Travel westsouthwest from London towards the lower pointy end of Enland known as the West Country and just past the line marking the county of Cornwall you will come across the small town of Launceston. Here lies the unique 2 1/2 mile long two foot narrow gauge railway (actually 1 foot 11 1/2 inches) known as the Launcheston Steam Railway. It was built over the old standard gauge trackbed of the North Cornwall Railway which was closed in 1966, as another victim of the Beeching Axe. Learn more about The Beeching Axe on this page.
The story of the Launceston Steam Railway starts with Lilian, that tiny Welsh quarry locomotive. Purchased in 1965 for only £65 by Nigel Bowman, then only 19-years-old, he began rebuilding the engine at his parents home in Surrey. Three years later and Lilian was in steam. The next step was to find a location to operate her so Nigel began searching for a suitable location. In his search he came across another Welsh quarry loco named "Velinheli" located at Launceston in Cornwall. Partnering with that engine's owner, Jim Evans, and another friend George Pitt, together they formed a limited company and started to acquire land along the abandoned North Cornwall Railway which had been sold by British Railways to local land owners.
The Launceston end of the rail line is located in an old industrial area that included a company producing gas from coal. With the abandonment of coal produced gas the area and structures had been purchased with the intent of creating a housing development. However, the housing market collapsed during the mid-1970s so the developer sold the area and buildings to the railway company. By 1983 a half mile of track was laid and operated with the first train consisting of Lilian and one carriage. Since that time many improvements have been added, a bungalow was moved onto the site to form the cafe, a platform canopy from Tavistock was moved here then installed, and the old gas company buildings were converted to railway workshops. Track laying reached today's end-of-track at New Mills in 1995.
Launceston - The entrace to the railway station at Launceston is something different. A gravel parking lot with a partially burried narrow gauge track leads up a slight grade and passes beneath a ivy covered stone overbridge supporting the A388 roadway. This is obviously where any visiting locomotives could be unloaded for use on the railway. On the opposite side of the overbridge a paved walkway parallels the track past a cottage up to the station, platform canopy, gift shop, and cafe. On a slight rise behind lies the old stone buildings of the gas works now holding maintenance equipment and antiques. A 1934 Auston seven box saloon that appears to be in perfect running order rests beside one of the workshops. Tucked in behind the station and cafe is Priory Lane. A few remains of the ancient church lie in a small area having been excavated by archaeologists. One track follows along Priory Lane then terminates in a small shed containing the vertical boilered locomotive "Perseverance". If you use Google Street View you can move back and forth along Priory Lane to view the railway's buildings and track.
Hunt's Crossing - Located in the lush green countryside this site was the location of end-of-track in 1990. Today the location is marked with a station name board and a small shack.
Canna Park - The next location further west, and currently bypassed by puffing trains, was reached shortly after when new narrow gauge tracks were laid up to that point.
New Mills - The current end of the line had reached New Mills by 1995. A run-around track there permits any locomotive to change ends of the train for the return trip to Launceston. The old North Cornwall Railway right-of-way continues west to Egloskerry from New Mills and a plan to reach Egloskerry in 2014 met with failure unfortunately. New Mills Farm Park, a separate attraction from the railway, but only a short walk from the railway's shelter, offers fun for all the family, a pets corner especially for toddlers and young children, trampolines, swings, giant slide, adventure climbing, swing balls, ride on toys, and Adult Go-Karts.
There are 5 steam locomotives located on the railway. Please refer to their web site for their latest condition.
Lilian 0-4-0ST quarry locomotive built by Hunslet of Leeds in 1883.
Velinheli 0-4-0ST quarry locomotive built by Hunslet of Leeds in 1886.
Covertcoat 0-4-0ST quarry locomotive built by Hunslet of Leeds in 1898.
Dorothea 0-4-0ST quarry locomotive built by Hunslet of Leeds in 1901.
Perseverance 0-4-0 vertical boiler built by Chris Parmenter and Steve Harris in 2010.
Additionally, a diesel-electric railcar is under construction at Launceston. Testing of the drive system and frame determined the vehicle could reach the (terrifying) speed of 36 mph. Watch the YouTube video of the test drive here.
29 Dec 2008 - Vintage Model T Ford Converted to Travel on Railway Line
16 Sep 2010 - Steam Returns
27 Oct 2010 - Weird and Wonderful Locomotives in Steam at Launceston Railway
2 Nov 2012 - Restored Locomotive Pulls Passengers in Cornwall
21 Dec 2012 - Launceston Steam Railway Extension Cancelled
26 Nov 2014 - Launceston Lost Out on TRAC Railway and Trail Scheme...
31 Aug 2015 - Launceston Steam Railway Robbed at Knifepoint
1 Sep 2015 - Arrest in Launceston Steam Railway Knifepoint Robbery
15 Oct 2015 - CCTV Rolled Out at Launceston Steam Railway Following...
Launceston Steam Railway
Cornwall Railway Society
The North Cornwall Railway
The Broad Gauge Society
The Story of the GWR
GWR Archive (virus detected)
Didcot Railway Centre
The Story of the Southern
Southern Railways Group
Great Western Railway