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News from The Narrow Gauge Railway Museum
News from The Narrow Gauge Railway MuseumTuesday, July 28th, 2020 at 12:42am
Weekly Exhibit

Ian Evans describes another book in our current exhibition on Narrow Gauge Railways in Literature. As an illustration of Irish narrow gauge, the photo is of a cheque issued by the Londonderry and Lough Swilly Railway to Hudswell Clarke & Co. presumably for spares for their locomotives.

'Peacocks on the lawn' by Winston Clewes

A novel about “Michael Donnelly’s fantastic railway”. Published in 1952, by when only the remains of the closed line dotted the landscape, it describes how an English visitor pieced together the story of the people involved in the building and operation of a railway in a remote part of Ireland.

“From the harbour, which he found dreary, he turned to contemplation of what had, obviously, been the terminus of Michael Donnelly’s fantastic creation, the Bunmeara and Rosderg Light Railway. But for the element of fantasy the small flat plain of black cinders running along the quay would have been drearier; the rails had been lifted, there was a circular pit once housing a turntable, a water-tank on stilts, a great shed the roof of which was in the process of falling in; and from the end farthest from the town the track plunging steeply into the hill, winding away upward out of sight. It was fantastic that anyone could have been found to advance the money for such a project, fantastic ever to have thought there could have been traffic for it to pay its way, fantastic now to envisage the cheerful warmth, sounds and movements of locomotives in this setting; even the station building, huddled into the hill for protection, was fantastic …”

It tells of the local solicitor, Tod O’Brien who proved “… in chapter and verse over a succession of glasses (of whiskey) that the British Government was ready and even anxious to underwrite such lunacy.” Various Acts of Parliament in the 1880s and 1890s were passed to encourage railway construction in the west and north of Ireland, with various provisions for loans, grants and subsidies.

It tells of the short cuts taken during construction to save money and the death of a navvy in a landslide caused by a skimming on the provision of adequate drainage. Of locomotives purchased on the cheap, that were unable to haul heavy trains up the steep gradients.

In operation, it describes how the services were disrupted during “the troubles” and the setting up of the Irish Free State. The novel also depicts two major accidents; firstly the wind blowing a train off a viaduct; secondly a fatal accident in 1924, when a train ran down a steep gradient out of control and derailed on a sharp curve over a viaduct, killing 5 people and 62 pigs (pages 206-211). In this narrative we can see echoes of Owencarrow viaduct accident of January 1925 on the Londonderry & Lough Swilly Railway and of the derailment at Camp village on the Tralee & Dingle Railway on Whit Monday 1893 respectively.
News from The Narrow Gauge Railway Museum
News from The Narrow Gauge Railway MuseumTuesday, July 21st, 2020 at 12:38am
Weekly Exhibit

This week we look at a relief map of the well-known island off the coast of Lancashire / Cumberland, situated between the mainland and the Isle of Man.

The map of the Isle of Sodor used to hang in the Revd Wibert Awdry’s study in Stroud, and the second picture shows it there. The map now hangs in its rightful place above the mantel-piece in the re-created study in our museum. The furniture, and many of the books used in the re-creation came from his study, though others have been added to help create the appropriate atmosphere. Many of his personal papers are now housed at the Gloucester Archive.
News from The Narrow Gauge Railway Museum
News from The Narrow Gauge Railway MuseumTuesday, July 14th, 2020 at 12:34am
Weekly Exhibit

This week we look at one of the Talyllyn Railway wagons in the historic wagon fleet. This iron bodied wagon, known as an incline wagon, was used to carry general materials on the various quarry inclines. The body shape allowed a reasonable capacity when the wagon was inclined at an angle. One of the other recorded uses for the wagon was the removal of ‘night soil’ from the village of Abergynolwyn, via the village incline.

The first photograph shows the wagon in our collection, and the second from the TR archive of wagons at the foot of the the village incline.
News from The Narrow Gauge Railway Museum
News from The Narrow Gauge Railway MuseumTuesday, July 7th, 2020 at 1:42am
Weekly Exhibit

This week we feature one of the books from the temporary exhibition on Narrow Gauge Railways depicted in Literature. Ian Evans provides a review of the book.

The Stationmaster’s Daughter by Kathleen McGurl

This novel, published in October 2019, is based on a fictional railway in Dorset, where the author lives, but readers will recognise Woody Bay, Chelfham and Lynton from her descriptions. It is a dual timeline novel – the historical story tells the tale of the last months of the Lynton & Barnstaple Railway’s operation in 1935 and a contemporary story follows its restoration. And there’s a mystery and a surprise or two along the way. Both stories kept me enthralled, a genuine page turner … what happened next? Would the characters live “happily ever after”? You will have to read it yourself to find out! However, it is a novel and not a historic description of the operation of the L&BR in 1935, nor a record of its more recent reincarnation. The latter covers the many tasks involved in rebuilding and operating the line; the running of special events, but also a nod towards the importance of protecting artefacts and records for archiving or display.

The photographs show the book cover, and a reminder of the Lynton and Barnstaple railway stations in the form of a glass from the Lynton and Blackmoor Refreshment Rooms, which is in our collection.
News from The Narrow Gauge Railway Museum
News from The Narrow Gauge Railway MuseumTuesday, June 30th, 2020 at 1:49am
Weekly Exhibit

The Patent Exhaust Steam Injector Company was established at the Rheidol Foundry, Aberystwyth in April 1878, by James Metcalfe, who was a locomotive foreman for the Manchester and Milford Railway. He had patented an improved steam injector and received financial backing from David Davies and Edward Hamer, the General Manager of the Manchester & Milford Railway. The company later changed its name to Davies and Metcalfe Ltd, and moved to Romiley, Manchester.

Whilst concentrating on the manufacture of steam locomotive components, the company did build two complete locomotives for the new Vale of Rheidol Railway in 1902. The basic design was subsequently copied by the Great Western Railway for the current locomotives.

The Company issued a centenary plate, and the photograph shows the plate with the Vale of Rheidol locomotive in the centre.
News from The Narrow Gauge Railway Museum
News from The Narrow Gauge Railway MuseumTuesday, June 23rd, 2020 at 1:00am
Weekly Exhibit

The Talyllyn Railway locomotives often carry headboards marking significant events. Some of these are now in the museum, and the photographs show two that are connected with the Railway Letter Service.

On the 1st February 1891 most of the railway companies in Great Britain entered into an agreement with the Post Office whereby letters could be carried by the railways between any two railway stations throughout the country. Although the Talyllyn was included in this agreement, it was not until 1957 that a regular service was introduced.

To mark the 50th anniversary, a special headboard was made for the commemorative train on Wednesday May 23rd 2007. The picture taken by Neill Oakley shows the train at Abergynolwyn.

The second headboard was used during the occasional all night train service. One such year was in 1990 when a special first day cover was issued.