A double celebration at Talyllyn Railway on Monday included the 67th anniversary of the world’s first preserved railway and the return to passenger duty of locomotive No.3 ‘Sir Haydn’ after a major overhaul.
The locomotive, which this year celebrates its 140th anniversary, has been out of service since 2012 and, for the last three years, has been at the Vale of Rheidol’s workshops in Aberystwyth.
No.3 was returned to Talyllyn Railway at the end of April and has since been going through a period of testing and running in. Monday was the first time that it had hauled a passenger service since its return.
The day also marked the annual commemoration of the inauguration of the railway, the first train having run from Tywyn Wharf Station to Rhydyronen on May 14, 1951. Known as Founders’ Day, it included a re-enactment of the cutting of the tape originally performed by the first chairman of Talyllyn Railway Preservation Society, Bill Trinder, before the first train set out.
‘Sir Haydn’ did not participate in that first day, although the ex-Corris Railway locomotive had arrived at Tywyn by that time, having been saved from being scrapped when it was purchased for Talyllyn Railway.
When it was returned to steam, it initially proved unreliable due to the state of the track, but later improvements meant that it could enter service again and has since become one of the railway’s most popular locomotives. In 1955, it also appeared in the Rev. Awdry’s Skarloey Railway stories as its alter-ego ‘Sir Handel’.
For this year’s celebration, No.3 hauled a special train for some of the railway’s regular donors who are members of the ‘Heart of Gold’ club, which provides additional support to keep the wheels turning on this world-famous line.
During the trip, members of the group were also informed about some of the railway’s future plans and were treated to a guided tour of the workshops at Tywyn Pendre.
Locomotive No.3 was originally built in 1878 at the Falcon works of Hughes Locomotive & Tramway Engine Work’ in Loughborough for the Corris Railway. When that railway closed, it remained out of service, along with Corris Locomotive No.4, at Machynlleth Station until both were purchased by the fledgling Talyllyn Railway Preservation Society in 1951. It was named ‘Sir Haydn’ after Talyllyn Railway’s previous owner, Sir Henry Haydn Jones.
Talyllyn Railway Preservation Society chairman, Ian Drummond, said:
“Founders’ Day is an occasion that enables us to remember all those who have given of their time and talents to keep this railway running through the years.
“This year, it was made particularly special by the return to service of ‘Sir Haydn’, which had played such an important role in the history of the preserved railway. We are delighted to see it back in service again and we want to thank the staff at the Vale of Rheidol workshops for the work that has been done.”