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Talyllyn Railway - 21st Century Engineering on a 150 Year Old Railway

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John Scott will describe the work that is being done to maintain and upgrade the Talyllyn Railway, the world’s first preserved railway. John’s talk will cover the problems and fun of running and maintaining a heritage railway using modern engineering resources and the potential conflicts between progress and preservation.

The Talyllyn Railway (www.talyllyn.co.uk), built on a gauge of 2 feet 3 inches, is one of a number of narrow-gauge lines in north and mid Wales built in the 19th century to carry slate, in the Talyllyn’s case from the Bryn Eglwys quarries near Abergynolwyn.

Opened in 1865, the line runs the seven and a quarter miles (11.8 km) from Tywyn (on the Cardigan Bay coast) through the beautiful Fathew valley to Nant Gwernol, from where a series of horse-drawn tramways once continued into the mountains. The slate traffic ceased in 1946 following a serious rock fall in the quarry.

In 1950 the line’s owner Sir Henry Haydn Jones died, and the future for the TR looked very bleak, as it had been losing money for some years. A group of enthusiasts, led by the engineer and author L.T.C. Rolt, sought to prevent the railway’s closure and scrapping and, thanks to the generosity of Lady Haydn Jones, the Talyllyn Railway Preservation Society (the first such organisation in the world) was allowed to take over the running of the line. By then the railway was in a very sorry state with the one operable locomotive, in very poor condition, struggling to pull the trains along an overgrown and perilous track.

Since 1951 great improvements have been made; volunteer members of the TRPS now provide most of the train crew and station staff required to operate the line, and assist with maintenance work and with many other activities. The track has been relaid, locomotives have been acquired and rebuilt, additional carriages have been constructed, a safe and flexible signalling system has been installed, and the many other improvements needed to cater for the much increased number of passengers have been carried out.

John Scott MIMechE has had a long career in mechanical engineering. Sponsored through Oxford University by the Central Electricity Generating Board he went on to work for various engineering companies before arriving in Cambridge to join Cambridge Consultants. John then had a senior appointment in a drink dispensing company utilising his own invention for a water carbonating device. The pull of consultancy was too great, however, and John left to become a self employed consultant, accumulating a few patents on the way. John has had a lifelong interest in railways, particularly concerning steam locomotives, and has been involved in a number of projects to measure and improve their performance. John is currently a volunteer engine driver on the Talyllyn Railway and a member of its Engineering Committee. He also plays the trombone.

John’s talk will cover the problems and fun of running and maintaining a heritage railway using modern engineering resources and the potential conflicts between progress and preservation.

Time: Refreshments served from 18.30. Talk starts at 19.00. Ends by 21:00 following questions and discussion.

Venue: Lecture Room 4, Cambridge University Engineering Department, Trumpington Street, Cambridge CB2 1PZ (directions)

Free to attend. Booking not required. All welcome.

This talk is open to the public and is suitable for students and engineers. You are encouraged to bring with you colleagues, friends and family who are interested in engineering and railways.

A poster to advertise this event can be downloaded here.

This event is organised by the Institution of Mechanical Engineers Beds and Cambs area.

This talk is part of the Institution of Mechanical Engineers (Cambridgeshire Area) series.

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