Monthly Archives: January 2000

Par 2002

It’s 2002, and the class 37s of Cornwall are no more. While a few of the actual locomotives survive, eking out their last days on engineer’s trains in north-west England, the local Cornish china clay traffic is firmly in the hands of EWS’s new order, the EMD-built class 66s. Some long-distance workings are handled by British-built class 60s, with the EMD class 67 Bo-Bos, intended for use on mail traffic appearing from time to time.

66189 arrives at Par with a very heavy midday Burngullow to St Blazey trip working. The leading tankers are bound Irvine, the rear covered hoppers are for Stoke-on-Trent, and the middle wagons are for Italy via the Channel Tunnel

Because the train is too long to run round, the St Blazey yard pilot, 08499 is summoned to help out

The ‘Gronk’ is coupled to the rear of the train, which is about to head round the curve to St Blazey yard, with the 66 heading up the rear.

66127 stands in the branch loop, waiting for the road to Lostwithiel with a loaded clay train from Goonbarrow to Fowey

St Blazey is also home to the locomotives used for mail trains to and from the West Country. Here no less than four class 67s head east to Plymouth after servicing

66090 has just arrived at with the Mondays-only oil tanks from Penzance. This is now the only regular freight train into west Cornwall

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Cornwall 1999

My 1999 visit to Cornwall was only just in time. After nearly 20 years, the reign of the venerable English Electric class 37s came to an end this summer. The “Red Death” in the form of the new General Motors class 66 has come to Cornwall. This makes most of these photos history already.

Taken from the road bridge by Par station, a pair of ‘Dutch’ 37/0s survivors! 37069 and 37234 shunt the midday Burngullow-St Blazey Enterprise trip at Par. The same locos later worked the afternoon St Blazey-Cliffe vale ‘Clayliner’.

Another shot from the same vantage point. In “Ghost of Transrail” livery (The full Transrail logos survive on the other side of the loco!), 37505 “British Steel Workington” waits the head of a set of empty CDAs in the down loop at Par to, let a Penzance-bound 158 pass.

The third and final shot from the bridge. Long-time St Blazey veteran 37672 arrives with cement empties from Moorswater. This is a new working in 1999; the wagons will be taken back to Hope in Derbyshire by a brand-new class 66 later in the day. 37672, after twelve years in Cornwall, was sent to France.

37515, still in the long-obselete Trainload Metals livery, heads down the overgrown Fowey branch at Lostwithiel with a loaded clay train. This locomotive was also banished to France, to be used in construction work for a new TGV line.

One welcome change in 1999 (For enthusiasts, if not for passengers) was the return of locomotive haulage for one or two Great Western workings. Here GWT green 47815 arrives at Lostwithiel with the 0808 Penzance-Paddington, substituting for an HST and running some 20-25 minutes late. This locomotive is one of a fleet of seven, all but one painted in GWT green livery.

A few minutes later, Virgin Cross-Country’s 47828 hauls the 0848 Penzance-Manchester, slowed by a signal check caused by the late-running Paddington train in front if it. The coaches are all in Virgin colours, but the loco still wears the old BR Intercity livery.

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Lostwithiel, once the capital of Cornwall, lies in the Fowey valley a few miles from the port of Fowey. It is served by the main line of the former Cornwall Railway, now part of the Great Western main line to Penzance. It’s also the junction for the now freight-only branch to Fowey, and a major hub for local clay services to and from Fowey Docks. The map below (not to scale) gives the general layout of the place.

The variety of train services and attractive location make it an ideal location to model, although it’s only really possible to do the place justice in N gauge. I took these photographs over the course of many visits between 1988 and 1998, and I hope they give something of the flavour of the place. Email me if you have questions or comments.

View from the A390 road bridge, looking north, in June 1997. The two loops are normally used to run-round china clay trains. The train is the southbound Glasgow to Penzance “Cornish Scot”, in full Richard Branson livery, running late as usual. I’m not totally sure whether Richard Branson’s garish livery suits HST sets; I’ll leave you to make up your own mind!

From the same location, Class 37 No 37674 runs round a rake of loaded china clay hoppers before heading down the branch to Carne Point. The clay probably originated from the huge clay dries at Goonbarrow, on the Newquay branch, and will be exported by sea from the docks at Fowey. The Class 37s have dominated the local freight workings in Cornwall for almost 20 years now; a fleet of nine of these 1960s-built locomotives are outbased to St Blazey shed for this work.

Looking the other way from the road bridge sees a Penzance-Paddington HST, the leading power car painted in the new post-privatisation livery, not matching the rest of the train as is typical for Great Western trains. The now disused siding that once served the creamery is on the right, almost invisible beneath the weeds. The milk traffic now clogs up the roads instead…. Such is ‘progress’.

Looking north from the level crossing on a wet day in June 1997. Class 37 no 37521 sits in the down loop with a loaded china clay train from Marsh Mills, near Plymouth, waiting for another train to clear the branch from Carne Point. The locomotive was one of the first of St Blazey’s allocation to be painted in the new red and gold EWS livery.

The same location on an equally wet day a year later. 37375 and 37797 head the southbound Cliffe Vale-St Blazey Clayliner. The spring 1998 timetable change makes it possible to photograph this working in Cornwall in daylight, and it also reverted to class 37 haulage rather than a single class 60. This pair of locos had been working this train all week. The clay wagons are empty on the southbound run, their load of china clay having been used to make toilet bowls (Thanks to Dave Harrison for that last piece of information).

Class 47 No 47522 “Doncaster Enterprise” leaves the down refuge siding with a short train of ‘Dogfish’ ballast hoppers in June 1996. This locomotive was ‘borrowed’ by St Blazey depot for crew training purposes and was used for local freight workings around this time. Although now a freight locomotive, it’s still painted in the old Parcels sector livery.

Class 158 express sprinter No 158823 enters the station, passing the ex-GWR signalbox. Note the track machine stabled in the old cattle dock siding. Personally I think these are the most boring trains to be found on Britain’s railway system. Give me a class 50 and 5 Mk1s any day.

Back in 1988, Class 50 No 50149 passes the station with a trip working of four Polybulk covered hoppers, initially for Tavistock Junction. The wagons would ultimately end up in Switzerland, travelling via the Dover to Dunkirk train ferry After some complex shunting moves, it picked up a rake of empty CDAs for Marsh Mills. This locomotive is now preserved on the West Somerset Railway.

In June 1990, Class 37/5 No 37675, then named “William Cookworthy” comes off the Fowey branch with a train of empty CDA clay hoppers. It will run round in the down loop before heading back towards St Blazey. The locomotive was named after the Quaker apothecary that discovered china clay.

An early morning view looking south from the other side of the tracks. The old Cornwall Railway workshops, now used by various small businesses, are visible on the right-hand side. The single coach ‘bubble car’ is working empty from St Blazey to Liskeard, to work the Looe branch.

Class 60 No 60069 works the northbound Burngullow-Irvine “Silver Bullets” on a Saturday morning in June 1998. The distinctive tank wagons contain china clay slurry for use in the paper industry. The train gets it’s nickname from the time it first stated running, when the stainless steel wagons were kept clean. During the summer of 1998 this was the only freight working not booked for class 37 haulage. No doubt it’s a candidate for the new EMD-built class 66s in the near future.

Class 37s 37414 and 37675 head the afternoon St Blazey-Gloucester Speedlink, consisting of just seven wagons. This train ceased to run after the end of the Speedlink wagonload network a year later, although much of the traffic survives, now carried by “Enterprise” trains.

37521 again, preparing to head down the branch to Fowey with another train on loaded CDAs. Another train of empty CDAs sit in the sidings in the background.

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Par Photo Gallery

Par lies about halfway along the Duchy of Cornwall, and is the junction for the branch line to Newquay. Like Lostwithiel, it retains a lot of Great Western character, retaining a full set of lower-quadrant semaphore signals. The stone-built station building also survives. Like Lostwithiel, it’s a good prototype to model, perhaps a slightly less-attractive setting, but a much more compact layout.Most of these photographs were taken between 1988 and 1990, in the last years of the Speedlink wagonload network, and I make no apoligies for the bias towards wagonload freight trains in the photographs I have selected. Par was a good place to photograph wagonload freight in action; almost all freight traffic ran first to St Blazey yard, which lies half a mile along the Newquay branch. Trip workings between St Blazey and points west must reverse in the station, as the junction faces east. Email me if you have questions or comments.

Looking north from the road bridge in March 1988 sees ex-works class 50 No 50003 “Temeraire” heading a Plymouth to Penzance local. 50003 was the last class 50 to receive an overhaul, and it’s Network South East livery seems a little out of place this far west. Two months later these loco-hauled workings were a thing of the past, replaced by plastic sprinters. Note the junction signal on the wrong side of the track, for better visiblity for drivers coming round the curve.

Looking through the same road bridge in June 1990, Class 47 No 47337 “Herbert Austin” arrives with the morning Tavistock Junction to St Blazey Speedlink working. At the time, all freight workings were diagrammed for Class 37 haulage, so a 47 on freight was rare. All the wagons apart from the leading oil tank are empty china clay wagons, either slurry tankers or bulk covered hoppers.

Back on the bridge again, 47489 “Crewe Diesel Depot” heads a late-running Leeds-Penzance parcels. The locomotive is painted in the then-new parcels sector livery, it’s smart appearance a contrast to the scruffy vans making up the train.

In June 1989, Class 37 No 37671, named “Tre, Pol and Pen” is in charge of a single wagon being tripped from St Blazey yard to one of the clay dries in the St Austell area, probably Parkindillick. It had just run round the wagon, and propelled it out onto the main line. The locomotive is painted incorrectly in Railfreight Metals livery, which it carried for several months.

Moving forwards to 1998, 37673, now in the already obselete Transrail livery passes through with a rake of empty CDAs from Lostwithiel.

By 1989, class 50s were very rare this far west. Here, 50001 “Dreadnought” passes with a train of empty ‘Dogfish’ ballast hoppers, presumably returning from engineering work further west.

Another 50, No 50046 “Ajax”, passes slowly through the station, arriving to pick up the Laira breakdown crane. Two days earlier a train of CDAs had derailed on the points behind the locomotive, and repair work is in progress behind the locomotive.

Another 47 on local china clay work. 47258 arrives with the midday Drinnick Mill to St Blazey trip working, which will run round in the station before rounding the curve visible in the far right of the picture towards St Blazey yard. The two vans in the middle of the train were added to the afternoon Speedlink working to Gloucester, while the four PBA covered hoppers will form part of the overnight ‘Clayliner’ to Cliffe Vale near Stoke-on-Trent.

The only picture I have of the old 12ton ‘Clayhood’ wagons. On a summer Saturday in 1988, these wagons were on the first part of their final journey to the scrapyard, having been replaced a few months earlier by the more modern CDA hoppers. The locomotive in 47441.

Another 1990 example of the wonderfully-mixed trip workings in the area. It’s conclusive proof that Yeoman hoppers don’t only run in block trains. This is the early morning (7am) trip from St Blazey to Parkindillick. The first two wagons will be loaded with calcified seaweed.

June 1998. 37521 backs onto the midday trip working from Burngullow to St Blazey, having run round. Once coupled up, the train will reverse out of the station before proceeding round the curve to St Blazey. Once upon a time those slurry tanks were clean.

In June 1988, the last year when Class 50s were still a common sight in Cornwall, No 50005 approaches the station with the midday Penzance to Glasgow mail. Note the class 122 ‘bubble car’ stabled in the carraige siding. This is the Newquay branch train, waiting out of the way so that freight trains can use the platform road. The siding is actually level, the mail line descends at something like a 2% gradient. There was nothing quite like the sound of a 50 hitting that grade from a standing start with 13 coaches. Those were the days! The large building in the background is the clay dries at Par docks, most of who’s output is exported by sea, although it does still generate a little rail traffic.

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