On the 26th October 2023 John Bate formally received his MBE for services to the Talyllyn Railway that was awarded as part of the King’s Birthday Honours List earlier this year.
John Bate (center) with family and Edmund Bailey, the Lord Lieutenant of Gwynedd
John has been an integral part of the Talyllyn Railway Preservation Society since it was formed in 1951, starting in that year as a volunteer on the decrepit Railway – helping to mend the trackwork to an acceptable standard.
In 1957, after a major landslip at Dolgoch, his engineering expertise was put to the test as he led the charge to reinstate the fallen earthwork and reinforce it for years to come. Following this, in 1963 he became the Railway’s first paid Chief Engineer. During his time in the role he oversaw multiple locomotive overhauls and rebuilds, construction of new passenger carriages and engineering plant including a self-propelled ballast tamping machine and self-propelled “flail mower” used to keep the Railway’s hedges under control – he also took his skills to building new motive power for the line, with the construction of a new steam locomotive which was completed in 1991 – the Talyllyn Railway’s No.7, named “Tom Rolt” after one of the founding members of the Preservation Society.
John would stay in this role for 30 years, retiring in 1994 – however this would not be the end of his involvement with the Talyllyn Railway, as he continues to be a volunteer even until this day at the age of 94 – as voice of wisdom and inspiration for all volunteers.
Upon receiving his MBE, presented by the Lord Lieutenant of Gwynedd Edmund Bailey, John said a few very precise words in his own inimitable way; “I’m very surprised to receive this award, I’ve done nothing more than my work. I’ve not made any attempt to achieve anything special, I was just doing my job – and I’ll leave it at that.”
We all at the Talyllyn Railway however think this was very richly deserved, for without John we may not all still be here running our Railway for future generations to enjoy. The whole Heritage Railway movement thanks him.
Photographs by Luke Ryan