - once the passengers had been successfully rounded up anyway! What a bunch!

Setting off from Wharf was an experience permanently printed onto my retinas - brake, regulator, whistle, we are moving! It seemed very quick (about 10 mph in fact) and the next lasting impression impinged itself - how `bumpy` the ride on the locomotive actually is! Each stoke of the motion creates an oscillating motion and the suspension seemed somewhat rudimentary! In other words - it was bloody marvelous!

The passengers were certainly enjoying themselves in the carriage immediately behind the engine with a clear view into the control center...

The first real challenge was then to slow down a little (!) without actually stopping and ready myself to exchange tokens. Concentrating on the token I had to take off the blockman wont be forgotten ina hurry - it would be embarrassing to miss! The gates were opened in good time as we were traveling very slowly so we were able to accelerate up the line from Pendre and the journey felt it had really begun!

It is only now as I write this two days after the experience that I can really appreciate the utter satisfaction and delight at the whole experience and it must be noted that Graham was the perfect tutor; the slightest gradient change and curve altering the behavior of the train dramatically.

I have a series of memories of key points along this familiar line until we reached Bryn Glas to wait for a (late) passenger train coming down. There was time for a tour of the block station and an explanation of the points for Joe by the blockman before we crossed the line to watch the passenger train arrive and pass us. The delay was due to the fact that the passenger train could not even enter the block above us until we were stationary for safety reasons - I cannot actually remember which loco passed us; the photos will have to be examined!

We then set off for Dolgoch and I REALLY began to enjoy the experience as I felt more confident at the controls - still needing constant instruction regarding steam input but now able to look at the AMAZING view through the front window over the boiler and past the funnel up the line.

Then we approached Dolgoch Viaduct - slowly and with whistle blowing - what a view!

It took two attempts to stop in just the right place by the old water tower only to find the chute would not reach the very low well-tank of the loco! I presume this had not been attempted before by Graham. So we moved up to the `new` tower and I was able to operate the water tap, filling the tanks and watering the line....

Then it was off again (the passengers once again proving tardy - it is a wonder we didn`t leave any behind) only to be confronted by a SHEEP JUMPING ONTO THE LINE IN FRONT OF US - he did get out of the way - running down the side of train for a short distance though and I was able to accelerate away again! Phew!

The rest of the journey up to Abergynolwyn was uneventful - but pure enjoyment again. Arriving at the station, a huge amount of very good sandwiches and cakes and TEA was magicked from the guard`s van and a feast ensued! How much cake can Joe eat?????

It was at this point that I wanted to get on with it - but was becoming increasingly aware that we were nearly half way!

Once again the passengers had to rounded up - EVERYONE needed the loo of course - we should have locked them in!

The journey to Nant Gwernol was another series of never-to-be-forgotten images as we cautiously wound around the valley-side with the river very far below to stop at the station platform.

The loco was run around the train by the experts at this point as expected - very wise really! 
Adam got a footplate ride at this point while I took some pictures...

There then followed an explanation of the air-brakes and although using the steam brake back down the line was an option I decided to do it `properly` and use the carriage brakes. This system seemed somewhat counter-intuitive and impossible to judge correctly without prior experience of the line (the number of passengers must also have a profound effect on the system). Graham`s patient and calm instruction allowed us to descend without any significant incidents - just a slight over application of the brake at one point when I hit a pot-hole - I mean joint)! I am sure the photographs produced by the passengers are staged!

Sheep on the Line!!!!!! 046 (539)

All too soon we arrived back at Wharf (pretty much on time - just four minutes late) and the adventure was over....

I was surprised to receive a certificate(!), the latest book about the railway, a calendar and guide book also at this point - the attention to detail was remarkable! The Guard`s Journal (TR T3f) was a wonderful detail as well - it makes interesting reading as it is clear we made-up 10 minutes after the delay Brynglas...

Finally, I gave Adam the opportunity to ride the footplate as the train was taken up to Pendre and put to bed.

I did not sleep well that night...

I shall write a letter of thanks to Wharf next week - not forgetting the catering and the block-man waiting for us at Pendre. It should be noted that unlike `other lines` I really did drive the train and had the footplate to `myself` for the whole two hour journey - no sharing!

O yes - and the UK voted OUT....



The cottage is booked for two weeks next year!

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