Children all over the world love Thomas the Tank Engine stories, but few people are aware that much of the author’s inspiration for them was the Tal y Llyn railway, situated not far from Cadair Idris in the beautiful Snowdonia National Park. The Reverend Wilbert Awdrey worked as a volunteer on the narrow-gauge track in the 1950s, which prompted him to imagine the Skarloey line on the Island of Sodor where his stories are based. He subsequently wrote a number of books about it which delighted his young audience.
Like the Skarloey line, the Tal y Llyn, was originally built to carry slate to the coast from Bryn Eglwys quarry above the picturesque village of Abergynolwyn. From the woodland station Nant Gwernol, it travels seven miles to the sea side town of Tywyn, through a verdant wooded valley and stopping en route at Dolgoch Falls, where passengers can wander pretty pathways and view dramatic waterfalls and caves.
Mirroring the true story, Skarloey was rescued and preserved and became a tourist attraction, ferrying passengers to the coast. The Tal-y-Llyn Preservation Society was formed in 1950, the first organisation of it’s kind in the world, and it still relies largely on volunteers to keep it running.
The Reverend Awdry died in 1997, and as a tribute to the man whose books have given so much pleasure to railway enthusiasts, both young and old, a reconstruction of his study is displayed in the Narrow Gauge Railway Museum, at Wharf Station in Tywyn, where his desk, typewriter and hundreds of books are included as well as his model of the Ffarquhar Railway.
You can see more of the Tal Yl Lyn railway on their website here: www.talyllyn.co.uk