Historic Landscape Characterisation

Dysynni Valley – Area 4 Talyllyn Railway PRN 28653


Rhyd yr Onnen station on the Talyllyn Railway



Historical background

The Talyllyn Railway runs for 11.67km (7.25 miles) from Tywyn to near Abergynolwyn, though only the first 5.17km runs within the Dysynni historic landscape. It was financed and built by the McConnel brothers of Manchester, and opened in 1866 to carry slate from the Bryneglwys quarries to the standard gauge railway at Tywyn, and to operate passenger trains, making it the first narrow gauge railway (in this case 0.686m – 2' 3” gauge) in Britain authorised to carry passengers by steam. The quarries shut in 1946 but the railway survived as a passenger carrier and tourist attraction; it was not nationalised in 1948 and in 1951 it became the first railway in the world to be preserved as a heritage railway by volunteers, initially under the management of Tom Rolt. Effective control of the railway is now in the hands of the Talyllyn Railway Preservation Society. In 1976 an extension was opened along the former mineral line from Abergynolwyn to the new station at Nant Gwernol. The railway has seen a steady increase in passengers carried since 2000, with nearly 95,500 passenger journeys recorded in 2006, although this figure is still only around half the peak figure carried in 1973.

From 1952 the railway has also maintained a Narrow Gauge Railway Museum at Tywyn Wharf station which displays exhibits from the United Kingdom and the Republic of Ireland . The present substantial museum building and station extension was opened in 2005.


Key historic landscape characteristics

Victorian narrow gauge steam railway.

This landscape area is characterised by many of the buildings and structures associated with the railway's opening in 1866, and as such constitutes a remarkable survival. The ambience of the 1860s survived practically unaltered into the early preservation era (1950s onwards) but has since then been compromised by the exigencies of running a railway that responds to modern tourist needs and to the requirements of the railways inspectorate. This is reflected in the building of breeze-block and modern corrugated workshops and infrastructure, particularly at Tywyn Pendre. The new museum building at Tywyn Wharf station uses red brick and slate to match the 1866 station building nearby but is considerably greater in scale. The smaller stations up the line (Rhyd yr Onnen and Brynglas both lie within the Dysynni historic landscape area) preserve the sense of a small rural railway of the nineteenth century.


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