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On 14 May 1951, the first ever train in railway preservation left Wharf Station for the short trip to Rhydyronen. It marked the start of heritage railways as we know them now, the Talyllyn Railway being the first volunteer run railway in the world.

On Friday May 14 2021, the Talyllyn Railway Preservation Society ran a commemorative train in celebration of the 70th anniversary of the running of the first ever train by volunteer members of the newly formed Preservation Society. Five original members from 1951 were able to join the commemorative train on this day. They were Phil Sayers, John Smallwood, Olwen Bate, John Bate, and David Mitchell.


Five people in front of a vintage Guard's Van.
Phil Sayers, John Smallwood, Olwen Bate, John Bate and David Mitchell at Wharf. Photo: Frank Nolan


In 1951 the train was sent off after a ribbon cutting ceremony performed by Bill Trinder, who was both Chairman of the Talyllyn Railway Company and the newly formed Talyllyn Railway Preservation Society.


Black and white image of a man curring a ribbon in front of a narrow gauge engine.
14 May 1951 – Bill Trinder cutting the ribbon on the first passenger train in preservation.


In 2001, on the 50th anniversary a similar ceremony was performed using the same ribbon. On this, the 70th anniversary, the same ribbon was used once again. On this occasion, the ribbon was cut by John Bate – a pioneer volunteer from the beginnings of the Society in 1951. He went on to serve as the first Honorary Civil Engineer from 28 October 1958 and was later employed as the first paid Chief Engineer of the Society from 1963 until his retirement in 1994. John has been an honorary Vice-President of the Society since then.

John was welcomed and introduced by David Mitchell, President of the Society and Jonathan Mann, the current Society Chairman.