Memories of a near miss.
The 1971 Truro area remodelling involved a simplification of the signalling and during the dismantling of the signals at Penwithers Junction a lamp got away from the workmen and ended up at the foot of the embankment where the Newham branch joined the Falmouth line. I found it lying there and still have it. I also recovered a cast iron sign from a long-abandoned occupation crossing gate not far from Penwithers Junction – since there was no sign of such a crossing on the line itself and little trace of a matching gate on the opposite side I felt it was fair game! Carrying that back along the line to Calenick flattened the saddle bag on my bike, but I got it home and 46 years later I still have that too, showing signs of restoration started in 1978 but never completed. One day…… Shortly after commencing his return walk along the trackbed Phil pauses to look at a gate post with an empty hinge attached – could this be the remains of the gate my sign was attached to? Decades of uncontrolled vegetation make it difficult to be sure but it’s on the right side of the line at around the right location…..
Having already owned up to the unauthorised use of a ganger’s trolley for a last trip along the line just before the rails were torn up, I have one other embarrassing story connected with a now track-less Calenick Level Crossing a few months later. During a visit to Truro station in late June 1972 a typical Cornish drizzle set in. I must have been expecting it as I was wearing a coat (wet Junes are nothing new!) This concerned me a little because whilst there my bike’s rear brake cable failed, so I made a mental note on the return journey to stop short of the top of the hill leading down to the level crossing and walk down. Unfortunately I misjudged the Cornish drizzle’s effect on my remaining brake and sailed over the top too quickly to get off. Rapidly gaining speed down the hill panic got a grip as I realised that using only the front brake would end in disaster and the stone wall at a sharp right in Calenick beyond the level crossing was likely to prove even worse for my sense of wellbeing! There was only one course of action – having cleared the level crossing in a blur (and not in continuous contact with the road) I steered left into a patch of stinging nettles and prayed for sufficient retardation to avoid a wipe-out! Luckily this worked, after a fashion – I hit a hidden rock, bike and rider parted company in mid-air and I landed on my back in the nettles a few yards short of the stone wall! Partly thanks to wearing that coat I suffered only a few bruises and stings but my bike was not so fortunate with a collapsed front wheel and severely bent pedal. Thankfully there were no witnesses to this near-catastrophe and I’ve rarely mentioned it to anybody……….!!
Neil Phillips Thanks for the memory and we're so glad you survived.
For Phil Hadleys video click here Newham Branch Line Pt 1