Mark Annand has contributed pictures on the site to which there is a link as below – this site contains a comprehensive and most interesting tour of the two tunnels route.
Hopefully the replacement precast concrete arch will find its way onto the piers in May, with the whole structure complete, made good, and ready for reopening, albeit with somewhat higher parapet walls in July (which date will hopefully not slip ...). Many thanks to Mark.
For pictures see the Helston Branch Section
When I first came to Helston in about 1958 the frame had recently been renewed and had 11 levers for signals, 5 for points, 2 for facing point locks and 3 spares. There was a token instrument for the section to Nancegollan. The station was laid out as a through station with the platform line running on an embankment ending at the road from the town. A bridge would have been needed here had the proposed extension to The Lizard been built. The carriage shed at the end of this line had been demolished and the stone siding for serpentine traffic reinstated just before I came on the scene. As well as dealing with the regular passenger trains, running round the loco and visiting the shed for servicing there was also quite a bit of shunting each day with meat, stone and general traffic plus seasonal produce for the up perishables at Gwinear Road. There was a shunt ahead subsidiary signal fitted underneath the up advanced starter by the Church Hill bridge to allow shunting to be carried out without lowering the starting signal itself. At the end of the platform was a spur leading straight into the engine shed (more of this later). As this was a facing point on a passenger line a facing point lock was fitted. Quite often the siding space became congested with the result that the run round loop would be blocked with goods wagons. When an incoming train arrived and the passengers had disembarked the loco would push the coaches back up the branch where the guard would put on the brake. The loco then backed up and retired to the shed, the points reversed and the coaches would roll back under gravity to the platform where the guard would stop them. The loco would then be reattached ready for the return journey. If time was short instead of placing the coaches up the branch the engine would be uncoupled and just give the coaches a "shove" to make them run up the grade and then go to the shed, leaving the carriages to return to the platform under the guard's control. Some slick point operation was required for this! It worked for the usual two carriage train-I never saw it done with more. On busy days I experienced trains of up to six coaches if memory serves me correctly.
One summer's evening the train from Gwinear Road came in, the engine was uncoupled and ran round, but before coupling up went to the shed to take on water. The train staff was returned to me and I put it through the instrument and asked Nancegollan Is Line Clear? for the return journey. Nancegollan acknowledged, the engine came off shed, coupled up and I gave the staff to the driver. Things were very relaxed at this time in the evening and the train crew disappeared into the Refreshment Room. After a while the guard announced that it was nearing departure time so the driver and fireman returned to the engine and started away. Unfortunately they did not check the up starting signal which was on as the points were still set for the shed and this is where they went complete with train. At the far end of the shed there were two triangular wheel stops fitted to the rails and the front pony truck of the 45XX went over these and was derailed. The back wall of the shed was" slightly" damaged by the buffers. Fortunately the derailed wheels came back onto the rails as they reversed back into the platform. This time they checked the signal and went safely on their way back to Gwinear Road and no more was said-although it is reputed that a lady in the front compartment remarked that she didn't realise there was a tunnel on the Helston branch!
On another occasion, when I was working at Truro my wife and son visited Helston by train from Camborne. I had told them to return by a certain train in the afternoon. Unfortunately I had used my working timetable and the train I had told them to catch was an "empty stock" working to which any wagons to be returned to Gwinear Road would be attached. On this day the driver was keen to get back to Gwinear in good time to complete his shunt before a scheduled down passenger was due to arrive so he had contacted Nancegollan to arrange a swift token exchange to ensure he had a good run. All went well and the train reached Gwinear in record time running straight into the down platform where my wife and son escaped. Unfortunately, unknown to the driver, the guard's compartment contained a track recording machine which had recorded on its graph a number of serious track irregularities almost to the point of the wheels leaving the rails. It would be interesting to find out what speeds were reached as the limits were 35mph from Gwinear to milepost 5 and 25mph for the remaining 3 3/4 miles to Helston.
As is well known freight traffic continued for a couple of years after closure to passengers, total closure taking place on October 5th 1964. I did some occasional day shifts at Helston during the goods only period, opening up the box to deal with the two daily return workings.
Footnote-I still have the Hornby cattle wagon bought at Eddy's Toyshop in Meneage Street on the day of my steam hauled record breaking run on the Helston Branch in 1960...........M. H.