Will Smith on the footplate of a steam locomotive at Talyllyn Railway
Talyllyn Railway volunteer Will Smith is enjoying something of a busman’s - or should that be railwayman’s - holiday in Australia.
Will, 33, has swapped Talyllyn Railway - and Aberystwyth’s Vale of Rheidol Railway, where he works - for Victoria’s historic Puffing Billy Railway during his month-long holiday Down Under.
It’s the fourth time he has volunteered in the Australian summer on Puffing Billy, the world’s second preserved railway after Talyllyn Railway.
In 1951, Talyllyn became the first rail line in the world to be preserved and run by volunteers. Another of its claims to fame is that author the Rev. Wilbert Awdry, creator of Thomas the Tank Engine, volunteered as a steam train guard.
Will, who also volunteers at Talyllyn as a locomotive driver and a controller, arrived in Melbourne on New Year’s Eve and is volunteering at Puffing Billy for 15 days of his month-long Australian holiday, working up to 12 hours a day.
“A few of my friends think I’m mad for going all this way and doing this, but it’s something I enjoy,” he said. “It’s good to give something back to the railway and to keep the relationship alive between the two railways.
“Some people would love to sit by a pool for a few days, but that’s not me.”
Puffing Billy Railway chief executive Peter Abbott says volunteers such as Smith help keep the tourist attraction operating in summer, its busiest time.
A twinning partnership between Talyllyn and Puffing Billy has seen dozens of volunteers do exchange shifts at the railways over the years, leading to romance. Last year, a couple who had first met on an exchange were married at Talyllyn Railway.
Mr Abbott also visited Talyllyn last summer when he signed a new recognition agreement between the railways which began in the 1970s.
Stuart Williams, Talyllyn Railway’s general manager, joked: “It’s not just volunteering between the railways, there’s romance too! It’s nice to see that the world’s first and second preserved railways are still co-operating very strongly.
“Numerous volunteers are exchanged every year and are well looked after by each railway. I am pleased that Will is continuing this link as part of his holiday.”
Talyllyn Railway opened for goods traffic in 1865 and, shortly after, for passenger services, which have operated every year since between Tywyn and Nant Gwernol, seven miles inland.
Operated primarily by volunteers, with a small paid staff, the railway is a major tourist attraction in Mid Wales, contributing significantly to the area’s economy.
- Job Vacancies