One of Talyllyn Railway’s first volunteers, John Bate, was awarded an MBE in the King’s Birthday Honours for services to railway preservation.
For more than 70 years, John has made a significant impact in transforming the railway from nearly derelict to a major tourist attraction in Mid Wales.
A skilled engineer, his leadership, encouragement and ingenuity have inspired generations of employees and volunteers alike.
John first rode on the railway in 1947 and eagerly joined up when Talyllyn Railway Preservation Society took it over in 1951, becoming the world’s first preserved railway.
He gave up his summer holidays that year to work on the barely functional track. In 1957, when a major landslip threatened the line’s future, John led an army of volunteers to rebuild it.
He was appointed honorary civil engineer in 1958 and became the railway’s first paid chief engineer in 1963, a role he filled for 30 years, finding innovative and cost-effective solutions to problems with limited resources.
Building up the engineering department, John inspired many volunteers to go into engineering and railway careers. He was involved in the extension of the passenger carrying line along the former mineral line between Abergynolwyn and Nant Gwernol.
He also designed and oversaw the building of a new steam locomotive, No.7, Tom Rolt, named after a fellow preservation pioneer, in 1991.
When John retired as chief engineer in 1994, he continued as a volunteer and, for many years, operated the self-propelled flail mower which cut lineside vegetation.
John’s contribution to Talyllyn Railway and heritage railway movement in general was recognised in a Parliamentary Early Day Motion by local MP, Liz Saville-Roberts, last year.
Talyllyn Railway Company chairman David Ventry said:
“John steered the engineering decisions of Talyllyn Railway throughout most of its preserved life and had a profound influence on its survival and success.
“His leadership influenced the whole railway heritage movement. He has been the right person at the right time, expert at value engineering and a thoroughly good engineer. In our opinion this is an award richly deserved.”
Talyllyn Railway is a member of MWT Cymru, an independent tourism organisation representing 600 tourism and hospitality member businesses across Powys, Ceredigion and Southern Snowdonia.