Innovative lockdown revenue-generating technology lands top attraction coveted award

One of the Snowdonia Mountains and Coast region’s oldest and most popular heritage attractions has won an industry award after finding an innovative way to generate revenue during lockdown.

Talyllyn Railway’s webcam system was being enjoyed by 565,000 viewers worldwide – and then the Covid-19 pandemic struck, threatening the Railway’s income.

Inspired by the popularity of the webcam system, Talyllyn Railway developed a public online subscription service, Talyllyn Control Centre (TCC), which the public can subscribe to for £5 a year. Developed using internal expertise as part of a master’s project, TCC already has 400 subscribers around the world.

TCC goes beyond the public webcams by running alongside the railway’s internal operating management system, meaning subscribers can access additional webcams not available to the public, and watch the live position of trains along the railway.

An unexpected but welcome side effect of introducing this innovative technology is Talyllyn Railway winning the Internal Communications Award at this year’s Heritage Railway Association annual awards, and being runners-up for the Most Innovative Fundraising Idea Award in recognition of its response to the pandemic. 

The railway was nominated for the latter award after launching its Virtual Visit Appeal at the end of March. The appeal encouraged supporters to donate the amount they would have spent on a visit to the railway, and gave them access to a ‘Weekly Walkabout’ video which saw Talyllyn team members giving updates from behind the scenes. The appeal has already raised over £130,000 plus gift aid for Talyllyn Railway, and is still being added to daily. 

Talyllyn Railway Preservation Society’s chairman Jonathan Mann said: “The news of the award, just as we are about to resume passenger services after another lockdown, is very exciting.  

“The railway is currently celebrating the 70th anniversary of becoming the first preserved railway in the world and it would be easy to imagine that, after so long, we have achieved all we might wish to. However, this award shows that we are still innovating and we are embracing new technology to add to the Talyllyn experience.”

Narrow-gauge Talyllyn Railway became the world’s first preserved railway in 1951 when its operation was taken over by the Talyllyn Railway Preservation Society. Originally opened for goods traffic in 1865, it was not long before it was also used for passenger services between Tywyn and Nant Gwernol.

The line is operated mainly by volunteers, and has a small paid staff. A major tourist attraction, Talyllyn Railway contributes significantly to the local economy.

If you’d like to subscribe to Talyllyn Control Centre, please visit