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The Cornish Main Line (Cornish: Penn-hyns-horn Kernow) is a railway line in Cornwall in the United Kingdom. It runs from Penzance to Plymouth, crossing from Cornwall into Devon over the famous Royal Albert Bridge at Saltash.

Cornish Main Line
Royal Albert Bridge 2009.jpg
Overview
TypeHeavy rail
SystemNational Rail
StatusOperational
LocaleCornwall, United Kingdom
TerminiPlymouth
Penzance
Operation
Opened1867
OwnerNetwork Rail
Operator(s)Great Western Railway
CrossCountry
(Freight: DB Schenker and Freightliner)
Technical
Line length79.5 miles (128 km)
Number of tracksDouble with two single track sections
Track gauge4 ft 8 12 in (1,435 mm) standard gauge
Operating speed75 mph (121 km/h) maximum[1]

It directly serves Truro, St Austell, Bodmin (by a Parkway station), and Liskeard. It forms the backbone for rail services in Cornwall and there are branches off it which serve St Ives, Falmouth, Newquay, and Looe. The main line also carries direct trains to and from London, Birmingham, the north of England and Scotland.

It is the southernmost railway line in the United Kingdom, and the westernmost in England.

Contents

HistoryEdit

 
The Royal Albert Bridge under construction in 1858

The Cornish Main Line was originally built by two separate railway companies, the West Cornwall Railway between Truro and Penzance, opened in 1852, and the Cornwall Railway between Plymouth and a separate station in Truro, opened in 1859. The West Cornwall Railway was itself based on the Hayle Railway, opened in 1837 as a purely local mineral railway.

Rail travel from Penzance to London was possible from 1860 when the West Cornwall company was given access to the Cornwall Railway’s Truro station, but the West Cornwall trains were standard gauge and the Cornwall Railway was broad gauge, so through passengers had to change trains there and goods had to be transhipped into wagons of the other gauge at Truro.

The impecunious West Cornwall company sold its railway to the more powerful broad gauge Associated Companies, dominated by the Great Western Railway, and the new owners converted the West Cornwall line to broad gauge. Through goods trains started running in 1866 and passenger trains in 1867.

The Associated Companies merged into the Great Western Railway, and in 1892 the Great Western converted all its broad gauge track to standard gauge, a process called the gauge conversion.

Both the West Cornwall and the Cornwall railways had been built cheaply and had numerous timber trestle viaducts; these were cheap to build but very expensive to maintain, as the timber decayed, and the iconic viaducts were eventually all reconstructed in masonry or masonry and wrought iron, or in a few cases by-passed. Those on the Cornwall Railway section are described at Cornwall Railway viaducts.

The most iconic structure on the route, however, is the Royal Albert Bridge spanning the River Tamar and opened in 1859; it remains in use to the present day.

During the later decades of the nineteenth century and the first half of the twentieth, the Great Western Railway was famous for providing transport to holiday destinations in Cornwall, and there were numerous branch lines served from the Cornish main line giving access to the resorts. The physical limitations of the steeply graded line imposed severe problems during the busiest times, not least for goods train operation. Equally famous was the line’s use for transporting vegetable produce from Cornwall, famously broccoli and cauliflower, and cut flowers from the Isles of Scilly.

To cope with the increasing traffic the line was gradually doubled between 1893 and 1930.[2]

Many of the branch lines were closed during the second half of the twentieth century, but in Cornwall the Looe, Newquay, Falmouth and St Ives branches remain in operation, with a basic local passenger traffic in winter considerably boosted by holidaymakers in summer. The historical development of the line is more fully dealt with at Hayle Railway, West Cornwall Railway, and Cornwall Railway. [3]

AccidentsEdit

The Cornwall Main Line has been a very safe railway for passengers, although a number of railwaymen have been killed and there have been some memorable accidents over the years. These include:

RouteEdit

Cornish Main Line
miles
from London via Castle Cary
 
 
225¾
Plymouth
   
Plymouth Millbay
 
 
 
 
 
     
Millbay Docks
   
Pennycomequick Viaduct
   
Cornwall Loop Junction
 
 
 
Devonport Junction
   
   
Wingfield Villas Halt
     
     
Devonport Kings Road
     
Stonehouse Pool Docks
   
227?
Devonport
   
Albert Road Halt
     
 
 
 
Devonport Tunnel
   
227½
Dockyard
   
Keyham Viaduct
   
Ford
   
Ford Platform
   
228?
Keyham
     
Devonport Dockyard branch
   
Camels Head Halt
   
Weston Mill Viaduct
     
Bullpoint Siding
 
 
 
Weston Mill Halt
 
 
 
228¾
St Budeaux Ferry Road
   
St Budeaux Victoria Road
     
     
 
 
230?
Saltash
 
Coombe by Saltash Viaduct
 
Defiance Platform
 
 
 
Original line until 1906
   
Forder Viaduct
   
Shilingham (Wivelscombe) Tunnel
   
Grove Viaduct
   
Nottar Viaduct
   
   
St Germans Viaduct
   
 
235?
St Germans
 
Tresulgan Viaduct
 
Coldrennick Viaduct
 
240¼
Menheniot
 
Treviddo Viaduct
 
Carthuther Viaduct
 
 
Bolitho Viaduct
 
 
 
 
 
Liskeard Viaduct
       
       
243½
Liskeard
   
Coombe Junction Halt
     
Moorswater depot
 
Sperritt Tunnel
 
Westwood Viaduct
 
St Pinnock Viaduct
 
Largin Viaduct
 
West Largin Viaduct
 
Derrycombe Viaduct
 
Clinnick Viaduct
 
Penadlake Viaduct
 
Glyn Valley Siding
   
252¾
Bodmin Parkway
 
 
 
 
   
Carriage shed and sidings
 
 
256?
Lostwithiel
 
   
 
Milltown Viaduct
 
Treverrin Tunnel (565 yards)
 
260½
Par
     
 
 
 
St Blazey engine shed
     
Par Harbour
 
265?
St Austell
 
St Austell Viaduct
   
 
Trenance Siding
 
Gover Viaduct
 
Burngullow
   
 
Burngullow
 
Coombe St Stephen Viaduct
 
Fal Viaduct
 
Grampound Road
 
Probus and Ladock
 
Tregagle Viaduct
 
Polperro Tunnel
 
Buckshead Tunnel
 
Truro Viaduct
 
Carvedras Viaduct
   
Truro (Newham)
   
279½
Truro
   
Higher Town Tunnel
     
   
 
Chacewater Viaduct
 
Chacewater
   
 
Scorrier
 
Drump Lane
 
Redruth Tunnel
 
288½
Redruth
 
Redruth Viaduct
     
Redruth & Tresavean branches
   
Portreath branch
 
Carn Brea
 
Dolcoath Halt
   
Roskear Branch
   
Roskear Junction
 
292?
Camborne
 
 
Penponds
   
 
Gwinear Road
 
 
 
Original Hayle Railway route
   
   
Angarrack
   
Copperhouse Halt
   
298?
Hayle
     
Hayle Wharves
 
Hayle Viaduct
   
 
299½
St Erth
 
Marazion
 
Penzance TMD
 
305¼
Penzance
 
A train from London Paddington to Penzance crosses Moorswater Viaduct

The communities served are: Plymouth (including the suburbs of Devonport and St Budeaux); Saltash; St Germans; Menheniot; Liskeard; Bodmin; Lostwithiel; Par; St Austell; Truro; Redruth; Camborne; Hayle; St Erth; Penzance. In addition branch lines link Plymouth with Bere Alston, Calstock, and Gunnislake; Liskeard with Looe; Par with Newquay; Truro with Penryn and Falmouth; and St Erth with St Ives.

The railway stations at St Austell and Penzance are adjacent to bus stations. In addition, integrated bus services operate from Bodmin Parkway to Bodmin, Wadebridge, and Padstow; from St Austell to The Eden Project; and from Redruth to Helston and RNAS Culdrose.

The route has a large number of viaducts, but the most significant structure is the Royal Albert Bridge[4] which crosses the River Tamar at Saltash. At Truro the viaducts give sweeping views of the city and River Fal, while further west the north coast can be seen near Hayle before the line swings onto the south coast for the last mile or so along the beach at Marazion, giving a good view of St Michael's Mount.

Nominal line speed is 65 mph (105 km/h) but there are local restrictions at many places. The route is mostly double-tracked and cleared for trains up to W7 and W6A gauges.[5] The 7.5-mile (12.1 km) section of single track from Burngullow to Probus (between the stations at St Austell and Truro) used to be a major cause of delays in the region, requiring trains to wait for preceding trains to clear the singled section before proceeding. The second track was restored in August 2004. The total cost of the project was £14.3 million and was funded by Objective One, Strategic Rail Authority and Cornwall County Council.

UsageEdit

The number of passengers travelling on the Cornish Main Line has increased in the last few years. Between 2004/05 and 2011/12, with the exception of Keyham and Menheniot, all stations have reported an increase of at least 33% while Hayle, Par, Saltash and St Budeaux Ferry road all reported calculated to be in excess of 200%. The busiest stations are Plymouth, Penzance and Truro which all handle more than one million people arriving or departing each year. St Austell, Redruth and Liskeard all had more than 300,000 people in 2011-12, increases of around 50% or 60% over 2004/05.[6]

See alsoEdit

ReferencesEdit

NotesEdit

  1. ^ http://www.networkrail.co.uk/browse%20documents/baseline%20capability/track%20and%20route%20mileage,%20permissible%20line%20speeds/table%20a_track_and_route%20miles_linespeed_western%20route.pdf
  2. ^ Railway Magazine October 1963 p. 747
  3. ^ MacDermot, E.T. (1931). History of the Great Western Railway. Volume II 1863-1921. London: Great Western Railway.
  4. ^ Binding, John (1997). Brunel's Royal Albert Bridge. Truro: Twelveheads Press. ISBN 0-906294-39-8.
  5. ^ Route 12: Reading to Penzance (PDF). Network Rail. 2007. p. 17.
  6. ^ "Station Usage". Rail Statistics. Office of Rail Regulation.

Sources and further readingEdit

  • Bennett, Alan (1990). The Great Western Railway in East Cornwall. Cheltenham: Runpast Publishing. ISBN 1-870754-11-5.
  • Bennett, Alan (1988). The Great Western Railway in Mid Cornwall. Southampton: Kingfisher Railway Publications. ISBN 0-946184-53-4.
  • Bennett, Alan (1988). The Great Western Railway in West Cornwall. Cheltenham: Runpast Publishing. ISBN 1-870754-12-3.
  • Binding, John (1993). Brunel's Cornish Viaducts. Penryn: Atlantic Transport Publishing for Historical Model Railway Society. ISBN 0-906899-56-7.
  • Central Publicity Unit (Winter 1979). Railway Electrification. British Railways Board. pp. 0–2, 8.
  • Hesp, Martin (7 July 2008). "My magnificent rail journey". Western Morning News. Retrieved 14 July 2008.