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Author Topic: General Information - Plymouth to Penzance (refreshing, March 2020)  (Read 10194 times)
grahame
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« on: March 14, 2020, 04:11:44 am »

Provisional data - please, experts on Cornwall, post follow ups which I will write in to a final thread.  It's when I try and write something like this I realise how much there is to say and how little I know!

In due course, this thread and another / others for the branches will replace http://www.passenger.chat/1740 as the board's pinned post - an excellent piece of work by Phil, but now 10 years old.



Name

Cornish Main Line

Description

From Plymouth (in Devon) entering Cornwall at Saltash, via Liskeard, Bodmin Parkway, St Austell, Truro, Redruth and Camborne to Penzance.  Double track most of the way, with single line stretches between St Budeaux and Saltash, Liskeard and Bodmin Parkway (Largin), and St Erth and Penzance.

Branches with passenger service from St Budeaux to Gunnislake (but trains start back at Plymouth), Liskeard to Looe, Par to Newquay, Truro to Falmouth and St Erth to St Ives.

Notable Engineering features and architecture

The line is heavily engineered for most of its route as it twists and turns, rises and falls and crosses viaducts and causeways across the valleys of Cornwall.  Most impressive of all is the Royal Albert Bridge at Saltash where the line crosses into Cornwall.

Notable Railway Facilities

Laira (Near Plymouth)
St Blazey (near Par)
Longrock (near Penzance)

Service

Trains run about every 30 minutes along the whole Cornish Main Line, with alternate trains calling at nearly all stations and semi-fast.  About every 2 hours, a train originates from London Paddington, with other trains from the North East of England and Scotland. Other trains start from Cardiff, Bristol, Exeter St Davids or Plymouth.

6 nights a week (not Saturday night), a sleeper train runs from London to Penzance, calling at Cornish stations only to drop people off.  In the reverse direction, it's pick u0 only through Cornwall - the first place you can get off is Totnes.

With very few exceptions, services run the entire length of the Cornish Main Line - daily exceptions being trains early or late in the day to get trains into place to work the branches, and a peak local service from Plymouth to Liskeard. In the summer, GWR (Great Western Railway) run a though train from London to Newquay which turns off the main line at Par, and on summer Saturdays, Cross Country also run through to Newquay. These Newquay trains are the final remnants of what used to be an extensive set of Summer Saturday trains to holiday destinations all across the South West from London, the Midlands and the North of England.

Rolling stock used

London trains are now in the hands of class 802 IET (Intercity Express Train) (Intercity Express Trains) which most commonly run through Cornwall as 5 carriages, leaving / joining up to a further 5 carriage set at Plymouth for the London run.  Due to the nature of the line, these trains cannot reach their top speeds in Cornwall. 

Trains to and from the North East and Scotland (via Birmingham) are run by Cross Country Trains using Class 220 and 221 Voyagers of 4 or 5 carriages.  Occasionally, a High Speed Train (InterCity 125) will appear on one of these services.

Many of the more local services are run by class 255 Castle trains - repurposed retired High Speed Trains reduced to 4 passenger carriages with a class 43 locomotive on each end, and with refurbished carriages with automatic doors and accessible toilets.  The rest of the local services are run with 2 car class 158 (regional express) and class 150/2 (local service) trains, often running in pairs - sometimes a 158 coupled to a 150.

The sleeper trains are hauled by class 57 locomotives with refurbished sleeper carriages and some seating too.

Main passenger flows

Long distance traffic via Plymouth

School traffic into Plymouth

Major traffic in / out of Truro and St Austell

Ticket and fare data

Part time season tickets

Devon and Cornwall rail cards

Ride Cornwall

Fares generally good value (in terms of pence per mile)

Strong Advanced ticket market

Catering and facilities

Many stations have catering facilities, independent run for the most part and with varying opening hours and seasons.

Current issues

Planned

The half hourly main line service is a very recent innovation - only completed in December 2019; prior to that, there were service gaps of up to 80 minutes on the main line.  So we are now into a phase of traffic growth rather than service improvement plans.

Likewise, recent times have seen rolling stock changes - IETs replacing HSTs (High Speed Train) on London services, and 158s and Castles replacing and supplementing other trains such as class 150/1 and 153 which are no longer with GWR.  Although GWR still operates 2 class 150/0 trains (for 2 more weeks as I write this) and 6 class 143 trains (for another few months), they are unlikely to appear again wast of Plymouth.

Aspirations

The Castle class were taken on board as something of a "stop gap", and class 150/2 and even class 158 are now getting a bit mature.  The sleeper, it is noted, had a refresh and was not replaced and the service is not known for its reliability.  Replacements may come for these, but not in the immediate future.

An earlier Monday to Friday service on the Newquay branch is sought - this may indeed be more "planned" than an aspiration

A return of passenger services to the Fowey branch (from Lostwithiel) and regular (for general use of the area) services from Bodmin Parkway to Bodmin General over heritage railway tracks are sought, as is a link to (re)connect the line from St Austell to the Newquay branch at Goonbarrow; the junction at Par (not a big place) means that the Newquay line really doesn't take people from Newquay directly where they want to go.

Station notes and links

Cornwall has built itself an excellent reputation for joined up transport, with some excellent bus and park and ride connections - such as buses to the Eden project and the new interchange at St Erth. Buses to Bodmin and Padstow and to Bude (though from across the border in Devon) feature in railway timetables and thinking to a degree that makes others elsewhere in the UK (United Kingdom) envious of what's already been achieved ... but more is planned.

Community Groups

Cornwall is one of the homes - early advocates - of Community Rail and it remains in the forefront of the movement.  The various branches in the Devon and Cornwall CRP (Community Rail Partnership)'s fold each have their own unique character and work being done - some of them wouldn't even be there to day if it weren't for the community work.

History

Through passenger trains have run from Plymouth to Penzance since 1867 - the Royal Albert Bridge is dated 1859, but a break of gauge at Truro meant everyone had to change there until the West Cornwall Railway was converted to broad gauge - only to be converted back in 1892 with the rest of the line.

Express steam trains from London, hauled by "King" class to Plymouth, were taken over by lighter "Castle" class for their journeys on through Cornwall, and a flourishing holiday and leisure traffic was encouraged with crack named trains such as the "Cornish Riviera Express", with through carriages to many of the branches,

Western and Warship diesel hydraulics replaced the Kings and Castles from the late 1950s, and those in turn gave way to other locomotives (hydraulics being phased out as none-standard) and then to High Speed Trains which were the standard train for around 40 years.

Local trains ran in the hands on "Prairie" and "Pannier" tanks prior to their replacement by first - and now second - generation diesel multiple units, many of which remain with us to this day. Cornwall did not have a long "love affair" with the Pacer (known as "Skippers" in these parts) as it proved inappropriate for a number of the lines, but we did have class 153 single carriage trains on many of the branches for many years; due to the seasonal nature of much of the traffic, a 153 was perfectly adequate in winter, though to this day staff recall the overcrowding problems when a single 153 turned up on a mainline service.
« Last Edit: March 15, 2020, 06:29:33 am by grahame » Logged

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« Reply #1 on: March 14, 2020, 05:35:48 am »

Morning..

First bit, the single line is between Liskeard and Bodmin Parkway (Largin) not Bodmin and Lostwithiel..

From Plymouth (in Devon) entering Cornwall at Saltash, via Liskeard, Bodmin Parkway, St Austell, Truro, Redruth and Camborne to Penzance.  Double track most of the way, with single line stretches between St Budeaux and Saltash, Bodmin Parkway and Lostwithiel, and St Erth and Penzance.

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« Reply #2 on: March 14, 2020, 05:45:17 am »

..and in the final paragraph you could possibly mention that the Pacers were called Skippers when in Cornwall.

Cheers
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« Reply #3 on: March 14, 2020, 06:11:39 am »

Morning..

First bit, the single line is between Liskeard and Bodmin Parkway (Largin) not Bodmin and Lostwithiel..

From Plymouth (in Devon) entering Cornwall at Saltash, via Liskeard, Bodmin Parkway, St Austell, Truro, Redruth and Camborne to Penzance.  Double track most of the way, with single line stretches between St Budeaux and Saltash, Bodmin Parkway and Lostwithiel, and St Erth and Penzance.


..and in the final paragraph you could possibly mention that the Pacers were called Skippers when in Cornwall.

Cheers

Much appreciated - fixed / added.
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« Reply #4 on: March 14, 2020, 09:09:41 am »

I think you could add freight flows to Carne Point (Fowey), Burngullow/Parkandilack and Rocks, Goonbarrow Junction (for China Clay etc.) and Moorswater, Liskeard (for Cement) to the notable railway facilities?

In the sleeper section perhaps correct it to "only stops to set down in the morning in the Down direction and only stops to pick up in the evening in the Up direction".

Think you could also mention that the Panel signalbox at Plymouth is now the oldest WR style one, originally opened on 28th November 1960.  When opened it only controlled to the West from Devonport (Albert Road), Devonport (Kings Road) excl, Plymouth Millbay excl, the Plymouth station area, and to the East to Laira Junction excl and Mount Gould Junction excl. The area of control was later extended in 1973 to the West, fringing with St.Germans where a small control panel was housed in the station building and to the East to Totnes excl, fringing later with Exeter Panel.  The Plymouth panel was later again extended further West and now controls to the fringe signalbox at Liskeard.

If you wanted to list the signalboxes they are:
Plymouth (Panel)
Liskeard
Lostwithiel
Par
St.Blazey
Goonbarrow Junction
Truro
Roskear Junction (Panel)
St.Erth
Penzance

As far as I am aware there are no immediate plans to resignal Cornwall.

Under the catering and facilities perhaps mention the Signalbox Cafe at Bodmin Parkway?

Cross Country and GWR (Great Western Railway) London through trains to Newquay in the peak summer season?

The ex-GWR Clestory Coaches used as holiday homes at St.Germans station.

There is also an interesting bit of history on the proposed Central Cornwall Railway claiming to be the fastest and shortest route from London Waterloo to Cornwall, down the page here: http://www.cornwallrailwaysociety.org.uk/latest-input--news--old-pictures-etc/archives/12-2019

Edit: to correct list of signalboxes
« Last Edit: March 14, 2020, 08:56:52 pm by SandTEngineer » Logged
grahame
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« Reply #5 on: March 14, 2020, 10:16:22 am »

I think you could add ...

Thanks - I'll go through those / do the edits and any more that come up overnight ... changing trains in a few minutes and not the best place to be juggling with data!
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« Reply #6 on: March 14, 2020, 11:38:39 am »

Due to Drop Windows on the carriages the Down Sleeper is Set Down ONLY after Newton Abbot and the Up Sleeper is Pick Up ONLY in Cornwall, it seems mighty odd to see the Up sleeper at Penzance first Station call Totnes.


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« Last Edit: March 14, 2020, 12:28:11 pm by smokey » Logged
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« Reply #7 on: March 14, 2020, 11:51:37 am »

Due to Drop Windows on the carriages the Down Sleeper is Set Down ONLY after Newton Abbot and the Up Sleeper is Pick Up ONLY in Cornwall, it seems mighty odd to see the Up sleeper at Penzance first Station call Totnes.

Thanks.  That's changed since I last looked then. I've changed that in my post.
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« Reply #8 on: March 14, 2020, 12:38:41 pm »



If you wanted to list the signalboxes they are:
Plymouth (Panel)
Liskeard
Lostwithiel
Par
St.Blazey
Truro
Roskear Junction (Panel)
St.Erth
Penzance


Goonbarrow?
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« Reply #9 on: March 14, 2020, 02:23:22 pm »

Surely it's Goonbarrow Junction signal box (on the Newquay branch along with St Blazey Box)
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« Reply #10 on: March 14, 2020, 02:30:54 pm »

Surely it's Goonbarrow Junction signal box (on the Newquay branch along with St Blazey Box)

Yes. I'm not quite with it at the moment..... Roll Eyes
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« Reply #11 on: March 15, 2020, 06:44:45 am »

So much good data.   I have used some of it to update the header thread ... removed as incorrect (and it will fade away from this echo as I pin an updated post and let this thread sink towards archive.

Quote
Engineering wise, much of Cornwall is still in the hands of old fashioned signal boxes, semaphore signals and tokens on the branches.  Much of this is life expired and high levels of staffing are required, and a program of modernisation is underway.

There I so much more that could be said ... looking at standard headers across all lines, we have Main passenger flows as this is a passenger forum, so I did not include freight there.  As part of this "pinned topics" update, I am left with the question "what do I pin elsewhere?" and thinking that "what freight is around" would make a good "across the west" topic - perhaps even pinned one.  I don't think we justify a pinned board?  May also look at a "signal places / boxes" thread.  I'm open minded ... concerned at updates over the years, bearing in mind that over time the setting up is just a small part of the work. 

Further comment / inputs on
* on train catering in Cornwall
* Current issues
would be especially welcome

I did think of mentioning explicitly the Signal Box Cafe - but is it evenhanded to pick out just that one place and if we go through station by station, are we going to get the single intro post way out of hand?   And, yes, I've hankered to stay in Lizzie Stroud's beautiful carriages at St Germans ... but then you add her outpost at Hayle too, and goodness knows what else along the way.  No easy answer; the reason for giving headings across the whole "patch" is to help set a level playing field so that each line's board has a consistency.
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« Reply #12 on: March 15, 2020, 10:15:21 am »

The reason I added freight flows is because they are getting rarer as time passes, and thought they should be recorded for posterity.

Mechanical signalling in Cornwall is one of the last major areas in the UK (United Kingdom) of ex-GWR (Great Western Railway)/BRWR lower quadrant signalling.  Most of the outside equipment dates from the 1950s but the signalbox internal equipment is in some cases well over 100 years old (and will keep going for another 100 years if looked after properly!).
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« Reply #13 on: March 15, 2020, 10:21:24 am »

The reason I added freight flows is because they are getting rarer as time passes, and thought they should be recorded for posterity.

Completely agree - but perhaps a separate (and may be sticky) "Freight Flow" topic somewhere rather than by board.  There are certain things I look at and feel that "Across the West" is too general and no-where else is really right ... another is signalling.

Quote
Mechanical signalling in Cornwall is one of the last major areas in the UK (United Kingdom) of ex-GWR (Great Western Railway)/BRWR lower quadrant signalling.  Most of the outside equipment dates from the 1950s but the signalbox internal equipment is in some cases well over 100 years old (and will keep going for another 100 years if looked after properly!).
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« Reply #14 on: April 01, 2020, 06:32:13 pm »

A couple of points:

Aspirations

A return of passenger services to the Fowey branch (from Lostwithiel) and regular (for general use of the area) services from Bodmin Parkway to Bodmin General over heritage railway tracks are sought, as is a link to (re)connect the line from St Austell to the Newquay branch at Goonbarrow; the junction at Par (not a big place) means that the Newquay line really doesn't take people from Newquay directly where they want to go.

(i) Not sure if this is significant but a second platform is in the process of being built at Bodmin general station on the Bodmin & Wenford heritage railway to facilitate this, as far as I know.
(ii) The missing link in question runs from Parkandillack to the former St Dennis Junction, on the outskirts of the village of Indian Queens and not Goonbarrow.

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