The Narrow Gauge Railway Museum in Tywyn has held a ceremony to celebrate the inauguration of new exhibits and an enhanced education programme thanks to a £42,700 Heritage Lottery Fund grant.
Two new locomotive exhibits, Fletcher Jennings William Finlay and an early petrol engine loco Baguley No. 774, have been placed on the museum’s ground floor and the education programme has been enhanced to support the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics) initiative.
The opening was performed by leading narrow gauge rail journalist and editor of “Narrow Gauge World” magazine, Andrew Charman. Guests had the opportunity to see the new exhibits, the designs for the new interpretative displays and the education programme and enjoyed a live narrow-gauge experience by travelling by special steam train to Abergynolwyn and back on Talyllyn Railway.
The new displays have been carefully designed with the needs of less able visitors in mind. Standing in the entranceway, the recently acquired historic steam locomotive William Finlay is the museum’s “access engine”, one which visitors can climb aboard.
Much thought has gone into providing safe and easy access, with a new shallow ramp to the cab and for those who cannot get aboard, four ‘cabcams’ have been installed, with a dedicated monitor behind William Finlay showing the four views in succession.
Located at the historic Talyllyn Railway, the world‘s first volunteer run railway, the museum is entirely run by a small group of about 30 volunteers, mostly local, who have undertaken much of the work involved. The generous support provided by the grant enabled professional suppliers to deliver the more technically demanding parts of the project.
The display changes enable visitors of all ages to see how narrow gauge railways played a vital part in two industries previously unrepresented in the collection – limestone quarrying and forestry – and how the internal combustion engine began to supplant steam motive power in railway operations in the 20th century.
Keith Theobald, museum trustees chairman, said:
“We were thrilled to receive the support of the Heritage Lottery Fund. The last six months have been hectic in getting all the changes done, but I think everyone will agree that the result is magnificent.”
Richard Bellamy, head of HLF in Wales, said:
“Thanks to National Lottery players, HLF grants preserve fine examples of Britain’s industrial and transport genius that not only helped create the nation, bringing jobs and economic prosperity, but also influenced the world.
“HLF is pleased to support the Narrow Gauge Railway Museum in passing on experiences and achievements from our working past to future generations through its accessible and inclusive exhibitions.”
Ian Drummond, Talyllyn Railway Preservation Society chairman and author of a recent history of the railway, said:
“We are grateful to the National Lottery players who have enabled this grant. The museum already superbly complements Talyllyn Railway and these new developments make a visit to Tywyn even more interesting and enjoyable”.
The museum, a collection of national significance, was established in 1956. Its present fine building at Wharf Station Tywyn, was built with support from the HLF and was opened by the Prince of Wales in 2005.
Two locomotives previously displayed in the museum, Jubilee 1897 and the Dundee Gasworks locomotive, have been loaned out to be replaced by the Fletcher Jennings-built locomotive William Finlay and a Baguley-built petrol-paraffin powered locomotive no. 774.
Jubilee 1897 has gone to the Penrhyn Quarry Railway in Bethesda, where it is hoped it will be restored to steam operation as part of a different project. The Dundee Gasworks locomotive has moved to the Beamish Museum in NE England for display.