Talyllyn Wins Prestigious Accolade at Heritage Railway Association Awards

March 2022

A Mid Wales railway claimed a major accolade and at the Heritage Railway Association (HRA) Annual Awards in Birmingham earlier this month.

To mark 70 years of preservation, Talyllyn Railway was presented with the Manisty Award for Excellence. The most prestigious award given by the HRA, the accolade was presented to honour the enormous contribution that the Tywyn-based narrow gauge line has made to the whole heritage railway sector and the inspiration it has provided to others for seven decades.

Famous as being the world’s first preserved railway, the Talyllyn was also runner up in two other award categories: Environmental Innovation for its work towards ‘Steaming to net zero’ and Communications for its Awdry Extravaganza’ event last August. The ‘Awdry Extravaganza’ was based around a celebration of the ‘Railway Series’ of books by the Rev Wilbert Awry, creator of the famous Thomas the Tank Engine.

A railway enthusiast, the Rev Awdry became an enthusiastic member and volunteer guard on the Talyllyn Railway in 1952, just a year after it had become the world’s first preserved heritage railway. His experiences on the Talyllyn inspired him to create the fictitious Skarloey Railway which became the subject of an additional series of children’s books within his ‘Railway Series’.

General manager, Stuart Williams, said the railway was delighted to win the prestigious Peter Manisty Award, celebrating its first 70 years of preservation: “The award is testament both to the original volunteers who had the vision to rescue the railway from certain closure and to the countless volunteers who have worked over the years to develop and preserve it,” he added.

“Tom Rolt and his protagonists surely would be delighted to know that the preservation movement that they began would blossom into the Heritage Railway movement we all enjoy today.”

Steve Oates, HRA chief executive, said: “This awards event means a huge amount to the heritage rail sector. It’s our chance to celebrate the railways and individuals who have gone above and beyond to deliver the quality, experience, ingenuity and passion that heritage railways depend upon. It has also been a great opportunity to look back to the birth of heritage rail and take new inspiration from the massive success that the Talyllyn spearheaded all those years ago.”

“After another really tough 12-months, not just for heritage railways but for the whole country, it’s been immensely satisfying to see and hear what a fantastic job volunteers and staff across the industry have been doing. It fills me with pride and with optimism that we will overcome whatever challenges face us next.”

The evening was hosted by Ffestiniog and Welsh Highland Railways general manager Paul Lewin with guest speaker Tim Dunn, of railway documentary fame.

The awards saw a record-breaking number of entries, with more than 75 submissions covering almost every element of railway preservation in the UK.

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