It’s full steam ahead for the world’s first preserved railway in Mid Wales thanks to supporters who have hit an initial £75,000 appeal target to help the line through the Covid-19 lockdown.
The response to the appeal, which was launched just six weeks ago, has amazed Talyllyn Railway’s general manager Stuart Williams and donations are continuing. He thanked generous supporters for their donations, which have ranged from £20 to £5,000.
The pandemic has meant that the seven-mile railway, based on the Mid Wales coast at Tywyn, is unable to run trains until further notice. It closed on March 20, has already missed the traditionally busy Easter period and is set to miss the first Bank Holiday weekend in May.
The £75,000 raised will cover fixed costs of £25,000 a month for three months. Online donations are still welcomed at www.justgiving.com/campaign/talyllyn-appeal2020.
“The response to our appeal has been overwhelming and I would like to say a huge thank you to everybody who has donated,” said Mr Williams. “Exceeding our initial £75,000 target will help cover costs for longer, as we expect the virus to have an effect much further into the peak summer period than we had first thought.”
All but a skeleton staff has been furloughed under the Government’s scheme to support retained employees through the crisis. If the railway is closed until June, it will lose £250,000 in revenue, based on last year, which will impact future plans.
The railway is in its 155th year of operation and approaching the 70th anniversary of the formation of Talyllyn Railway Preservation Society in October. It provided the inspiration for the creation of ‘Thomas the Tank Engine’ by author the Rev W. V. Awdry, who was an early volunteer on the railway.
“The railway only makes money for five months of the year and we have the potential to lose three of those months,” added Mr Williams, who has applied for support from the Government’s Economic Resilience Fund.
He welcomes around 5,500 virtual visitors to a social media live stream every Wednesday at 10.30am when he and engineering manager Chris Smith walk around and talk about the railway for 10 minutes.
Talyllyn Railway is a member of MWT Cymru, an independent organisation that represents more than 600 tourism and hospitality businesses across Powys, Ceredigion and Meirionnydd.