Thursday, 28 February 2008

Railway centenary celebrations coming up

This coming Sunday sees the centenary of the opening of our branch railway. Back in 1908 it ran from Bere Alston to Kelly Bray but, following the Beeching Report, the western section from Gunnislake to Kelly Bray has been closed. Today the line extends on from Bere Alston to Plymouth over what was in its day part of the Plymouth - Exeter route through Tavistock and Okehampton.

So far as our railway history is concerned 1908 on the face of it is a very late date to be opening a new railway line. Well part of it had been in use as far back as 1872 as a link from Kelly Bray to Calstock. As with many other lines hereabouts it was brought into being purely as a way to get freight to and from a convenient waterway, in our case the River Tamar. Reflecting its history in this truncated form it had been known as the East Cornwall Mineral Railway. The track from
the Tavistock direction through Bere Alston to Plymouth was completed in 1890 and it was seen as a sensible move to bridge the gap between the two railways even though this meant incorporating an expensive high level viaduct across the Tamar at Calstock.

Even with delays in the building of the viaduct this structure was completed in August 1907 well ahead of the rest of the line. Locally we celebrated the viaduct construction last summer but it was deemed (correctly in my opinion) that we should have a further series of events now.

This coming Sunday then is the big day with top brass from First Great Western, at least one local MP and various local council dignitaries getting in on the act. There will be a special train and I think three plaques to be unveiled. Over the weekend there will be archive displays, film shows and other jollifications taking place. In fact there is so much on the menu that the organisers sensibly put on two railway walks last weekend. These were led by two respected members of the Calstock Footpath Society - on Saturday David led a walk from Calstock Station and then on the following day Stephen led the walk from the station at Gunnislake. I didn't get to David's walk I'm afraid but did participate in Steve's which looked at the line and all its associated sidings between Gunnislake and Latchley. This was extremely interesting and informative.

Next Monday afternoon there is the opportunity to walk across Calstock viaduct (legally!) but you have to book and it will cost £5. Nice to say you have done it perhaps but the high parapet will preclude decent views. In the train you get a much better outlook - myself I'll stick with the train!

For more on the celebration events you can click here. No doubt I shall have more to record after next Sunday.

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