Keith has kindly passed on your enquiry concerning the recovery of redundant materials post closure of much of the southern railway in North Cornwall.
Unfortunately I was really too young when much of the ‘withered arm’ was dismantled and not being a ‘rivet counter,’ much to my regret, did not take many notes.
However when the Bodmin to Wadebridge section finally closed a decade after passenger services ceased I was in a position to participate in a positive way and managed to at least convince the local authority to preserve the track bed from Wadebridge to Boscarne.
I do have extensive records of this section including the exact dates of track sections and geographical positions of all infrastructure.
To answer your specific questions it is important to understand the political situation at the time of initial closure in the late 60’s and subsequent closure of all services in 1978.
The Wadebridge to Padstow section was a profitable line summer and winter, but due to government policy post Beeching it was trying to off load a general responsibility to the public purse.
The railway was a big employer in Wadebridge and when closure was announced a number of employees took redundancy, some transferred to other regions and some were employed for a limited period recovering redundant materials and this is why the Padstow section was lifted in what some called indecent haste.
Obviously in the late 60’s there was a massive amount of scrap metal stockpiled and thoughts of re use elsewhere on the network couldn’t be further from the minds of BR management.
Anyone who bought a mk1 Ford Escort at the time will testify that the high levels of scrap metal used by the steel manufacturers in the production of this vehicle caused premature catastrophic corrosion with panels and chassis rusting through in less that 5 years!
I was lucky to have spoken to Arthur Ferret in the mid 80’s who was a driver at Wadebridge for many years and he did explain that some of the track from the Padstow section was recovered by BR for future use and much of the track was removed using rail vehicles.
From 1968 until the early 80’s, first the wharf sidings were removed back to the town centre level crossing, which always caused a bottleneck on the busy main road.
On final closure there were some hopes of retaining the railway and I know Rusty Eplett was keen to retain a railway presence in Wadebridge but unfortunately BR was under pressure to maximise its assets so eventually track lifting commenced in 1980.
Irons Brothers of Wadebridge scrapped the station area and although pointwork is the most expensive part of rail infrastructure it is also the most difficult to remove. Most of the station rail layout was cut up into short metre lengths for use at the local foundry. Photographs of the Helston track lifting especially around the station met a similar fate.
However from Wadebridge to Boscarne most of the rails were returned to Par by road.
A small team of operators worked from Wadebridge using a trolley and gas bottles cutting all the fishplates and extracting the keys. The rails were placed either side of the trackbed and the sleepers were recovered with a mobile crane and lorry. Eventually the rails were collected and returned to BR.
By the 1980’s chaired rail was becoming difficult to obtain so the value had increased and for a short while much was re used elsewhere on the secondary network.
I hope this answers some of your questions
best wishes Andrew
Copy to Keith and Roger Cornwall Railway Society.