Our 2016 season has finally finished with another week of running for the school half term holiday week. The first half term train left Launceston with four full carriages – a sign of things to come! The railway was busy all week, with many taking advantage of our Locals’ Week special offer in our local newspaper, the Cornish & Devon Post; in fact we believe it may even have been the busiest October half term week we have ever had.
Having been away all summer on her grand tour, Velinheli was used several days over half term to get a few ‘home’ miles in before she is laid up for the winter. We know at least one little boy, having avidly followed all the photos of Velinheli’s holiday on our Facebook page, visited specifically to make sure he could ride behind Velinheli at home this year! Lilian, Covertcoat and Dorothea all took their turns on half term trains as well; most days saw two engines in steam, with lots of double heading to cope with the large passenger numbers.
The October half term week is traditionally the end of our opening season, and this year it is no exception as we will now be closed to the public until Easter 2017. A common question from visitors at half term was “what are you doing over winter when you are closed?”. The answer is lots! The first noticeable winter project, extending the small locomotive shed opposite the platform, is already rapidly nearing completion. The main locomotive shed and workshop, commonly known as ‘Toad Hall’, has a rather leaky roof which it is hoped to replace this winter. Having completed an overhaul on Lilian earlier this year, this winter it is Covertcoat’s turn to be stripped down for a full check and overhaul. Another stretch of track is also due to be relaid over the winter, plus we hope to fit in some more work on our experimental diesel railcar as well. These are just the obvious ‘big’ projects for the winter, and there are a lot of small routine maintenance jobs to do as well – we are just as busy working in the winter as we are at the height of the summer season!
Enjoy a discounted day out this October half term week in conjunction with our local paper The Cornish & Devon Post.
Once again we have teamed up with ‘The Post’ for one of our popular Locals Week special offers. Inside the 20th October edition of the paper will be a voucher offering generous discounts on our normal fares.
Enjoy the chance to ride through the unspoilt Cornish countryside behind a Victorian steam locomotive, fifty years after the original railway through Launceston closed.
The café, shop and museum will all also be open, and for those thinking of Christmas gifts for enthusiasts, this is the last chance to shop locally for railway books, DVDs and related items.
Director Jonathan Mann said: “We recently had a visitor from East Anglia who was bowled over by the beauty of the Cornish countryside seen from the train. She was very amused however when I told her of a conversation overheard in our café, when one person (from another part of the country) said to another ‘It’s all very well, but there is nothing to see but countryside!'”
The half-term service runs from Sunday, October 23 to Friday, October 28 inclusive, and if the good weather holds, it is an excellent time to enjoy the valley. Trains leave Launceston hourly from 11am to 4pm. Discounted fares only valid with voucher from ‘The Post’, normal fares apply otherwise.
By the time you read this all the boilers will be cold, and the engines will be tucked up for a few weeks after another busy season of work. The ‘Team’ will be having a short respite before the last week of running during the ‘Half Term Week’ at the end of October.
It has been an eventful summer to say the least. Railway owners Kay and Nigel are pleased on most counts, – passenger numbers, weather, reliability of the ‘Hardware’, and the opening of the extension to the museum. Along with keeping the trains running, there has been considerable clearance of vegetation alongside the track beyond Hunts Crossing, and in Toad Hall (a.k.a. the main Engine Shed) progress has continued with the manufacture of the roof spars for the new diesel railcar, all from recycled seasoned timber. Work is now ‘afoot’ with the construction of a ‘Team’ restroom. This will continue during the closedseason and release extra space within the Buffet/Café in the future.
As always there have been regular postings on our Facebook and Twitter accounts throughout the summer showing the trains in action. From single shots up to a mammoth collation of 44 pictures from one very pleased visitor, speaks volumes. Judging also by the written comments, the vast majority of both first time and returning visitors really enjoyed the total experience of the LSR, feeling that it was a day out of excellent value, and an opportunity to view and do things that were a shade different from the norm.
The railway will reopen again on Sunday 23rd October,(first train 11.00 am) with trains running every day until Friday 28th October,(last train 4.00 pm) and as usual all will be steam hauled.
Following a busy summer touring North Wales, Velinheli returned home to Launceston on Wednesday 28th September. She was quickly unloaded in our car park – visitors may have noticed the length of track in the car park for unloading materials, but as Velinheli will (just) fit under the bridge between the station and the car park it is also the easiest location to load and unload her.
With steam raised the opportunity was taken to run Velinheli as far as possible onto the site of the original Launceston station, nearly fifty years since it closed. Following a quick run up the line she was returned to her shed for a few weeks well deserved rest, but she will be in steam and hauling passenger trains for a few days during the half term week at the end of October.
Owner James Evans attends to Velinheli whilst steam is raised
Flangeways are cleared in the track to allow Velinheli to enter the site of the original Launceston station
Velinheli sits approximately on the site of the original Launceston station
Our particular thanks to Paul Lewin of the Ffestiniog & Welsh Highland Railways for looking after Velinheli during her tour
Over the recent Bank Holiday weekend Velinheli continued her grand summer tour with a visit to the Bala Lake Railway for their gala weekend – where there were no less than seven Hunslet steam locomotives from the Welsh slate quarries gathered together! We sent our roving reporter and here are a few photos of Velinheli and her owner James Evans enjoying their summer holiday.
There is just one more stop left on Velinheli’s Tour this year – the Welsh Highland Great and Small Event this coming weekend (9th-11th September), where you can see Velinheli in action at Dinas station on the Welsh Highland Railway. After this she has a few week’s rest before she comes back home in October – and she will be running some passenger trains here during the half term week at the end of October.
Velinheli and owner James Evans obviously enjoying their summer holiday!
Waiting at the head of a train of slate wagons – similar to how she spent her working life at Dinorwic Quarry
Waiting for aÂ passenger train to arrive behind Diana
Next to Kerr Stuart locomotive ‘Diana’
A Launceston style double header! Velinheli and Winifred (identical sister locomotive to Lilian).
For a few years we have been working, as time permits, on a new second museum building to hold more exhibits. As many regular visitors will know our original museum building was packed full of interesting vintage vehicles and machinery – and with more items becoming available for us to display, we have had to refurbish a second building to hold them all!
The new second museum building has now been opened to the public and has a ‘motor museum’ theme as it holds three of our vintage cars plus a collection of vintage motorcycles (in addition to the motorcycles upstairs in our original museum). There are also items of rolling stock from the slate quarry railways of North Wales, and a photographic display of the early days of the Launceston Steam Railway.
To find the new museum, simply head through our original museum building out into the yard and turn right, following the roped off area and signs. Entry to our museum is free of charge.
Some of the vintage vehicles on display in our new museum building
There is so much going on now that the railway is fully operational for six days a week, it is hard to keep up ! All three engines LILIAN , DOROTHEA and COVERTCOAT have been in regular use (LILIAN more so in the recent heatwave!) and four carriages have been needed on occasions to deal with the passenger numbers. The car park has been very full on most days, and interesting to see both Dutch, French and German number plates alongside the UK ones. The very upbeat remarks and the enthusiastic videos posted on the social media sites are testimony to the pleasure and enjoyment the railway creates to all ages – see here for just one example from recent visitor Chris Woolston. The positive comments about three ‘things to do up at the Top End’ keep coming through; the walks from the NEWMILLS terminus – some as far as the ELIOT ARMS pub at Tregadilett, or to The Hidden Valley, and of course the New Mills Farm Park, to say nothing about the opportunity to ride on more than one round trip being included in the train ticket price.
Great activity as well as work progresses on the new museum building, and whilst this work has to be ‘entwined’ with all the other higher priorities to ensure the smooth running of the railway,it is taking shape and soon many ‘rare automotive beasts’ of both the two and four wheel variety will be displayed.
The section of track that was relaid (rails,sleepers, fishplates and ballast) over the last winter has according to the Drivers, settled down extremely well.
Shirley has been very busy in the shop, especially with the high demand for ‘Thomas the Tank Engine’ merchandise and our own LSR memorabilia. Louise’s Cream Teas in the café are proving ever popular too.
Another departure worth a mention is the visit of the Launceston Amateur Dramatic Society – see the ‘dramatic’ scenes ( pun intended) as they rehearsed in costume for the next production ‘The Titfield Thunderbolt’ that will be performed in late August at Launceston Town Hall. Great fun, great commitment , and very professional acting.The town is lucky to have such an enthusiastic society.
Finally,if the weather continues to be as variable for the rest of the summer as it has up to now, then LSR can expect to be very busy on all six of the daily round trips. And that is a real plus point for the whole community.
How good it is to see LILIAN now restored, refurbished and back from her major refit. She had just been lit up for the first time when I saw her, and Nigel wondering what pipes or joints may require that extra bit of tightening. At this stage LILIAN was still under wraps minus her tender and looking rather angry, but she heard Nigel say that she might be back in service the next week. The mood change on this news was perceptible! After some finer points of adjustment round in Toad Hall – all rather like the Swindon Works Trials Unit in old GWR days – LILIAN entered service at the end of June, and has since been in regular use when it’s not raining!
At the same time as LILIAN was being lit up again, there was a party from MARY TAVY primary school on a visit. They were all so busy in the museum with their clipboards and questionnaires making the most of their day. Their interest in everything was infectious and just one of the things that makes a visit to LSR so different and enthralling. There was LILIAN covering them in smoke. Were they worried – not at all, although what their mothers would say about their smart uniforms at the end of the day might be another matter.
The Season is now in full swing, with Live Steam as always every day ( except Saturdays when the A team â€“ and the engines have a much needed day of rest). It is 52 years now since the last running of the famous ‘Atlantic Coast Express’ through Launceston, with the final run on 5th September 1964, and then the final closure of the line 50 years ago in October 1966. Had Nigel and Kay decided not to come to Launceston there would not now be any railway left in North Cornwall at all, let alone something that has become a gem. Ideas might be afoot to do something perhaps special in October to mark the occasion, so watch out for future developments.
If you want a real treat have a look at this video on Youtube of “The Snowdonian Limited 2016“. You will find VELINHELI (on her grand summer holiday) at the head of the Special doing sterling work on the Ffestiniog Railway triple heading from Porthmadoc up to Blaenau Ffestiniog. Quite a sight, and we think Velinheli is doing all the work! Enjoy.
Louise in the café is reporting very brisk business, with great demand for her home produced goodies. Open every day the railway is running from 1030 onwards. Well worth a visit either before or after a trip up the line.
At the beginning of April we took Lilian out of use for a full overhaul of her boiler – details of the first stages in the overhaul can be found here.
Following a thorough inspection by our boiler inspector, it was decided that the boiler was in remarkably good condition eight years after its last overhaul, and only required a small number of jobs before returning to service – namely the replacement of a number of stays in the firebox, which were welded in place. A new ‘mudhole’ was also cut at the bottom front of the firebox, to aid washing out the inside of the boiler. The boiler was then refitted to the chassis and subject to a hydraulic test for our boiler inspector.
Washout plugs and new mudhole on the front of the firebox
New stays welded in place
Hydraulic test pump connected for a visit from our boiler inspector
One part of a steam locomotive which most people do not realise is frequently replaced is the smokebox. During the working day ash collects in the smokebox, and being corrosive the ash causes a mild steel smokebox to gradually rust away. Lilian’s smokebox had become very thin and the decision was taken to manufacture a new smokebox as part of her overhaul. The sides for the new smokebox are stainless steel, chosen in an attempt to make this smokebox last longer than the previous one, whilst the front of the smokebox is actually a sheet steel chequer plate which happened to be in stock and of a suitable size and thickness (we’re firm believers in reusing suitable materials and items we have rather than always buying new material). The door itself is ‘original’ – although even then it is a replacement fitted when Lilian was at Penryhn Quarry.
New smokebox front under construction
New smokebox front
Two halves of the new stainless steel smokebox are welded together in situ
By the beginning of June – so two months after work had started – Lilian was largely back in one piece, but required a number of small jobs completing, such as reconnecting all the pipework.
Cladding is placed around the boiler
Nearly finished and ready for a return to steam!
An interesting final job related to her saddle tank. For many years Lilian’stank has actually been 3/8″ lower at the back than it is at the front – not that many people had noticed! When refitted the opportunity was taken to manufacture new supports which would raise the height of the tank at the rear.
Lilian reentered service in mid-June, ready for the peak summer season. Subject to some good weather she will be in regular use throughout the summer.