Andrew Triggs Roger Winnen
The late Lance Ibbotson, former General Manager of the Western Region once commented to me that they ‘closed the wrong Newquay branch’. How right he was, but too late.
As a teenager, I spent much time in Chacewater box, in the company of the late Leslie Roberts. His father, still alive then (this would be 1964-6) had worked on the construction of the line in 1901-3 and lived to ride on the last train on February 2nd, 1963. The old man lived at Blackwater and would often climb up on to the rusty track and shake his head in bewilderment at the course of events. Both he and his son told me about Blackwater Junction.
The photographs show the junction in the spring of 1903, just before the passenger opening. The first of the three boxes to open was the East box, on December 21st 1902. The West and North boxes followed on July 6th 1903. The photographs show that the line from East box to Perranporth appears ready for traffic, but the signals on the West curve carry crosses –‘not in use’. West and East boxes had 19 lever frames: North had 17. Picture (1)
Note the contractor’s tiny locomotive with wagons at the centre of the second picture. Pictures (2A) & (2B)
For almost its entire life, Blackwater West box was ‘switched out’. There was limited traffic on the West curve (notably a daily freight from Redruth) and regular passenger trains on the curve stopped during the first world war.
Oddly, West box had the longest life of the three: it opened in 1892 as Scorrier signal box. It was of wooden construction. A new brick box opened at Scorrier in 1902 and the structure was dismantled and re-erected at Blackwater West Junction. It was the first of the three to close (18-9-24) and was again dismantled and re-erected at Par signal depot, where it survived as a workshop and store until demolished in 1967, when the depot moved to St Blazey. Par signal depot stood on the up side, just beyond the overbridge: the site is notable today for the vast clump of the pernicious Cupressus Leylandii there, which seem to be taking over the place.
The normal operation of trains on the branch required East box (on the main line) to be open and also North box. North box issued the electric staff for the section to Perranporth. St Agnes was then merely an intermediate station with a freight siding operated by ground frames: trains could not cross there.
Passenger services between Truro and Perranporth began on July 6th 1903 and were operated by steam railmotors from the start. Chacewater station at this time was merely an intermediate station with two, short platforms: trains could neither start nor terminate there. The section beyond Perranporth to Newquay (partly using an upgraded section of the old Cornwall Minerals Railway) opened in 1905.
With the West curve virtually unused, the GWR made the inevitable economy in 1924. West curve (officially closed since 1919, but still usable) was removed on September 18th while a new third line into Chacewater station (which had been rebuilt in 1912 with a bay line) opened on November 9th.
The triangle was constructed largely of mine spoil and was so polluted that almost nothing would grow on it. The ballasted formation of the west curve was still a distinctive feature of the view from main line trains until the whole site was bisected by the construction of the A30.
Many thanks to Roy for this article.
Tuesday 23rd January Exeter Riverside NY to Penzance via Falmouth Docks
Wednesday 24th January Penzance to Exeter Riverside NY via Newquay and Looe
Another return visitor to the south west is an IET set. There has been some confusion in the past over their official classification of IEP or IET, I can confirm that it is IET. Unfortunately this run is at night but there are a few stopping points en route at Liskeard, Bodmin, Lostwithiel, Par, St Austell and Redruth, times are:
Tuesday 23rd January Laira T&RSMD to Laira T&RSMD via Penzance
Kind Regards Karl Hewlett Many thanks Karl
5X22 19:13 Stoke Gifford to Laira
5X23 21:13 Laira to Laira via Penzance
5X32 21:10 Laira to Stoke Gifford
Richard Kitson Many thanks Richard
I wasn’t going to get the Butlins express returning at this rate. I only knew of a couple of suitable locations but was still keen to shoot the 31s returning south off the footbridge that crossed over the site of the former extensive carriage sidings at Malago Vale.
I turned off the main road at the first opportunity making very frequent left and right turns following only my sense of direction. Incredibly I found the footbridge, parked in the only remaining parking space, ran up onto the bridge as I heard an approaching train. This turned out to be a 158 heading north but as soon as that had passed under the footbridge the 31s appeared around the corner heading south. How do you spell ‘phew’??
Regards Ron Many thanks Ron
Saturday 11th August 2007
31454 (front) 31452 (rear)
1Z39 1406 Bristol - Minehead