As part of the Talyllyn Railway’s Golden Jubilee activities in 2001 the suggestion of a ‘hands-on’ gala was made. The idea was two fold, first to offer people an opportunity to gain behind the scenes access of a real working railway and secondly to give them the chance to do all, or most, of the tasks involved in railway operation. For some people the stuff that dreams are made of.
However, owing to the sheer quantity of events, both for members of the public and the Society’s membership during 2000 and 2001, it was decided to put the idea on hold until a later date.
Early 2003 saw the railway re-evaluating its Guest Driver Programme, and the intention is to run these courses more often during the year and at greater value for money. The change in positioning for the Driver Experience, re-ignited the initial ideas about the ‘hands on’ event, and very soon this four day gala event was born.
It is intended to offer a wide variety of experiences that until now have never before been available on the Talyllyn, indeed anywhere on 2’3”!
So you can try your hand on the regulator, and drive a weighted freight train for 2 trips from Wharf to Brynglas for only £100, or 4 trips for £175. There’s another chance to drive, though on a much shorter experience, which is the fiendish ‘Pendre Shunt’. This takes only an hour and, after a short safety briefing, you can see if you can complete the shunting challenge and all for just £30. If diesels are your thing, for only a fiver, you can drive one of ours from Abergynolwyn to Nant Gwernol.
But it’s not only driving, there’s also the challenge of the shovel. Firing opportunities include ‘Firing the Falcon’ (No.3 “Sir Haydn” built in 1878 at the Hughes’ Falcon Works, Loughborough), ‘Old Lady Vintage’ (No.2 “Dolgoch” on a Vintage Train), No.7 “Tom Rolt” on ‘The Quarryman’; our premier train. There is even a chance to join our top female crew on the “Ladies Special”. All these experiences run on the basis that you see how it’s done on the first trip and then after the master class you can have a go yourself on the second trip and all for just £75.
More over, if you fancy seeing what goes on before the engine starts its day’s work, there is the chance to help prepare the engines on shed. The smell of the coal, the gentle hiss of steam, as the pressure gauge needle gradually rises lb by lb, and the friendly atmosphere of a real steam running shed. You can experience all this for £25. If you’d prefer inspecting the line before the first train of the day, just £10 gets you a trip up the line on our permanent way trolley.
Of course there is more to running a railway than footplate work – believe it or not! If you ever fancied being a passenger train Guard, you can for £50 a day. If a Signalman is more your choice you can experience working the box at Abergynolwyn, with its extensive frame and colour light signals being used for regular crossings each day as well as the diesel shuttles. You can also work at Pendre box, the engineering headquarters of the railway, which will be busy all day with the shunting and engines, and trains, coming and going. Both these experiences can be yours for £50.
For the photographers amongst you on Saturday and Sunday morning and Saturday evening we will be offering a variety of photo charters with the Talyllyn Vintage train (the oldest complete Victorian train still running), a Corris Railway mixed train, and possibly a double headed vintage mixed train. Priced at £15 each, £27 for two and £35 for all three.
If you plan to come and travel, we have a variety of attractions for you too. There is the “Gala Rover” – £25 which entitles you to travel on all trains on all 4 days. The first 139 tickets, representing the number of continuous years the Railway Company has been in operation, will be put into a draw for a footplate trip on the Sunday or Monday.”
There is also the “Nightrover” ticket valid for all trains Saturday and Sunday – £15. These are intended for use during our all night running on Saturday night. Both “Gala Rover” and “Nightrover” tickets are available in advance from the website or from Wharf Station, Tywyn, Gwynedd, LL36 9EY, (please include an SAE).
A local Jazz Band, “West Coast Blue”, will be playing on the Saturday night 7.30pm at Abergynolwyn Station; entry is by donation. There is also intended to be a display on the live steam model railway to be found in the garden of our volunteer hostel ‘Llechfan’ during the weekend.
The gala will end with a spectacular finale of all available steam locomotives hauling the last train on the Monday night between Wharf and Pendre, which will then continue double-headed from Pendre to Nant Gwernol and return to Wharf by both our original locomotives “Talyllyn” and “Dolgoch”.