There was a special mention for Talyllyn Railway during a ceremony last week to name a Virgin Voyager train to mark the centenary of the RAF and its historic links with the railway in North Wales.
Talyllyn Railway Preservation Society’s vice president Winston McCanna and general manager Stuart Williams attended the ceremony at Holyhead Station where the train was named ‘Royal Air Force Centenary 1918 – 2018’.
Talyllyn Railway’s own connections to the RAF were mentioned by Air Commodore Dai Williams, OBE, the RAF’s Air Officer Wales. He spoke passionately about railway’s locomotive No.6 ‘Douglas’ as being a significant and remaining link between the RAF and trains.
“You associate the RAF with planes, but maybe not trains – but in fact the association goes right back to our beginnings in 1918,” he said. “We are delighted to have been involved with the Talyllyn and the centenary celebrations for locomotive No.6 Douglas.”
Locomotive No.6 was built for the Airservice Construction Corps, being completed by manufacturers, Andrew Barclay of Kilmarnock, in February, 1918. The corps became part of the RAF when the latter was formed in April, 1918.
No.6 spent much of its working life at RAF Calshot in the Solent before coming to Talyllyn Railway in 1954 where it has been in service ever since.
Referring to the naming of the new train, the Air Commodore said: “We know that having an engine named after you is a rare and special thing, so the RAF is delighted to be recognised in this way and I hope Virgin Trains customers across the network will also enjoy this special connection to the RAF.”
The Voyager train nameplate carries the station crest of RAF Valley – located next to the Holyhead line – and was unveiled by veterans Mary Roberts and John Wynne, both of whom served in World War Two. Wing Commander Wynne, 97, who lives in Gwynedd, was a pilot and flying instructor who flew Wellington bombers, Fortress and Mosquito aircraft during World War Two.
Mary Roberts, 100, served as an RAF nurse. Her role saw her based at RAF Hemswell, where she was in close contact with the flying crews of the bombers that flew nearly every night over Europe. She was also posted to Flying Training Command at Penrhos, Pwllheli.
Shortly after the unveiling, the Virgin Trains’ Super Voyager departed on its inaugural journey to London. It is the first in Virgin Trains’ fleet to carry a different name to the ‘famous Voyagers’ names that were used when the fleet was first introduced in 2001. The Class 221 train will serve the North Wales route and other destinations including Glasgow, Edinburgh, Birmingham and Shropshire.
Group Captain Nick Tucker-Lowe, Station Commander of RAF Valley, hosted the guests at the base where a picture was taken in front of the departing train.