All aboard! 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. 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.
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.
Apart from the Lilian there are a number of other locomotives. Covertcoat is a 0-4-0ST 'Quarry Hunslet' built in 1898 by the Hunslet Engine Company of Leeds as No. 679. Originally named 'The Second', as she was the second of a batch of two, she was later renamed after the racehorse which won the Grand National in 1913. Covertcoat was built for the Dinorwic Slate Quarry in North Wales. Dorothea is a 0-4-0ST 'Quarry Hunslet' built by the Hunslet Engine Company as No. 763 in 1901. Although essentially built to the same design as Covertcoat and Velinheli, she was fitted with an enclosed cab when built. Her working life was spent at the Dorothea Slate Quarry in North Wales, where she worked until around 1942. Dorothea was abandoned in her shed (which later collapsed around her), with parts of her being sold through the 1960s to enthusiasts for use in the restoration of other locomotives. Velinheli is a 0-4-0ST 'Quarry Hunslet' built by the Hunslet Engine Company as No. 409 in 1886. She was the first of numerous "Alice" class Quarry Hunslets built. She spent her working life in the Welsh Slate Quarries at Dinorwic, being last used in 1962.
The Electric Dilly is a lightweight inspection trolley running on batteries. The wheels were once used on a brick kiln trolley, whilst the motor is an old dynamo from a boat engine. Control is achieved by controlling armature and field current, full speed is given by field weakening. The shunt-wound motor runs on 28 volts provided by nickel-iron accumulators. It's maximum speed is 18mph. There are other maintenace engines as well as rolling stock. Carriage No. 1 is based on a Manx Electric Railway trailer car of 1893. The first carriage on the railway, it originally ran on a pair of World War 1 American bogies, but now runs on a pair of Polish bogies. Launceston Station is the place to wander around the Railway Workshops and the Engineering Museum. The museum houses a fascinating collection of items associated with transport, from the days when British engineering was the envy of the world. Many of the wide range of exhibits are demonstrated at work. There are disabled facilities at Launceston and there is an ingenious method for accomodating wheelchairs on the train.
Location : St Thomas Rd, Launceston, Cornwall PL15 8DA
Transport: Plymouth (National Rail) or Liskeard (National Rail) then bus. Bus Routes : 6A, 576 (Plymouth), 76 (Plymouth) and 236 (Liskeard) stop closeby.
Opening Times : From 10:30. See timetable.
Tickets : Adults £10.50; Senior £8.95; Child £6.80
Tel: 01566 775665