The Northern Belle ran from Birmingham to Par and Penzance last Saturday 3rd September 2016. An enthusiasts from West Cornwall would appreciate the coach numbers of the vehicles used on that service to and from Penzance.
Andrew Triggs & Roger Salter
The Great Western Railway fully supports The Royal British Legion in all its activities and following a ceremony at Paddington Station dignitaries will board the 10.06 Cornish Riviera Express to Penzance due 15.11. On board the train will be Chelsea Pensioners, the train however will be manned by GWR Staff who were armed forces veterans. Throughout its journey various celebrations will take place, one being Plymouth Cathedral Choir performing on Plymouth Station. On arrival at Penzance, Standard Bearers of the Royal British Legion, A Bagpiper, and a detachment of members of the Air Training Corps Cadets unit will welcome the train headed by an unnamed power car with the power car Harry Patch the last surviving Tommy on the rear.
Turnchapel was once a small village in Devon just outside the City of Plymouth, but now its within the boundary of the City. The centre of Turnchapel retains a villagey feel because of its relative isolation and location on the edge of the sea. The shortest route to the City Centre is now by foot ferry to The Barbican. However Turnchapel used to be at the end of a branch line from Plymouth Friary Station. The last passenger trains ran 65 years ago today on Saturday 8 September 1951. Goods trains ceased 10 years later. I have been unable to discover which steam locomotive hauled the trains on the last day.
In the last timetable for summer 1951 there were 20 trains each way leaving Turnchapel from 5.55am to 10,45pm. Journey time to Friary was 10 minutes. There were 3 intermediate stations or halts in the 2 miles 45 chains length of the branch. By far the most important was Plymstock Station, which was the junction where the Great Western Branch went off to Yealmpton. This branch had originally closed to passengers in 1930 but reopened for the Second World War, finally closing to passengers on 7 October 1947. On 18 September 1947 the Western Morning News wrote a perceptive article under the heading Disappearing Branch Lines. It read as follows:
Closing of the Yealmpton branch railway line has resulted in speculation as to whether the Turnchapel branch of the sister Southern Company will not be the next to go. Passenger traffic on the Turnchapel branch has slumped during the past few years. Veteran season ticket-holders on the branch can remember when the 8.30am train was filled almost to capacity with professional and business men, but now they either motor in their cars or travel by 'bus, and the early-morning trains carry few passengers.
Those who use the line regularly can quote occasions on which the number of passengers was actually fewer than the number of railwaymen running the line, and it is only too obvious that the service, so far as passenger traffic is concerned, must be run at a loss. How long the company will continue to carry on under these conditions is doubtful, but it is certain that, if the public desires to retain what has been a boon on many an occasion, such as when the roads were impassible owing to snow or ice, or when the 'bus system was paralysed by a strike, they will have to show more practical support.
MLR/7 September 2016