Railways in the Cornish Landscape — part 2. — Stephen Gay — 12/02/2018

After telling us how he found a grave­stone with his name on it in St. Keys grave­yard, Stephen began his story of the Redruth and Chasewater Railway begin­ning near Truro.

His talk was accom­pan­ied by won­der­ful pho­to­graphs that he has taken on his travels.

He showed us Devoran Village Hall, which was once an engine shed.  The road along­side the hall was where the rail­way ran ori­gin­ally. A branch line, which car­ried min­er­als, once ran from the main line down to the River Fal where the min­eral boats were moored.

We were taken on a cruise down the river to Falmouth, which was the deep­est nat­ural port in England.  Stephen stayed in Falmouth at the Green Bank Hotel.  He found that Florence Nightingale and, later, Kenneth Graham, of ‘Wind in the Willows’ fame, stayed at the hotel.

He vis­ited Pendennis shipyard, where naval ves­sels were main­tained, because he knew that steam trains were still used there until 1986. The main line con­tin­ues across a via­duct where the stone pil­lars of Brunel’s ori­ginal timber via­duct can be seen along­side.  The ori­ginal via­duct was replaced in 1933.  Brunel’s lines were seven and a quarter foot gauge, much wider than modern track.

His next sta­tion was at Perranwell, a request stop, where Stephen and Wrawby, his Germen Shepherd dog, went for a walk.  They dis­covered an ancient fin­ger­post, which dir­ec­ted them to King Harry’s Ferry, which was a chain-link ferry across the river.

The line con­tin­ues through Penryn and is single track.  It is very busy with tour­ists and stu­dents, but at Penryn sta­tion there is a side loop where trains trav­el­ling up and down the line can pass each other.  The plat­form is extra long to accom­mod­ate trains in both dir­ec­tions. The next via­duct was the last of Brunel’s timber via­ducts to be replaced.

On to Falmouth Dock sta­tion, which could become very much busier.  There are rumours that cruise liners from crowded Southampton port are to be diver­ted to Falmouth.

Then to Chasewater sta­tion which closed in 1963 when Beeching closed the branch line to Perranporth.

Stephen diver­ted to Perranporth sta­tion where there was a Millenium Project to make a Railway Walk along the dis­used line. He went by bus down to the beach where an artist called Kenneth Steel was once employed by British Railways to paint coastal views for BR posters.  Stephen told us that there is a Steel poster on Dronfield sta­tion and a paint­ing by Steel on the first floor of Atkinsons store near the toi­lets.

Redruth Station is approached by a short tunnel and in the sta­tion café is a plaque that says “Jenny Agutter stayed here.”

Camborne, next on the line, is the birth­place of Richard Trevithick, a rail­way pion­eer.  There is a statue of him in the town.  (Stephen read his poem about Trevithic.) He dis­covered another old finger post that still dir­ec­ted him to a sta­tion that closed in 1963!

Stephen stood on the dis­used (dan­ger­ous) Helston via­duct to take a pho­to­graph, then on to Helston sta­tion, which is the south­ern­most sta­tion in England.  GWR ran out of money so they opened a bus link to the Lizard where they built a narrow gauge (funicu­lar) rail­way down to the life­boat sta­tion.

Further on he passed Lelant Saltings sta­tion, which was one of the first ‘Park and Ride’ sta­tions.  When it opened in 1978 the cost for park­ing a car and a return to St. Ives for 4 people was 60p.

The line runs along the coast towards St. Ives where the sta­tion is next to the beach at the end of the line.  Stephen took a pho­to­graph of St. Ives sta­tion from the inside of a tele­phone box after he had cleaned evid­ence of the pres­ence of many seagulls from the win­dows. (He read his poem about how mobile phones are threat­en­ing the phone boxes.)

The whole ‘trip’ was an enorm­ous pleas­ure, through the present and past of Cornwall, illus­trated by splen­did pho­to­graphs and Stephen’s poems.