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Appeal for world’s first preserved railway stands at £67,000

Dolgoch Viaduct on Talyllyn Railway. Image by Darren Turner.

The general manager of the world’s first first preserved railway in Mid Wales has thanked supporters who have contributed nearly £67,000 in four weeks towards a £75,000 appeal for funds.

The Covid19 pandemic has meant that Talyllyn Railway at Tywyn is unable to run trains until further notice. The narrow gauge railway, which closed on March 20, has already missed the traditionally busy Easter period, and is set to miss the first Bank Holiday weekend in May at a minimum.

An appeal has been launched to cover fixed costs of £25,000 a month for three months. The response from generous supporters has boosted the railway and general manager Stuart Williams is now confident the original target will be surpassed. Online donations are welcomed at www.justgiving.com/campaign/talyllyn-appeal2020.

The seven-mile long, narrow gauge railway has furloughed all but a skeleton staff under the Government’s scheme to support retained employees through the crisis.

On Friday afternoon, the fundraising appeal stood at £66,726, which has included two £5,000 donations, one £2,000 and a few of £1,000. One of the most touching donations came from an elderly member of the railway who gave £10 for every year he has been associated with the Talyllyn – 62 years in total.

Most of the donations received by the railway, which has 4,500 members, are of between £20 and £50. Online donations through Just Giving and Donr have come from donors across the country and abroad.

“Donations tend to increase when we have certain social media pushes, such the recent ‘Watch Party’ for TheTitfield Thunderbolt film and the Weekly Walkabout updates that engineering manager Chris Smith and I do every Wednesday at 10.30am,” explained Mr Williams.

“A lot of these donations are anonymous, but most come with extremely supportive comments. We have been overwhelmed by the response to our appeal and I would like to say a big thank you to everybody who has donated.

“We are now very close to our original target of £75,000. Exceeding the target would help cover costs for longer, as we now fully expect the virus to have an effect much further into the peak summer period than we had first thought.

“Although the railway is closed to visitors, our fixed costs continue and we need £25,000 a month just to stand still, but our income has dried up. If we miss running until June, the revenue loss, based on last year, will be £250,000, which will impact the railway greatly.”

The railway is celebrating its 155th year of operation and approaching the 70th anniversary of the formation of the Talyllyn Railway Preservation Society in October.

“Our supporters are helping to rescue the railway that started the heritage movement back in 1950,” added Mr Williams, who is applying for support from the Government’s Economic Resilience Fund. “My immediate aim is to get through this crisis and be able to keep all our staff.”

Talyllyn Railway is a member of MWT Cymru, an independent organisation that represents more than 600 tourism and hospitality businesses across Powys, Ceredigion and Meirionnydd.