December Works Update

The railcar bodywork has now progressed from a wooden mock-up to the final steel construction. The framework for each end of the body is complete, with work set to continue on the rest of the bodywork in the New Year.


Following some concern that they were becoming a little worn, Covertcoat has had her wheels removed in order for them to be returned on our lathe.

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The recent wet weather has seen a bank collapse into our car park and onto one of our neighbours. Fortunately as the bank serves little purpose, it is being removed at this location and replaced with a simple wall.


Railcar on Test

Following the completion of the electrical wiring and the fitting of air brakes to one bogie, our experimental diesel electric railcar has been out for some test runs. Based around motors and wheels originally used on the Post Office Underground Railway, the railcar is being constructed for use in the off-peak season, and would allow us to run trains on days in the autumn and winter when the number of passengers do not justify the expense of lighting up one of our steam locomotives.

As can be seen, the railcar is still in an incomplete state. Most of the driver’s controls are now fixed in their final position, but a temporary throttle control is being used for the test runs. The bodywork is also (obviously) very incomplete! Subject to the time being available this winter, we hope to fabricate the rest of the bodywork soon along with finishing the driver’s controls and fitting air brakes to the rear bogie.

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Returned and Reunited after 70 Years!

In a remarkable turn of events, Dorothea has been recently reunited with one of her original brass works plates, seventy years on from when she last worked.

When withdrawn from service at Dorothea Quarry in the early 1940s, Dorothea was left in her shed high on top of a mountain. Various parts, including her brass nameplates and works plates, were removed from her before she was rescued from her (now collapsed) shed in 1970 by Dave Walker. Once the painstaking restoration of Dorothea to working order was completed in 2012 by Kay Bowman, new replica works plates were made to replace the originals.

However, this summer we received a phone call from a gentleman who had been clearing out a friend’s garage in Wales – and when sorting through lots of metal which he had taken to the scrapyard, discovered one of Dorothea’s original works plates! The plate has now been returned to live with Dorothea and, over the recent half term week, was on display for the first time, alongside a number of photographs showing the life, rescue and restoration of Dorothea.

Dorothea’s owner and restorer, Kay Bowman, commented “The plate was in perfect condition – just a couple of chisel marks where it had been taken off. The letter R was stamped on the back showing which side of the locomotive it came from. For it to have been parted and then reunited with the locomotive after all this time is absolutely amazing. I still can’t quite believe it!”

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Launceston : A Celebration of a Great Little Town

Over the summer, Launceston Town Council have been busy putting together three videos showing the many things which the town has to offer. These videos are being officially launched at an event in the town square on Saturday 19th October betweeen 10am and 2pm – or you can view them now below. We feature in the videos, but as you can see from them there is so much more to Launceston than just the steam railway – and we thoroughly recommend visitors have an explore round the town when you come to visit us!

October Roundup

After a very busy summer, our locomotives have a few weeks of rest before we open again at the end of October – but we’re still as busy as ever with various maintenance jobs.

The exciting news of the month is that bookings are now being accepted for our new Holiday Cottage. Sleeping up to four people, the cottage is situated right next to our station and is therefore in a great position for railway enthusiasts young and old – and the cottage even comes with some free train rides when we’re open. For more details about the cottage see here.

Trains are next running at the end of October for the school half term week. The week will be another of our “Locals weeks”, with discounted fares for readers of the Cornish & Devon Post – so a great excuse to come down for a train ride if you’re local and haven’t been for a while. We will also be running a special celebration event on Boxing Day to mark our 30th Birthday – more details on this will be available nearer the time.

Little and Large

One of our regular visitors, Alan Palmer, recently brought in his latest project to show us – a model Lilian!

This ‘little Lilian’ runs on 32mm gauge track and is a modified version of the Quarry Hunslet model built by Accucraft UK. Despite being much smaller than the real Lilian, the model is also a genuine steam locomotive, albeit fired on gas rather than coal. Although a little work remained to get the model looking exactly like the real Lilian, we were all impressed with the work done so far.

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Happy Birthday Lilian!

On the 21st August 1883, Lilian was delivered brand new to the Penrhyn Quarry in North Wales. She was the first of her type delivered to Penrhyn, and was named after the daughter of the quarry owner, Lord George Sholto Gordon Douglas-Pennant. 130 years later, she is the oldest locomotive of her type still in working order, and is still in regular daily use – albeit now hauling passengers through Cornwall rather than shunting wagons full of slate in Wales.

Today, we held a mini-party to celebrate Lilian’s 130th birthday. Lilian was in steam and hauled all the passenger trains; our youngest Hunslet locomotive Dorothea (112 years old) joined in the celebration by double heading some of the passenger trains with Lilian. Furthermore, Lilian had her very own birthday cake, and passengers in the late afternoon were each given a slice of Lilian’s cake.

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Sybil leaves Cornwall for her new home

Bagnall steam locomotive ‘Sybil’, nominally based at the LSR, left Cornwall this weekend for her new home at the West Lancashire Light Railway. Sybil first arrived in Cornwall in the 1960s after she was purchased along with Velinheli by James Evans and his father Armstrong. Both Sybil and Velinheli were originally used on the private Inny Valley Railway near Launceston, but moved to the LSR in the mid 1980s. Although Velinheli has been a regular performer here ever since, Sybil was only steamed at Launceston once before being stripped down for a major overhaul. Sybil was moved off site to James Evans’ own workshop several years ago, but has not left Cornwall since she arrived in the 60s.

Earlier this year Sybil was sold to a specially formed trust – the Sybil Locomotive Trust – based at the West Lancashire Light Railway. The Trust plans to complete Sybil’s restoration, including the fitting of a new replacement boiler, within the next few years, after which Sybil will operate at the WLLR and make occasional visits to other railways. If you would like to keep up to date with Sybil’s restoration, you can find out more about the Trust by having a look at their website and Facebook page.

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July News

Trains are now running six days a week, with a number of visitors taking the opportunity to ride up the Kensey Valley this month in some of the beautiful recent weather!

The beginning of the month saw the anniversary of the world speed record for steam locomotives. The record, 126 mph, was set on the 3rd July 1938 by the A4 locomotive ‘Mallard’ on the London and North Eastern Railway. Although our locomotives are much smaller than Mallard, and unable to run at anywhere near her record speed (particularly as our speed limit is 15 mph!), we thought this great British achievement was worth commemorating. So, 75 years on, on the 3rd July 2013 the 11 o’clock passenger train commemorated Mallard’s record breaking run. With our ‘top link’ driver Nigel Bowman at the regulator, locomotive Covertcoat was steadily accelerated up to 12.6 mph and continued, at that speed, to Newmills. Only one-tenth the speed of Mallard’s record, but our own way of saying ‘well done’ 75 years on!

The recent heatwave has seen Lilian in daily use for the past few weeks, as her open cab allows our drivers to remain relatively cool in the heat. Velinheli has also had one day’s use during the heatwave. With temperatures now cooling a little, Covertcoat and Dorothea will be taking their turns on passenger trains, alongside the two cabless Hunslets, over the next few weeks. Unlike many steam railways, all of our locomotives are in working order and take turns in use on passenger trains; Managing Director Nigel Bowman commented “As a mature railway, we have achieved our aspiration that all our locomotives have been returned to working order. We are in a position that we are able to pull any one of them out of the shed and light them up.”

Recent work to the locomotives has focused on the injectors fitted to Velinheli and Dorothea. The injectors on both locomotives are backhead mounted injectors of the type originally used on the locomotives when in the quarries (Lilian and Covertcoat have been fitted with more modern replacement injectors) and, although able to add water to the boiler succesfully, they often require fine adjustment to ensure no water escapes from the injector overflow. Velinheli’s owner James Evans has been busy remanufacturing injector cones and testing them on Velinheli, with a view to improving her injectors. Once the optimum setup of injector cones has been found on Velinheli, the cones in Dorothea’s injectors will be modified likewise.

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Railcar Update

Work has progressed steadily over the last few months on our new diesel electric railcar. With the engine and its cooling system in place, the focus recently has been on providing driving controls at each end of the railcar. The controls posed a slight engineering challenge as they required setting up such that the railcar could only be controlled from one end at a time. The system devised features a mechanical linkage between the two ends of the railcar, to ensure the reversing switch at each end is set appropriately, and a removable reversing handle; the reversing handle acts as a ‘key’ to unlock all the controls and can only be removed when the reversing switch is in neutral.