The following morning we checked each other to be doubly certain that we hadn’t been turned into vampires and then we threw back the curtains and there was a wonderful surprise – this morning it wasn’t raining.
For the first time in twenty-four hours we were able to leave the cottage without being driven back inside by a deluge of rain like the ice bucket challenge so we grasped the opportunityand drove west towards the coast with a first stop at Dolgoch Falls to take a train ride on the Talylynn Railway down to the coast at Towyn.
The Talyllyn Railway is a narrow-gauge preserved railway in Wales that runs for nearly sixteen miles from the town of Tywyn on the Mid-Wales coast to Nant Gwernol near the village of Abergynolwyn. The line was opened in 1866 to carry slate from the quarries at Bryn Eglwys to Tywyn, and was the first narrow gauge railway in Britain authorised by Act of Parliament to carry passengers using steam haulage.
The line remained open even after the quarry had closed for business, and on 14th May 1951 it became the first railway in the world to be preserved as a heritage railway by volunteers.
The Talyllyn Railway crops up in the ‘Thomas the Tank Engine’ books as the Skarloey Railway and most of the fictional locomotives are based on real-life equivalents. The author, Rev. W. Awdry, visited the line on a family holiday in the early days of preservation and became involved as a volunteer soon afterwards.
The preservation of the railway was also the inspiration for the 1953 film The Titfield Thunderbolt, an Ealing Studios comedy about a group of villagers attempting to run a service on a disused branch line after closure. The script writer for the film, had heard about the preservation of the railway and spent a day there in 1951 looking for stories and inspiration and some of the early exploits in preservation were incorporated into the film.
The cost of the short journey came as an enormous shock – £12.50 return, you can get a thousand mile Ryanair flight ticket for less than that but once at the booking office I was committed and my young grandson would never have forgiven me if I declined the purchase at this late stage. At least the children travelled for free.
So we took the twenty minute journey to the seaside as the engine effortlessly pulled the coaches down the side of the hill and steamed into the station.
With blue skies and sunshine we spent an hour or so on the beach, climbed rocks, collected seaweed and looked for marine life in the rock pools and the shallows. It was so nice we could have stayed longer but we didn’t want to miss the last train back because that would have meant a problem getting back to the cars stranded at Dolgoch Falls.
Actually, I confess to being a bit of a ‘stress head‘ in these situations and whilst I told everyone that it was the last train I kept the information to myself that there was one final one an hour or so later. Don’t tell them!
The railway engine had to work a lot harder on the return journey because shortly out of Towyn the track began to climb and made its way into the hills towards the old slate workings. Just like Thomas the Tank Engine its boiler was bubbling, its pistons were pumping and its fire box was fizzing as with puffy white mists of steam and thunder clouds of belching smoke it carried us ever upwards over bridges and viaducts before arriving exhausted back at the station.
As it pulled away towards Abergynolwyn we waved it goodbye and made our way back along a muddy track as the children amused themselves by jumping in the puddles to the car park.
It was mid afternoon but I wasn’t finished with Talylynn because I was on a mission to visit a site where I had last been in 1985 – Castell y Bere, a ruined castle just a short drive away. In 1985 I had my first holiday after the birth of my daughter, she was only three months old and I thought she might appreciate revisiting the site she wouldn’t be able to remember.
It was quite a difficult drive to the castle and there was a bit of moaning from my passengers and I began to worry that it might be a disappointment but we arrived eventually and made our way to the top of a rocky crag and the extensive ruins of the castle. It had once belonged to Edward I but in 1294 it was captured by Welsh forces and burnt to the ground. Edward never rebuilt it, maybe he hadn’t renewed his home insurance policy and he abandoned this once strategic position to concentrate instead on his new defensive ring of castles that he was busy building all along the coast.
The visit was declared a success, the children liked it, Sally was interested in my stories and recollections and as we left and drove back to the cottage the sun was still shining.
Have you ever been back somewhere to relive a memory?