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Pre-preservation Talyllyn Railway in Colour

Discussion in 'Narrow Gauge Railways' started by gwernol, Sep 23, 2014.

  1. andrewshimmin

    andrewshimmin Well-Known Member

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    I agree, those photos are achingly picturesque, and preserved lines don't have that same aesthetic decay. But you have to remember these are photos of a line losing a shed load of money, with its infrastructure and stock in dangerously bad condition, and next to no passengers. Do we want that? Or do we just want a few photo charters with the loco a bit less sparkly and the gift shop out of the frame...
     
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  2. jma1009

    jma1009 Well-Known Member

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    i am very grateful for Dan taking the touble to post those wonderful colour pics on here. if they are available elsewhere to study in detail i would be very interested.

    the 1950 Talyllyn Railway as preserved in 1951 has always caused great debate. original preservationists such as Tom Rolt and Jim Boyd publically stated their opposition to changes that altered the 'charm' of the railway they sought to preserve.

    there was quite a rift over the extension to Nant Gwernol, and early preservation days of lifting rails from from the Abergynolwyn incline and Alltwyllt incline and at Nat Gwernol destroyed much of interest and industrial archealogy. the later demolition of the Abergynolwyn Winding House was another contentious decision. the awful 'modern' steel water tower at Dolgoch will hopefully get replaced with something far more fitting and sympathetic.

    the very long platform at Abergynolwyn with its huge signalbox is also completely out of character.

    of course, all the track needed replacement, and the original decrepit rolling stock needed overhaul/rebuilding. the new building at Wharf has allowed the original 'office' to have many later preservation additions to be removed and restored to something like original. Pendre retains it's charm despite many other additional buildings necessary for carriage storage.

    a more interesting arguement remains over the late 1950s and early 1960s rebuilds of Dolgoch and Talyllyn as very little of the old was retained. these days the remains of the originals would have been preserved as per Livingston Thompson on the FR now at the NRM.

    cheers,
    julian
     
  3. 21B

    21B Well-Known Member

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    I'm not quite as much of a romantic as Tom Rolt (who rather fell out with the canal preservationists as well because he thought the canals should be preserved for freight and others rightly identified that a new use for leisure was needed - terrible foreshortening of a complicated history that I am not expert in....) but I do see what he meant. We are preserving artifacts and in some cases working methods that are historic. We are not preserving though.

    It is lovely that I can catch a train from Towyn Wharf. It is great that I can be hauled in vintage carriages by a vintage steam locomotive, and the TR has charm. However, the charm that it had in 1951 has been obliterated, especially at the Wharf station. Compromises and changes were necessary and inevitable. The installation of continuous brakes is one improvement that I am extremely pleased has occurred (though it was clearly of lower urgency than the telephone exchange at Abergynolwyn that could set the kettle to boil - if you don't understand the reference PH can explain as he wrote a letter on the subject that still makes me smile)

    As a "movement" we need to pay as much attention as we can to the creation of "scenes". Some railways do this very well and most don't. Sadly we cant do more than this given the compromises that are forced upon us, but I ask myself this....what is it I like so much about Blists Hill or the Black Country museum, neither or which is original or preserved in the way that nearly all our railway's are....(they are collections on a site where few if any of the buildings were there originally - we are collections where many of the structures are still in their original place doing their original function) ... What I like is that the scene is consistent and believable. They work hard to make it seem like these places were always like they are now. I'd like more of that thinking on heritage railways.....that's all.
     
  4. sleepermonster

    sleepermonster Member

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    There is no one right answer. Blists Hill amd the Black Country Museums are ....museums. The Talyllyn is a live operating railway. Mr Rolt himself said that the choice was "between death and a new life". Do we merely preserve railway history, or in our own small way, do we go out and make some more?

    Tim
     
  5. MuzTrem

    MuzTrem Member

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    I suspect places like Blists Hill or the Black Country Museum can afford to pay a full-time curator; a large part of their job will be to cast a knowledgeable eye over any new developments, or any proposed changes to existing displays, and say whether it "looks right" or not. (Sounds like an easy job, but you need a LOT of historical knowledge in order to do it well!)

    I suspect that, even if our preserved railways could find someone to take on a curatorial role (perhaps even in a voluntary capacity), there would be barriers to its success. Firstly, as you note yourself, the inevitable "compromises" that railways have to make in order to keep operating in the 21st century. However, it is also worth remembering that preserved railways also have a much more fragmented structure than a museum. So, for example, a heritage railway might run locomotives which are owned and maintained by independent locomotive societies. Now, suppose the railway's board were to agree to appoint a curator, and they recommended to the board that the railway should aim to present a consistent 1960s image. If one of the loco owning groups decided that they wanted to paint their engine in LMS red (or whatever), you can't really stop them, can you?

    It also depends on what projects volunteers are willing to work on. It would be no good for a curator to recommend trying to present a Victorian image if you don't have any volunteers who are willing to restore some wooden-bodied coaches for you.

    Having said all that, if any preserved railway would like to hire a full time curator I'll be happy to send them my CV...! ;)
     
  6. Jamessquared

    Jamessquared Nat Pres stalwart

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    I'm sure lots of railways would love your services as a full-time curator. Oh, you wanted to be a full-time paid curator... Hmmm...

    To me, the infrastructure is more important than the rolling stock, but also under more pressure. More important, because typically you build for a lifetime of 100 years or so, whereas even a reliable loco will only last 10 years before overhaul, and potentially a new livery. So anachronisms in infrastructure and general "scene setting" are often more irreversible than an atypical loco pulling an unrealistic train. The difficulty of course, is that a certain level of modernisation is essential, both because a typical preserved railway is handling passenger volumes way in advance of what they were designed for; and because both passenger amenities and self-contained engineering facilities are needed to handle those numbers and service levels.

    Tom
     
  7. 35B

    35B Resident of Nat Pres

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    That's fair, but it doesn't account for why there are some preserved stations I like visiting despite a level of modernisation, and others that leave me cold. Let me give examples. I struggle with Sheffield Park, because the level of building is way in excess of what the site can support without the modernisation being intrusive. I used to like Rothley, despite model railway and workshop, but the extension to Ellis has tipped it over the edge and it no longer feels right. Quorn, turntable notwithstanding, has kept a degree of authenticity despite modernisation to support today's visitors. Similarly, I find that Pickering "works" despite recent developments and the carriage works.

    For me, the red line comes with the WWII re enactments where, whatever the railway does, they cannot be truly authentic - post war stock, frequently more modern locomotives, and, worst of all, this visitor was born in the 1970s! For some reason, this doesn't offend me in the same way at Blists Hill, Beamish, etc. - I think something to do with mood.
     
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  8. 21B

    21B Well-Known Member

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    35B has it....its about mood. We are all in a theatrical production, and I think that some places have (either through luck or good judgement) ended up with a better presentation.
     
  9. jma1009

    jma1009 Well-Known Member

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    for 85 years the Talyllyn Railway had an untaxed existence, and post 1910 was run on a shoe string but kept going - just!

    i do not know where Tim got his quote of Tom Rolt 'between death or a new life' from. a source would be interesting. it certainly isnt from 'Railway Adventure' or 'Narrow Boat'!

    obviously compromises need to be made. however there are aspects of post preservation Talyllyn that are as controversial as scrapping Moel Tryfan on the Ffestiniog.

    cheers,
    julian
     
  10. MuzTrem

    MuzTrem Member

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    This is another example of why the debate about "authenticity" is, to me, slightly futile. It's quite true that there are very few, if any, preserved railways that could put on a truly "authentic" WWII event. Nevertheless, I think it is worth trying to give people a flavour of what that era was like because the role of our rail network in the war was hugely important, and deserves to be better known about. From an educational point of view, I think that doing something to try to tell that story - even if we can't get every last detail right - is far more important than making sure that you never run an LMS-liveried engine with Mk 1 coaches, or whatever. This is why I got a bit frustrated with the discussion about historic liveries in the "Duchess of Sutherland" thread!
     
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  11. sleepermonster

    sleepermonster Member

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    Julian has got me thinking about the source for my quotation. I agree it is not in the main text, but "Railway Adventure" has appeared in a variety of editions over the years, forewords have come and gone, and I think I am remembering a paperback edition of perhaps over 40 years ago in which there were two forewords which are not in the present day editions - one a call to arms to save the County Donegal, Whitburn Marsden and South Shields and various others, the second a lament that so many of these had already gone. Makes you realise what a diferent world it was when the Tallyllyn RPS was founded - BR was still building steam for years ahead. At any rate, the author's comments were partly a political argument against nationalisation and standardisation and the apathy it induced, partly a reflection that it had been a "damned close thing", and a comment that while some had wished to preserve the railway in technological aspic, in fact the choice had been etc.....someone with a better organised library than mine may be able to give the full chapter and verse. I remember reading the book at school and you might say it had much to answer for as far as I was concerned.

    Tim
     
  12. WB2624

    WB2624 New Member

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    The quotation might well have been in 'Talyllyn Century' which was edited by Tom Rolt.
     
  13. Poolbrook

    Poolbrook New Member Friend

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    The quote is from the authors note to the 1960 edition of Railway Adventure. It is in my Kindle copy anyway.
     
  14. Poolbrook

    Poolbrook New Member Friend

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    Small correction - the note was written in 1960 but it is in the 1961 edition published by David and Charles
     
  15. MuzTrem

    MuzTrem Member

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    Arguments which one heard much more often in the early '50s (they are also very prevalent in The Titfield Thunderbolt, for example). This suggests to me that the current widespread enthusiasm for renationalisation has very little to do with politics and ideology, and much more to do with nostalgia and the grass always being greener on the other side.

    Sorry to go off-topic, but it's a perfect illustration of a point I often try to make, and which people seldom listen to...!
     
  16. Spamcan81

    Spamcan81 Nat Pres stalwart

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    Couldn't agree more and I suspect in the early days of nationalisation similar feelings were expressed regarding a return to the Big Four.
     
  17. sleepermonster

    sleepermonster Member

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    Well, with BR at least you knew exactly who you were dealing with, and their corporate livery had a reasonably consistent and dignified style, the old companies even more so. These days you get a self propelled psychedelic drainpipe with the latest market slogan on the side. I am tempted to say, virgin on the ridiculous - but they are one of the better ones.

    Tim
     
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