Final preparations are underway for Talyllyn Railway’s final gala of its 150th anniversary celebrations between July 1-3.
Called ‘The Grand Finale’, it will celebrate the 150th anniversary of Talyllyn’s locomotive, Dolgoch, which in May, 1951 became the first in the world to pull a passenger train on a preserved railway.
Both Dolgoch and the first locomotive delivered to the railway, Talyllyn, which celebrated its 150th anniversary in September, 2014, were built by the Fletcher, Jennings and Co. based at the Lowca works near Whitehaven in Cumbria. Therefore, to celebrate the occasion all five of the surviving Fletcher, Jennings locomotives based in the UK are being brought together for the first time ever.
They include Captain Baxter, currently based at the Bluebell Railway in East Sussex, which will become the first standard gauge locomotive to operate on Talyllyn Railway property. It will be in steam on a short length of track in Tywyn Wharf yard offering footplate rides in return for a donation.
Also present, but not in steam, will be Townsend Hook, currently based at the Amberley Heritage Centre in West Sussex and William Finlay, which has recently been acquired by the Narrow Gauge Railway Museum Trust for display in the museum at Tywyn Wharf station. Both of these locomotives were built to the unusual gauge of 3 ft 2¼ in and, with Captain Baxter, originally operated at a limestone quarry at Bletchworth, Surrey.
To mark the historic bringing together of these locomotives, a special booklet has been produced, The Lowca Legacy. Written by Anthony Coulls, a senior curator at the National Railway Museum in York and Shildon, it tells the story of the works at Lowca, as well as those of the nine surviving Fletcher, Jennings locomotives around the world. Priced at £3, all profits will go to the Narrow Gauge Railway Museum’s William Finlay appeal.
Special trains will be run during the weekend, including a heritage train on the Friday evening hauled by Dolgoch, which will take passengers on an historical tour of the railway stopping at various places of interest. Leading the tour will be Ian Drummond, author of the recently published book on the history of the Talyllyn, Rails Along The Fathew.
On the Saturday evening, there will be a train hauled by all five of the Talyllyn’s current operating fleet of steam locomotives between Tywyn Wharf and Pendre stations. Later the same evening, a night photoshoot will take place at Tywyn Wharf, which will include a brief firework display at around 10 pm.
Over the Saturday and Sunday, the railway’s annual Garden Railway Gala, which attracts visitors from all over the country, will be held and there will also be a beer festival. The café at Tywyn Wharf will be open until 9 pm on both the days for meals.
A spokesperson for the railway said: “After the success of last year’s galas, we wanted to finish off our 150th anniversary celebrations in style. To bring together these iconic locomotives for the first time seemed the ideal way to do this. This is truly a ‘once in a lifetime’ gathering and is not to be missed.”