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The Talyllyn in trouble ?

Discussion in 'Narrow Gauge Railways' started by Baldwin, Jan 11, 2013.

  1. paulhitch

    paulhitch Guest

    It all depends if you are a gricer or not. I cannot see anyone who isn't, riding up and down all day on a rover ticket. Friends (I sound just like a preacher from the Deep South!) preserved railways cannot survive by gricers alone. They survive by the number of "ordinary" people who can be attracted by a reasonable expenditure on advertising and the service must be tailored as closely as possible to that demand to ensure profitability. Such people may not be unsophisticated in other respects but where railways are concerned they often are. Witness a couple I met on my last visit back to the W&L in order to ride on the "Vintage Train"

    "Countess" duly pulled into Raven Square, steam whisping from the twin whistles, to accompanying hisses and snorts from the vacuum brake. "Is it a diesel locomotive made up to look like a steam one" said one of the pair to me! They would have enjoyed the journey no doubt but it is a gricerish delusion to think they were bowled over by the "stack talk" as her Ladyship hammered round the reverse curves on the 1 in 29. They would neither know or care if they were hauled by a Beyer Peacock or a Kerr Stuart but they might notice that a return trip on the W&L costs £12-80 whilst it is as much as £14 on the T.R., working out at 96p per mile; far too much IMHO. The W&L fare is enough.

    Those, such as Orion, seeking additional value, can visit on the "two train" days duly advertised in the timetable. The number of these has crept up as business has improved.

    Paul H.
     
  2. lostlogin

    lostlogin Member

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    Holidaying with my family the train trip is part of the day out, it is not simply a ride up and down. Therefore to attract my families custom there has to be a reasonable frequency of trains so that we can firstly get on and off and secondly not have to wait two hours for a train when we next want to travel. For that reason as a family we avoid the WHR

    I do wonder with the return ticket which you can use as a rover and get on and off if the public are now so conditioned by using national rail services which are totally inflexible that some or many think they can not break there journey. That applies to other railways rather than the TR.

    One aspect the TR could try and market more is that they presently market the railway as a great day out. Many families might not want that. They just want a trip on a steam train. Aber Nant Aber, or Aber Dolgoch Aber possibly including Nant is idea for that. You get a train ride, there are refreshments and if the weather is nice somewhere for the kids to play and it can all be done on a budget in an hour. It would be great if they could catch that "budget" quick end of the market, but the risk is that you do not want those who currently travel the full length to switch.
     
  3. Hampshire Unit

    Hampshire Unit Well-Known Member Friend

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    Whilst I agree with some of your points there Paul, aren't accompanied kids cheaper on the TR? I'm not sure £1.20 is a huge difference. The W and L starts at one of the entry points to Mid/North Wales and the TR does not - I am guilty of generalisation here, but the W and L presumably has a higher proportion of day trippers from the Midlands etc whereas the TR will get more family on holiday visits - I am happy to be corrected if anyone has hard data on this. I seem to remember that the TR used to do jazz evenings at Abergynolwyn, looking at the website today, I see a range of fish and chip trains, a few themed evening trains, Teddy Bears picnics, so they are certainly trying to appeal to the family market. The Victorian theme days look interesting, but at £25 perhaps too expensive, even though they include a cream tea. Hopefully the TR management track the numbers from these services closely.
     
  4. Talyllyn07

    Talyllyn07 Member

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    I think what Orion was trying to touch upon? (or as it appeared to me) is it seems fair enough to charge just a little bit more and have more going on and more to choose from?

    not only that but round trip journey time on the WLLR is 2 hrs 5 mins, round trip on the TR is 2 hrs 25 mins. and a passenger is going to be more interested in how long it can occupy the family than the amount of miles you cover? meaning a ticket of 12.80 on the WLLR is 624 pence per hour where as the TR at 14.00 is 622 pence per hour, which says to me there aint much in it... but are we not just nit-picking here?
     
  5. Talyllyn07

    Talyllyn07 Member

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    Hampshire Unit,

    just on the thought of our Victorian train days, yes they are priced at 25 pounds per head but they are very popular as its not just the train ride in a very original 1860's train but each carriage* has a volunteer who tells stories of the old company pre preservation and some of the history of the railway, this includes answering questions etc etc. Photo run pasts are also made at Rhydyronen and Dolgoch over the viaduct for those who wish to partake. so if the attraction is worth it people will come, this is mainly 'ordinary' passengers who take up this offer so this is seen as a good money spinner if you will...

    cheers

    AT

    * given that Volunteers avaliable.
     
  6. 8-10 Brass Cleaner

    8-10 Brass Cleaner Member

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    Nit picking yes.

    If theres f all to do where you turn around, your just going on a 2hr odd train ride, with a boring bit in the middle, which for me with a small child is too long

    If there is something to do one end or the other, then you have a 1hr odd ride, an hour or two spent doing something (even if it is just walking round an unfamiliar town), and another hour spent on the train. Breaks the day up.

    I think the Tal Y Llyn could do this if it sold doing the trip from Abergynolwyn. Sell the NG museum better, sell the chance to visit the seaside which is no more than a short walk from the railway, while Tywyn itself is a pretty dull place with dull shops, its 100% more interesting than Abergynolwyn.

    The mass market availible near Tywyn is families with children and the countless chavs who go on holliday in the plethora of touring or static caravans in the area.

    At present is seems that you ride the train to and back and its job done, unless your a walker. Walks are no use to families with very young children in pushchairs, and something the chavs wouldn't do if you paid them.

    The railway thus needs to find something for the chavs and families to do other than ride the train.
     
  7. paulhitch

    paulhitch Guest

    This is heavily skewed by that pesky Abergynolwyn stop which eats up 25 minutes! Turn Aber into a holiday let (planning permission permitting of course) get some rent and save one set of carriages and one loco in service daily during the peak season. There is no reason why the TR cannot exist happily on its present carryings with some judicious economies. Get those carryings up just a little as well and the financial pressures would be eased dramatically. T.R. people might be interested to go to Welshpool & Llanfair Light Railway : Home Page and select the "News" section where there are a couple of features on the winter relaying programme. That sort of renewal is a possibility on the T.R. if a grip could be got on operating costs.

    Sorry to be fierce!

    Paul H.
     
  8. Talyllyn07

    Talyllyn07 Member

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    the very young children have the Adventure Playground at Abergynolwyn if the 29 or so minutes the train spends there is too long once refreshments have been taken and I can also suggest you can break your journey at Dolgoch which via the footbridge over the track before the viaduct is suitable for pushchairs and you can get to the bottom falls and the tea rooms at the Dolgoch Hotel (should you wish) with your pushchair also.

    i do agree that there is nothing to do at Nant Gwernol if your not of the walking breed but the railway wasnt built to get you to a theme park, or a street corner (noting your chavs comment) and there is only so much the TR can do alone.

    apart from a piece in the Timetable, Guide book and giving free entry to the museum how else could we sell it better? im genuinely interested to know anyones views on how it can be done better as Ellis has stated also we want to hear from our passengers and even more from people who dont visit the TR and what would attract them to come.

    cheers

    AT
     
  9. Talyllyn07

    Talyllyn07 Member

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    Paul,

    no need to be fierce, but just to clarify you think the TR's current stop for refreshments at Abergynolwyn is not needed? why is this? when I have travelled on the W&L From Llanfair I have found myself spending 20-25 mins for the next departure to Llanfair, and from Welshpool I have spent over 1 hour there with nothing to do once you have perused the gift shop and bought a drink from the cafe. then travel back, yes I'm aware that Llanfair is like the TR's Wharf but there is the Museum and larger town + the prom to walk down to to use up the time.

    in fact I cant think of any NG or SG railway I have visited which doesnt have at least a 1/2 stop at the far end of the railway to try and persuade passengers into their shop, cafe or whatever else so I cant see why you have a problem with the TR's stop,

    i'm not necessarily having a go but asking for fair play ;)

    cheers

    AT
     
  10. Hampshire Unit

    Hampshire Unit Well-Known Member Friend

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    Good, I am glad, especially explaining the story behind the line. For me the key attraction of the TR is the use of original or similar stock, such as the Corris centre vestibule coach and loco no 3 etc. I was wondering more whether the family market would go for that particular attraction. I fancy the trip myself, I will have to see when I can get up again this year!
     
  11. Talyllyn07

    Talyllyn07 Member

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    whilst I don't know the actual passenger make up of these trains I'm not sure that many families are booking these but I would suspect that couples are taking up this activity both young and older couples looking for that different day out, these days are generally hauled by No.1 and 2 with carriage No's 1,2,3,4,5* subject to operational difficulties. as its technically a TR Victorian day out Carriage 17 (Corris/Royal Saloon) will only be used if demand meets and exceeds seats in the original carriages...

    cheers

    AT
     
  12. paulhitch

    paulhitch Guest

    No problem with a stop at the end of the line for the loco has to be run round, take water and be lubricated. Passengers can be lubricated as well! However then to add a prolonged stop almost as soon as the train has started back, simply to patronise a cafe is crazy. I can recall this point being made in ancient issues of Talyllyn News at the time the extension was being planned on the grounds that it made no sense to rebuild a station that shortly would not be the terminus. Sir Clough Williams-Ellis had agreed to design something for Nant-Gwernol it was stated. These views were not heeded so the present situation arose.

    I recall reading also in Talyllyn News, later on of course, that Abergynolwyn cafe was by no means consistently profitable. I don't know what the situation is now. However, without this stop, the peak summer service of six return trips could be operated by two sets rather than three as at present. It would have to be an exceptionally profitable cafe to compensate for the additional costs the stop results in. At one time this situation, if wasteful, was affordable. Now I would suggest, alas, it is not affordable and tough decisions are needed.

    Paul H.
     
  13. michaelh

    michaelh Part of the furniture

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    Abergynolwyn has been unprofitable for most of the time since it opened in 1969. It's a function of the high fixed costs (staff) and the low sales per passenger figure

    I worked as a volunteer for 30 years following the opening of the extension in 1976 and I would say that opinion about the prolonged stop 5 minutes after leaving another longish stop at Nant Gwernol (and the Abergynolwyn stop used to be longer than 25 minutes) amongst passengers was pretty evenly divided - as many complained about it as welcomed it.
     
  14. ellisteph12

    ellisteph12 New Member

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    I'll put my visitor hat on here, with regards the comments regarding pushchairs and children. The one group I think the TR deals with very well is families, having four children myself it's always something I judge any railway on.. How long can I get away gricing before the kids and partner start grumbling and the TR does well on this.

    You can get a pushchair from Dolgoch Station down to the Lower falls, and you can easily have a good hour with no spend on keeping the little ones entertained. The main attraction for us at Nant is to watch the engine run around, sounds a practicality to probably most on here, but the steam engine pulling the train is probably the main attraction and the reason you paid the ticket, to see it up close and take photos is just as important. Keep the toys on show!

    The stop at Aber has been discussed at every meeting Ive been to, should it be longer / shorter? There is a case for both, make it longer so people have a chance to get a drink if its busy or trim it down. The 2013 timetable changes take into account the worries displayed about the Cafe being profitable, the TR is incredibly lucky at having members who know the Cafe's inside out and have offered advice, advice has been heeded, timetable tweaked so let's see if it works.

    The museum at Wharf is well equipped for children and despite me being worried they might break something, kids can spend some good time in there. Maybe there needs to be a little more for children at Wharf? But then I think of other terminus' and I cant think of many I've visited that have lots of activities for kids, the reason your at the main terminus is to get on the train?

    I have never experienced my family being bored on a trip, you can include the Falls and miss out Aber, or vice versa and you've got a completely different day out from the previous.

    But for me what makes or breaks the day are the volunteers you meet on your day out. A station master who is willing to have a chat at Dolgoch, a fireman who lets the kids explore the engine at Aber, booking office clerk who explains all the stations and advises where is best to go is the heart of the Talyllyn. Some railways have great facilities, slick and lots of things to do, but is you come across a rude staff member or feel your just another ticket holder, it spoils the day. Ask the majority of passengers and Im sure friendly staff who you know are enjoying themselves and willing to have a chat is top of there reasons to return.
     
  15. guard_jamie

    guard_jamie Part of the furniture

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    Maybe, but is that of interest to a family? To an enthusiast, yes; I went to Aberystwyth for four years and during that time made the occasional trek North - with the wait at Dovey Junction, for a day's steam fix if I'd done the VoR recently. And I'd always go when the roster showed that three locos were out, instead of one, or two. But I'm an enthusiast. I live and breathe the railway past. I can tell you who built all of your steam locos, even though I wouldn't consider myself a particular Talyllyn enthusiast - I'm not showing off, I'm showing you how sad I am!

    But I'm in a teeny tiny minority. Does a family or retired couple check the loco roster page? I sincerely doubt it. They turn up for a journey, and they're usually happy within reason to work around your timetable. So I think Paul is making a very convincing case for a cut-back service that meets demand and isn't profligate.
     
  16. michaelh

    michaelh Part of the furniture

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    I think Jamie's right - these days most people will probably check the timetable via the internet and plan accordingly. If there are no trains on Friday, then they'll go another day, if the first train is 1030 then they'll arrive in time for that.
     
  17. Sheff

    Sheff Resident of Nat Pres

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    From scanning the many pages on this topic it appears to me that the main attractions the TR are trying to promote are a) their undoubtedly fine Victorian history, and b) the scenic countryside with it walks to waterfalls etc. Now if I were looking for a family day out, I'd be more interested in the possibility of a walk to give others something to do and let off some steam, whist I got my steam fix too.

    Now few people these days are going to travel long distances, or block-out a precious day on the holiday calendar, without doing their homework on-line to see exactly what the offer is, will it suit the ages/abilities and interests of those involved, how much of the day it will occupy etc. So I visited the TR website and gave up after 5 mins. All I found was a reference to walk leaflets with a link to the shop. Followed link and couldn't find the leaflet. Even if I had, I wouldn't have bought one without some overview of what it offered eg 'Leaflet describes walks ranging from 'x' to 'y' miles, suitable for these ages/abilities, visiting these attractions, from these stations etc. with a basic map showing the different options.

    Last time I went to the KWVR they had walk routes on the table tops on open their stock, to show visitors the possibilities, though I just tried their website and couldn't find one on there either. So it's not just a TR problem.
     
  18. lostlogin

    lostlogin Member

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    i would suggest that these leaflets should be downloadable for free from a link, unless subject to copyright, as I expect the only reason the TT charges for hard copies is to recover the printing costs. Obviously that does not apply for soft copies.

    I also would suggest they have on there website a downloadable route map pointing out items of interest along the route etc. In fact I think all railways should try and have have. The SVR used to have a very good one but I cannot readily see that is stil the case.
     
  19. guard_jamie

    guard_jamie Part of the furniture

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    The SVR still hands out a "through the window" booklet free with every ticket purchase.
     
  20. paulhitch

    paulhitch Guest

    The T.R. website seems to follow a widespread pattern in having the air that it is complicated because those compiling it have the know-how to make it complicated! It is not as bad in this respect as some but would benefit from removal of all the minutes of meetings etc. which the fare paying visitor is unlikely to have any interest in. The cliche is "the customer is King"!

    Paul H.
     

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