Talyllyn: The World's First Preserved Railway


1. A Gray Day at Tywyn 5. Changing Ends
2. The Honorable Rituals 6. Conversation at Abergynolwyn
3. An Iron Horse Indeed 7. Down Train
4. Ascent to Nant Gwernol


Seven: Down Train




At 16:10 sharp our driver released the brakes, and we drifted through the turnouts and down past the station limits.  I fear I remember little of the down trip.  I had wanted for so long to visit the Wales narrow gauge, to ride the little trains and see for myself the gray mountains, and the towns with their odd and unpronounceable names.  I had expected much, yet still I was surprised by joy: by the strangeness of the carriage, by unexpected motions of the train, by the stillness of the mountains, by the warmth and kindness of the train crew.  I think that after Abergynolwyn, I wanted to ride-- to rock with the motion, to smell the sweet sharp coal smoke drifting through the open window, to watch our carriage's moving shadow projected on the hedge rows.  To simply ride.


I think that for her part, Samantha was tiring of things railway.  Good sport that she is though, she simply rooted in her bag and dug up a book with which to pass the time.  It occurred to me that in so doing, she was having an experience that was in its way more genuine than mine.  For me, riding the Talyllyn was an end in itself.  Yet in the railway's heyday, riding the little train was something the people of this valley did as a matter of course.  For most of them the train was a way to get from where they were, to where they needed to be.  The time they spent aboard the steam cars was time they passed, not marked or savored.  Lost in her book, Samantha reenacted a journey which was truer to the Talyllyn's history than my own.  That she could do so is perhaps the best tribute to everything the volunteers of the Talyllyn Railway Preservation Society have achieved.


With a last sigh of steam and a final hiss of braking air, the Tom Rolt clanked to a halt at Tywyn Wharf at 16:55-- right on time.   Quiet and happy, I raised the window frames on either side of our little compartment, and seated the leather straps back on the studs to hold them closed up tight-- I had cleaned too many floors and closed too many windows after the last train of the day in Baltimore to want to make any extra work for my colleagues here.  April is still early in the year, and Wales is surprisingly far North-- the light was already fading.  Samantha and I made our way through the station corridor, out the gates, and back over the bridge to our car.  My first day's trainspotting was done, but my holiday was far from over.  Driving to Tywyn that morning, we had passed by the university town of Aberystwyth-- and the Vale of Rheidol Railway.  I was determined to make it back-- and two days later, I did.



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All materials, images, text and presentation copyright 1998 Erik Gray Ledbetter.  See Terms of Use.