Railways - History
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The history of the railways of this area can be divided into 3 main eras, a brief timeline being given below. Much more detailed accounts can be obtained from the references listed at the bottom of the page or by using the 'Contact' link on the left. For more information on the people involved, use this link:-
The early history of the railways in this parish is closely connected to the development of the mines. It was expensive & dangerous to use the steeply winding roads to transport coal to the mines and ores away and, by the early 1860s, the volume of traffic, including by pack horse and wagons pulled by teams of twenty or more horses, was so great that a railway was planned to connect Calstock with Callington, a distance of just over 7 miles.
The Tamar Coal, Manure, and General Mercantile Company (Limited) offered
for sale by auction, the recently-erected quays, limekilns, coal and
other stores, dwelling houses, offices, steam railway, extensive river
frontage and business goodwill. See this page for further
The Tamar, Kit Hill and
Callington Railway Company (TKH&CR) was formed in 1862 to construct a
railway to connect Callington and the mines to the quays at Calstock,
where the minerals could be loaded into barges on the River Tamar.
The Tamar Coal, Manure and General Merchandise Company was already using a rope-haul system to transport coal by tramway from the Quay at Calstock up the steep, 300 feet, 1 in 6 slope to the area known variously as Kelly, Kelly Incline or just Incline Station.
A financial crisis halted
construction, but a section was already in use - probably as far as
Gunnislake Clitters Mine.
The plans and partially completed
sections were taken over by the
Callington and Calstock Railway. The line was to run from Callington
to Incline and then down to Calstock Quay, carrying only freight & no
Re-named the East Cornwall
Mineral Railway Company by an Act of Parliament
The East Cornwall Mineral
Railway Company opened the 3' 6" gauge line and 9 goods depots (3 of which
were private) in the Parish, but by 1893 only 3
(Calstock, Incline & Drakewalls) were still in use. (Some
sections of the line had been in use before 1872) A speed limit of
16m.p.h. was imposed. Freight included granite from Pearson's Quarry
for the building of Dover breakwater, mispickel (arsenic) from the Redmoor
mine to the Greenhill Works in Gunnislake, coal from and ores to
Calstock wharves for New Consols Mine in Luckett and timber from the same
wharves for most of the local mines.
The line was a success and immediate plans
were made to link it to one of the main railway systems. One
involved linking Incline Station to the newly opened Lidford section of
the Devon & Cornwall Railway. another suggested linking from Incline to
Tavistock. The latter plan was abandoned in 1879. (Click
view a 243kb pdf file of the relevant Act of Parliament). Various other
suggestions involved tunnelling under Morwell Down, constructing a bridge
near Morwellham, a line from Callington to Saltash through St Mellion and
a line from Tavistock to Plymouth through Bere Alston, with a branch from
there to Calstock. The Callington-Saltash plan was eventually
abandoned after the introduction of an omnibus service linking the towns.
Several such bus services were in operation by 1901, according to Vennings
Directory of East Cornwall.
Shareholders of the ECMR
approved the sale of the line to the to the Devon & Cornwall Railway, but this also failed.
|1890 - 94||
The completed Plymouth, Devonport and South
Western Junction Railway was opened in
1890 and the following year, the ECMR was taken over and the purchase completed in 1894.
Difficulties were found in raising the capital to
link the ECMR with main line but in 1898 an investigation was started which
found it to be a workable proposition.
The Bere Alston & Calstock Light
Railway Order was confirmed by the Board of Trade, including the
construction of a 120 feet high viaduct across the Tamar and allowing the
carriage of passengers. The line was to be re-gauged to 'standard'.
Galbraith & Church were appointed
engineers and later Colonel H. F. Stephens as Associate Engineer, the
latter introducing blue livery for the rolling stock. A museum
dedicated to the Colonel exists in Tenterden, Kent and its website can be
By the end of this year all track was laid,
but the stations at Calstock & Gunnislake were incomplete. Locomotives used on the branch from the end of 1907 were the "Earl of
Mount Edgcumbe" and the "Lord St. Levan", named after two of the
directors. A third loco was named after A. S Harris, the first Secretary
of the company, and later became know as "The Kelly Bray Express" or
|2 March 1908||
Directors & dignitaries travelled on the 12
noon opening service from Bere Alston to Callington.
Almost immediately services had to be extended to cope with the volume of passenger traffic - goods traffic was disappointing. Click here to see an advertisement dated February 1908.
Many attempts were made over the coming years
to provide an extension of the service into Callington itself, but all
were aborted. Instead, at various times, bus services were started
(and discontinued) between the stations on the line and outlying villages.
Constructed of concrete blocks and supported by 12 arches each of 60 foot span. The rails are 120 feet above river level.
A 113 foot high wagon lift was constructed to provide access to the sidings on the Quays This could hold one 4-wheeled open wagon carrying approx. 15 tons and was powered by a steam boiler and winding engine at the top. Its arrival at its destination was heralded by a bell.
More photographs can be found here.
The wagon lift was kept open after mining ceased for the shipment of local bricks & granite. However, in 1912 the lift man was dispensed with as little use was being made of the hoist by then.
In 1915 the SS "Alexandria" collided with
the fender of one of the arches, causing slight damage.
Stokeclimland Station was renamed Luckett and
was run by one of the first Station Mistresses in the country.
The branch livery was changed from blue to
"South Western" green.
|1 Jan 1923||
The Southern Railway officially came into
branch forming a part. Various plans for linking to other lines were
formulated, then abandoned.
Due to a further decline in use, this time for
bricks, the wagon hoist was closed in September and dismantled in October.
Heavy air raids in Plymouth caused many
families to re-locate, some to the Calstock area from where some commuted
by rail on very overcrowded trains.
|1948||Reorganisation after nationalisation meant that one of the few immediate effects on the branch was the transfer of its commercial services (with other lines west of Exeter) from Southern Region to Western from 1950 until 1958.||
Gunnislake Station in 1949
Passenger services included many excursion
special offers. Click to
timetable from July 1958
Gradually both passenger and freight services
were withdrawn, particularly affecting the section from Gunnislake to
Callington. In 1963, all services were taken over by Western Region.
Diesel trains replaced steam in 1964.
by 1966 it was envisaged that the Beeching Axe
on the entire branch line, although eventually the section from Bere
Alston through Calstock to Gunnislake survived. The last train left
Callington on 5 November, to the sound of detonators & fireworks, and
carrying a wreath.
The Tamar Valley Line's
website links from
Information is being added to this website on a frequent basis. Come back again soon for more information about the railways
If you have details, photographs etc. which you would like to contribute, please use the 'Contact' link on the left.