A unique visitor will be steaming in Birmingham to mark a successful campaign 60 years ago to save a Welsh railway, which began in the pages of the Post.
It was in 1951 that the world’s first heritage railway was created – and now the steam locomotive which was bought for just £25 back then is heading to Birmingham.
The campaign to save the railway began with a letter in the Birmingham Post from author and enthusiast Tom Rolt, who called for a meeting at the city’s at the Imperial Hotel in Temple Street.
Rail buffs, many of whom lived in Birmingham, were concerned that the narrow gauge railways of Wales were facing oblivion.
In particular, the plight of the Talyllyn Railway, on the edge of Snowdonia National Park, had been highlighted in an earlier Post article.
A correspondent wrote on September 5, 1949: “One has felt the air of a ghost train about it. It passes crumbling waiting rooms and stations and pathetic heaps of stone which were once flourishing hill farms, and the silent deserted slate quarries come into view at the end of the journey. The time will come when the line will close for ever. Will not the Government or British Railways do something? Surely these last remaining lines offer some attraction, especially the magnificent mountain scenery provided by the Talyllyn Railway.”
The original seven-mile line in Tywyn opened in 1865 but the long narrow gauge track was facing an uncertain future in 1950, when its owner, Sir Henry Haydn Jones MP died.
Mr Rolt’s letter, sent on September 20, 1950, sparked by the earlier article in the Post, said: “It is felt that all who are in any way interested in railways will endorse the view that it would be deplorable if the year 1951 should be marked by the permanent closure of this unique and historic railway.”
He described the plight of Talyllyn as a “sorry symptom of the decline of individual initiative. It would be a great loss, not only to railway enthusiasts but to all lovers of north Wales if the career of this beautiful and historic little railway were to come to an untimely end.”
The letter called for a rescue plan, sparking a big response, and around 70 people, mainly businessmen from the West Midlands attended the meeting where a committee was formed to investigate buying the railway.
The room where it was held was subsequently called the ‘Talyllyn Room’ in honour of the historic meeting.
Mr Rolt was helped in setting up the transfer of the Talyllyn Railway to a new preservation society by Pat Garland who was born in Northfield.
Another of the members at the meeting was Birmingham resident Pat Whitehouse, who went on to become Vice-President of the Talyllyn Railway Preservation Society.
The society’s first acquisition was from the Great Western Railway, and comprised two narrow gauge steam locomotives at £25 each, one of which was named after the line’s previous owner, ‘Sir Haydn’.
Sir Haydn has continued to run on the line ever since, and will be a on show at the famous Tyseley Works Open Days on June 22 and 23 alongside other locomotives.
The visit to Tyseley is being sponsored by Heritage Painting, founded two years ago by Ian Hewitt. They have recently been involved in painting the famous A4 locomotives Mallard and Dwight D. Eisenhower, in preparation for the National Railway Museum’s Mallard 75 events.
A spokesman for the Talyllyn Railway said: “On this leg of Sir Haydn’s travels many more people will get a chance to see and learn about this historic locomotive as well as the railway on which it runs.”