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The Talyllyn in trouble ?

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

  1. Gwenllian2001

    Gwenllian2001 New Member

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    As Andrew has already pointed, The Talyllyn is not in what is understood to be North Wales but Mid Wales and in entirely different tourist area which, in the past, mainly attracted visitors from the English Midlands. The Snowdonia area, on the other hand, has been the traditional playground for the North West of England. I'm not quite sure what anyone means by stating that the Welsh Highland is 'manufactured'. All railways are manufactured and did not spring up fully formed with the landscape but were built to serve it. Why does that make the WHR any different? It follows the same route as its predecessor and the mountains, rivers and lakes are still there. The proof of the pudding, of course, is whether it will thrive. I would guess that more passengers have used the railway, so far, than in the whole of its previous incarnation which was an abject failure. Underpowered locomotives and ancient rolling stock were of no more interest to the average tourist of the Twenties and Thirties than they are today.
    Today's tourists expect things like at seat service and toilets and we ignore that at our peril. So called 'railway enthusiasts' do not pay the bills. Ordinary families from Warrington; Bury; Oldam and Manchester etc. do.

    I hope that the Talyllyn will weather the storm because of its special place in preservation history but, as has been repeatedly pointed out, Tywyn and the area has little else, apart from the beach, to attract the holidaymaker.
     
  2. lostlogin

    lostlogin New Member

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    I would argue with both you and Andrew and part of the problem for tourism in that that area & the TR is that it is in neither what many would understand to be North Wales or in Mid Wales. The TR is in Gwynedd and for most of its route runs through the Snowdonia National Park which in my eyes makes it part of North Wales. It is probably an area that needs to be rebranded as a a whole and then sold to the public. Something like Cader Country, Southern Snowdonia - the hidden jewel/heart of North Wales. I am sure people could come up with something better but I do think that a bit of rebranding could do a fair for tourism in the area,
     
  3. Baldwin

    Baldwin Guest

    ....I think it's reasonable to say that the Talyllyn is in the south of North Wales or the north of South Wales, one thing's sure though, it's in Wales !
     
  4. Baldwin

    Baldwin Guest

    Quote; "Underpowered locomotives and ancient rolling stock were of no more interest to the average tourist of the Twenties and Thirties than they are today"...... Personally i don't believe that, not all tourists are looking for ten coach trains with a Garratt on the front ! A holiday memmory of the Talyllyn is mainly composed of a sore backside, an aching back, superb locomotives and the smell of steam, just like it has always been.........and wasn't it good !!
     
  5. Sheff

    Sheff Well-Known Member

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    .... and that's precisely why they'll get many less return visits than the WHR. We visited when our kids were small, and our backs were in better nick. Not been back since, and unlikely we will, unless we happen to be staying on the doorstep. If we are going to make the trek to N Wales, we'll take the WHR every time. Best scenery, best stock & best in-train catering = best value for us (and the Garratts are spectacular too).

    I wish the Talyllyn well, but to me it's more of a died-in-the-wool NG enthusiasts set-up, and a young one's at that, so they're fishing in a fairly shallow pond customer-wise.
     
  6. Gwenllian2001

    Gwenllian2001 New Member

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    I can assure you that the overwhelming majority of passengers will head for the modern stock on the Welsh Highland. Only the truly desperate or dyed in the wool NG enthusiast will travel in the genuine or reproduction NWNGR carriages. Likewise, the Ffestiniog has a fine collection of vintage rolling stock but normal tourists do not like to be crammed in with their knees touching the person opposite and it is always the modern stock with its wide windows that fills up first.
    As for the Garratts, the general public seem to love them and jostle about to photograph their wives, children and dogs etc standing by one.
     
  7. Steve B

    Steve B Well-Known Member

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    Regardless of how you describe it, the Tywyn area is rather remote, transport-wise, from either North or South Wales. It is quicker for me to get from Shrewsbury (where I now live) to our old home in Bangor, than to Tywyn. It can take even longer to get from Bangor to Tywyn! Road improvements in the north have made a huge difference, but little or nothing has been done in Mid-Wales. Then you have the estuaries making the road journeys north and south slow and tedious, which makes travelling from the more popular tourist areas north of Harlech rather off-putting, likewise from Aberystwyth and Borth (which seems to be the nearby holiday destination of choice for my work colleagues). And then if the average tourist wants a narrow gauge train ride anyone north of Harlech will head north to Porthmadog, (with even more choices further north - Llanberis and Bala), whilst the Vale of Rheidol is there for those on the Aberystwyth side of the estuary.

    It is a real shame for the TR - it is in a truly beautiful area, and the railway itself is a real delight in every respect, but there is not much else to draw people to the area unless you're into walking and enjoying the countryside, and it is not exactly on the road to anywhere else, so no passing trade. I really wish them well, the line is one of my favourites. It may be that some different imaginative publicity might kick something off, and their recent TV exposure might help. But it is in a depressed part of Wales so it will be a struggle. They can do with all the support they can get.

    Incidentally, last time I visited I went by train from Shrewsbury - not overwhelmingly expensive and you can get offers. In itself it is a pleasant journey, but I was also surprised when I got to the TR, and happened to mention that I'd come by train, to find that I was entitled to a discount by showing my Network rail ticket. That was a few years ago, so it might have changed now, but regardless of discounts - as a stress free means of travel to Tywyn I'd recommend it (and ideal if coming from NORTH Wales...)

    Steve B
     
  8. paulhitch

    paulhitch Guest

    Actually this is to their enormous advantage. It enables railways to plan ahead without worrying if the owners of locos. are going to "take their ball back home" and the prognosis for steam on the standard gauge would be brighter if they could boast the same proportion of re-boilered engines as the T.R. or, for example, the W&LLR. Railways are about far more than their motive power and unification of ownership allows resources to be allocated to the area felt to be most deserving at any given time. I got into trouble recently for describing the situation on most standard gauge lines as faintly anarchic but I stand by this view.

    Allocation of resources is one thing but there have to be resources to allocate in the first place! Forty years ago tourists went to the seaside and gave scant regard to some great scenery on their way there. Nowadays seasiders tend to go abroad and there are large numbers of "stately homes", agricultural museums, industrial museums and the like all up the Severn valley. No need to go to the coast to add a ride on a steam train to the mixture. Llangollen or W&LLR will oblige with good scenery and the distances to get there are less. Habits have changed but the T.R. cannot change its location.

    It won't be easy to gain new business in these circumstances and slimming down the operation to increase net revenue isn't the sexiest of options. Reducing the active locomotive fleet and carriage stock will seem like a step backwards. However it might be a means for the T.R. conscious, perhaps over conscious, of its status as the first "preserved" railway, to regain its primacy by demonstrating the vital need to ensure a service is appropriate to the business available.

    P.H.
     
  9. lostlogin

    lostlogin New Member

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    I think that is what they will do, but they do need to look at maximising income as well
     
  10. lostlogin

    lostlogin New Member

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    I expect that the modern, and by that I presume you mean post preservation, carriages fill up first on the FR because they are nearest the station building, coach parties are booked into them and the older carriages at the front are locked or often added at the last minute.

    Maybe I am built differently to you but if we ignore four wheelers I have to say that I generally much prefer to sitting in A TR bogie coach or an old FR one to a modern coach especially on a busy train. The old coaches take three abreast comfortably whereas the modern ones because of the corridor it is like sitting on one buttock. Then you have to try and squeeze you legs under the table and it is like attending parents evening at my kids primary school. Travel on a damp day and people are struggling to find somewhere to put a coat or rucksack, especially as if you put by your seat you have to move evey few minutes as somebody comes past to check tickets, sell guide books, ice cream, refreshments.
     
  11. Hampshire Unit

    Hampshire Unit Well-Known Member Friend

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    Right that's settled it, I am going to the Tallylyn this Spring! I have yet to travel on the WHR, but if recent trips on the FR in modern steel bodied stock are anything to go by, the TR has tons more atmosphere! I did enjoy a trip from Porthmadoc to Tan-y-bwlch in a bug box some years ago though. The open coaches on the TR can be a bit cold though.
     
  12. lostlogin

    lostlogin New Member

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    It is interesting how opinions vary and I have to admit my opinion and that of my family is the complete opposite to yours which proves why there is a space for all out there.

    I cannot comment on which railway gets the most repeat visits, although I expect as a percentage it is the TR just because of the demographic of holiday maker, but our family view is that the WHR is designed for train enthusiasts and coach traffic. I write this as somebody whose parents, now of retirement age, are members of both the FR and TR and I think have a locals card with regard to the WHR. When

    As a family it is not something we would look at doing again, although if the frequency of service increased a trip from Port/Pont Croesor to Beddgelert , possibly getting off at Nantmore might be a regular trip. Certainly having done the trip from Rhydd Ddu to Caernarfon if I tried to take the family again there would be mutiny divorce, and we travelled first class!

    Give my kids the choice when staying with my parents and they would choose the TR, FR and WHR in that order. That may be though not just based on the actual train ride but what they do in addition. My kids only travel generally during peak times and the TR and FR have a frequency of service that enables them to get on and off and do things as part of thetrip. At present the WHR lacks that option
     
  13. guard_jamie

    guard_jamie New Member

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    On the mildly O/T discussion on rolling stock, I would agree that cushy modern stock tends to fill quicker in my very limited experience of the FfR, although I doubt that the lack of this on the TR has any impact on their visitor numbers which I think are down more to changing holiday trends and an unfortunate location. However Neil Scott will be able to verify that once, in the twilight of a cold October evening I braved a replica NWNGR carriage for Waunfawr to Rhyd Ddu and thoroughly enjoyed it! I think discussions on atmosphere are probably a bit of a dead end here as if you are prepared to travel to one over the other for atmosphere you are an enthusiast rather than a punter.

    Thoughts on improving the TR's lot - as others have said, the coat must be cut according to the cloth and I can see their timetables becoming leaner. Personally speaking I've always found the Abergynolwyn stop an irritation but I doubt it ever actively dissuades a punter. If losing it would save locos in steam I think it sensible.

    Perhaps emphasis needs to be made to the TR's accessibility by rail - which I have used several times. It is just close enough to home (West Mids) to daytrip by train, whereas the FfR is a touch too far. Perhaps more needs to be made of that NR discount? It sounds too like the TR perhaps might like to get involved with the local tourist board, start trying to plug the local area and attractions more thoroughly and further afield.

    Not wishing to teach anyone to suck eggs of course, just a few off the cough thoughts.
     
  14. Sheff

    Sheff Well-Known Member

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    Just to add to the rolling stock debate,I think the modern corridor stock offers what the majority of the market are looking for. Coach parties and families can circulate and chat to the rest of their party, and for enthusiasts like myself who also happen to have partners, it means I can wander off to the open cars to photo, video or just soak up the noise and soot, secure in the knowledge that the missus is tucked up warm and dry, with a supply of food and drink and a toilet to boot.
     
  15. Baldwin

    Baldwin Guest

    ...after reading this it's enough to give you nightmares, Garratts on the TR .......oh no !!
     
  16. I. Cooper

    I. Cooper Member

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    I don't quite follow the "problems" with TR rolling stock. Ok, I do recall one less than ideal journey following a Tommy Rolt evening exhibitors train where I ended up on the return journey on my own in one of the open sided wooden seated carriages. Travelling back in one of those, in the dark, with a chilly night cross wind and then finding it starting to rain part way back to Wharf was not the most comfortable trip I've ever had, huddled into my coat in the corner - but that could hardly be described as a normal trip. In fact I've rarely seen that stock on the normal day-to-day service trains, which are usually comprised of the spacious comfortable upholstered 'modern' bogie carriages. As someone who is over 6ft tall the leg room isn't too bad when there's someone sitting opposite, although clearly it's preferable if there isn't. By comparison my only trip on the FR in recent years was on the corridor stock where you're squashed into small seats 'cos they've tried to squash a corridor down the length - hey ho. I know which rolling stock I found more comfortable.

    As for the stop at Aber-G, as I understand it the purpose is to give the passengers a chance to give more of their money to the railway in the cafe, seeing as it's a somewhat captive market - there ain't much else at Abergynolwyn for the passengers to do during the lay over ...except visit the cafe! Cutting out that stop is likely to do more financial harm to the railway than good.
     
  17. talyllyn1

    talyllyn1 Member

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    Just to clarify one or two points raised here.
    The TR carries out regular passenger surveys. These are overwhelmingly favourable, and many visitors are travelling again because they enjoyed it so much last time. The only problem is, there aren't enough of them! The comfort of the carriages is seldom, if ever, questioned.
    On another forum, someone in a position to know has stated that enthusiasts account for about 10% of the FR's passenger figures. Given all the "goodies" available at Porthmadog, the TR percentage is likely to be less, although the enthusiast element has held up well against "ordinary" visitors.
    The biggest groups of passengers are either retired, and have often visited at least once before, or families with young children (the "Thomas" effect) The main problem is that most holidaymakers stay in caravans and tend to return every year and sometiimes more than once a year. They will have "done" the TR once or twice, but as non-enthusiasts they don't feel the need to do it every time.
    The standard bogie coaches are now getting on a bit (one was rebodied at Boston Lodge last year), but they have always provided a reasonable degree of comfort, and plenty of leg room. The end framing was designed to have the option of gangways fitted in future, but this isn't feasible for a number of reasons. Introducing corridors would have reduced the carrying capacity and it wouldn't be possible to make this up with longer trains as the termini are too cramped to extend the run-round loops. Without corridors, on-board "amenities" like toilets or buffets are a non-starter. This is why the refreshment stop was introduced at Abergynolwyn, with the station building expanded to suit. Visitors seem to appreciate this as it provides an opportunity to "interact" with the train crew.
    The addition of new coaches, even if they could be afforded, would make no difference. Only enthusiasts seem to make the comparison between the TR and the FR. Thankfully, the general public judge the railway for what it is, a unique and charming "throwback" to the Victorian era, with some lovely scenery to enjoy.
     
  18. huochemi

    huochemi Well-Known Member Friend

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    Ask not for whom the bell tolls, it tolls for thee. The TR seems to be continuing its pioneering role by pioneering a new paradigm for heritage railways, a recognition that the membership needs to put its hand in its pocket to pay for general operating costs. Costs go only one way but unfortunately revenues do not necessarily go in the same direction. Much of the cost base is fixed and to make material inroads into it would probably require drastic surgery such as shortening the operating line or reducing it to a Didcot-style operation. The marginal direct costs of operating an extra train are, I believe, fairly low (and the break even number of pax is consequently low) so slashing the number of trains does not necessarily yield that much net saving. As I said on the Severn Valley Railway thread, it was good while it lasted but it does seem volunteers are now going to have to stump up to continue to enjoy their hobby. Arguably one can do that by sticking the subs up to say £100 p.a., but there is no doubt a feeling that that would exclude persons who potentially provide valuable volunteer input, so an appeal to the membership outside the formal subs framework kicks that can further down the road for as long as those prepared to pay more than their share play ball. It may be that the TR’s democratic / society-owned railway structure, which is probably at times a source of frustration to those who have to run the railway, works well in this all-hands-to-the-pump situation.
     
  19. Martin Perry

    Martin Perry Part of the furniture Staff Member Moderator

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    They are not the first to do this.
     
  20. lostlogin

    lostlogin New Member

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    Did the NYMR not have an appeal for coal?
     

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