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More about the "old Talyllyn"; in particular, re 1948

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Calthrop

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A considerable amount has appeared on these Forums over the past few years, touching on the Talyllyn Railway fairly shortly before, and after, the preservation society's taking it over as of 1951. Hoping that not everyone will feel that this is something which has been discussed to death: recent correspondence with an associate has brought up a -- to me -- interesting new matter or two in this connection.

Some of the Talyllyn discussion on this site as referred to above, revolved around the question of how it came about that the Talyllyn was one of the few operational rail concerns not included in the 1948 nationalisation of public railways in Britain. Various suggestions have been floated as to possible reasons for this. My correspondence of recent times has yielded a to me, new "piece of this puzzle", if puzzle it is -- information which, it appears, came to light only a few years ago; this info found by my contact, via a DVD put out by the TR about the line's history. According to this source: the TR was not included in 1948's nationalisation -- and indeed, not in the in the 1923 Grouping either -- because of its as it were, falling at a fairly early point down a "bureaucratic black hole". It appears that possibly right from Sir Henry Haydn Jones's taking the railway and the Bryn Eglwys slate quarries over from the previous owners in 1910; or if not from then, anyway from 1914 -- the TR's technically obligatory annual financial / administrative returns to the Government, were not made; whereby over time, the railway effectively disappeared from the ken of national officialdom.

The significance of 1914 as above: is that, according to what has recently come my way -- early in World War I, with many quarrymen leaving their employment to volunteer for the armed forces; the Bryn Eglwys quarries closed for a while, and the railway's services were suspended, in step with this. As circumstances changed later in the war, quarry activity and rail services were resumed. (I 'm not aware of having heard anything before, about this early-WWI temporary closure: admittedly I'm not a Talyllyn scholar -- and there's stuff which I read decades ago, and most of whose content I've forgotten; but the "suspension" came to me, as a considerable surprise.) It would seem, though, that several factors around this time contributed in combination, to the TR's "disappearance" bureaucracy-wise. If annual returns had been submitted commencing post-1910 / 11 -- as mentioned, it's not certain that they were -- that ceased to be done, as from the wartime suspension of services. Confusion was increased by the deaths in action in the war, of the national railway inspector with special responsibility for the TR, and several of his colleagues -- info not passed on to their successors; and by during those years, Sir Haydn's business premises' moving to a new address in Tywyn -- whence potential muddles communication-and-correspondence-wise, possibly with accidental-on-purpose input by local folk working in humble capacities, and with no love of English bureaucracy. It's recounted how thirty-odd years later, at the time of rail nationalisation, Sir Haydn asked why the TR was being omitted therefrom. The civil servant to whom he directed this question, was amazed -- informed him that with no paperwork having been submitted for many years, the line had been presumed closed; and that he (Sir H.) ought to be jailed for operating a public service illegally !

A grand story, I feel -- and chiming in with some mentions in L.T.C. Rolt's Railway Adventure, of assorted formalities generally taken for granted; which the TR, remote and reclusive in its "fairyland", never bothered with: such as public liability insurance, and insurance for locomotive boilers. Find it hard, though, to believe that Sir Haydn's seeming cluelessness as just told of, was genuine. He was an intelligent guy, well acquainted with the workings of the wider world -- had served many years as M.P. for his local constituency: to be reckoned I think, that he was well aware of his sins of omission of the official kind -- likely, enjoyed this means of winding-up the over-serious and procedure-and-protocol-obsessed "Saxons".

At all events, this was for me, new and interesting stuff concerning a railway which -- whatever else one may think of it -- has always been a highly character-ful one. Would be interested in anyone's thoughts hereon.
 
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Taunton

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But no railways not connected to the main system were included. The Southend Pier Railway was not, nor others of similar type. The only narrow gauge ones were those owned and run by mainstream companies.
 

Calthrop

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But no railways not connected to the main system were included. The Southend Pier Railway was not, nor others of similar type. The only narrow gauge ones were those owned and run by mainstream companies.

I think we've been here before, in a past thread -- as at 1948, there were effectively almost no narrow gauge public lines of the "classic" type still operational in Great Britain (except as you say, owned and run by mainstream companies: viz. the Great Western's three in Wales) -- the Talyllyn virtually the only surviving independent one. Outfits such as the Southend Pier; or the Snowdon Mountain, or the more substantial 15" gauge lines: were as I see it, "animals of altogether different species".
 

WesternLancer

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A considerable amount has appeared on these Forums over the past few years, touching on the Talyllyn Railway fairly shortly before, and after, the preservation society's taking it over as of 1951. Hoping that not everyone will feel that this is something which has been discussed to death: recent correspondence with an associate has brought up a -- to me -- interesting new matter or two in this connection.

Some of the Talyllyn discussion on this site as referred to above, revolved around the question of how it came about that the Talyllyn was one of the few operational rail concerns not included in the 1948 nationalisation of public railways in Britain. Various suggestions have been floated as to possible reasons for this. My correspondence of recent times has yielded a to me, new "piece of this puzzle", if puzzle it is -- information which, it appears, came to light only a few years ago; this info found by my contact, via a DVD put out by the TR about the line's history. According to this source: the TR was not included in 1948's nationalisation -- and indeed, not in the in the 1923 Grouping either -- because of its as it were, falling at a fairly early point down a "bureaucratic black hole". It appears that possibly right from Sir Henry Haydn Jones's taking the railway and the Bryn Eglwys slate quarries over from the previous owners in 1910; or if not from then, anyway from 1914 -- the TR's technically obligatory annual financial / administrative returns to the Government, were not made; whereby over time, the railway effectively disappeared from the ken of national officialdom.

The significance of 1914 as above: is that, according to what has recently come my way -- early in World War I, with many quarrymen leaving their employment to volunteer for the armed forces; the Bryn Eglwys quarries closed for a while, and the railway's services were suspended, in step with this. As circumstances changed later in the war, quarry activity and rail services were resumed. (I 'm not aware of having heard anything before, about this early-WWI temporary closure: admittedly I'm not a Talyllyn scholar -- and there's stuff which I read decades ago, and most of whose content I've forgotten; but the "suspension" came to me, as a considerable surprise.) It would seem, though, that several factors around this time contributed in combination, to the TR's "disappearance" bureaucracy-wise. If annual returns had been submitted commencing post-1910 / 11 -- as mentioned, it's not certain that they were -- that ceased to be done, as from the wartime suspension of services. Confusion was increased by the deaths in action in the war, of the national railway inspector with special responsibility for the TR, and several of his colleagues -- info not passed on to their successors; and by during those years, Sir Haydn's business premises' moving to a new address in Tywyn -- whence potential muddles communication-and-correspondence-wise, possibly with accidental-on-purpose input by local folk working in humble capacities, and with no love of English bureaucracy. It's recounted how thirty-odd years later, at the time of rail nationalisation, Sir Haydn asked why the TR was being omitted therefrom. The civil servant to whom he directed this question, was amazed -- informed him that with no paperwork having been submitted for many years, the line had been presumed closed; and that he (Sir H.) ought to be jailed for operating a public service illegally !

A grand story, I feel -- and chiming in with some mentions in L.T.C. Rolt's Railway Adventure, of assorted formalities generally taken for granted; which the TR, remote and reclusive in its "fairyland", never bothered with: such as public liability insurance, and insurance for locomotive boilers. Find it hard, though, to believe that Sir Haydn's seeming cluelessness as just told of, was genuine. He was an intelligent guy, well acquainted with the workings of the wider world -- had served many years as M.P. for his local constituency: to be reckoned I think, that he was well aware of his sins of omission of the official kind -- likely, enjoyed this means of winding-up the over-serious and procedure-and-protocol-obsessed "Saxons".

At all events, this was for me, new and interesting stuff concerning a railway which -- whatever else one may think of it -- has always been a highly character-ful one. Would be interested in anyone's thoughts hereon.
Interesting post - thanks for sharing.
 

Gloster

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What was the status of the Talyllyn, in particular its ownership? Was it wholly owned by Sir Henry Haydn Jones, which might affect the need to send it at least some of the returns?
 

WesternLancer

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What was the status of the Talyllyn, in particular its ownership? Was it wholly owned by Sir Henry Haydn Jones, which might affect the need to send it at least some of the returns?
I seem to recall that is how it is presented in Tom Rolt's book. He owns it and after his death it passes to his widow IIRC. Maybe it was not quite that simple?
 

oldman

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According to the Transport Act 1947, the railways to be nationalised were those covered by the Defence Regulations 1939, regulation 69. Perhaps the Talyllyn was not considered of any strategic value in wartime so not worth nationalising afterwards. The list in Schedule 3, page 145, does not have many genuine independents.
 

WesternLancer

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According to the Transport Act 1947, the railways to be nationalised were those covered by the Defence Regulations 1939, regulation 69. Perhaps the Talyllyn was not considered of any strategic value in wartime so not worth nationalising afterwards. The list in Schedule 3, page 145, does not have many genuine independents.
Interesting - mind you I can see that a railway down Southend Pier could have had strategic importance.....maybe the MoD didn't see it that way in '39;)
 

oldman

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Interesting - mind you I can see that a railway down Southend Pier could have had strategic importance.....maybe the MoD didn't see it that way in '39;)
According to Wiki:

During the Second World War, Southend Pier was taken over by the Royal Navy and was renamed HMS Leigh, closing to the public on 9 September 1939 and becoming the Naval Control Centre for the Thames Estuary.
 

Taunton

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Tom Rolt wrote that the Ordnance Survey map in 1950 had the text "abandoned" alongside the railway route, presumably as the surveyor had come in wintertime and seen the line rusty and overgrown.
 

Calthrop

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I seem to recall that is how it is presented in Tom Rolt's book. He owns it and after his death it passes to his widow IIRC. Maybe it was not quite that simple?

Looking rapidly in Rolt's Railway Adventure (late at night, tired !): in the section about events and moves made shortly after Sir Haydn's death in summer 1950 -- Rolt writes of negotiations with "the Executors" (represented by a local solicitor) of Sir Haydn's estate: no mention of Lady Haydn by name, on these pages. (Initially, Edward Thomas the General Manager is quoted as saying that "it was extremely unlikely that Sir Haydn's Executors would consider reopening the railway again the following year [1951].") Rolt tells briefly of the idea of a voluntary society to take over the railway, being floated to the Executors; and their response being definitely positive.

My source of information, material got from whom led me to post my OP: says that Lady Haydn was highly pro-the railway, and eager to do anything she could to help it to survive -- was very co-operative with the Society. I wonder whether it might be that Rolt in his book (if I'm right -- first published 1953, when Lady H. was still alive), chose to be tactful and discreet by writing of "the Executors", rather than Lady H. by name?


Tom Rolt wrote that the Ordnance Survey map in 1950 had the text "abandoned" alongside the railway route, presumably as the surveyor had come in wintertime and seen the line rusty and overgrown.

Rolt's words re the O.S. map in Railway Adventure, are: "Perhaps the architects of the Transport Bill were under the impression that the railway was already defunct, for did not the current edition of the Ordnance Survey mark Rhydyronen, Brynglas, Dolgoch and Abergynolwyn stations as closed?" This refers to the late 1940s, not 1950 -- @Taunton, your "1950" reference maybe to different writings by Rolt?

It's been surmised by some, that this "O.S. marking stations as closed" business, stemmed from the TR's having run no passenger trains at all for at any rate most of 1945: the two locos were in such terrible condition that it was imperative that at least one of them, undergo a major overhaul: No.2 Dolgoch was chosen for this, and in April '45 was accordingly sent off to the Atlas Foundry, Shrewsbury. Slate traffic was still running on the railway: No. 1 Talyllyn was (just) operable, though in a dangerous state: could be risked on freight workings, but passenger ones were out of the question. It was reckoned that the O.S. were up to speed as at 1945, in changing the colour of the TR's stations from red (open for passenger) to white (passenger-closed) -- (no "abandoned" text as such); but they omitted to change them back to red when No. 2 came back from overhaul, and the passenger service (summer only) resumed for 1946 -- these doings concurrent with the quarry's final closing, and slate traffic ceasing to be. It has been reckoned thus, that the planners of 1948's nationalisation looked at the un-amended O.S. map, and wrongly assumed thence, that the railway was closed to all traffic.

The above 1945 / 46 doings (and further ones on the TR, up to the Society's taking over) have been discussed on a couple of threads in recent years: mostly at any rate, in Railway History and Nostalgia.

J.I.C. Boyd's history of the Talyllyn up to 1950 and the end of the "old regime" is definitely informative about the line's career in the 1940s -- I've never owned a copy: read the book (borrowed from library) decades ago; found it fascinating, but have to confess to now remembering little, re details of its content.
 

WesternLancer

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According to Wiki:

During the Second World War, Southend Pier was taken over by the Royal Navy and was renamed HMS Leigh, closing to the public on 9 September 1939 and becoming the Naval Control Centre for the Thames Estuary.
Thanks

Looking rapidly in Rolt's Railway Adventure (late at night, tired !): in the section about events and moves made shortly after Sir Haydn's death in summer 1950 -- Rolt writes of negotiations with "the Executors" (represented by a local solicitor) of Sir Haydn's estate: no mention of Lady Haydn by name, on these pages. (Initially, Edward Thomas the General Manager is quoted as saying that "it was extremely unlikely that Sir Haydn's Executors would consider reopening the railway again the following year [1951].") Rolt tells briefly of the idea of a voluntary society to take over the railway, being floated to the Executors; and their response being definitely positive.

My source of information, material got from whom led me to post my OP: says that Lady Haydn was highly pro-the railway, and eager to do anything she could to help it to survive -- was very co-operative with the Society. I wonder whether it might be that Rolt in his book (if I'm right -- first published 1953, when Lady H. was still alive), chose to be tactful and discreet by writing of "the Executors", rather than Lady H. by name?




Rolt's words re the O.S. map in Railway Adventure, are: "Perhaps the architects of the Transport Bill were under the impression that the railway was already defunct, for did not the current edition of the Ordnance Survey mark Rhydyronen, Brynglas, Dolgoch and Abergynolwyn stations as closed?" This refers to the late 1940s, not 1950 -- @Taunton, your "1950" reference maybe to different writings by Rolt?

It's been surmised by some, that this "O.S. marking stations as closed" business, stemmed from the TR's having run no passenger trains at all for at any rate most of 1945: the two locos were in such terrible condition that it was imperative that at least one of them, undergo a major overhaul: No.2 Dolgoch was chosen for this, and in April '45 was accordingly sent off to the Atlas Foundry, Shrewsbury. Slate traffic was still running on the railway: No. 1 Talyllyn was (just) operable, though in a dangerous state: could be risked on freight workings, but passenger ones were out of the question. It was reckoned that the O.S. were up to speed as at 1945, in changing the colour of the TR's stations from red (open for passenger) to white (passenger-closed) -- (no "abandoned" text as such); but they omitted to change them back to red when No. 2 came back from overhaul, and the passenger service (summer only) resumed for 1946 -- these doings concurrent with the quarry's final closing, and slate traffic ceasing to be. It has been reckoned thus, that the planners of 1948's nationalisation looked at the un-amended O.S. map, and wrongly assumed thence, that the railway was closed to all traffic.

The above 1945 / 46 doings (and further ones on the TR, up to the Society's taking over) have been discussed on a couple of threads in recent years: mostly at any rate, in Railway History and Nostalgia.

J.I.C. Boyd's history of the Talyllyn up to 1950 and the end of the "old regime" is definitely informative about the line's career in the 1940s -- I've never owned a copy: read the book (borrowed from library) decades ago; found it fascinating, but have to confess to now remembering little, re details of its content.
Thanks - interesting to read that and thanks for clarifying the nature of what Rolt had written that I was trying to recall.
 
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