A trip on the Launceston Steam Railway

By Peter Bowyer

[[No Image]]It was a wet day. I won’t say it was wet as usual, as the day before we had walked the South-West coast path from Port Isaac to Tintagel under the blazing sun, and were now suffering for not putting on enough sun-tan cream.

On a wet afternoon in Cornwall there isn’t much to do so we decided to visit the Launceston Steam Railway.

First impressions were good, although the railway was not particularly easy to find, as it is tucked away around the back of an industrial estate. The wrought-iron gateway was prticularly impressive.

The platform looked very attractive, with a large canopy (originally from Tavistock North) providing shelter from the rain. The train was double headed – this is usually only done on Wednesdays but there was a visiting locomotive present and with wet rails they did not want to risk the locomotive stalling.

We boarded one of the closed carriages with an open verhanda which gave us good views of the line. The view from the train was not very spectacular as the line runs through ordinary countryside (as opposed to the grand scenery surrounding the Ffestiniog or Vale of Rheidol railways) but the sound of the locomotives working hard up the 1 in 40 gradient made it worthwhile.

Motive power is usually provided by Quarry Hunslets, and our train was hauled by Covercoat (works no. 679, built 1898) along with the visiting engine.

[[No Image]]At New Mills the locomotives ran round the train and we had 10 minutes to wait before it returned to Launcesten. Usually you can visit the farm park which is right next to the railway or walk, but foot and mouth restrictions were still in place, which prevented us from doing so.

On the ride back, which is mainly downhill, the rain eased off and the sun actually shone, which certainly made a change! It was a lovely view standing on the balcony at the back of the train watching the track disappear into the distance.

By the time we reahed Launceston Station the rain had started again. however we spotted a sign for the museum and gratefully disappeared inside.

The museum contains a collection of vintage cars and motorcycles, as well as stationery engines and railway stuff. It also provides a viewing area into the workshop, where Velinheli (Works No. 409, built 1886) was stored.

As well as the normal gifts for sale in the shop (e.g. Thomas the Tank Engine) there was also a comprehensive railway bookshop, which we spent a happy half-hour browsing. We did not sample the buffet, but can definitely say that the toilets wee clean and well looked after.

It was certainly a good afternoon and the staff were very friendly, which always makes the atmosphere better. The ticket allows unimited rides on the railway, which is probably necessary to get value for money.