Sunday, 17 May 2015

Early days at Launceston

(All 13.8.1984 copyright The Rail Thing/Steve Sainsbury)

Back in pre-internet, pre-digital days it could sometimes be quite hard to get information - and photos! I knew there was some sort of narrow gauge set up at Launceston, but didn't know much else. I did know it was narrow gauge rebuild on a closed SR line that used to serve Launceston in Cornwall, but not much else.

I turned up on a drab August day, there were no trains running (I was working anyway so couldn't have travelled) and the place had a run down air about it - but isn't that one of the things we used to find interesting in the rail world? I love the advertising for the 'Launceston Steam Railway' painted on the end of an old van. There was a steam loco on view and a carriage, but there was nobody about so I couldn't find out any more. 

I know the line is still there, runs trains in the summer and is looking to extend. So this was early days for a line that is now established and one I really need to go back to when I get the chance!

Further information (via Wikipedia)

The Launceston Steam Railway is a 1 ft 11 12 in (597 mmnarrow gauge railway operating from the town of Launceston in Cornwall. The railway is built on the trackbed of the North Cornwall Railway to 1 ft 11 12 in (597 mmnarrow gauge and runs for 2½ miles to Newmills, where there is a farm park.


Standard gauge railway

The first railway to reach Launceston was the Launceston and South Devon Railway, opened in 1865 from Launceston to Plymouth, and later absorbed into the Great Western Railway. In 1886 the London and South Western Railway opened its railway from Halwill Junction, extended to Padstow in stages in the 1890s, and later part of the Southern Railway. The two Launceston stations were side by side: the Great Western closed in 1962 and the Southern in 1966.

Narrow gauge revival

In 1965, trainee teacher Nigel Bowman rescued the steam locomotive "Lilian" from the Penrhyn Slate Quarry in North Wales, and restored her to working order at his home in Surrey. He then set about looking for a site to build a railway for Lilian to run on, and settled on Launceston in 1971, after considering a stretch of trackbed from Guildford to Horsham and the Lynton & Barnstaple Railway. Purchase of the trackbed took several years, and the first ½ mile of track opened on Boxing Day 1983. The railway was extended progressively, the latest opening to Newmills in 1995 bringing the line to its current 2½ mile length.
Launceston Steam Railway
North Cornwall Railway to Halwill Junction
Mill leat
River Kensey
Farm Crossing
Hunt's Crossing
Farm Crossing
Canna Park
North Cornwall Railway to Padstow


The LSR starts at a new station just west of the original LSWR station, which is now an industrial estate. Launceston station is the main station on the railway, and the sheds and engineering facilities are located here. The line runs from the station through a cutting, passing under a road bridge and aqueduct carrying a mill leat, before crossing the River Kensey on a two-arch viaduct. The line is now on an embankment and crosses a bridge over a farm track before arriving at Hunt's Crossing, where it is planned to lay a passing loop. After Hunt's Crossing the line crosses two farm crossings and then reaches Canna Park which was the temporary terminus before the extension to Newmills. From Canna Park there is a fairly short run to Newmills, the terminus. Adjacent to the Newmills station is the Newmills Farm Park.


All public train services are operated by the steam locomotives, whilst the internal combustion locomotives are used for maintenance work.


All public train services are operated by the steam locomotives, whilst the internal combustion locomotives are used for maintenance work.

Steam locomotives

NumberNameBuilderTypeWorks NumberBuiltOriginNotes
LilianHunslet0-4-0 ST3171883Penrhyn QuarryNew boiler fitted in 1993 and tender added in 2008
CovertcoatHunslet0-4-0 ST6791898Dinorwic QuarryCab and tender added at Launceston
VelinheliHunslet0-4-0 ST4091886Dinorwic QuarryPrivately owned by James Evans, ex. Inny Valley Railway.
DorotheaHunslet0-4-0 ST7631901Dorothea slate quarryRestored over 22 years by Kay Bowman, first steamed in November 2011 and entered passenger service in 2012.
89PerseveranceC. Parmenter4wVBT2004Constructed on a Hudson chassis

Internal Combustion and Battery Electric[edit]

NumberNameBuilderTypeWorks NumberBuiltOriginNotes
38English Electric2w-2-2-2wRE7611930Post Office RailwayOn display in the museum
42English Electric2w-2-2-2wRE1930Post Office RailwayTo be rebuilt as railcar power bogie
Motor Rail4wDM56461933Grove Heath, Ripley, Surrey
N. Bowman4wBER1986Inspection trolley
Launceston SR4wDER2004Inspection trolley

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