Built for economical transport in difficult or thinly-peopled country, Britain’s narrow gauge railways began before Queen Victoria’s reign, flourished in her later years, and declined as the 20th century developed.
By the 1940s many had closed, while even their precursor, the Ffestiniog, once an international showpiece, had degenerated into a mismanaged, archaic backwater. Almost alone among enthusiasts of the time, Manchester clothing manufacturer James Boyd, partly through schooling, partly through natural inclination, started taking an active interest in these obscure byways, and began in the 1940s to chronicle the history of the Ffestiniog Railway and other systems; after it closed he was first to examine ways of reopening it. The FR’s legal, political and financial problems, however, caused him to switch his energies to the neighbouring and little known Talyllyn Railway, whose survival was being secured by a small like-minded group. As post-war conditions eased, James Boyd added a cine camera to his kit of historian’s pen and volunteer’s shovel and amassed, from a uniquely informed standpoint, a remarkable film library of the earliest preservation days of both Talyllyn and Ffestiniog lines.
Today, a generation has grown up whose fathers were themselves youngsters in those pioneering days, while railway preservation has become almost a commonplace throughout the developed world. But for the record of those first years, for its impact upon people willing and able to take practical steps, and not least, for the pleasure and fascination given to millions since, we have a very small group, and not least James Boyd, to thank. In this video Mr. Boyd revisits, forty years on, the scene of those historic ventures in North Wales and in his own words, and backed by his own priceless vintage film, tells of the fun and frustration of an era now as legendary as that long-lost Victorian heyday Here is a record to stand alongside Mr Boyd’s own books, which have done so much to ensure the survival and prosperity of a piece of social history whose interest and charm remains ageless.
‘Priceless, historic & massively enjoyable – don’t miss these. Very highly recommended.’ (Steam Railway) ‘Essential Viewing.’ (Railway Magazine). ‘The films & interviews are of great interest.’ (F.R. Magazine).