Coryton Station was 26¾ miles from Plymouth on the GWR's branch to Launceston, and 24 miles from Tavistock Junction. Milepost 24 was just off the west end of the single platform. The railway was located in and followed the valley of the River Lyd for several miles each side of the station. To the west of the station the gradients were generally easy at 1 in 140 or less; but to the east it was a different story as the line climbed higher and higher above the river in order to leave the valley on the approach to Lydford Station more than 4¼ miles away. The first two miles of the bank were at a gradient if 1 in 55 and the remaining two miles at 1 in 57. As an aside this was a similar gradient and length to the more famous incline leading up to the summit at Talerddig on the Cambrian main line east of Machynlleth, where double-headed steam trains would struggle up the bank with a dozen coaches on summer Saturdays up to 1966. Luckily there were few heavy trains on the Launceston Branch and the small prairie tanks, which were the normal motive power, coped with the two coach passenger trains and the ten or twelve wagons of the returning freight train. The prairies were allowed to take 220 tons from Launceston to Plymouth which equates to just over six coaches.
The hamlet of Coryton was some distance from its railway station and the population of the whole parish when the railway was being planned and built was just 375 persons. This suggests to me that the station was provided originally to break up the long distance (7m 51c) between the stations each side of Coryton at Lifton and Lydford, because the railway was built at a time when railway promoters considered that a station should be provided every three miles or so. In 1933 Coryton issued 3,508 passenger tickets and dealt with 3,150 tons of goods and minerals; an average working day would have seen the staff issue 11 passenger tickets and deal with 10 tons of goods. The station was destaffed in 1959.
It is known that the local squire used Coryton Station as it was the nearest station to his family home at Lewtrenchard, two miles north of the station. He was also an anglican priest, collector of folk songs, novelist and writer on various subjects, including hymns. His most famous work was to write the words for the hymn “Onward Christian Soldiers” in 1865. He was the Reverend Sabine Baring-Gould (1834-1924) and Lewtrenchard is a place of pilgrimage to this day. Until recently there was a Sabine Baring-Gould Appreciation Society with its own website. He will have a huge number of descendants as he fathered no less than 15 children. Next year will mark the hundredth anniversary of his death and articles are already starting to appear in the local papers; e.g. WMN on 12 August 2023 where the writer said that Sabine Baring-Gould's greatest achievement was as a collector of folk songs of the West Country.
I was there in the vicinity of Coryton Station on the afternoon of Saturday 18 August 1962 from about 2.00pm to 7.45pm and witnessed five trains pass. It was my only visit to Coryton and the weather was kind unlike the weather on the day this article was written, 18 August 2023, which started with some sunny periods but degenerated to torrential rain and gale force winds called “Storm Betty.”
The trains I saw at Coryton were:
4574 on the 2.05pm SO Launceston to Plymouth
6400 on the 2.20pm Launceston to Tavistock Junction freight
4555 on the 3.05pm Plymouth to Launceston
4555 on the 5.40pm Launceston to Plymouth
5568 on the 6.20pm Plymouth to Launceston
It was 5¼ hours between photographing the first and the last of the trains listed. It can be seen that 6400 (and its footplate crew ?) did indeed swop duties with 4574 the engine of the goods train. Something different would have happened on Mondays to Fridays because the 12.14pm from Plymouth did not run being Saturdays Only. It was highly unusual to see a 6400-class pannier tank on a goods train and in the 60 years since I have not even seen another photograph of such an occurrence, except on a heritage railway. 6400 emerged from Swindon Works in February 1932 and spent its first 27 years at just two sheds in South Wales. It moved to Laira on 18 April 1959 and would have worked the Saltash autos until replaced by dmus after which it would have worked principally between Plymouth and Tavistock South.
MLR / 18 August 2023
Bodmin 36 Years Ago
The AC Cars railbus, W79976, was not one of the pair used on the Bodmin North shuttle. When the WR's four railbuses became redundant in early 1967 the ScR took them on but a year later they were all out of use. W79976 (the number prefixes were not changed in Scotland) had its engine, transmission and control gear removed following withdrawal but was nonetheless secured for preservation. It then led a nomadic existence, moving around various preservation sites including the BWR between 1985 and 1993 where it reportedly spent some time in use as a static buffet - restoration to working order there was not considered worthwhile as it would have been unsuitable for use on the line's steep gradients (since W79977/8 could manage the 1-in-37 when running empty from St Blazey I assume the additional weight of 46 passengers was the perceived issue!) Its condition has deteriorated badly since then and it narrowly avoided scrapping at the Great Central Railway in 2018, but was rescued at the last minute and moved to Nemesis Rail's Burton depot, with the long-term aim of restoration to full working order. So the now skeletal W79976 continues to cling to life.
There is another preserved AC railbus, W79978, which was one of the Bodmin pair. It spent its first decade in preservation working on the North Yorkshire Moors Railway and then less productive years at the Kent & East Sussex and Colne Valley Railways before moving to the Swindon & Cricklade Railway in November 2019, where it has since been successfully started. I didn't find out about this until after I'd moved from Swindon to Cornwall two months later, which was disappointing as in 1966 I had seen W79978 at Bodmin North (John Roberts may remember this as his father had driven us there) and it would have been nice to have seen it again 53 years later! We still have family reasons to visit Swindon so maybe one day I'll get there.....
Best regards, Neil Phillips.