The Narrow Gauge Railway Museum (Welsh: Amgueddfa Rheilffyrdd Bach Cul) is a purpose-built museum dedicated to narrow-gauge railways situated at the Tywyn Wharf station of the Talyllyn Railway in Tywyn, Gwynedd, Wales.
The Museum has a collection of more than 1,000 items from over eighty narrow-gauge railways in Wales, England, the Isle of Man, Ireland and Scotland. This includes six locomotives on display (and several others in store or at other sites); eleven wagons inside with a further eleven outside; a display showing the development of track work from early plateways to modern narrow-gauge tracks; several large signals along with single line working apparatus and documents; a growing collection of tickets and other documents, posters, notices, crockery and souvenirs; relics from vehicles scrapped long ago and the Awdry Study, re-created with the original furniture and fittings in memory of the Rev. Wilbert Awdry, an early volunteer on the Talyllyn Railway and best known for his series of railway books such as "Thomas the Tank Engine."
The Narrow Gauge Railway Museum collection began in the 1950s when the Talyllyn Railway Preservation Society (TRPS) was the first voluntary society in the world to take over and run a public passenger carrying railway. Narrow-gauge railways were becoming redundant and their equipment scrapped. Immediately, items from other narrow-gauge lines began to be offered to the TRPS and a committee was formed to acquire examples of locomotives, rolling stock and other equipment to place on public display. In 1964 a charitable trust was formed to manage and develop the Museum and this was replaced by the present Narrow Gauge Railway Museum Trust on 11 July 1994.
The main activity of the Trust takes place at the Talyllyn Railway Wharf Station. Inside the Museum interactive and static exhibits illustrate the diversity, individuality, technical ingenuity and charm of narrow-gauge railways. The fleet of historic wagons kept outside is operational and the original wagon weighbridge from 1865 has been restored and included in a redeveloped section of the Wharf yard including a purpose built weighbridge hut.
The first museum displays were in the old Gunpowder Store at Wharf station. Soon a walled yard, used for the storage of coal, was roofed over and an extension added in 1964. The building served well but had no insulation, was damp and cold in winter and hot and airless in summer making it difficult to conserve the collection. What was needed was a new museum building with adequate space, accessibility and environment, and professionally designed displays.
At the same time the Talyllyn Railway was seeking to improve its facilities at Wharf station to better meet the needs of passengers and the operation of the railway. When the TRPS took over, there was a single small building which served as a booking office, weigh house, and general office for the railway. Like the Museum, this had been augmented by various extensions and portable buildings: a radical solution was needed. With the approach of the golden jubilee of the TRPS in 2000, an appeal was launched for funds to build a new station and museum. Funding from the Heritage Lottery Fund to conserve the unique museum collection plus other government and charitable sources was obtained to match money raised by friends of the Railway and Museum. A two storey building now houses the museum, refreshment room, education room and railway offices, which links with a shop and booking office in an extended version of the original building. Work began in stages in 2001, and the new station and museum complex was opened by H.R.H. Charles, Prince of Wales and Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall on 13 July 2005. In 2010 the Museum gained Accredited status under the MLA scheme to improve standards in museums.