Founded 1953

The Preservation Movement

Four pioneering railways paved the way to create today’s railway movement. Here are their stories as originally published by Chris Milner in the Railway magazine.

The Bluebell Railway >

The Ffestiniog Railway >

The Talyllyn Railway >

The Welshpool and Llanfair Railway >

We have also collected information from a few of the many preserved railways for your enjoyment. In each case this is just a small snapshot, if you wish the latest detailed information follow the appropriate links provided.

The Swindon and Cricklade Railway >

The Launceston Steam Railway >

The Middleton Railway >

The Wensleydale Railway >

Chemin de fer de la Baie de Somme >

If you have details of other railways that you would like to share with us send your text and photos to

The REC reserves the right to edit/reject any information sent that it deems unsuitable to place on our site.

How the Heritage Rose blossomed.

From the small seeds of preservation sown by the Talyllyn, Ffestiniog, Welshpool and Llanfair, Middleton and Bluebell, a mighty industry was about to grow. No one could have predicted at the end of the first decade just how big a part preservation was to play in the leisure industry.

What could euphemistically be called a second phase of preservation started at the beginning of the 1960’s and continued through the 1970;s and beyond, partly helped by the decision of BR Boss Richard Beeching to close hundreds of loss making lines and British Railways modernisation plan, which consigned hundreds of steam locos to scrapyards – many less than ten years old.

As the effects of the modernisation began to bite with new DMU sets taking over branch lines, preserv ation societies initially sourced locomotives direct from BR which were deemed surplus to requirements. Diesel motive power developments had also had an impact on industrial railways, and the surplus steam shunters proved to be a valuable source of suitably robust motive power.

The BTC policy of earmarking selected locomotives for official preservation – some of which were later stuffed in a cramped and unsuitable museum at Clapham – was at best misguided and at its’ worst badly thought out. At least those at the sharp end of preservation generally knew what they wanted to preserve, even if specific classes did slip through the net to be lost forever (maybe?)

Spurred on by the success of others, the origins for the Great Western Society were laid in 1961 when the 48XX Preservation Society was formed to save a 14XX 0-4-2T and an auto coach – a task that was to take a further three years. The GWS name was formerly adopted in 1962 but it was not until 1967 that the Society moved into its Didcot base with three locos.

North of the border the Scottish Railway Preservation Society was formed in November 1961. Some years later, it took a lease on a goods depot at Falkirk, and expanded operations at Wallace Street in the town from where it ran rail tours using it’s own fleet of coaches.

In the Midlands in 1962, the Rev. Teddy Boston bought Bagnall 0-4-0ST “Pixie” from Staverley Minerals, and set up the two foot gauge Cadeby light railway around the gardens of his vicarage. In Yorkshire, the Keighley and Worth Valley Railway Preservation Society was formed after the closure of the five mile Keighley – Oxonhope Branch. A similar occurance took place in Kent with the former Colonel Stephens Kent and East Sussex Line, and a group of business men, who met at the same Birmingham hotel as the Talyllyn Preservationists, laid plans to re-open the Dart Valley Railway from Totnes to Ashburton. That line had been closed under the Beeching axe in 1962, and who was invited to re-open the line when services re-started in 1960 – Dr Beeching!

Unlike other railways which tended to be voluntarily run, the DVR had a Board of nine directors and thirteen paid staff when it first re-opened – a bit of a luxury even by 1960 standards. So we can see how it all started, in 2012 we are blessed with many railways, new build locomotives and a wealth of railway experience. Long may they reign!!!!