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Friday, 20 November 2015

Lappa Valley Steam Railway

In a nutshell

Gauge:         15"

Length:      1 mile

Opened:      1974 (Original railway opened in 1905)


Lappa Valley Steam Railway & Leisure Park
St Newlyn East
Tel:        01872 510317 


Date of visit:     12 June 2015


Key Facts

  • The Lappa Valley Steam Railway is built on the trackbed of the Treffry Tramways branch line which ran to East Wheal Rose
  • The first tramway from East Wheal Rose operated from 1849 using horse-drawn wagons. 
  • In 1874 the tramway was taken over by the Cornwall Minerals Railway and steam locomotives ran on the railway for the first time
  • The railway was acquired by the Great Western Railway in 1896, and re-opened in 1905.
  • The branch was closed on 4 February 1963 as part of Beeching's 'reorganisation' of British Railways.
  • In the early 1970s, the trackbed was acquired by Eric Booth who cleared the thick undergrowth and laid the 15" (381 mm) gauge track between Benny Halt and East Wheal Rose. 
  • Zebedee, the line's first steam locomotive, was built by Severn Lamb in early 1974 and the railway opened to the public on 16 June 1974 with four locally built coaches. 
  • In 1975 the East Wheal Rose area was landscaped and the boating lake was dug to help drain the land. 
  • In 1976, the line acquired some locomotives from Longleat with more carriages also being built at the time. 
  • During the 1970s, a 7¼" (184 mm) gauge railway was laid around a smaller lake
  • In May 1995 10¼" (260 mm) gauge railway was constructed for half a mile along the next length of the old tramway trackbed.
  • In 2014 the Lappa Valley Railway was bought by Keith Southwell who aims to continue the work which Eric Booth started
  • The railway presently has two 15" gauge steam locomotives (Severn Lamb 0-6-4T Zebedee and Berwyn Engineering 0-6-0 Muffin), one 15" gauge diesel loco (0-4-0 Arthur), two 10¼" gauge diesel locos (Alan Keef 0-4-0 Eric, Severn Lamb 4-4w Duke of Cornwall) and one 7¼" gauge train (a representation of an APT built by Mardyke Miniature Railway)
  • UPDATE: A third 15" gauge steam loco (Exmoor Steam 0-4-2T Ruby) was added to the roster in July 2015
  • In addition to the two other railways at East Wheal Rose, there are two lakes (one for boating and the other for wildlife), a crazy golf course, children's play areas, a gift shop, a cafĂ©, and a series of walks through the valley.



My Impressions

When I arrived at the main car park for the Lappa Valley Steam Railway, the sun was occasionally finding its way between the clouds and the weather was reasonably warm.

After buying my ticket in the shop and ticket office, there was time to take a few snaps of the station area before the train arrived.

One of the line's two steam locomotives (0-6-0 Muffin) was sitting outside the main engine shed, waiting to be admired (another steam loco arrived in July, shortly after my visit) .......

..... and the lie's 0-4-0 diesel was sitting on a siding.

Before long (trains run every 40 minutes), the line's other steam loco (0-6-2T Zebedee), hove into view with its impressive train of five bogie coaches.

There was time to admire the diminutive loco.......

.... as she was turned ........

..... before running round the train.

 The mile long journey to the other end of the line at East Wheal Rose took us through mature woodland, .....

...... running for a short distance beside the parallel track from the reverse loop ........

......... before swinging round the boating lake, to pull into the station.

By the time the train had discharged its passengers and the loco taken on board more water, the heavens had opened.

I decided to take the train back to the main station, to fetch my waterproof from the car.

The train negotiated the reverse loop and then rejoined the main line back down to Benny Halt.......

..... where we pulled into the main platform once more.

 On my second journey down the line, the loco experienced some wheel-slip as she climbed the gradient on the approach to East Wheel Rose. The driver coaxed her over the summit ........

 ..... and we arrived once more at the station, where quite a large crowd of slightly damp visitors was waiting to make the journey back back to their cars.

 I took the opportunity to explore the visitor attractions at the site. The 7¼" railway which winds its way around the smaller of the two lakes ........

..... and the 10¼" gauge railway which runs for a further half a mile along the trackbed of the original railway.

 From the cafe, it was possible to get an elevated view of the site. The rain was easing by this time ......

 ...... but I decided I had exhausted the supply of attractions. It would have been different if I had been accompanied by children - there was plenty to keep them entertained and interested. The distant whistle announced the approach of Zebedee with another trainload of visitors ........

....... and so I climbed aboard once more, taking a quick look back over the boating lake as we negotiated the reverse loop.

There was time to shoot the departure of the next Down train, before browsing through the books and nick-knacks in the shop. I decided against having a Cornish Ice Cream, the rain having decided to teem down once more.

I enjoyed my visit to the Lappa Valley Steam Railway, but then I have a particular soft spot for 15" gauge railways since learning about their history (see A brief chronology of minimum gauge railways). There seemed to be plenty of attractions for younger visitors and for those who might want to explore the various nature trails and walks in the area. It was a pity that the weather was so unpredictable - the rain had not been forecast - and it was as much an irritation for the railway staff as for the visitors.

It was certainly well worth the visit - and when the grandchildren appear on the scene ........


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