The North Cornwall Railway

History Construction Operation Traffic The Final Years Rolling Stock Since Closure The ACE Links

LAUNCESTON TO OTTERHAM

Leaving Launceston the route changed allegiance and followed the course of the River Kensey, climbing gently to the next station, Egloskerry, 200ft above sea level and some 17m 78ch from Halwill.

Egloskerry diagram
Diagram based on one in An Illustrated History of the North Cornwall Railway and reproduced by kind permission of Irwell Press.

Egloskerry Station Left: Egloskerry Station on 30th August 1961 with a down train just departing. Note the member of the Station Staff crossing the tracks as he returns to the station building.
Photograph: © Chris Knowles-Thomas.

Egloskerry (link to map of station area)was provided with a short passing loop, two platforms and a small yard of two sidings and a cattle dock, though no goods shed nor crane was provided. It was also the only station between Wadebridge and Halwill to have a level crossing. Once again sited on the valley floor, several hundred yards down the hill from the village it served, it led a fairly peaceful existence though the goods yard was quite busy in the early years. After 1927 control of the station passed to Otterham, then in 1930 the single line instruments were moved from the Signalbox to the booking office and were subsequently operated by a porter-signalman. Goods facilities were withdrawn in 1961.

Egloskerry Luggage Label

Right: A LSWR luggage label reproduced with thanks from the Mike Morant collection.

Leaving Egloskerry the line started to climb more steeply, and with many reverse curves of 30 chains, up the Kensey valley to Lanzion, where rail and river parted company. Cutting through farmland en route to Tresmeer, there was a brief respite in the climb with a short down grade at Danakerry before the resumption of the climb, and some 25 chain curves, leading to Tresmeer station, some 500ft above sea level and 21m 49ch from Halwill. This section of the line could test any driver - regardless of whether on an up or a down train!

Egloskerry Station
A closer view of the buildings at the London end of the up platform.
Photograph © Chris Knowles-Thomas.

Tresmeer diagram
Diagram based on one in An Illustrated History of the North Cornwall Railway and reproduced by kind permission of Irwell Press.

Tresmeer Station Right: Tresmeer Station, date unknown.
Photograph: © David Lawrence
I haven't been able to contact Mr Lawrence about the use of this photograph and shall appreciate it if anyone can help with this.

Tresmeer station (link to map of station area) was not in the village of this name, but at Splatt, a small hamlet about a mile to the north west of Tresmeer. Facilities were quite minimal, a short loop that would only accommodate 24 wagons, two platforms a siding and an end-loading dock. There were, however, a goods shed, a crane, cattle pens and a coal store. The station was quite busy when first opened as, being the temporary railhead, the Delabole Slate Company and the North Cornwall Coach Company both used Tresmeer as their point of rail embarkment. This caused the LSWR to receive a bill of some £71 for damage to the road caused by the heavy Delabole Slate traffic! Once Tresmeer settled down to life as a through station most of the traffic, as elsewhere, was agricultural with, for quite some time, special arrangements to suit two of the bigger customers using Tresmeer. Control of the station had passed to Otterham in the late 1920s, but otherwise life at Tresmeer continued in much the same vein. Outgoing rabbits were a big business, probably more so than cattle, and gave the station staff a chance to increase their income when handling the hampers they were transported in. A nearby Friday market was a source of incoming cattle for a while and even milk, not a normal North Cornwall line traffic, was loaded at Tresmeer. This prosperous goods traffic came to an end when the goods yard was closed, along with many others, on 7 September 1964. Decline was fast from here with the Signalbox closing from 14 November 1965 and just the down line in use from then until closure.

Tresmeer Luggage Label

Left: A LSWR luggage label reproduced with thanks from the Mike Morant collection.

Leaving Tresmeer the line continued its torturous route (designed to avoid building tunnels or viaducts) ever upwards towards Otterham. There were four complete 180° curves of 30 and 25 chains radius near Warbstow and a huge embankment (the largest on the line) at Treneglos. Once again there was a slight respite for down trains with a short dip in the gradient, but this was followed by more reverse curves on a rising gradient leading to Otterham station, 26m 40ch from Halwill and 850ft above sea level.

Tresmeer Goods Shed
The goods shed at Tresmeer on 30th August 1961 looking a lot more presentable than when the photo of it in the
Present Day section was taken, some 45 years later!
Photograph © Chris Knowles-Thomas.

Otterham diagram
Diagram based on one in An Illustrated History of the North Cornwall Railway and reproduced by kind permission of Irwell Press.

Otterham Station Left: Otterham Station on 21st April 1960.
Photograph: © Joanes Publications

Otterham (link to map of station area) station buildings were on the up side of the line and are built from the local Delabole stone (slate), with a waiting shelter on the down platform and the Signalbox at the London end of the up platform. Oil-lit until the end, Otterham survived the economies of the 1930s, with its Station Master assuming responsibility for Tresmeer and Egloskerry stations from 1927. When the line was first built the road was diverted to run along the southern boundary of the station, then to go north towards Bude a bridge was built over the western end of the platforms. The stub of this truncated road was then the site of a row of six railway cottages that were constructed in 1894 to house Signalmen and Permanent Way workers.
Traffic was brisk in the early years as the station served Crackington Haven, St. Gennys, St Juliot and Lesnewth as well as Otterham itself, a mile north of the station bearing its name. St. Juliot duly became a popular draw for tourists as it was there, whilst working on the "restoration" of the church, that the architect Thomas Hardy met his wife, as featured in his novel "A Pair of Blue Eyes". It was also intended that the station should serve Boscastle, but although Otterham was nearer, Camelford station had better road connections and it wasn't too many years until the latter was the station of choice for those travelling to and from Boscastle. This wide hinterland provided sufficient traffic to warrant the prestigious "Atlantic Coast Express" calling at Otterham in both directions. The 1930s growth in bus services took a lot of traffic from the railway here as timings of trains were not particularly convenient, secondary school children in particular flocked to the bus, even though it did mean they arrived at school in Launceston up to an hour earlier!

Otterham Luggage Label

Right: A LSWR luggage label reproduced with thanks from the Mike Morant collection.

The post-war boom in private motoring took away virtually all the remaining passenger traffic. Goods traffic fared better and was busy right up until the closure of the line. Rabbits were very important here, with livestock for Hallworthy Cattle Market some two miles away, and for the twice-a-year Boscastle Market, a regular traffic. Spring lambs were sent in both direction, up country and down to Truro. The surrounding area was quite prosperous for Cornwall, in farming terms, with a lot of associated farm traffic in incoming animal feeds, fertiliser and etc. and outgoing hay. Bulk traffic grew in the 1960s with trains being split for distribution around here, to Camelford, Delabole and etc. Surprisingly, there was no Goods Loading Shed built here, though a store was subsequently built on the up platform with a 2½ ton crane on the dock behind it. A single cattle pen was provided. The gradients in the area required careful marshalling of goods vehicles, whose brakes needed to be pinned down for the steep descents. One incident in December 1943, despite regulations that if followed correctly would have prevented it happening, led to six wagons and a bogie brake van running away at Otterham and not coming to a stand for some seventeen miles, near Tower Hill. It was reported in the local press that they had set a record for the time taken to reach Launceston, covering the distance far quicker than any passenger train! The stock didn't just simply stop, it ran to and fro inside the Devon border for some time first. WWII brought a large increase in traffic when an airfield was built at nearby Davidstow in 1942, though it was only operational until 1944 and closed in 1945. After closure the buildings were adapted for use by Cow & Gate for milk processing with some of the products leaving by rail from Otterham. One example of "round traffic" here was the shipment of whey to Wincanton where it was turned into separated milk for pig food, then some of these animals were shipped by rail through Otterham. Always well-staffed, Otterham had a Station Master, two Signalmen, two booking clerks and a porter in addition to the Permanent Way Staff based here who would assist with unloading wagons when required. The goods facilities were withdrawn on 7 February 1964 and the Signalbox and down loop closed one year later on 7 February 1965. By 1966 there were just three trains a day in each direction, Monday to Saturday only, which carried hardly any passengers. Built at the top of a 1 in 73 gradient, the actual station was on an easier grade of 1 in 330.

Otterham Station
This photograph is of Harold Sleep, Signalman, (on the left) and his son Sydney Sleep who was a Booking Clerk, both at Otterham. The photograph was taken at the station in summer 1945.
Photograph kindly provided by David Sleep.

Otterham Station
An up train departing Otterham behind an unkown N Class circa 1961.
Photograph courtesy of Bob Mason.

Otterham Station
N Class Nº31863 heads an up train out of Otterham station in 1963. The rails in the foreground, at right angles to the track, were used for placing a P Way trolley on the line, stored in the shed on the right. There were two of these at this location.
Photograph © John Bradbeer.

Otterham Station
N Class Nº31855 leaving Otterham station with a down train in 1963.
Photograph © John Bradbeer.

Otterham Station
A view of the up platform at Otterham, taken during 1963. It is not certain what the damage to the platform edging was, but it is highly probable that it was caused by the very harsh winter we experienced from Boxing Day 1962 until the end of March 1963. Photographs of the platform in 1964 show the damage as having been repaired.
Photograph © John Bradbeer.

Otterham Station
The buildings at the London end of the up platform at Otterham station. Note the hand crane in the goods yard.
Photograph © Chris Knowles-Thomas.

Otterham Station
The down platform with a barley twist lamp, the 236¼ miles from Waterloo milepost and the waiting shed.
Photograph © Chris Knowles-Thomas.

Otterham Station
Otterham station as viewed from the A39 overbridge
Photograph reproduced by kind permission of David & Charles Ltd., Newton Abbott.

Otterham Station
The real Railway Children! Circa 1955 children on the Down Starting Signal.
Photograph © Shirley Stanford, neé Ratcliffe, second from the right.

Otterham Station
From 1953 to 1959 the stationmaster at Otterham (also responsible for Tresmeer and Egloskerry) was Charles James Ratcliffe,
known as "Chuck". This photograph was taken of him shortly before he was appointed to Otterham.
Photograph © Shirley Stanford, neé Ratcliffe.

Return to top

Halwill to Tower Hill.
Tower Hill to Launceston.
Launceston to Otterham.
Otterham to Port Isaac Road.
Port Isaac Road to Wadebridge.
Wadebridge to Padstow.
 
History Construction Operation Traffic The Final Years Rolling Stock Since Closure The ACE Links

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