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.