Author Archive: Nigel Parker

An Early Summer Roundup

The Season is now in full swing with a commitment and dedication to run what is quite a punishing schedule for both ‘staff’ and ‘hardware’ alike. SIX trains a day, SIX days a week can be a ‘big ask’, but the complete team have been working towards this task for months. This year there will be only three engines taking their turn to be in steam LILIAN, DOROTHEA, and COVERTCOAT, as VELINHELI has a ‘poorly boiler’. She rather overdid it last year with all her gadding about the Country, but she is on display and can still be viewed. That too, has undergone some changes during the last few months, and many ‘new’ exhibits can be found there, including Nigel’s 1926 Austin 7, another very worthwhile work in progress project. Do allow enough time when planning your visit to take in all the railway has to offer, including the museum.

In a slightly different vein, this whole website has for a number of years been kept up to date by Charlie O’Mahoney, who has recently taken over the running and management of the WATFORD MINIATURE RAILWAY. All of us wish Charlie well and know that with his expertise and dedication that project is in good hands. If you are reading this and have a spare half a day anywhere near Watford, or are looking for something different railway-wise to do with the family, then head for Watford (details on the WMR website).

Of equal interest locally will be a unique visit to LAUNCESTON on 2nd,3rd, and 4th August by Richard Holder’s scale model of the Launceston Steam Railway. Richard has faithfully reproduced this in miniature in such detail that one wonders how in such a small space (12’ x 6’) so much can be achieved. Do come early (and stay late!) as it will be a treat for all ages. The exhibit will be open from the time the café opens at 10.30am until the last train has returned from NEW MILLS.

During the last month the lineside scenery has changed dramatically, and with all the recent rain there is hardly a better time to see the unspoilt Kensey Valley, and no better way than during a leisurely ride on the train. Once again, your ticket will allow you to ride to NEW MILLS and back as many times as you wish during the day of issue.

So the team look forward to welcoming you either as a first time visitor or as a ‘regular’ to experience something unique in Cornwall, and to talk to those involved with the actual day to day running of modern day history in the making.

Spring into Easter…

During the ‘close’ season those who have been following the site will have seen how much of the planned maintenance and renewal work has been achieved. With the new ‘Season’ now upon the LSR with the opening on Wednesday 12th April for the Easter week (all opening times on the main home page), now is the time to update you on the other LSR activities.

Three engines will be available – Covertcoat, Dorothea and Lilian and ‘in steam’ at some point, but normally only one engine each day. As you ride the line you will notice that during the winter considerable ‘positive management’ has occurred with the clearance of lineside trees to provide an even better view of the beautiful Kensey Valley, and to allow the wild flowers a chance to thrive. Right now all the spring flowers are at their best, with bluebells just appearing, and the blend of yellows, greens and blues really stresses the gem that the valley floor offers. The lambs and other wildlife are enjoying the sun in the glorious Cornish countryside.

The ‘Station Buffet’ will again be open every day that the railway is operating. It specialises in offering a wide range of ‘goodies’ many sourced locally and with a menu designed to cater for all ages. This year it will be Trish who will be ‘manning the stove’ at the start of the season. Shirley will be in charge of the ‘Shop’ again, where you will find many items of interest to both young and the not so young. New stock is arriving all the time, so please do ask if there is something that you cannot find readily.

At some time during your visit do allow enough time to visit the revamped Museum. Not only for the all the motor vehicles (cars and motorcycles) and other stationary engines, but especially this year there will be the opportunity to see a real ‘work in progress’ restoration project. Nigel is undertaking a ‘refurbishment restoration’ to the 1926 Austin 7 car that he has owned for almost 60 years, and which for the last 30 years has been ‘hibernating’ – as the whole LSR project ‘just got in the way’.

Into the Autumn…

By the time you read this all the boilers will be cold, and the engines will be tucked up for a few weeks after another busy season of work. The ‘Team’ will be having a short respite before the last week of running during the ‘Half Term Week’ at the end of October.

It has been an eventful summer to say the least.  Railway owners Kay and Nigel are pleased on most counts, – passenger numbers, weather, reliability of the ‘Hardware’, and the opening of the extension to the museum. Along with keeping the trains running, there has been considerable clearance of vegetation alongside the track beyond Hunts Crossing, and in Toad Hall (a.k.a. the main Engine Shed) progress has continued with the manufacture of the roof spars for the new diesel railcar, all from recycled seasoned timber. Work is now ‘afoot’ with the construction of a ‘Team’ restroom. This will continue during the closedseason and release extra space within the Buffet/Café in the future.

As always there have been regular postings on our Facebook and Twitter accounts throughout the summer showing the trains in action. From single shots up to a mammoth collation of 44 pictures from one very pleased visitor, speaks volumes. Judging also by the written comments, the vast majority of both first time and returning visitors really enjoyed the total experience of the LSR, feeling that it was a day out of excellent value, and an opportunity to view and do things that were a shade different from the norm.

The railway will reopen again on Sunday 23rd October,(first train 11.00 am) with trains running every day until Friday 28th October,(last train 4.00 pm) and as usual all will be steam hauled.

 

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Here comes the Sun…

There is so much going on now that the railway is fully operational for six days a week, it is hard to keep up ! All three engines  LILIAN , DOROTHEA and COVERTCOAT have been in regular use (LILIAN more so in the recent heatwave!) and four carriages have been needed on occasions to deal with the passenger numbers. The car park has been very full on most days, and interesting to see both Dutch, French and German number plates alongside the UK ones. The very upbeat remarks and the enthusiastic videos posted on the social media sites are testimony to the pleasure and enjoyment the railway creates to all ages – see here for just one example from recent visitor Chris Woolston. The positive comments about three ‘things to do up at the Top End’ keep coming through; the walks from the NEWMILLS terminus – some as far as the ELIOT ARMS pub at Tregadilett, or to The Hidden Valley, and of course the New Mills Farm Park, to say nothing about the opportunity to ride on more than one round trip being included in the train ticket price.

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Great activity as well as work progresses on the new museum building, and whilst this work has to be ‘entwined’ with all the other higher priorities to ensure the smooth running of the railway,it is taking shape and soon many ‘rare automotive beasts’ of both the two and four wheel variety will be displayed.

The section of track that was relaid (rails,sleepers, fishplates and ballast) over the last winter has according to the Drivers, settled down extremely well.

Shirley has been very busy in the shop, especially with the high demand for ‘Thomas the Tank Engine’ merchandise and our own LSR memorabilia. Louise’s Cream Teas in the café are proving ever popular too.

Another departure worth a mention is the visit of the Launceston Amateur Dramatic Society – see the ‘dramatic’ scenes ( pun intended) as they rehearsed in costume for the next production ‘The Titfield Thunderbolt’ that will be performed in late August at Launceston Town Hall. Great fun, great commitment , and very professional acting.The town is lucky to have such an enthusiastic society.

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Finally,if the weather continues to be as variable for the rest of the summer as it has up to now, then LSR can expect to be very busy on all six of the daily round trips. And that is a real plus point for the whole community.

 

Ready for the Summer

How good it is to see LILIAN now restored, refurbished and back from her major refit. She had just been lit up for the first time when I saw her, and Nigel wondering  what pipes or joints may require that extra bit of tightening. At this stage LILIAN was still under wraps minus her tender and looking rather angry, but she heard Nigel say that she might be back in service the next week. The mood change on this news was perceptible! After some finer points of adjustment round in Toad Hall – all rather like the Swindon Works Trials Unit in old GWR days – LILIAN entered service at the end of June, and has since been in regular use when it’s not raining!

At the same time as LILIAN was being lit up again, there was a party from MARY TAVY primary school on a visit. They were all so busy in the museum with their clipboards and questionnaires making the most of their day. Their interest in everything was infectious and just one of the things that makes a visit to LSR so different and enthralling. There was LILIAN covering them in smoke. Were they worried – not at all, although what their mothers would say about their smart uniforms at the end of the day might be another matter.

The Season is now in full swing, with Live Steam as always every day ( except Saturdays when the A team – and the engines have a much needed day of rest). It is 52 years now since the last running of the famous ‘Atlantic Coast Express’ through Launceston, with the final run on 5th September 1964, and then the final closure of the line 50 years ago in October 1966. Had Nigel and Kay decided not to come to Launceston there would not now be any railway left in North Cornwall at all, let alone something that has become a gem. Ideas might be afoot to do something perhaps special in October to mark the occasion, so watch out for future developments.

If you want a real treat have a look at this video on Youtube of “The Snowdonian Limited 2016“. You will find VELINHELI (on her grand summer holiday) at the head of the Special doing sterling work on the Ffestiniog Railway triple heading from Porthmadoc up to Blaenau Ffestiniog. Quite a sight, and we think Velinheli is doing all the work! Enjoy.

Louise in the café is reporting very brisk business, with great demand for her home produced goodies. Open every day the railway is running from 1030 onwards. Well worth a visit either before or after a trip up the line.

From Russia with Love!

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The coal we use has become quite a talking point recently, and rightly so. It is our fuel and with the demise of the UK coal industry the route by which our fuel reaches us is yet another example of how our resource supply channels have had to change to survive. LSR coal comes from “Russia with Love!”  A very circuitous route too! A ship load of around 60,000 tonnes arrives periodically at Stranraer  that is in Dumfries and Galloway in Scotland. From there 25 tonne bulk loads are distributed to a diverse range of clients. LSR among them. Only a mere 475 miles and hardly eco-friendly; but today there is no comparable alternative. When the engines were in their original locations a century ago the fuel supply was only ‘just down the road’ so to speak. Unfortunately today, that local supply chain has grown to one of many thousands of miles.

 

You may have seen Charlie’s photo postings of Lilian on our Facebook and Twitter pages. Suffice to say that Lilian’s makeover is almost complete, and the team await the first firing. She is beginning to look herself again, complete with new smokebox. Charlie has promised a full write up of the work undertaken here shortly for those who are more interested in the technical side of things.  As for the next few weeks, before the main season is in full swing, the LSR will be open  on Sundays,Mondays and Tuesdays, it will give ‘The A Team’ time to give Lilian the final touches of her makeover.

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Kay and Nigel have been delighted with the large number and wide range of visitors from far and wide during the recent half-term and bank holiday days of full operations with DOROTHEA and COVERTCOAT doing the honours.

 

May Blog – Ready to Reopen

Well not long now before the real season begins, and the pace recently has been fierce. But then, so is the excitement and anticipation. The pictures of LILIAN on both our FACEBOOK and TWITTER sites are dramatic and testimony to the whole team who have worked so hard to ensure that she is back in both full running order and in pristine condition by the peak summer holiday season. Very interesting too that the number of people who have visited and ‘liked’ the Facebook site continues to rise steadily with more each day. Our refreshed website has also received many positive comments, and there will be more to come - hopefully there will be more soon on some ‘Shop window’ linked pages for the book and gift shop.

The home for the new museum continues to be refurbished, and despite the fact that this will be a ‘work in progress’ for some time, there will be both more space and as has been said before some very interesting and unique examples of early and rare motor cycles to see. Again, exciting and dynamic, as in all museums it is the most unexpected that attracts the greatest interest.

VELINHELI  is now off on her Grand Summer Tour. The details where she will visiting are elsewhere on the website, and no doubt there will be reports filtering back to Launceston from each of the venues. She may even send us a postcard !

Once again during the first week of full running there is a ‘Special Offer’ ticket discount to those who take the local ‘Cornish and Devon Post’. All you have to do is bring along the voucher inside this week’s edition of ‘The Post’, and Shirley in the ticket office will do the rest to make sure you have the ticket price reduction.

April Maintenance Well Underway

Have you seen the dramatic pictures on our Facebook page of poor LILIAN?

All will be well, but right now she really is hiding away from her public. And who can blame her. Positive preventive maintenance is essential, particularly when dealing with something as delicate and unique as a steam engine of ‘advanced years’. Therefore once every decade it is necessary to strip each engine down and undertake an overhaul on the boiler, plus any other work that needs doing.  Nigel and the Team have given an assurance that LILIAN will be back to ‘rude health’ by the summer. For those who enjoy the technical details, Charlie has promised a full write up (and video) of all the work being done on Lilian’s boiler, just as soon as it is finished!

Innovation and a ‘Can Do’ attitude are the foundations on which the LSR has built it’s reputation. Also on our Facebook page is a short video of Jonathan doing his MANN thing with a home made tool for plastering the walls of the new museum development. A daunting task to make another part of the old Launceston Gasworks buildings into something where visitors and motor cycle enthusiasts alike can browse and enjoy unique memorabilia. It may not be finished completely by the time you visit,but don’t be put off. We are only a small team and sometimes more pressing scenarios place a higher demand on our time.

If all that was not enough, there is more work afoot on the track. After the mammoth winter maintenance task of relaying there is now the ’tidy up’ of rail, sleepers and assorted hardware, to say nothing about all the labour involved in cutting the overgrown vegetation to manageable sizes so it will not impede the beautiful views along to the Kensey Valley towards New Mills.

Finally, spare a thought for the three engines staying behind when VELINHELI goes off on her grand summer tour. Elsewhere you will find details of her proposed stopovers, but we know she will be a very good ambassador for the LSR, and we hope to enjoy many picture postings of the other railways she will be visiting.  

PS. And ‘Thankyou’ to all our followers on Facebook and Twitter. Every day we now see the number growing, so please keep ‘Sharing’ and keep adding ‘comment’. It really is appreciated.

Easter 2016 at the LSR

Friday 1st April was the last day of running for the Easter week, and there will now not be any more trains rolling up the Kensey Valley until the main season starts towards the end of May. Despite Easter being over before the end of March, and a deluge of rain on Easter Saturday after such a promising start the day before, many old friends and new visitors came to enjoy a ride up the valley behind one of our Victorian steam locomotives. COVERTCOAT and DOROTHEA were in regular use over Easter and drew great admiration from visitors. Many visitors also sought out VELINHELI before she is off on her travels around the country this summer.

The start of the season is always a little like returning to school after the summer holiday, as members of the ‘railway family’ return after a winter away. Both Louise and co. in the café and Shirley in the shop have had an interesting week, and great as well to see the two Bobs and Debbie back in action with green flag, whistle and ticket clippers!

During the next seven weeks the tempo of activity will not diminish. More work will be done both on the line and within the new museum complex. Importantly LILIAN will now be undergoing an extensive overhaul of her boiler before we reopen for the main summer season.  Watch this space for updates as they unfold.

Our two Easter engines, Dorothea & Covertcoat, bask in the sunshine

Our two Easter engines, Dorothea & Covertcoat, bask in the sunshine

Dorothea waits at the end of one of the rare sunny days we had at Easter

Dorothea waits at the end of one of the rare sunny days we had at Easter

Welcome to 2016 at the LSR

When the Railway re-opens for the new season on Friday 25th March, few passengers will realise that they are travelling on rails that originated from one of the most secret underground railways in the UK. During the winter an extensive partial track relaying programme has been completed, and to undertake this task the Management Team have created some unique new tools to help complete the operation of implementing new sleepers, base plates and steel rails.

The ‘Underground secret railway Project’ was one of many created at strategic UK locations since 1900 for the safe and secure storing of materials and equipment for all the Military Services. Some of these hidden underground rural sites are now obsolete and have been dismantled or ‘mothballed’. Nigel Bowman, LSR Managing Director, realised the opportunity and significance to bring some national history to the heritage railway tourist project that would otherwise have been forever lost.

With the Victorian and Edwardian rolling stock once again in pristine condition, all will be ready to receive local people, railway enthusiasts and visitors for what is planned to be an exciting 2016.

The arrival this year of more ‘heritage’ exhibits has also encouraged the creation of a second museum for additional memorabilia. This is now nearing completion and adjoins the Station Terminus. Free entry is included with your ticket or family pass.

We have a new, refreshed website coming soon with lots more details of our extensive winter maintenance programme - watch this space! You can also follow the railway on Facebook and Twitter for regular updates too.