The first broad gauge train arrived in Penzance on 19 October 1866. It was a special train from Truro laid on to celebrate the completion of the works needed to make it possible. A half-day holiday was declared in Penzance, and there were the usual speeches and a celebration dinner. Regular broad gauge passenger services commenced on 1st March 1867, and it was then possible to travel all the way from Penzance to Paddington without changing trains. Until then trains from Paddington continued to go to Falmouth, and passengers for Penzance had to change trains at Truro.
The Great Western Railway, the Bristol and Exeter Railway and the South Devon Railway (the Associated Companies) and the Cornwall Railway were all built to the broad gauge. The Cornwall Railway had opened in 1859 from Plymouth to Falmouth, which was then the most important town in Cornwall. The line from Truro to Penzance had been constructed by the West Cornwall Railway and opened throughout in 1852. The West Cornwall was based on the earlier Hayle Railway from Hayle to Redruth which had opened in 1838 and 1843 for passengers. The Hayle Railway and the West Cornwall Railway were both standard gauge railways. The break of gauge at Truro was a major inconvenience. The engineer for the West Cornwall Railway was Isambard Kingdom Brunel and he foresaw the problems that were going to arise and a clause was inserted in the West Cornwall's 1846 Act of Parliament requiring the railway to add a third rail, when called upon to do so, thereby allowing broad gauge trains to reach Penzance. The third rail was added throughout from Truro to Penzance during 1865 - 66 at a cost of about £100,000 which included some earthworks and strengthening of bridges etc. The West Cornwall was an impecunious affair and did not have the finance to do the work so it was taken over by the Associated Companies on 1 January 1866 and it was they that provided the finance for the works. For those with access to old newspapers on the internet there are articles throughout October 1866 about the completion of the broad gauge from Truro to Penzance.
In one week's time it will be the 150th anniversary of this major milestone in the history of Cornwall's railways. Does anyone know if there are any events, special trains or exhibitions planned to coincide with the anniversary.
Having worked a morning stopping train down,it then worked a mid morning through train to London.
I travelled down and back to Taunton on this train,being the first time I had ever travelled over the branch to Minehead. But look at the desolation at Minehead station then,only a few months from closure and compare this pic with what is there today. The WSRLY have done wonders with the station
over the years, from a run down state when the line closed in January 1971, to the really vibrant and upbeat station it is today. enjoy the pics cheers JOHN C.