Bill Faulkner on "his engine" N°4 Edward Thomas. (Photo Ian
This site is dedicated to Bill Faulkner and his beloved
My earliest childhood memories are of
the Talyllyn Railway, my father Bill Faulkner was one of the original
members of the Talyllyn Preservation Society, almost all our weekends and
school holidays were spent on or about the railway.
His life revolved around the "T.R." from the very first pioneer days up until his death
My father lived and breathed for the Talyllyn;
I would like to share with you the reader, memories and photos of this
The photos and articles for this site come from my
fathers collection, where possible I have credited the authors. If I have
made any omissions or errors, or if you object to any of these photos being
used please inform me by using the
Article reproduced with permission from "Steam Railway" magazine, March 1981.
To leave one's work behind for the weekend and set off
for the "other job” as a volunteer on one of Britain's private railways
many of us are accustomed to.
To think that we might want to,or be able to do that 30 years on has
probably not occurred to most, but a few people have been doing just
One such person is Mr W.H.D. Faulkner, now the hon. managing director
of theTalyllyn Railway.
Not only has he been a regular weekend volunteer, but for over half of
his 30 years with the TR he has been a full-time volunteer, living in
Aberdyfi since 1964, five miles from the railway he is much a part of.
Quiet and unassuming, he has always put the railway first and since the
earliest days of the preservation society he has seen the TR through
many ups and downs.
It is a clear measure of the respect with which he is held that he is
known, without nicknames, simply as “Bill”.
He is a character in his own right, a very solid traditional railwayman,
although he's not from a railway background.There are few TR
volunteers who don't know that they should look first at the loco cab
of an approaching train: if they see a pipe emerging from the doorway,
then Bill is driving and everyone should be on his toes!
The refreshment staff of Abergynolwyn listen extra carefully for the
two-tone sounds of No.4's twin whistles as she comes up the valley:
they know then that they must have Bill's own special mug of tea ready.
On Thursdays, the permanent staff also listen out for the two-tone
whistles all along the line: that's Bill, playing Chancellor of the
Exchequer and bringing not a budget but their wages in his battered old
case. Everything seems so settled and routine today compared with
things all those years ago. As Bill says, when he thinks back: "During
the early days, one of the major problems was to keep the locos and
rolling stock on the rails, when a train departed from Wharf, it was
always a relief to see it return through the bridge. We had no lifting
gear or jacks in those days, and it was a question of using sleepers
and rail to lift the rolling stock back on to the track ."One working
party weekend we had been working on the track near Dolgoch. No.4 had
been sitting happily all day, but at 4 o'clock, as we packed up, I only
moved the engine a yard and she fell between the rails! There was
nothing we could do but leave her there to be dealt with next day and
we all had to walk the five miles back to Tywyn.”
No.4, Edward Thomas, named after the old company's general manager, is
regarded as Bill's engine. He has known her intimately since she
entered service on the Talyllyn in 1952. Bought from British Railways
for the princely sum of £25, she came from the nearby Corris Railway,
of the same rare 2ft 3ins gauge. In 1951 Bill was involved in persuading
the Hunslet Engine Co., No.4's builders, to carry out a major overhaul.
At the time the regular TR driver preferred the ageing No.2 Dolgoch,
and so, whenever he was there, Bill was left to drive No.4. Her
tendency to slip, particularly on the greasy and very rough track of
the 1950's, was managed by Bill's gentle handling and she has always
been a reliable loco, a stalwart among the Talyllyn fleet.
ln 1981, No.4 celebrates her 60th birthday as the society celebrates
Before he moved to Aberdyfi, Bill was a director of a transfer printing
firm, and his house is adorned with innumerable original railway
transfers, all beautifully mounted and displayed, which he has
collected over the years, his other hobby. He designed the present TR
crest which is based on originals found on some of the old company's
literature. The actual garter used by his firm in the making of these
crests was the same as that used on LNWR postal vans’ Royal Arms and
the Prince of Wales feathers were taken from the Royal Appointment
crests used by a well-known biscuit manufacturer! Bill's first visit to
the railway was in 1946 when he travelled from Towyn (as it was then
spelt) to Abergynolwyn and back. He went back as a volunteer at Easter
when he organised a track gang to lift redundant rails
from an incline for use in the main line, then so desperately in need
of total re-laying. ln the same year he became secretary of the
Engineering Committee and quickly became the railway’s semi-official “scrounger”!
Money was so short and so much was needed, and he visited companies
asking for help. He remembers particularly the great response from
firms in the West Midlands. Supplied at little or no cost were items
such as firebars. buffers, boiler fittings, brake blocks, timber, paint
and numerous other much-needed materials.
He always had complete faith in the society and its success, but
looking back now, he says he is not so sure that the job of restoration
would have been taken on if members had realised the problems to be
encountered and adds quite definitely that ignorance was bliss. ln the
early days he could usually spend three weekends out of four in Tywyn,
rising to four or five days per week in the summer operating season.
Bill has repeatedly been voted on to the society council since 1951,
holding the position of Vice Chairman during the late 1950s at the same
time as the late Lord Northesk was chairman, another great railway
volunteer whose name is linked with the Talyllyn.
Alongside society work, he has been a director of the Talyllyn Railway
Company since 1952 and became Managing Director in 1964. His only
regret during all this time is that the volunteers have not been able
to maintain an effective track gang; something which he specialised in
while at Tywyn in those first few years. The railway now relies more
and more on permanent staff organising and carrying this work.
Few volunteers can have worked as hard as Bill Faulkner since 1951. He
has always been active, never wanting to be an armchair volunteer or
pure boardroom director. Even today he drives regularly, working turn
and turn about with drivers younger than himself, still an arduous task,
standing on footpate of a small, bouncing locomotive, running over
track much better than that of 1951 but still far from HST standards.
He shows his appreciaﬁon of a good fireman in his quiet way by grinning
acrosss the cab as the loco pounds up one of the steeper sections of
line and if neither he nor his mate is having to work to maintain the
engine's speed or pressure, his remark will probably be “Easy, isn't it"?
Looking towards retirement in due course, Bill is happy that the TR has
a good future having the secure knowledge that its operation is built on firm
base. Whatever the future, it is certain that Bill Faulkner has earned
himself a place in Talyllyn history.