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Donkeys step up to take on vital rail maintenance during lockdown

As most employees at Tallyllyn Railway have been furloughed during the coronavirus lockdown, some of the donkey work has been taken on by new staff – two donkeys.

Hamish and Lady Maude have stepped up to the mark to help the historic steam railway, in southern Snowdonia, Wales.

The new and dedicated equine recruits are carrying out vital horticultural management work alongside the seven-mile track and at stations – grazing grass that might otherwise grow out of control and keeping other growth in its place.

“The line’s closure may be bad news for the team running the world’s first preserved railway, but Hamish and Lady Maude are enjoying the absence of trains to fill their bellies,” said a spokesman for the railway.

Tallylyn was opened in 1865 and after the death of its owner Sir Haydn Jones, in 1951, a preservation society was formed to take over the line’s management.

Talyllyn Railway general manager Stuart Williams said this is the first spring the railway has not run trains since its preservation.

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“Usually a combination of regular steam trains and our army of outdoor volunteers who strim, flail and tend to the line side keeps the vegetation under control,” he added. “Without these people, the line side is reversing quickly to nature and becoming akin to a closed railway.

“We were pleased to be asked about the possibility of allowing a couple of local donkeys to graze the lineside at Rhydyronen, so Hamish and Lady Maude moved in and have been given their own part of the railway to maintain.”

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