Talyllyn Railway
Duncan double-heads Sir Handel on the Tayllyn Railway leaving Dolgoch in a scene straight from the Railway Series. Postcard from Talyllyn Railway shop. Photo by Derek Allen

Wilbert Awdry first joined the Talyllyn Railway Society in 1951 and later served as its Vice-President. As of 2006, Christopher Awdry is the current President. The mythology of the Skarloey Railway is based very directly on the Talyllyn's struggle for survival in the late 1940s and 50s - the original owner Sir Henry Haydn Jones is matched on Sodor by Sir Handel Brown, and Talyllyn manager Edward Thomas by Peter Sam, the Thin Controller. Hence the names for the two engines of 0-4-2 wheel arrangement which the Talyllyn purchased as No.3 and No. 4 respectively from the Corris railway in 1951. By the quirk of GWR ownership of the Corris, the vendor was actually British Railways. By another quirk, these two railways run the same unusual gauge of 2'3" (the common industrial narrow gauge being 2').

Both these engines steam triumphantly today as "Sir Haydn" and "Edward Thomas". Sir Haydn wears his red Corris livery and Edward Thomas is now Talyllyn green, although he carried the name "Peter Sam" in red Skarloey Railway livery in the 1990s, as did No. 3 (Sir Handel) in the 1980s, described by Christopher Awdry in "Great Little Engines".

Sir Haydn
TR No 3 "Sir Haydn" in Corris livery at Wharf Station. From a postcard in the Talyllyn Railway shop. Photo by Cherryl Statham
TR No 4 "Edward Thomas" in Talyllyn green. Photo by DJ Mitchell
Sir Handel
Peter Sam
A picture in the Narrow Gauge Railway Museum in Towyn, Wales from the 1980s showing No 3 painted as "Sir Handel" Talyllyn Railway’s No 4 "Edward Thomas" done up as Peter Sam - Photo © Peter North
No.3 at Pendre
No 3 with smokebox door open at Pendre in June 2006.
Photo © Martin Clutterbuck 2006
No. 4 at Pendre
No 4 on shed at Pendre in June 2006.
Photo © Martin Clutterbuck 2006.
No. 3 was built in 1878 at the Falcon Works, Loughborough by Hughes, while No. 4, a "Tattoo" class engine, was built by Kerr, Stuart in 1921. Hence the names "Falcon" and "Stuart" for these two locomotives in "Duke the Lost Engine". Over half a century after they joined the Talyllyn, the Corris Railway reopened for passenger traffic in 2002, for the first time in 75 years. Both No. 3 and No. 4 have in fact visited the Corris, No 3 to celebrate his 125th birthday with "Cora" in June 2003. Rather than reclaim the Talyllyn engine no. 4, the Corris volunteers have accomplished the tremendous achievement of building a Tattoo class locomotive from scratch. This locomotive has now passed its first steam test (April 2005) and awaits painting.
Nowadays, neither Edward Thomas nor the new Tattoo engine have a Giesl ejector (a flattened, rectangular section, wedge-shaped funnel). What the Rev Awdry immortalized as "Peter Sam's Special Funnel" was fitted to No. 4 Edward Thomas from 1958-68.

Giesl ejector
An exhibit at the Narrow Gauge Railway Museum in Tywyn, Wales.
Photo © Martin Clutterbuck 2006

Giesl ejector plaque
Image of No 4 fitted with Giesl from 1966, p13, Talyllyn Railway Locomotives and Rolling Stock, compiled by John Bate, David Mitchell & Nigel Adams. © Cheona Publications 2003.

The two "Old Ladies" of the Talyllyn, No. 1 Talyllyn and No. 2 Dolgoch, were built at the works of Fletcher, Jennings in Whitehaven, Cumbria in 1864 and 1866 respectively. In his books, The Rev Wilbert makes the "twinship" of these engines with Skarloey and Rheneas absolutely explicit, such as by Skarloey sharing the works with Talyllyn in 1864 (Very Old Engines, 1965). Tallylyn was built as an 0-4-0 without a cab just as Skarloey in this book, later acquiring trailing wheels as an 0-4-2. The names "Tallylyn" and "Dolgoch" are Welsh terms for geographical features, just as "Skarloey" and "Rheneas" are equivalent Sudric terms. As related in "Gallant Old Engine" (1962), 0-4-0 WT ("Well Tank" ) No. 2 Dolgoch/Rheneas literally saved the railway by keeping services running through a very lean period in the late 1940s. The Talyllyn's story is told in "Railway Adventure" by LTC Rolt, a book cited by the Reverend. in his text of "Gallant Old Engine".

No.1 Talyllyn
No. 2 Dolgoch
No 1 "Talyllyn" at Pendre. This engine is undergoing a major overhaul. Photo by DJ Mitchell
No 2 Dolgoch at Nant Gwernol. Photo © Martin Clutterbuck 2006.
No.1 Talyllyn
Martin Clutterbuck on Dolgochs footplate
A kind correspondent sent in this lovely picture. It is a 5" gauge model of no. 1 "Talyllyn" in unusual red livery just begging to be renamed!
Webmaster imagines driving Rheneas. Thanks to trainee fireman Paul Wetherall for an excellent shot!
Following the arrival of the Corris engines, which enabled the Talyllyn to repair their "Old Ladies," the railway acquired No. 6 Douglas (Duncan) , a 1918 0-4-0WT built by Barclay for the Air Service Construction Corps, given to the Talyllyn in 1953 and regauged from 2' to 2' 3". Douglas is currently painted as Duncan and his timetable for the season is here. Meanwhile, No 5 "Midlander" (Rusty) is a 1940 RUSTon hornsbY 0-4-0 diesel which was aquired in the early 50s and rebuilt in 1980. Rusty's storyline role as a track maintenance vehicle is again true to life.

No.6 Douglas

Duncan at Pendre 2006
No. 6 "Douglas" Postcard photo by David Mitchell.
"Midlander" on 24th March 1957. From photo by JCW Halliday. on p23, Talyllyn Railway Locomotives and Rolling Stock, compiled by John Bate, David Mitchell & Nigel Adams. © Cheona Publications 2003.
No. 6 Douglas as Duncan
Midlander June 1965
Talyllyn No 6 "Douglas" done up as Duncan - Photo © Peter North
"Midlander" at Tywyn circa June 1965 with TR buffing gear. From Plate 38, Talyllyn Railway Locomotives and Rolling Stock. © Cheona Publications 2003.

Although as we all know Duke was rescued to run on the Skarloey Railway, his stories are essentially about another Railway which closed earlier, the Mid Sodor Sodor Railway. Duke, MSR No 1, is based on a Ffestiniog Railway engine, 0-4-0 STT No 2 "Prince". The MSR itself is a rich melange of references to the old 3' gauge Ravenglass & Eskdale Railway, Snailbeach District Railway and Col. Stevens' Empire in England, the Welsh Highland Railway, the Ffestiniog Railway, and the Corris Railway in Wales, and last but not least the Estrada de Ferro Madeira Mamore in Brazil.


The Tallylyn's newest steam engine, 0-4-2 "Tom Rolt", built from an Irish turf board loco in 1991, was immortalised as "Ivo Hugh" by Christopher Awdry in "New Little Engine" (1996).

Duncan at Pendre 2006
Hey, Duncan! I see you are puffed out in the shed after a tiring spring half-term with the kiddies!
No.7 Tom Rolt
Ivo Hugh
(Left):No 7. "Tom Rolt" at Pendre c. Sept 1991. Photo by R.J. Morland. Plate 37, Talyllyn Railway Locomotives and Rolling Stock. © Cheona Publications 2003. (Right):Skarloey Railway's No. 7, Ivo Hugh, as rendered by correspondent Daniel David Snell.

No.1 Talyllyn  and his twin Skarloey
Left: Photo of No.1 "Talyllyn" by Chris Eden-Green and right: beautifully rendered into his twin by Christopher Signore.

Tom Wright adds, "Fred (New Little Engine). This Skarloey Railway diesel is mentioned but not seen. I suspect his Talyllyn equivalent would be the Hunslet 'mines' diesel, Alf."

In the January 1968 issue of Railway Modeller, the Rev. Awdry included plans for the Skarloey Railway whilst he was revamping his Ffarquhar layout. Thanks to the publishers of Railway Modeller, the article is now online!

Finally, Skarloey railway rolling stock. Many thanks to David Hill for helping to get this straight.

Ruth, Lucy, Jemima
Talyllyn Nos 1, 2, 3 built by Brown, Marshall of Birmingham in 1866.
Talyllyn No 4 built by Lancaster Wagon Co, 1867.
Guard's van, Talyllyn no 5 built by Brown Marshall 1866.
Built by Falcon Works (same as loco No 3) for Corris Railway (hence name) in 1885. Now Talyllyn No 6, arrived 1951.
Ada, Jane, Mabel
Open stock built by the railway itself, now covered but still unglazed, corresponding to TR nos 11 (1955), 12 (1956) and 13 (1957)
Gertrude and Millicent:
From the one illustration of these two bogie coaches, which shows them quite foreshortened, they could be several things: the Ffestiniog stock pictured running on the MSR (see Duke), new bogies built by the Talyllyn and perhaps No 9 and 10 from 1955, or at the very least a reference to No 17, built for the Corris by Metropolitan Carriage and Wagon in 1898 and acquired by the Talyllyn in 1958.

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Visit the Talyllyn - I did!

The Railway and the Narrow Gauge Museum at Wharf station are together a lasting centre for the Rev Wilbert's legacy. The railway runs from Wharf station in Tywyn, through the works at Pendre and up the pretty Afon Fathew valley to the scenic terminus at Nant Gwernol. It then lingers in Abergynolwyn, which serves excellent tea, before returning whence it came. I was lucky with glorious summer weather and the connecting trains of Virgin and Arriva Trains Wales. I stayed at the fine "Sunningdale" BnB of Dave Johnson. Tywyn itself is a lovely spot on Arriva's highly scenic Cambrian Coast railway with other such attractions as Harlech Castle, the Ffestiniog Railway and and the "village" of Portmerion all in reach as a day out. I was greatly impressed with the warmth of the welcome from both staff and volunteers on the Talyllyn Railway and would like to thank them all collectively for help with my endeavours for this website.

As can be seen from the photos above the railway honours the Rev Wilbert Awdry by painting engines in the red Skarloey Railway livery with faces, and the current real Skarloey engine is Duncan. Click this image to find out dates when he is active.

Duncan Day out event at Talyllyn

For more information on the railway, visit the copious Rheilffordd Talyllyn official web-site.

At Wharf station the Narrow Gauge Railway Museum is free and contains the awesome Awdry Study, a shrine for Railway Series fans.

Visit the up-and-coming Corris Railway web-site. Many thanks to Corris Press Officer Richard Greenhough for all his help and information.

Commemorative stamps issued by the Talyllyn Railway in 1998
Commemorative stamps issued by the Talyllyn Railway in 1998. With thanks to James Gratton.

Complete Skarloey Railway Series Books
Four Little Engines (1955)
The Little Old Engine (1959)
Gallant Old Engine (1962)
Very Old Engines (1965)
Duke the Lost Engine (1970)
Great Little Engines (1985)
New Little Engine (1996)

Models of the Skarloey Railway engines
Skarloey engines modelled in 009 scale by the Rev W Awdry, on show at the Narrow Gauge Railway Museum.
Photo © Martin Clutterbuck 2006

Collector's Corner:

Duncan by Tomy
Skarloey by Tomy
Sir Handel by Tomy
Tomy Logo models of Duncan, Skarloey and Sir Handel. Available from Amazon's UK website. Click on each image for product details.

Victoria <----

----> Duke and the MSR