Some Early Lines
Helston Railway, Cornwall
This locomotive was purchased by three members of the Helston Diesel Group from the Northampton Ironstone Railway and delivered on the same day as another shunter. In all respects its build history and design is exactly the same as the other shunter.
The shunter first ran under its own power on Sunday 3 October 2010 following overhaul by the railway’s volunteers and is now in use for passenger trains.
The Helston Railway was a 4 ft 8 1⁄2 in (1,435 mm) (standard gauge) railway branch line in Cornwall, United Kingdom, opened in 1887 and absorbed by the Great Western Railway in 1898, continuing in existence as the Helston branch.
It was built to open up the agricultural district of south-west Cornwall, joining Helston to the main line railway network at Gwinear Road, between Penzance and Truro. It was 8.5 miles (13.7 km) long.
Its predominant business was agricultural, but in summer it carried holidaymakers, 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 Helston line was the southernmost branch line in the United Kingdom; it closed to passengers in 1962 and to goods in 1964.
The line ran from Helston, in south-west Cornwall, to a junction with the main line of the Great Western Railway at Gwinear Road(50.1972°N 5.3475°W)(50.1070°N 5.2713°W). The connection there faced Penzance.
The line was 8 miles 67 chains in length. As a purely local line running through difficult terrain, it was heavily curved and graded. Although Helston is an important town, most of the intermediate area was dedicated to agriculture, with little population, and the terminus at Helston was some distance from the seaside.
The main line at Gwinear Road gave direct access to London and the rest of England, on the route that is now known as the Cornish Main Line.
Before the advent of the railway, Helston was an important centre for tin and copper mining, as well as being the hub of an area of considerable agricultural production. Local businessmen observed the success that followed the opening of early railways elsewhere in Cornwall and further afield, and from 1825 a succession of schemes for tramroads and railways were put forward, many of them oriented towards Falmouth or Penryn and the River Fal estuary because of the harbour facilities there, (and, later, the arrival of the Cornwall Railway, enabling onward transport of minerals by coastal shipping).
All of these schemes fell by the wayside due to the high cost of crossing the difficult terrain; after the collapse following the Railway Mania in the mid-1840s, money became increasingly scarce, and moreover the shallower seams in the mines began to become worked out, reducing the profitability of local mines.
Finally 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.
The line received its Act of Parliament on 9 July 1880, and the first sod was cut at a ceremony on 22 March 1882. Work proceeded but the original contractor found himself in difficulties early in 1884 and work stopped for a period, but was resumed under Lang & Son of Liskeard.
Even as late as 1886 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 9 May 1887
The line today
Although overgrown, much of the alignment of the line remains. Most of the bridges, including the Cober viaduct, are still in good condition as property of the Strategic Rail Authority.
The former station at Helston has been surrounded by housing development, but the site is identifiable, north-west of Godolphin Road and between Station Road and Park an Harvey. The former GWR goods shed has been converted into part of a sheltered housing development (Henshorn Court), but all the other buildings have been demolished and the site has become wooded.
North from Helston the first visible trace of the railway is the stub of a bridge on the edge of the Water-Ma-Trout industrial estate.
At Nancegollan, a business park stands on the site of the former station, although the bridges remain in situ. At Praze, a house has been built on the station site and two road bridges either side of the approach have been demolished. The cuttings near to Gwinear Road have been in-filled.
Future Prospects and Railway Preservation
Since April 2005, The Helston Railway Preservation Company has undertaken extensive restoration work on the southernmost part of the line, between Prospidnick and Truthall.
As of June 2013, 1 mile of track has been re-laid, and public passenger rides are available on Thursdays, Sundays and bank holiday weekends from Easter through to October.
The Helston Railway had constructed a station platform on the Trevarno Estate, however they have now relocated 544 yards north to a new temporary platform site at Prospidnick Halt, as the Trevarno Estate has been purchased by new owners. The Trevarno Estate is now a private dwelling, instead of a tourist attraction and is not available for public access. The Helston Railway track itself is not affected and public access is now at Prospidnick, respectively.
What’s on in 2013
This is our second year of running services for customers, so it is likely that more events will be added as we go through the year. Therefore, please check details below before you come to see us.
Open every Thursday and Sunday and Bank holiday weekend until the 3rd November. Trains run every half hour from 10.30 am until 4pm.
Brake Van rides : Children under 5 free. Adult £5, Children (over 5) £3, Family £12 (2 adults and 3 children).
All Day Rovers: Adult £8, Children £6.
Footplate rides £10.
Thursday 31st October. Its Halloween Day – themed buffet and fancy dress welcome! Open 10.30am to 4pm as usual.
December 14th &15th, 21st & 22nd. Santa Specials.