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End of Another Year

The curtain has fallen on our public opening for this year, with our last trains running for the school half term week this week.

Many visitors from near and far took the opportunity to take a last ride along the railway this year. All four of our steam locomotives saw use over the week. Once again we teamed up with our local paper, the Cornish & Devon Post, for a Locals’ Week special offer discount, which, as always, proved very popular with residents of Launceston and the surrounding area.

We are now closed until Easter 2016. However there is no time to rest as we launch straight into a busy winter of maintenance: jobs lined up for this winter include some track relaying, reroofing of our main engine shed/workshop ‘Toad Hall’, overhaul of Lilian’s boiler and – if there’s time – completion of our diesel railcar. Watch this space!

Perseverance Puffs to Newmills

Enthusiasts often ask about the quirky vertical boilered locomotive ‘Perseverance’ which lives here and is on display during the season.

Perseverance is the result of a challenge set by its owner Chris Parmenter – to build a working narrow gauge steam locomotive for under £1000. With many modifications made from the locomotive as it was first completed, the budget has been exceeded, but it has still been a project significantly cheaper than building a new, conventional locomotive.

With no equipment fitted for train brakes, Perseverance is only used for occasional private steamings, normally when the railway is closed to the public. With our main season over and the last few days of the glorious Indian Summer forecast, it was time to get Perseverance out and go for a run…:

That’s All Folks – For Now!

We have now come to the end of another busy season, with Lilian seeing us out on our final day, Friday 25th. In addition to the trains, the Friday also saw a MacMillan Coffee Morning in our café, with a range of extra tasty cakes baked by our café stalwart Louise raising over £260 for MacMillan Cancer Relief.

The end of season always sees a few interesting moves as we put all the engines and carriages away – if you’ve ever wondered if we use the track on our platform or through the museum, these photos will show you!

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We now have a few weeks closed, but will be straight into the engineering and maintenance work required to keep a busy steam railway running. There will be one more opportunity to visit us this year, as trains will be running again at the end of October for the School Half Term Week, more details soon!

North Cornwall’s MP on the right track at Launceston

24th September

Launceston Steam Railway was pleased to welcome the MP for North Cornwall, Scott Mann, when he visited us on Wednesday 23rd September. Whilst here, he met with the Directors and took the opportunity to ride up the valley to Newmills, and to learn about the way in which the railway has developed over the years. He was enthusiastic about the very ‘hands-on’ approach that the railway takes, and impressed with the fact that all work is done ‘in-house’ by the staff. He also expressed disappointment that Cornwall Council’s plan to build a trail and railway extension to Egloskerry had failed, commenting that this could be of great benefit to the town and surrounding area. More can be found on his Facebook page.

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Armed Robbery from Shop

31st August

Sadly yesterday (Sunday 30th) afternoon at approximately 4.10pm we were subject to an armed robbery from our shop.

Fortunately no one at the railway was hurt but we are obviously shocked that it has happened.

Shortly after the incident a police officer was assaulted on the nearby ‘Zig Zag’ path when they tried to apprehend a man.

The thief was a white male in his 40s-50s, approximately 5’8″ high. If anyone saw someone acting suspiciously in the area around the Railway or the Zig Zag path, or has any other information which would help the police enquiry, please do report it to the police.

Update:The police now have a suspect in custody. We would like to thank all those who have been in touch to offer their support – locally, nationally and even internationally.

We remain open as normal.

Summer Update

Summer Update

30th August 2015

Trains have now been running six days a week for the past two months, and we are all busy ‘keeping the show on the road’!

All four of our Hunslet steam locomotives have seen regular use this summer. As usual Lilian and Covertcoat have had the majority of use, with Velinheli and Dorothea having one day out each every week.

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Although the main focus has been running trains, we have progressed on two projects. The first, and most noticeable for our passengers, is the lineside clearance using the new tree shear attachment for our digger. Focusing on the section of railway known as ‘The Long Straight’, clearing out a lot of the younger, less mature trees along the line side. We think the effort is worth it as it has opened up the view significantly, and we will be continuing to clear further stretches of the lineside through the winter and during next year.

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The second project is our diesel railcar, which has been under construction for a number of years. Construction paused a year ago as other projects took priority, but work has now started on finishing the railcar’s bodywork. It is hoped that regular work on the railcar will now continue until it is finished, potentially as early as next year.

To finish this month’s round up, here are a few more photos of our engines in action this summer!

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June Update

June Update

25th June 2015

After a busy Locals’ Week and then Half Term week at the end of May, we have settled into our regular June pattern of running trains only three days a week, which gives us time in the rest of the week to make sure any outstanding maintenance jobs are completed in time for the start of the main season in July. The following is just a sample of the jobs underway over the last few months!

At Easter it became apparant that Lilan was feeling a little poorly around the slide valve chest on her cylinders. This area was last thoroughly looked at when she was restored from scrap forty nine years ago and so those repairs have lasted well! The 1960s repairs were also completed in a workshop with very limited facilities; for example, with no milling machine a new port face plate fitted to her left hand cylinder was cut out by chain drilling and then filing by hand. Sufficient repairs have now taken place to ensure Lilian runs well through the summer this year, but it is possible that the cylinders will be looked at again this winter when Lilian’s boiler is lifted off for a major overhaul.

Covertcoat has also seen some work recently. For over a decade she has had a twin cylinder steam engine with belt drive to a compressor fitted on her footplate to provide air for the train brakes. This has now been replaced by an air pump fitted in front of her cab. This pump is one of a number built by the Talyllyn Railway; the design is based on the pump designed, built and fitted to Lilian by owner Nigel Bowman, but with a number of modifications made to the design by the Talyllyn Railway after they took on production of the pumps. This particular pump was delivered several years ago and was originally intended to be fitted to our locomotive Dorothea, but it was felt this would spoil the aim to restore Dorothea to original appearance. Therefore after some time in store, the pump has now been fitted to Covertcoat. Initial trials when fitted proved that the performance of the pump ‘off the shelf’ was disappointing, and consequently a number of modifications were made to the Talyllyn designed parts of the pump. Performance of the pump is now much improved, and it is more efficient than the previous setup on Covertcoat for compressing air for the train brakes. We are happy to provide details of the modifications made to the pump to other railways using the Talyllyn built pumps.

New air pump fitted to Covertcoat, click for larger view

The Plynlimon carriage has had a periodic examination and light overhaul. The air braking system has been completely overhauled and the outside of the carriage repainted.

Our painting Mann busy repainting the Plynlimon carriage, click for larger view

This time of year is always busy cutting back the trees and vegetation at the side of the railway. Regular readers of the website will know that we started construction a tree shear to fit on our JCB digger. Following a few modifications after an unsuccesful first test in April, the shear has now been succesfully tested (see video below) and is now in use clearing some of the saplings and younger trees alongside parts of the railway. Our overhead platform wagon, which is used to safely access higher tree branches for cutting, has also been refurbished following the deterioration of its plywood floor.

Jonathan busy at work refurbishing the overhead platform wagon, click for larger view Finished tree shear awaiting testing, click for larger view

From this Sunday (28th) we will be running trains every day except Saturdays right through until the end of September. All four of our Hunslet steam locomotives are in working order and will be taking turns to haul trains over the next few months. We hope you can come and visit us for a train ride soon!

Covertcoat waits to bring another load of passengers back from Newmills on a sunny June day, click for larger view

Fifty Years of Preservation!

Fifty Years of Preservation!

12th May 2015

On the 11th May 1965, Hunslet steam locomotive ‘Velinheli’ was saved for preservation when she was bought from the Dinorwic Slate Quarry by the Evans family. After a few years stored at Dinorwic and later the Exeter Maritime Museum, Velinheli arrived in Cornwall in 1969 and has lived in the Duchy ever since; first at a private railway a few miles from Launceston, and since the 1980s here at Launceston.

Velinheli raises steam, click for larger view Velinheli waits to haul her celebratory train, click for larger view Owner James Evans makes sure Velinheli is oiled up for her run, click for larger view

To mark fifty years of preservation a celebratory tea party was held on the 11th May, with Velinheli in steam for invited guests. As with all good tea parties the sun shone and there was a selection of cakes for the guests – including a very tasty couronne made by Velinheli’s owner James Evans.

Our engine Lilian also came out to join in the fun – like Velinheli it is also fifty years this year since Lilian was saved for preservation, though the actual anniversary date is later in the year. Remarkably both Lilian and Velinheli are still owned by the individuals responsible for saving them for preservation – James Evans (Velinheli) and Nigel Bowman (Lilian) – who together represent a century of steam locomotive expertise!

Boys and their toys!  James Evans and Nigel Bowman with their engines Velinheli and Lilian, representing a century in steam locomotive expertise!, click for larger view , click for larger view , click for larger view

Both Velinheli and Lilian will be in regular use at Launceston this summer alongside our two other Hunslet locomotives, Covertcoat and Dorothea.

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Alex Hodson 1940 – 2015

Alex Hodson, one of our permanent staff, sadly and unexpectedly passed away at the end of March.

Alex was a familiar sight to many visitors as one of our regular guards throughout the summer. A railwayman throughout his life, Alex’s career started working on the railways in Manchester, before a move to London to work from Wimbledon depot. Leaving the mainline railways, Alex and his family then moved to Cornwall to be closer to his wife’s family. Many will remember he ran the ‘ACE Models’ shop and popular model railway exhibition which was next to our station for several of our early years. Finally he ‘retired’ and worked for us, not only as a guard in the summer, but a general maintenance man through the winter and one half of our regular Monday trackgang; in fact he would be happy to lend his hand to anything.

One of life’s true gentlemen, he will be greatly missed by all those at the LSR.

Rest in Peace Alex.

Alex Hodson, 1940 - 2015

The Lancashire & Yorkshire Railway Society, of which Alex was a stalwart member, have kindly given us permission to publish the tributes to Alex from one of their recent magazines:
Editor’s Comments
Tribute from long time friend Roger Mellor
Alex’s Funeral