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40th Anniversary

Boxing Day 1983 - 2023

Track Bed History

In 1865 the Launceston & South Devon Railway Company opened their line to Launceston from Plymouth. Built to Brunel’s broad gauge of 7’ 0¼” it was, in reality, a subsidiary company of the Great Western Railway. For 23 years, the GWR enjoyed a monopoly until the London & South Western Railway opened its line to Launceston from Halwill Junction. 

The GWR L. & S.D.R. line closed in 1962, followed by the L & S.W.R. in 1966. The station sites of both the former Great Western and L. & S. W. R. were obliterated to create the present Newport Industrial Estate.

Launceston Steam Railway

In 1964 Nigel Bowman purchased one of the locomotives from the Penrhyn Slate Quarry in North Wales. The engine, Lilian, built in 1883 was purchased for the then princely sum of £60. By 1968 Bowman has the funds to be able to restore Lilian to working order - following this it was only natural to find a length of line to run her on which eventually lead to the discovery of the old trackbed in Launceston.

The site of Launceston Steam Railway was first realised in 1971 when Nigel Bowman approached Launceston Council with proposals to lay a narrow gauge line. In the early 1980s after plans were more promising, Nigel and his wife Kay moved to Launceston to start building the railway. Fortunately, around the same time, the Royal Navy Armaments Depot at Ernesettle, in Plymouth, decided to sell its narrow gauge railway which provided a local source for much of the material needed to start laying a track at Launceston.

By 1983 half a mile of track had been laid from Launceston. With approval from Her Majesty’s Railway Inspectorate, received in December, the first train from Launceston – comprising of Lilian and one carriage – ran on Boxing Day 1983. Shortly before the public opening of the first section, the works were examined by Major King of the Railways Inspectorate.


First advertising poster, 1983


Boxing Day 1983, first train at Launceston Station. Photos taken by: Ron Cable


Western Morning News Coverage, December 27th 1983

Original Ticket - Adults £1 and Children 50p!


Cornish and Devon Post coverage, 1983/94

Since Boxing Day 1883 the railway has gradually expanded along the Kensey Valley, as time and funds allowed, to Hunts Crossing then Canna Park in the 1980s. The final half mile of track to Newmills opened in 1995 where the railway ends.

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