Set in the beautiful mid-Wales countryside, the Talyllyn Railway is the ride of a lifetime.
The unique and historic narrow-gauge steam railway travels from Abergynolwyn in Snowdonia National Park to Tywyn on the coast.
Passengers are able to get on and off the train at 14 stops along the 11.7-km route to take photographs and embark on nature hikes, including one to the spectacular Dolgoch Falls. The falls -- actually a series of three waterfalls -- are part of the Nant Dol-goch stream, which flows into the River Fathew. They are a popular scenic attraction for passengers who disembark at Dolgoch Station.
On this day, we sit in the back carriage with tour guide Phil Eaton.
A large sheep barrels down from the hills and runs along the track behind the steam train. It is amazing to see, but not unusual in a country that is still 80% rural and counts sheep farming as one of its main industries.
At the helm, our keen driver Martin Lecester and fireman Karen Willems lead us through miles of breathtaking, pristine valley. We are even given the chance to ride in the locomotive and watch them in action.
More than 40,000 people -- and more than a few dogs -- ride the Talyllyn Railway every year.
The railway opened in 1865 to transport passengers and haul slate from the Bryn Eglwys quarry. Toward the end of the 1880s, the demand for slate declined and so did the train's fortunes. Sir Henry Haydn Jones, a local politician and businessman, bought the railway in 1910 but after his death in 1950 many thought that would be the end of the line for the Talyllyn Railway.
But a group of railroad enthusiasts formed a preservation society and, in 1951, Talyllyn became the world's first preserved railway. Since that time, other historic locomotives and carriages have joined the original rolling stock, and new carriages and a new locomotive have been built.
NEED TO KNOW
-- Prices for a full line day rover on the Talyllyn Railway are: Adult, £14.50 (about $23); over 60, £13 (about $20); child (5-15), £7.25 (about $11.50); and yes, dog, £3 (about $5). The line's Wharf Station is home to the Narrow-Gauge Railway Museum, a cafe and a gift shop. For more information, visit talyllyn.co.uk.