Castle Class HST
Whilst in Marsh Barton today I took the opportunity to have a look at Marsh Barton
I was advised by one of the staff working that the station is due to be handed over to Network Rail in a couple of weeks. Landscaping was in progress whilst the road over the railway will need resurfacing. In future pedestrians will use the pathway and new railway footbridge.
Michael L. Roach.
On Friday 23 March 1962 I made a half day trip from Plymouth to Callington. The junction for the branch line was at Bere Alston which is located on the former LSWR/SR main line from Plymouth to Exeter via Okehampton. It is just 5½ miles from Bere Alston to Callington as the crow flies but 9½ by rail because of the hills in the way and the need to provide stations to serve Calstock and Gunnislake. The 5 miles from Callington to Gunnislake were closed completely on and from 5 November 1966 but the remaining 4½ miles of route survive to this day as a branch from Plymouth with the train reversing at Bere Alston. Much of the present route is located in the valley of the River Tamar which forms the boundary between the counties of Devon and Cornwall for much of its length. The Tamar Valley was formerly famous for its market gardens producing hard fruit, soft fruit and flowers. Before the arrival of the railway the produce made its way to markets at Devonport and Plymouth by boat down the River Tamar. Most of the traffic transferred to road transport in the mid-1960s but the industry is now a shadow of its former self. At the time of my trip in 1962 the main loading point for the market garden produce was at Calstock Station between Bere Alston and Gunnislake and there were usually vans in the siding waiting to be loaded but much of the produce went by passenger train; some of which ran as mixed trains.
The journey along the branchline was leisurely because of the many sharp curves and steep gradients particularly over the first 5 miles out of Bere Alston. Passenger trains were allowed 42 minutes to cover the 9½ miles which would have allowed for loading the produce and the short wheel-base vans in some of the trains The last LSWR O2-class locos had left the area the previous year and from then until the end of steam in September 1964 the Ivatt 2MT-class 2-6-2 tanks hauled all the trains on the branch. The locos were at different times normally provided by Exmouth Junction and Friary Sheds. I travelled out to Callington behind 41275 then of Laira Shed, on the 3.15pm off Bere Alsaton which was a mixed train. Arrival at Callington was four minutes early; where another Ivatt was on shed and in steam. This was 41216 of Friary Shed which would later move to Barnstaple Junction, Exmouth Junction and finally Templecombe Shed. At Templecombe it worked over the Somerset & Dorset and was withdrawn from service as soon as the line closed in March 1966. 41275 returned me to Bere Alston on the 4.23pm train with the same set of two coaches. As can be seen in the second photo the loco was blowing off steam before departure and that was at 4.18pm. For reasons unknown the train did not leave until 4.30pm but still managed to arrive at Bere Alston one minute early showing just how easy the schedule was.
Searching for “Callington Branch” will bring up some interesting websites.
I cannot resist including one of the next batch of photos I took a few days later, knowing that many enthusiasts are interested in anything mechanical that moves, because the photograph shows a very rare beast. In 1962 I worked as a Junior Engineer for the City of Plymouth in the City Engineers Department. The photo shows an Allen Parsons 16/60 Trenching Machine built by John Allen & Sons of Oxford under licence to a design by the Parsons Company of the USA. The Parsons Company still makes small trenching machines but nothing on the scale shown here. The 16/60 was the largest in a range of three machines and indicated that the machine was capable of digging trenches from 16 to 60 inches wide. However each different trench width required a different set of buckets and it was a major job to change all the buckets. The City Engineer had a large direct labour organisation (dlo) capable of carrying out major civil engineering schemes. The trenching machine is seen digging the trench for the Eggbuckland Valley Trunk Sewer. I worked in the section that designed the sewer which was at the same time starting to design the Plymouth Outer Ring Road constructed some twenty years later just to the right (north) of the line of the sewer. The dual carriageway is now called the A38 Devon Expressway. The road forced the sewer uphill into deeper ground resulting in the trench being more than 5 metres deep in places. The 16/60 was very good at digging neat trenches in soft and moderately hard ground but it could not dig 5 metres deep which meant that the bottom of the trench was extended downwards by hand excavation. Fortunately the dlo had good timbermen who could keep the trench safe for the men doing the digging and laying the pipes at the bottom of the trench. At this time there were two Allen Parsons 16/60s at Plymouth – one was owned by the City and the other one shown here was on hire from Lindsay Muir Plant Hire. In fifty years of travelling around Britain I only ever saw one or two other examples of an Allen Parsons Trencher. The location of the photograph is at Reddington Road, Plymouth, roughly at the bottom of Bloomball Hill.
Michael L. Roach. 15th February 2023
The Coal Office