Cornwall's Railways

Cornwall's Railways

Kernow Hyns Horn


Sticking to the rails

train Animation

Poldice TramwayThe Redruth and Chasewater RailwayThe Pentewan RailwayThe North Cornwall Railway
The Hayle RailwayThe South Devon and Tavistock RailwayThe Liskeard and Caradon RailwayThe Liskeard and Looe Railway
Par RailwayThe Newquay  Cornwall Junction RailwayThe Truro and Newquay RailwayThe West Cornwall Railway
The Helston RailwayThe East Cornwall Mineral RailwayThe Fowey to Lostwithiel RailwayNewquay Railway
The Bodmin & Wadebridge RailwayThe Cornwall Minerals RailwayThe Great Western RailwayCurrent Stations and Branch Lines

Cornwall played a noteworthy part in the infancy of steam locomotion. In Redruth in 1784 the Scot, William Murdoch, built the first practical vehicle to run under its own steam power, albeit a small model. The great Cornish engineer, Richard Trevithick, built a steam road carriage and ran it successfully in Camborne on Christmas Eve, 1801. He went on to harness the power of steam for rail locomotion, at Penydarren in South Wales in 1803, but it was left to others elsewhere to profit from his achievements.

Cornwall's extractive industries, mining and quarrying, prompted the growth of its railway network and all the early lines run to and from the coast to facilitate shipment of goods. Nonetheless, for almost half a century after Trevithick's invention, Cornwall continued to use horses on most of its railways.

Early in 1844 a meeting was held in Truro with the object of forming a company to construct a line through Cornwall. This was at first proposed to run through Okehampton, Devon, and Launceston, then down through the centre of the County, roughly in line with the road used by the London mail coach service. However, when the South Devon Railway Act was published, authorising a route to the south and ending at Plymouth, a route into Cornwall at Torpoint was proposed. This was surveyed initially by a Captain Moorson.

The first Cornwall Bill was rejected by the House of Lords Committee, who suggested that a fresh survey be carried out avoiding the severe gradients and the ferry crossing. This survey was carried out by non other than Isambard Kingdom Brunel, of course, who proposed a line crossing the River Tamar by means of a bridge at Saltash and running then to St. Germans and Liskeard. Nowhere did the inclines exceed 1 in 60. As a result of these changes, the Cornwall Railway Act received the Royal Assent on August 3rd 1846.

The line was to be built to Brunel's "Broad" gauge of 7 feet 0¼ inches, and after a slow and unsteady start, Brunel proposed that the line be single track throughout so that it could be built quicker and cheaper. The line in Cornwall, from Truro to Liskeard, was completed first in 1852. The stretch from Devonport to the bridge at Saltash, which was to be named the Albert Bridge, by permission of His Royal Highness, the Prince Albert, was started in January 1853.

Cornwall's Railways

Doublebois was at the summit of the Cornwall Railway. A siding was provided here when it opened on 4th May 1859 to enable trains to be split into smaller parts to enable them to be worked over the steep inclines up from Liskeard and Bodmin. Doublebois station opened on 1st June 1860, providing a service to people and mines in the St. Neot area. The station closed on 5th October 1964 but the earthworks can still be seen.

At the end of March 1859 the final span of the Royal Albert Bridge at Saltash was hoisted into place and the first train to cross the Bridge ran on April 11th 1859. The line was completed in 1859 with the opening of the Cornwall Railway from Plymouth to Truro, where it linked with the earlier West Cornwall Railway on to Penzance. There were no through passenger services until 1867 due to a break of gauge at Truro - the Cornwall Railway had been built to broad gauge, while the older line was to standard gauge. The extension to Falmouth opened on 24th August 1863.

The 7.5 mile section of single track between Burngullow, near St. Austell, and Probus, near Truro, used to be a major cause of delays in the region, requiring trains to wait for preceding trains to clear the singled section before proceeding. The second track was restored in August 2004.

Former Branch Lines, Mineral Lines and other Railways

Poldice Tramway. Although an underground tramway was in use in 1783 at Pentewan in a tin working, the earliest above-ground railroad in Cornwall itself was the horse-drawn mineral Poldice Tramway built by the Williams family of Scorrier House, from Portreath and the great Gwennap copper mines to a harbour on the north coast, by which the ore might be taken to Wales for smelting. The first rail was laid in 1809 and the line was in use as far as Scorrier House by 1812 and completed by 1819. It was constructed as a plate-way, using flanged L-shaped cast iron plates on square granite blocks. The line was little used by 1865 and closed completely soon after.

The Redruth and Chasewater Railway. Authorised in 1824, it also serviced the mines of Gwennap and Redruth, running in the other direction past Lanner to the south coast river port of Devoran. It opened officially in 1826 and worked with horses until 1854 at a gauge of 4 feet 0 inches, when two tank engines, Miner and Smelter, were bought. They were odd looking machines with square tanks, tall chimneys and without cabs. By 1859 it was necessary to acquire a third locomotive, Spitfire, which was much improved but similar in appearance to the others, to cope with the increase in traffic. In its peak years considerable quantities of ore were carried to the schooners waiting at Devoran or a mile further on at Point Quay, to which the had been extended in 1827. The line was closed in 1915 when the copper mines in the area also closed, and as Devoran ended its working life as a port.

The Pentewan Railway. To support the growing china clay industry, Sir Christopher Hawkins built the railway which opened in 1829, worked by horse-power until 1874, when locomotives took over, and ran from just outside St. Austell to the port of Pentewan, just four miles away. In its early days about a third of the clay produced was shipped via Pentewan, but the port silted badly and the railway inevitably suffered as a consequence. Rails still to be seen in place today are the relics of a later sand-extraction enterprise that closed in the 1960's. One 16 seat saloon carriage was built in 1875, but its use was confined solely to the Hawkins family. From the 1880's onwards annual Sunday School parties were carried to Pentewan in the clay wagons. The last freight was conveyed in 1918 and the lines were lifted soon after.

The Bodmin & Wadebridge Railway. To carry sea sand required by farmers inland from Wadebridge, the landowner Sir William Molesworth initiated the construction. It opened in 1834 as the first to be built to the so-called standard gauge of 4 feet 8.5 inches, and carried passengers as well as goods from the beginning. The company also had one steam locomotive, Camel, Cornwall's first railway to use one. A second engine, Elephant was bought in 1836. At Wadebridge the line was extended to the quay alongside the river and a sand dock was in use. At Wenford Bridge the line was linked by an incline to the De Lank granite quarries. The Bodmin and Wadebridge was bought in 1846 by the London and South Western Railway which had no link within 200 miles, but was anxious to fend off the Cornwall Railway. The two concerns were finally to join some 50 years later when the LSWR reached the North Cornwall coast. Beattie well tank engines arrived in Wadebridge in 1893 and performed well on the difficult Wenford Bridge branch, where they operated until 1962. The various branches closed gradually between 1917 and 1964. Today the Bodmin & Wenford Railway operates steam and diesel passenger and demonstration freight trains between Bodmin Parkway on the Plymouth-Penzance main line and Bodmin General station and between Bodmin General and Boscarne Junction over a restored part of the Bodmin and Wadebridge route.

The North Cornwall Railway. Cornwall was a difficult county in which to build railways but, despite this, was the object of much rivalry between two of the big companies, the Great Western Railway and the London & South Western Railway. The story of the North Cornwall Railway really starts in 1834 when a small independent line, the Bodmin & Wadebridge Railway, was opened between those two towns.

In the ensuing years both the GWR and the L&SWR had plans for lines through the county but nothing became a reality until, in 1846, the GWR's protege, the Cornwall Railway, succeeded in obtaining Parliamentary powers to build a line to Falmouth from the South Devon Railway at Plymouth. In the meantime the L&SWR had been promoting the Cornwall & Devon Central Railway from Exeter via Okehampton, Launceston and Bodmin, but these plans had come to nought.

Eventually the chosen route was hammered out with its start in the wooded valleys of the rivers Carey and Kensey before bursting onto the moors at Otterham, cresting them at an altitude of some 860 feet, then descending via wooded valleys once more to follow the course of the River Camel via Delabole and its massive slate quarry to Wadebridge, after which it hugged the river's estuary for the last few miles to Padstow. Whilst the agonizing over the route of the NCR was taking place, a further line, the Mid Cornwall Railway, was being promoted from Padstow through St. Columb to St. Dennis on the Cornwall Minerals Railway - deep into GWR territory.

The fledgling NCR saw only benefit to be gained from the building of such a line but the proposal failed to gain an Act and died, but it did wake up the GWR to the danger of L&SWR incursion into "their" territory, prompting it to gain the necessary powers to construct a line from Bodmin Road to Bodmin, at Bodmin General, and on to Boscarne on the B&WR, thereby reaching this outpost of the L&SWR before the L&SWR itself could!

In 1882 the L&SWR agreed the arrangements for working the NCR and an Act was obtained on 18th August of that year, authorising the North Cornwall Railway with the aim to build a line from Halwill & Beaworthy to Padstow South Quay. Subsequent Acts authorised the construction of the line, from Halwill to Launceston on 28th July 1884, from Launceston to Delabole on 21st July 1891, from Delabole to Wadebridge on 27th July 1893 and finally from Wadebridge to Padstow on 20th July 1896. Construction of the first section finally started on 20th June 1884 at Halwill, reaching Launceston in 1886. Another section ran from Halwill via Holsworthy and terminated at Bude, which was completed in 1898. Work started on the second section, heading west from Launceston in November 1890, reaching Tresmeer via Egloskerry in 1892 and opening to public trains on 28th July, six years and one week after the opening to Launceston, two stations away! As was the way with railways, Tresmeer station was not at Tresmeer but at Splatt, a far smaller hamlet a mile beyond Tresmeer. By the summer of 1892 the necessary land had been purchased as far as Delabole so construction carried on, with opening of the line through to Camelford on 14th August 1893 and to Delabole on 18th October 1893. Work continued as the third section of the NCR was begun, from Delabole to Wadebridge, with the line built to Port Isaac Road by August 1894 and via St. Kew Highway to Wadebridge in June 1895. The start of the final section from Launceston to Padstow was held up by deliberations in 1894 over whether or not to extend on to Truro. With no stations, and few bridges, work should have progressed well but problems with obtaining land and labour held things up resulting in the opening through to Padstow not happening until 23rd March 1899. There were great celebrations on this day, with the first train played in by brass bands, although the Padstow terminus was a far cry from the grand termini of other places, maybe as a result of the now abandoned plan to go on to Truro.

With the line finally complete, the NCR settled down to its work, gradually enlarging Padstow harbour in stages throughout the rest of its life. It continued much the same under the auspices of the Southern Railway, with on-going development of Padstow Harbour and some lengthening of passing loops to accommodate the ever longer holiday trains that were the line's lifeblood. Then in January 1948 the railways were nationalised and the North Cornwall Line found itself part of British Railways (Southern Region). The Bude branch was closed in 1966 back as far as Okehampton. The passenger service from Bodmin Road to Padstow closed in 1967. Wadebridge station returned to its former role as the western end of the Bodmin and Wadebridge line and remained open, with a much simplified track layout, for a daily goods train via Bodmin until this ceased to operate after 4th September 1978, with final closure happening on 31st December 1978.

The South Devon and Tavistock Railway. This linked Plymouth with Tavistock in Devon; it opened in 1859. It was extended by the Launceston and South Devon Railway to Launceston in 1865. It was a broad gauge line but from 1876 also carried the standard gauge trains of the London and South Western Railway between Lydford and Plymouth: a third rail was provided, making a mixed gauge. In 1892 the whole line was converted to standard gauge only. The line was taken over by the Great Western Railway on the 1st February 1876.

The Hayle Railway. Originally ran eastwards to Redruth, and from Redruth Junction north to Portreath and south to Tresavean, again built to profit from the mining industry's need to transport ore for shipping. It opened in stages after December 1837. Steam locomotion was used from the start, giving the route an early advantage over the Redruth and Chacewater line. Cornubia, one of the locomotives later taken over by the West Cornwall Railway in 1846, was built at Copperhouse Foundry in 1838, probably the first engine to be made in Cornwall. Notable features of the line were the steep inclines at Angarrack and Portreath, where wagons were hauled by ropes. Inclines at Penponds and Tresavean worked on a counter-balancing principle. Passengers has sometimes travelled in the open wagons, but the first passenger service between Hayle and Redruth took place on 12th May 1843. It survived several depressions in the mining industry but finally closed on the 1st January 1936. The Hayle Railway was taken over by West Cornwall Railway in 1846.

The Liskeard and Caradon Railway. The Liskeard and Caradon Railway opened in 1844 to transport copper ore from the rich South and West Caradon Mines, and granite down from Cheesewring Quarry. It ran from Cheesewring via Minions, Darite and Tremar to Moorswater near Liskeard (about 8.5 miles), to where the Liskeard and Looe Canal ran down to the sea at Looe. Liskeard and Caradon Railway ran with horse power until 1862. Originally the wagons were run down from the mines and quarries by gravity, the empties to be hauled back up by horses.

In 1858 an extension to the LCR, called Kilmar Railway was built to serve new granite quarries high on Bodmin Moor. Built by the Cheesewring Granite company and worked by the LCR. It ran from Minions to Kilmar Tor across open moorland and ended at two branches beneath the rocks of Bearah Tor and Kilmar Tor over 1100 feet and about thirteen miles from Looe. There were plans to continue the line further across the moors to Five Lanes. Work was started on the extension closely following the Withey Brook but it was soon abandoned when the mining boom collapsed. It was bought in 1879 by the LCR. The closure of the quarries in 1882 marked the end of traffic on the line.

The Kilmar Junction railway built in 1877 to bypass Gonamena Incline has left an unusual feature of a circular trackbed running all the way around Caradon Hill. Ropes hauled the wagons up the incline with gravity providing the power - the heavy ore wagons going down to Moorswater pulled the lighter empty ones up. The incline was a bottleneck in the system and also prevented the use of steam power on the upper sections. The incline was by-passed by extending the Tokenbury branch from Darite all the way around the Eastern side of Caradon Hill to Minions. The first locomotive to work the railway was the Caradon built in 1862. In the twelve months following its introduction, traffic of ore, coal and granite exceeded 63,000 tons, and to assist, a similar engine, Cheesewring was acquired in 1864, followed by a third, Kilmar in 1869.

The Liskeard and Looe Railway. The Looe Valley Line was opened as the Liskeard and Looe Railway on 27th December 1860 from a station at Moorswater, a little west of Liskeard, to the quayside at Looe, replacing the earlier Liskeard and Looe Union Canal. The canal was unable to cope with heavy traffic and the Canal Company constructed a railway, which ran from Moorswater to Looe (built on the bed of the canal). Passenger services commenced on 11th September 1879, but the Moorswater terminus was inconvenient as it was remote from Liskeard and a long way from the Cornwall Railway station on the south side of the town. On 15th May 1901 the railway opened a curving link line from Coombe Junction, a little south of Moorswater, to the now Great Western Railway station at Liskeard. The new connecting line had to climb a considerable vertical interval to reach the Cornish Main Line which passed above Moorswater on a 147 feet high viaduct. In 1909, the line was taken over by the Great Western Railway and the attractive seaside resort of Looe became heavily promoted as a holiday destination in railway's publicity. But the closure of the Caradon Mines brought about the closure of all lines north of Moorswater in 1916. The section beyond Looe station to the quay was also closed in 1916.

Par Railway. Joseph Treffry owned the rich Fowey Consols Mine, which was worked by six steam engines and seventeen waterwheels. Treffry linked his mine to his new port at Par by a canal. By 1847 Joseph Treffry had built a canal from Par to Ponts Mill. Treffry built the Par Canal by canalising 2.25 miles of the river and digging a new river channel slightly to the east. There was an entrance lock to the canal at the harbour, and then two more between there and its terminus at Ponts Mill, north of St. Blazey. He then built a tramroad from Ponts Mill (the canal head) to Molinnis near Bugle. Work began in 1835 with an inclined plane from the canal basin at Ponts Mill, past the Carmears Rocks, to the level of the top of the valley, then a level run through Luxulyan and on to its terminus at the Bugle Inn near Molinnis. This required a high-level crossing of the river, for which they built the great Treffry Viaduct in the Luxulyan Valley, 650 feet long and 100 feet high. It was built of stone from the Carbeans and Colcerrow quarries, and the lines from the quarries to the viaduct were the first parts of the railway to be operational. The railway was completed in 1844. The viaduct carried both rails and a water channel to bring more water for the Fowey Consols Mine. On its way down, the water was used to power the Carmears incline, by means of a waterwheel, 34 feet in diameter. This enabled the railway to work loads up the incline, against gravity. This tramroad was extended alongside the canal down to Par through St. Blazey in 1855, and replaced the canal. In turn the tramway was replaced by the Cornwall Minerals Railway in 1874, enabling the development of china-clay and china-stone works at the foot of the valley. The tramway was then extended to a second port at Newquay in 1876. A connection from Par to the Cornwall Minerals Railway line to Newquay was opened on 1st January 1879 using a loop line to the Cornwall Railway station at Par and the Cornwall Minerals Railway station re-named St. Blazey to avoid the confusion of two stations with the same name. This was standard gauge and so traffic between this and the broad gauge Cornwall Railway had to be transferred between trains at Par until the broad gauge was converted in 1892 to standard gauge.

Newquay Railway. Joseph Treffry opened the track from Newquay Harbour to St. Dennis with a branch to the East Wheal Rose lead mine. In 1873 these were to form part of the Cornwall Minerals Railway. In 1844 permission was granted for the construction of a railway linking East Wheal Rose mine near Newlyn East to Newquay harbour, to carry lead and silver ores in horse drawn trucks. The Newquay quay was reached from the cliff top by a steeply descending rail tunnel, and trucks were raised and lowered with a steam powered winch or 'Whim'. It opened in 1849 as a mineral line from Newquay to East Wheal Rose, in 1906 it became part of the Great Western Railway's Newquay to Chacewater branch line. This was closed in 1963, and in 1974 Eric Booth, re-opened part of the line as the Lappa Valley Steam Railway. Originally it was part of Joseph Treffry's Newquay Railway (Newquay to St. Dennis) which opened in 1849. This line was a tramway, as can be seen by the small bore of the tunnel interior. Toldish Tunnel was too small for standard gauge trains, it was eventually by-passed and closed.

The Helston Railway. A standard gauge branch line which ran from Helston to a junction with the main line of the Great Western Railway at Gwinear Road. Its predominant business was agricultural, but in summer it carried holiday-makers, and its terminus at Helston was the railhead for a pioneering road connection service to the Lizard. During the Second World War there was considerable goods traffic at Nancegollan, sponsored by the Admiralty. The line was only eight miles in length but ran through difficult terrain, it was very heavily curved and graded. In 1879 the Helston Railway Company was formed, with a share capital of £70,000, with the object of building a standard gauge railway to Helston, not from the Falmouth area but from Gwinear Road on the West Cornwall line. The Great Western Railway was friendly towards this line, and they agreed to work the line when built. There was debate over the site of the Helston station; the site actually adopted, in Godolphin Road, was some distance to the east of the town centre. Some interests had proposed instead a location nearer the town; however the incremental cost would have been considerable and the proposal was finally dropped. The station was built as potentially a through station, with the idea of extension to the Lizard. This was revived from time to time, but was never acted upon. The line was opened for the first service train on 9th May 1887. The Great Western Railway operated a pioneering road passenger connection to Mullion and the Lizard from 17th August 1903, and a Porthleven connection was added in 1909, and surrounding villages were also served. There was also an extensive van service for goods traffic to and from the railway, developed into a motor lorry service from about 1925. The Helston line was the southernmost branch line in the United Kingdom; it closed to passengers in 1962 and to goods in 1964. Since April 2005, The Helston Railway Preservation Company has undertaken extensive restoration work on the southernmost part of the line, between Prospidnick, Truthall and Trevarno Estate. The Helston Railway was re-opened by the Helston Railway Preservation Society in 2011.

The West Cornwall Railway. To extend the Hayle Railway westward, the West Cornwall Railway was authorised in 1846. A passenger service from Penzance to Redruth commenced in 1852 with a station being opened in Marazion, and a little later extended to Truro. In 1855 an extension to Newham by the Truro River was opened which served as the terminus until 1859. After the West Cornwall Railway was converted to broad gauge in 1867, the Truro to Falmouth line tended to be operated as a branch, with the trains from London Paddington station operating to Penzance instead. The St. Ives branch was opened in June 1877 as part of The West Cornwall Railway. The 4.5 mile line followed the coast from St. Erth, through Lelant, and had the distinction of being the last section of railway constructed for Brunel's broad gauge.

The Truro and Newquay Railway. This was completed in 1905 and closed in 1963. The line was twelve miles in extent. Trains left Truro on the Cornish Main Line as far as Chacewater railway station and Blackwater Junction, where the new line turned northwards to reach the coast near St. Agnes. It then turned north-eastwards to Perranporth and then turned inland to reach, to Shepherds on the former Cornwall Minerals Railway Newquay to Treamble branch. Construction began in 1897, but was slow to complete; severe difficulties with subsidence were encountered near Goonhavern. The section from Blackwater to Perranporth opened on 6th July 1903, and from there to Shepherds was completed on 2nd January 1905. The line was single between Blackwater and Tolcarn junctions with passing loops at the stations. There were six trains each way in 1910, rising to twelve by the summer of 1938. There was also a through train to London in later years, joining with a Penzance portion at Chacewater. The area served by the line remained sparsely populated and the general decline in use of local railways as road facilities improved resulted in the closure of the line on 4th February 1963.

The East Cornwall Mineral Railway. The East Cornwall Mineral Railway (ECMR) formed in 1862, was an independent railway, constructed as a narrow gauge (3 feet 6 inches) single-track line to carry ore and stone from the mines and quarries in the area around Callington down to quays on the River Tamar at Calstock. In 1869 a new Callington and Calstock Railway was formed to take over the work and in 1871 the railway was re-named as the East Cornwall Mineral Railway (ECMR). The ECMR was opened officially on 7th May 1872, although some sections had been in use for five years previously. The ECMR was about eight miles long and it ran from Kelly Bray (about 1.25 miles north of Callington) to Calstock. A rope-worked incline about 800 feet long dropped the trains down 350 feet to the riverside quays.

1891 the ECMR was purchased by the Plymouth, Devonport & South Western Junction Railway (PD&SWJR) and in 1908 the PD&SWJR extended the ECMR eastwards across the River Tamar to a new junction at their existing station at Bere Alston. The line was re-gauged to the 4 feet 8.5 inches standard gauge and upgraded to carry passenger trains. The extension was known officially as the "Bere Alston & Calstock Light Railway", but often called simply the "Calstock Light Railway".

The magnificent twelve-arched viaduct at Calstock and its steam-driven, vertical wagon hoist that was built at the Calstock side of the viaduct to lower wagons to the ECMR's terminal quay. The viaduct was constructed of concrete blocks and has twelve arches, each of 60 foot span. The rail level is 120 feet above river level. The wagon lift was one of the highest in England, the difference in levels being 113 feet. The cage could hold one four wheeled open wagon, weighing laden approximately 15 tons. The viaduct was commenced in mid 1904 but was not finished till August 1907.

In later years a locomotive named Earl of Mount Edgcumbe was used for passenger journeys on the line up from Plymouth. On 5th November 1966 the line was closed completely from Callington to Gunnislake. Passenger trains now use the branch line from Plymouth up to Gunnislake via Calstock.

The Fowey to Lostwithiel Railway. In 1863 the construction of the Fowey to Lostwithiel mineral railway was commenced. The line was built to carry goods traffic and iron ore from the Restormel Iron Mine to Fowey for shipment by sea. By 1869 The Lostwithiel and Fowey Railway was opened and in 1883 passenger traffic commenced. It was a broad gauge (7 feet 0.25 inches) railway. In 1892 the company was dissolved and the line transferred to Cornwall Minerals Railway. The line was reconstructed to standard gauge, the jetties at Carne Point re-built, and a short connection made to link the two railways, finally bringing the line from Lostwithiel to a station at Fowey. In 1896 a station was built at Golant. Steam trains ran the line until 1964 when diesel units were first introduced. The station finally closed as part of the Beeching cuts on 2nd January 1965 and since then the line has only carried cargoes of china clay.

The Newquay & Cornwall Junction Railway. The Newquay and Cornwall junction Railway was a broad gauge (7 feet 0.25 inches) railway built to link the Cornwall Railway from west of St. Austell to St. Dennis, with the horse-worked Newquay to St. Dennis Railway. Construction proved more difficult than expected due to the hardness of the ground. The 3.5 miles from Burngullow to Nanpean was opened to goods traffic on 1st July 1869. The remainder being built by the Cornwall Mineral Railways who took over the company in 1874.

The Cornwall Minerals Railway. This company operated a network of railway lines in Cornwall. Based at St. Blazey, its network stretched from Fowey to Newquay and lasted as an independent company from 1874 to 1896, after which it became a part of the Great Western Railway. New connecting lines were opened from the terminus of the Treffry Tramways at Bugle to St. Dennis Junction, on the Newquay Railway line to Hendra, and from Hendra to the terminus of the NCJR at Nanpean. The existing lines of the tramways were re-laid to accommodate locomotive haulage, and new by-pass sections built to avoid the Carmears Incline and Treffry Viaduct, and the low-profile Toldish tunnel. New branches were built from Par to Fowey, Bugle to Carbis Wharf, St. Dennis to Melangoose Mill and Newlyn East to Treamble and Gravel Hill Mine. The heavy iron ore traffic expected from the branches beyond Newquay failed to materialise, leaving the railway with mainly china clay traffic from around St. Dennis and Bugle. A passenger service was instigated from Fowey railway station to Newquay railway station on 20th July 1876. The following year, on 1st October 1877, the Great Western Railway took over the operation of the railway and on 1st January 1879 a short line was opened linking the CMR St. Blazey railway station with the GWR Par railway station. No through trains were able to run beyond Par until 23rd May 1892 when the Great Western main line – and the Newquay and Cornwall Junction line – was at last re-built for 4 feet 8.5 inch standard gauge trains. On 2nd October 1893 the Cornwall Minerals Railway was extended with the addition of the new Goonbarrow branch to Carbean. The Cornwall Minerals Railway built St. Blazey workshops to house and maintain its eighteen locomotives. A roundhouse with nine roads was provided around a turntable, each of which could take a pair of locomotives which were designed to be operated as back-to-back pairs. The Cornwall Minerals Railway was amalgamated with the Great Western Railway on 1st July 1896.

The Great Western Railway. By the turn of the century The Great Western railway had acquired the West Cornwall Railway, The Cornwall Railway and the Cornwall Mineral Railway, and it had constructed its own branches to St. Ives and Bodmin. It was later to take over the Liskeard & Caradon and Liskeard & Looe lines, and also the Helston branch line.

Schemes to connect Helston with Penryn had been promoted as early as 1846, the time of the Railway Mania, so named because of the boom in promoting new railways, but when the line was opened in 1887, it was from a junction with Gwinear Road on the main line. It was worked from the outset by the G.W.R. Intermediate stations were situated at Praze and Nancegollan. The line continued for a distance beyond the platform at Helston with the original intention of extending it to the Lizard.

The broad gauge which had survived for so long, came to an end on the 20th May 1892, when it was all re-laid the standard gauge. The next ten years saw lines doubled and bridges strengthened or re-built. By 1908 the main line had been doubled from St. Germans westward to Truro. Between Saltash and St. Germans part of the existing line was replaced by a four mile deviation inland to avoid five old timber viaducts. The last section of main line to be doubled was that between Scorrier and Redruth, which was not completed until 1930. This left single track only over the Royal Albert Bridge at Saltash.

The Chacewater to Newquay line was the next to be built, it opened from Chacewater via Blackwater to Perranporth in 1903, and then extended on to Newquay in 1905. It was last used in 1949.

In July 1904 the first Cornish Rivera Express was run, reducing the Paddington to Penzance time to 7 hours from 8.5 hours. When diesels took over in 1958 the journey time was reduced to 5.5 hours.

The Cornwall Railway was amalgamated into the Great Western Railway on 1st July 1889. The Great Western Railway was nationalised into British Railways from 1st January 1948, which was privatised in the 1990's.

After nationalisation many stations and branch lines were closed. Launceston station closed in 1952, the Helston branch closed in 1962. The last steam train ran between Plymouth and Penzance in 1964. Another six main line stations were also closed reducing the travelling times even further.

Current stations and branch lines

The main railway line passing through Cornwall has stations at Saltash, St. Germans, Menheniot, Liskeard, Bodmin Road, Lostwithiel, Par, St. Austell, Truro, Redruth, Camborne, Hayle and St. Erth, before terminating at Penzance.

There are branch lines from Liskeard to Looe, from Par to Newquay, from Truro to Falmouth and from St. Erth to St. Ives.

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