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Nearly 250 heritage railway volunteers and staff from right across the UK came together in Birmingham on Saturday, March 19 for the return of the Heritage Railway Association (HRA) Annual Awards evening. The event was being held for the first time since the coronavirus pandemic forced the awards to go online. The evening was hosted by Ffestiniog and Welsh Highland Railways General Manager Paul Lewin with guest speaker Tim Dunn, of railway documentary fame.

The awards saw a record-breaking number of entries with more than 75 submissions covering almost every element of railway preservation in the UK.

The Tywyn based railway were ‘runner up’ in two categories; the HRA Award for Environmental Innovation, for it’s work towards ‘Steaming to net zero’ and the HRA Award for Communications, for it’s Awdry Extravaganza’ event.

To mark 70 years of preservation, the Talyllyn Railway was given the Manisty Award for Excellence. The most prestigious award given by the HRA, the accolade was presented to honour the enormous contribution that the Welsh narrow gauge line has made to the whole heritage railway sector and the inspiration it has provided to others for seven decades.

Steve Oates, CEO of the HRA concluded: “This awards event means a huge amount to the heritage rail sector. It’s our chance to celebrate the railways and individuals who have gone above and beyond to deliver the quality, experience, ingenuity and passion that heritage railways depend upon. It’s also been a great opportunity to look back to the birth of heritage rail and take new inspiration from the massive success that the Talyllyn spearheaded all those years ago.

“After another really tough 12-months, not just for heritage railways but for the whole country, it’s been immensely satisfying to see and hear what a fantastic job volunteers and staff across the industry have been doing. It fills me with pride and with optimism that we will overcome whatever challenges face us next.”

Talyllyn General Manager, Stuart Williams, commented, “The Talyllyn Railway is delighted to be given the prestigious Peter Manisty Award, celebrating our first 70 years of preservation.  The award is testament both to the original volunteers who had the vision to rescue the railway from certain closure, and to the countless volunteers who have worked over the years to develop and preserve it..  Tom Rolt and his protagonists surely would be delighted to know that the preservation movement that they began would blossom into the Heritage Railway movement we all enjoy today.”