Tomorrow Saturday - December 8th at 6.30pm
At the Memorial Hall, Redruth
The story of
For details of the venue please click here.
Through train to St Ives
In Cornwall, the Looe branch never carried through passenger traffic of any kind because of the 7-foot wheelbase restriction on stock there and the awkward junction. At Bodmin Road, the junction faced East, but there was no direct connection to the down main. Lostwithiel, Par and Truro all had satisfactory 2-way connections, signalled for passenger trains. At Gwinear Road, through trains or carriages could be accommodated, but were never required, most expresses simply called at the junction. In terms of demands on infrastructure, St Ives wins the trophy.
Few branch lines were as poorly equipped for the working of through trains in post war years than St Ives. The main snags were these:
-a trailing junction at St Erth, requiring reversal and change of engine.
-the lack of intermediate crossing loops, meaning that only one train could occupy the entire line at a time.
-the St Ives branch was of ‘Uncoloured’ status, meaning that only a tiny group of engine classes were permitted. In reality this meant the Churchward 4500 class 2-6-2T. Even the prairies numbered above 4575 (only 4 tons heavier) were banned. The 4500s were permitted a load of five coaches without loss of time; heavier loads required double-heading. St Ives station could handle 10 coaches.
In the postwar period up until 1963, through trains operated on summer Saturdays and there were three such workings. The timings remained much the same for at least the period 1955-63.
The first of the three was the 1112 pm from Paddington. This train was made up of 13 coaches, ten for Penzance and 3 detached at St Erth for St Ives.
On arrival at St Erth (5-43 am) a 45XX which had just run up from Long Rock would back on to the coaches and take them to St Ives (6-18 am). The engine immediately returned, with the stock, to Ponsandane.
This same engine would, at Long Rock, join another of the class and the pair would haul the empty stock for the 9-20 am through train from St Ives to Paddington up to its starting point. By now, the 45XX which was living in the shed at St Ives had come to life and the regular branch service (3 coach train) had started.
As we already know, the branch could only accommodate one train, so the local service train ceased operation for 70 minutes and the 10 coaches of the 9-20 operated as the ‘local’ in both directions.
The 9-20 was made up as follows:
BCK(2); SK (4); CK (2); K (1); SO (Dining)(1). *see end for key.
The arrival of a 10-coach train at St Ives required a delicate quadrille which was performed twice every Saturday: The heavy train (like all others) would be brought to a stand at the home signal (at Porthminster point –just visible from the station). The engine would whistle and the signal lowered. At the inner home (by the engine shed) the leading engine would detach and draw forward into the loop. The remaining engine now took the train into the platform, occupying virtually its full length. It will be recognized that the train engine is now trapped at the buffers. A third engine is at the shed. It now comes into play to become the second engine for the outward journey, while the one at the buffers becomes the branch local engine.
At St Erth the train was met by the main line engine (usually a ‘Hall’) with two extra coaches (because of the 10 limit on the branch) – 1 x BSK; 1 x SK, making twelve. There was one stop in Cornwall –Truro- and another (for engine change) at Plymouth, where usually a ‘King’, plus an assisting engine for the banks came on together with another 2 coaches (1 x BSK and 1 x SK) making a hefty train of fourteen.
This train was not the Cornish Riviera Express (which began at Penzance seven days a week). It was not made up of the chocolate and Cream mark 1 stock which was exclusively for a small number of named trains. The 9-20 carried carriage roof boards, but ones which listed the destination only.
The service was dieselised in part in 1959. On July 9th 1960 –a day that has been heavily documented- the 9-20 was hauled by the usual prairies to St Erth, then as train A76 headed by a pair of D63XX to Plymouth and finally by D810 ‘Cockade’ which would have been assisted over the Devon banks.
The ‘main event’ at St Ives was the Saturday down Cornish Riviera Express, which will be the subject of part 2.
Key to coach types:
CK: composite corridor; BCK: brake composite corridor; SK: corridor second; SO: second open (dining); K: kitchen.
SOURCES: Most of my information comes from the WTT for summer 1957. W.S.Becket’s ‘Operation Cornwall’ is invaluable for detailed insight into how the trains worked (Xpress Publications) and Richard Woodley’s ‘The Day Of The Holiday Express’ (Ian Allan) is a fascinating study of a single day.