Railways in the Cornish landscape — Stephen Gay — 13th February 2017

It is prob­ably a record for this Club that a speaker should be giving his 17th talk.  Stephen Gay has been giving talks to our Club for about twenty years and has not exhausted his list yet.

Perhaps most Probus Clubs con­tain a cadre of rail­way enthu­si­asts, our Club cer­tainly has its group who obvi­ously hold Stephen to be “The Master”.  His know­ledge is encyc­lo­paedic and this coupled with a nat­ural story telling abil­ity make his talks both enter­tain­ing and leaves one with a desire to go and retrace his steps.

Age has caught up with Rory his trusty dog who aged over 14 years is no longer to be fea­tured in many of Stephen’s photos.  The format of his talks remains unchanged with digital pho­to­graphy and car own­er­ship fer­vently res­isted.  His illus­trated talk takes us by rail (mostly) from Bude down to Truro.

London Penzance ser­vice cross­ing ‘The Royal Albert Bridge’.

Stephen pho­to­graphed the the Penzance — London express return­ing to London, cross­ing ‘The Royal Albert Bridge’ over the river Tamar.

As the line to Bude was closed in 1966,  the Plymouth Launceston bus was taken for a two hour jour­ney to reach the start­ing point which was the only hand oper­ated lock gates in the coun­try to con­nect the Holsworthy Launceston canal (1863) to the sea.  Also to be seen are the remains of a narrow gauge rail­way that trans­por­ted beach sand with its iron salts inland for agri­cul­tural pur­poses.

Next was Merlin’s Cave at Tintagel.  Stephen found the exact view that Ken Steel used for one of his famous rail­way posters in the 1950s.  Robert men­tioned this as he believes that Ken came from the west­ern side of Sheffield.

Next was a bus jour­ney inter­rup­ted by passing a modern road sign that still refers to Camelford Station.  He got off the bus to pho­to­graph this sign that refers to a sta­tion that closed 50 years ago and then walked sev­eral miles into Camelford itself.  That’s real rail­way enthu­si­asm.  His talk covered Isambard Kingdom Brunel’s work in the region and why the via­ducts have stone piers capped with brick arches above.  Originally the arches were of timber but as loads became heav­ier and speeds faster, the timber struc­tures were no longer strong enough.

It’s only pos­sible to touch on a small sample of the talk but suf­fice it to say has been booked to give us another talk next year.