On this Day 11th March 1852

West Cornwall Railway from Penzance to Redruth Opens

On 11th March 1852 trains began to run between Penzance and Redruth on the West Cornwall Railway. The line followed the course of the Hayle Railway of 1837 which ran from Hayle to Redruth but the old line's rope worked inclines were replaced by viaducts at Angarrack and Penponds. Brunel was the consulting engineer and, despite the widespread use of his broad gauge in the west country, Brunel built to the standard rather than the broad gauge.

The line to Penzance was an extension to the original Hayle Railway and the timetabled services on 11 March were not the first to use it. On 3rd March the Cornish Telegraph reported on a shareholders meeting of the West Cornwall Railway held in the the Union Hotel, Chapel Street, Penzance. The chairman, reported the Telegraph, “observed that it was pleasing for them (the directory) to announce that they had just arrived arrived here this morning from Reduth by a continuous line of rails from that town.”

It was a future intention to extend from Redruth to Truro (Newham) and this was done in due course with the link to Truro being opened on 16 April 1855. The Hayle Railway had a branch from Pool to Portreath and another from Redruth to Tresevean. Both lines contained inclines using stationary engines and both were retained by the West Cornwall Railway.

West Cornwall Railway Timetable March 1852In 1852 the published timetable shows that there were three trains a day from Penzance to Redruth, the journey taking an hour and costing 2d for a third class single and 3d for a third class return. Allowing for inflation this 2d ticket should cost about £1.25p today but in fact it costs £5.70 for a journey which now takes about 30 minutes. Conversions like this are not a simple matter but it is worth pointing out that those 2d tickets had to absorb the costs of some significant engineering including the viaducts at Penzance, Hayle, Angarrack and Penponds. Admittedly those viaducts were all replaced in the late 19th century but their successor structures continue to carry the Paddington to Penzance mainline to this day

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Penwith Local History Group
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Growing Up in West Cornwall. A Publication by the Penwith Local History Group

"Growing Up in West Cornwall"

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Sally Corbet

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