In spite of the big car park at Dolgoch, I have often taken the train to Dolgoch to walk the falls, instead of the car, because it has such charm. I have also enjoyed sitting back on more lazy days with visitors, taking the train to Abergynlowyn for the pleasure of the superb views along the valley and towards Cadair Idris, drinking coffeee and munching cake at the station’s cafe.
The TalyLlyn Railway was built in 1865 along the south side of Fatthew Valley, to bring slate down from hills along the valley as far as Nant Gwernol into Tywyn, a distance of over seven miles, a trip of just under an hour. Before the railway, from 1840, the tons of slate and slabs excavated from the Bryn Eglwys slate quarry at at Nant Gwernol, were carried by pack animals, carts and sledges to Aberdovey, where it was loaded on to ships bound for the building industry in cities across Wales and England.
By the end of 1866 it had been adapted to carry passengers as well. Although ongoing investment in the railway continued to improve it, the capital investment was high and the immense profits hoped for did not follow.
The mine was closed in 1909. Purchased by local MP Henry Haydn Jones in 1911 it had a brief resurgence but after the First World War it held on by a thread and eventually closed in 1946 following a serious slate mine collapse.
Haydn Jones continued to run the train as a passenger service until 1950, when he died. It looked as though the railway’s life was over, but in 1951 the Talyllyn Railway Preservation Society was formed with the help of the well known engineer and author Tom Rolt, and the Talyllyn Railway became the world’s first preserved railway, continuing the service whilst simultaneously working on the restoration of both tracks and engines. There is a history section on the Talyllyn Railway website, from which the above information was taken, with many more details and some great photos.
The black and white Frith postcard at the top (number 77789) shows an engine at the water tower at Dolgoch, where it took on water for its trip along the valley. On the platform there is a small group of people waiting to board the train. Each engine was numbered and named, and my thanks to Richard Greenhough for the identification of the engine as No.1, Talyllyn. It was built in 1866 and ran until 1952, when it was removed from service or an overhaul, not returning to service until 1999. There is more about the engine on a dedicated page on the Tallyllyn Railway website. The unused postcard is not listed on the Frith website, but postcard 77791, also of Dolgoch, dates to 1925, so it seems safe to place it in the mid 1920s.
In 1870 and for decades afterwards, the Talyllyn railway carried post between Tywyn and Abergynolwyn, the fulfilment of an official agreement with the General Post Office (GPO). The first Talyllyn train of the day carried mail bags from Tywyn to Abergynolwyn. The last train of the day took all the local post down into Tywyn. This was an early precursor of the 1891 arrangement between the GPO and a number of railway companies to which the Talyllyn railway had also signed up. The 1891 arrangement enabled people to send urgent post via the railways, which delivered them quickly between railway stations. A small additional postage cost was added to the standard charge, so two stamps would be fixed to the letter: a normal stamp showing the standard postage rate and a special stamp for the additional amount. Although this system ended when British Rail was formed and individual railway companies were either closed or nationalized, Talyllyn had neither closed nor been nationalized, so when it re-opened as a preserved railway in May 1957, in continued to hold the right to send mail. It takes advantage of this today to help raise funds for the line.
Visitors can send souvenir postcards and letters featuring a Talyllyn stamp, which can be purchased from Wharf station, and can be posted at in the Guard’s van, handed in at Wharf and Abergynolwyn stations, or popped in the postbox at Tywyn’s Talyllyn station. Special cards are produced to mark major Talyllyn events or Post Office special occasions like First Day and Commemorative Covers, like the examples here. You can find out more about these stamps and cards on this information leaflet from the Talyllyn website.
The Talyllyn “great little railway” souvenir postcards on this post are all in a series produced for the TalyLlyn railway by Dalkeith Picture Postcards. Dalkeith specialized in postcard sets of this type, many with transport themes. Although inexpensive, they are apparently very popular with collectors. All three shown on this page were unused.