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Last Updated:  Friday, 14 March, 2003, 12:08 GMT
Facelift for 'Thomas' station
Tywyn Wharf Station
Talyllyn Railway is a major visitor attraction
The train station that inspired the Thomas the Tank Engine stories is to get a 1.2m facelift and a new museum.

Talyllyn Railway in south Gwynedd has received a substantial Heritage Lottery grant to redevelop the station at Tywyn and improve visitor facilities.

A purpose-built museum will exhibit original drawings by Rev Wilbert Awdry, the author of the timeless children's classic.

Rev Awdry based his stories on his experiences as a volunteer working at Talyllyn in the early 1950s.

The new exhibition will also feature the contents of his study.

Thomas and George
Talyllyn inspired the Thomas stories

He created Thomas the Tank Engine and his steam engine friends for his son, Chris Awdry, who is now the president of the Talyllyn Railway Preservation Society.

The picturesque narrow gauge railway runs between the seaside town of Tywyn and the village of Abergynolwyn in the heart of Snowdonia National Park.

A 682,500 lottery grant will contribute to the total of 1,170,000 needed for the transformation project at the railway's Wharf Station in Tywyn.

The redevelopment will provide one large, integrated station, built onto the already extended western end of the original structure that dates from about 1865.

Better exhibition

As well as a museum, the building will provide an educational resource area, cafe and offices.

The company hopes to build on the 49,000 passengers and 5,000 museum visitors it attracts each year.

David Leech, Traffic Manager for the Talyllyn Railway Company said: "This is the biggest tourist attraction in the area.

Artist's impression of station redevelopment
An extension will create a new museum and cafe

"We have 13 full-time staff members, the equivalent of an extra six part-time staff in the summer and about 350 regular volunteers who contribute to the local economy by working here.

Staff are working out of unsuitable temporary buildings, he said.

"This is a chance to present our exhibits properly to the general public," he said.

The museum shows a collection of narrow gauge equipment from all over the UK with the emphasis on the Welsh slate industry.

But Mr Leech says the exhibits are crowded and the building cold, bleak and damp.

Project manager Peter Austin said: "We are delighted that our station redevelopment project will now go ahead.

"We are also excited for the future prospects for both the railway and the town of Tywyn and its near neighbours which it serves and supports," he added.

Work is due to start in the autumn and be completed by the summer of 2004.

Thomas steams to film stardom
08 Jul 00 |  Wales

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