Michael L. Roach
Last trip to Launceston
The date is Thursday 27 December 1962 and the Launceston Branch was due to close to passengers in a little over 48 hours; and most stations to goods as well. I got up very early (for me) and made my way to Plymouth station in the freezing conditions in order to catch the first train of the day to Launceston at 7.10am. This was not the first passenger train down the branch as there had already been the 5.45am auto to Tavistock South. In fact it was the fourth train down the branch, the other two being freight trains – to Launceston and separately to Tavistock and return. This trip was meant to be my penultimate trip to Launceston and back with the last one to be on Saturday 29 December, but as it turned out the last train never got further than Tavistock because of the apalling weather conditions on the Saturday evening.
The 7.10am left Plymouth on time consisting of small prairie 4574 with two corridor coaches. 4574 had been a regular ever since it arrived at Laira in July 1962. Since nationalisation the loco had been at Penzance, St. Ives, Truro, St. Blazey and Newton Abbot sheds. We were delayed a few minutes at Bickleigh to cross the late running 6.40am Tavistock to Plymouth auto consisting of just one coach (W255) being propelled by 6400 running a half hour late The train should have been off the branch before we reached Marsh Mills. At Horrabridge 4574 took water making us a couple of minutes late. As we ran into Tavistock South 4555 could be seen shunting the goods yard having arrived with the 5.15am Tavistock Junction (Up Yard) due to arrive Tavistock at 6.10am. We were now delayed another couple of minutes waiting for 4591 with 2 coaches on the 7.05am Launceston to Plymouth; and we were now 11L leaving Tavistock South. We now had a clear run to Launceston taking 32 mins. The present bus takes 52 mins.
We were at Launceston for about 80 minutes. 4574 took the two coaches out to the east end and than did some shunting in the goods yard on the south side of the station. We walked up the hillside to photograph the station area from the hillside. 4574 took two trucks out to a siding on the west side of the station and then brought the two coaches back into the other platform ready for departure. During all this activity by 4574 the engine of the Lanson Goods was nowhere to be seen because it had not yet arrived there. The Lanson Goods was scheduled to leave Tavistock Junction (Up Yard) at 6.25pm and pass through Marsh Mills at 6.40am just 38 minutes before the 7.10am passenger train from Plymouth which would overtake the goods train en route, but I failed to record where. We left Launceston a minute early and crossed the outward goods train at Lifton where 5569 was at the head of 15 trucks possibly having completed the shunting of the empty and loaded trucks for the traffic from the adjacent creamery as the goods train was scheduled to have arrived in Lanson at 10.05pm and it was now 10.23am. The crews of 4574 and 5569 changed footplates at Lifton. 4574 took water on the upside at Tavistock South without problem. The only train passed en route was 6400 with its one autocoach at Horrabridge. Mid-way between Clearbrook and Shaugh Bridge the train stopped for 10 seconds at Goodameavy to drop off two permanent way workers; the track was still being maintained. We reached Plymouth 6L after being 11L all the way from Horrabridge to Marsh Mills. My exploits on this day will continue tomorrow.
MLR / 11 December 2022
Also wishing Colin a speedy recover - he has not been too well of late.
Wishes all readers and contributors to this website a very Happy Christmas