Over the summer, Launceston Town Council have been busy putting together three videos showing the many things which the town has to offer. These videos are being officially launched at an event in the town square on Saturday 19th October betweeen 10am and 2pm – or you can view them now below. We feature in the videos, but as you can see from them there is so much more to Launceston than just the steam railway – and we thoroughly recommend visitors have an explore round the town when you come to visit us!
Author Archive: Charlie O'Mahoney
After a very busy summer, our locomotives have a few weeks of rest before we open again at the end of October – but we’re still as busy as ever with various maintenance jobs.
The exciting news of the month is that bookings are now being accepted for our new Holiday Cottage. Sleeping up to four people, the cottage is situated right next to our station and is therefore in a great position for railway enthusiasts young and old – and the cottage even comes with some free train rides when we’re open. For more details about the cottage see here.
Trains are next running at the end of October for the school half term week. The week will be another of our “Locals weeks”, with discounted fares for readers of the Cornish & Devon Post – so a great excuse to come down for a train ride if you’re local and haven’t been for a while. We will also be running a special celebration event on Boxing Day to mark our 30th Birthday – more details on this will be available nearer the time.
One of our regular visitors, Alan Palmer, recently brought in his latest project to show us – a model Lilian!
This ‘little Lilian’ runs on 32mm gauge track and is a modified version of the Quarry Hunslet model built by Accucraft UK. Despite being much smaller than the real Lilian, the model is also a genuine steam locomotive, albeit fired on gas rather than coal. Although a little work remained to get the model looking exactly like the real Lilian, we were all impressed with the work done so far.
On the 21st August 1883, Lilian was delivered brand new to the Penrhyn Quarry in North Wales. She was the first of her type delivered to Penrhyn, and was named after the daughter of the quarry owner, Lord George Sholto Gordon Douglas-Pennant. 130 years later, she is the oldest locomotive of her type still in working order, and is still in regular daily use – albeit now hauling passengers through Cornwall rather than shunting wagons full of slate in Wales.
Today, we held a mini-party to celebrate Lilian’s 130th birthday. Lilian was in steam and hauled all the passenger trains; our youngest Hunslet locomotive Dorothea (112 years old) joined in the celebration by double heading some of the passenger trains with Lilian. Furthermore, Lilian had her very own birthday cake, and passengers in the late afternoon were each given a slice of Lilian’s cake.
Bagnall steam locomotive ‘Sybil’, nominally based at the LSR, left Cornwall this weekend for her new home at the West Lancashire Light Railway. Sybil first arrived in Cornwall in the 1960s after she was purchased along with Velinheli by James Evans and his father Armstrong. Both Sybil and Velinheli were originally used on the private Inny Valley Railway near Launceston, but moved to the LSR in the mid 1980s. Although Velinheli has been a regular performer here ever since, Sybil was only steamed at Launceston once before being stripped down for a major overhaul. Sybil was moved off site to James Evans’ own workshop several years ago, but has not left Cornwall since she arrived in the 60s.
Earlier this year Sybil was sold to a specially formed trust – the Sybil Locomotive Trust – based at the West Lancashire Light Railway. The Trust plans to complete Sybil’s restoration, including the fitting of a new replacement boiler, within the next few years, after which Sybil will operate at the WLLR and make occasional visits to other railways. If you would like to keep up to date with Sybil’s restoration, you can find out more about the Trust by having a look at their website and Facebook page.
Trains are now running six days a week, with a number of visitors taking the opportunity to ride up the Kensey Valley this month in some of the beautiful recent weather!
The beginning of the month saw the anniversary of the world speed record for steam locomotives. The record, 126 mph, was set on the 3rd July 1938 by the A4 locomotive ‘Mallard’ on the London and North Eastern Railway. Although our locomotives are much smaller than Mallard, and unable to run at anywhere near her record speed (particularly as our speed limit is 15 mph!), we thought this great British achievement was worth commemorating. So, 75 years on, on the 3rd July 2013 the 11 o’clock passenger train commemorated Mallard’s record breaking run. With our ‘top link’ driver Nigel Bowman at the regulator, locomotive Covertcoat was steadily accelerated up to 12.6 mph and continued, at that speed, to Newmills. Only one-tenth the speed of Mallard’s record, but our own way of saying ‘well done’ 75 years on!
The recent heatwave has seen Lilian in daily use for the past few weeks, as her open cab allows our drivers to remain relatively cool in the heat. Velinheli has also had one day’s use during the heatwave. With temperatures now cooling a little, Covertcoat and Dorothea will be taking their turns on passenger trains, alongside the two cabless Hunslets, over the next few weeks. Unlike many steam railways, all of our locomotives are in working order and take turns in use on passenger trains; Managing Director Nigel Bowman commented “As a mature railway, we have achieved our aspiration that all our locomotives have been returned to working order. We are in a position that we are able to pull any one of them out of the shed and light them up.”
Recent work to the locomotives has focused on the injectors fitted to Velinheli and Dorothea. The injectors on both locomotives are backhead mounted injectors of the type originally used on the locomotives when in the quarries (Lilian and Covertcoat have been fitted with more modern replacement injectors) and, although able to add water to the boiler succesfully, they often require fine adjustment to ensure no water escapes from the injector overflow. Velinheli’s owner James Evans has been busy remanufacturing injector cones and testing them on Velinheli, with a view to improving her injectors. Once the optimum setup of injector cones has been found on Velinheli, the cones in Dorothea’s injectors will be modified likewise.
Work has progressed steadily over the last few months on our new diesel electric railcar. With the engine and its cooling system in place, the focus recently has been on providing driving controls at each end of the railcar. The controls posed a slight engineering challenge as they required setting up such that the railcar could only be controlled from one end at a time. The system devised features a mechanical linkage between the two ends of the railcar, to ensure the reversing switch at each end is set appropriately, and a removable reversing handle; the reversing handle acts as a ‘key’ to unlock all the controls and can only be removed when the reversing switch is in neutral.
Following an 18-month period out of service for a boiler retube, Velinheli returned to steam on Sunday 26th May.
Velinheli will now join Lilian, Covertcoat and Dorothea hauling trains over the summer. For the first time in our 30 year history, we now have all four Hunslet locomotives in working order!
We first opened to the public 30 years ago, with just one locomotive, one carriage and half a mile of track. Since then we have gradually expanded until the present, where we have 2½ miles of track running to Newmills, four locomotives and four carriages. Over the last thirty years, and in the period before we opened, we have been supported by many local residents, without whom we would not be in the prosperous position we are today. To say thank you to local residents, between the 12th-17th May we are running Local’s Week, where discounted fares are available through our local paper the Cornish & Devon Post. More details of the week can be found here – whether you are a regular visitor or haven’t been for a few years, we hope to see as many locals as possible during the week.
Meanwhile, recent work on our locomotives has focused on smartening up the lining of their paintwork. Lilian has had her cab sides fully repainted and relined, whilst Covertcoat’s ‘new’ saddle tank has been lined – only several years after it was fitted!
Fifty years ago today, the infamous Beeching Report was published which caused the closure of the railway from Launceston to Padstow, Okehampton, Exeter, Tavistock and Plymouth – along with the closure of thousands of miles of other railways all over the UK. Although Launceston station was closed under the Beeching cuts, you can still catch a train from Launceston with us – though we can only take you as far as Newmills for the moment! Trains are running again for Easter from this Friday – details of when trains are running over Easter are available on the Times & Fares page.
Three of our Hunslet steam locomotives – Lilian, Covertcoat and Dorothea – are available for service over the Easter period. The fourth Hunslet, Velinheli, is still being reassembled following her boiler retube last year, and should be back in service by the main summer season.
Regular visitors may spot our car park looks slightly different this year – unfortunately during heavy rain at the end of last year part of the bank at one side of the car park collapsed. We have now cleared the bank collapse and constructed a wall in place of the bank, and also undertaken some clearance and patching work in the rest of the car park. Visitors may notice that we have a stretch of track which runs into the car park which is used by works trains during the winter – we took a video of a trip down this section of track during the clearance work, which can be seen below:
Samples of boiler plate have recently been provided by the railway for a University undergraduate project looking at the corrosion properties of boiler steel. We were able to supply a number of samples ranging from 130 to 5 years old, and await the project’s results with interest!