Memories of North Cornwall Railway

My links to the North Cornwall Railway go back to before I was born as my mother travelled on it in 1946 in order to be at home with her mother when I was expected.

My association with the railway continued through my childhood and teenage years as we lived in Kidderminster in the midlands where my father worked on the railway. This enabled us to get free travel so our holidays were spent in Cornwall staying with my mother’s side of the family.

The journey down there was always looked forward to by my brother and me but less so by my mother and sister. I remember it involved a long wait at Exeter St David’s to connect with the Atlantic Coast Express which came down from Waterloo . Exeter was an interesting place in those days as it required banking engines to push the trains up the one in thirty seven incline to central station on the Southern route to London .

When the train we were waiting for the Atlantic Coast Express came we had to make sure we got in the right portion because the train was made up coaches going to different destinations such as Plymouth, Ilfracombe, Bude, Torrington and the part we wanted Padstow.

When the train reached Halwill Junction our mother found out where our two uncles were working so we could look out for them it was usually between Ashwater and Tower Hill.

When the train got closer to our destination of Delabole the air became fresher due to the influence of the nearby Atlantic coast.

Our heavy items of luggage would be left at the station for our uncle to bring back after he had finished work at the quarry.

Delabole is famous (apart from being my birthplace!) for having the deepest excavation in the country, which is noted in the Guinness Book of Records. His work there involved splitting slates and cutting it with a diamond saw.

While our mother would be catching up with the latest local news my brother and I would go down the lane to the crossing to see the last trains of the day which were always on time.

The following days would be spent getting re-acquainted with the nearest beaches especially Delabole’s secret beach of Tregardock which was only accessible at low tide unless you climbed a down a chain over the cliffs.

Our only other trips on the train during our stay would be to Padstow for a trip on the ferry to Rock where the younger members of the group would be anticipating a Kelly’s Cornish ice cream, and back to Halwill Junction to spend the day visiting our mothers cousin who was blind, not that that affected her cooking skills in any way!.

We would also see our two uncles who worked on the pw dept of the railway, my brother and I would usually manage a visit to the station and a get ride on the shunting engine from the Torrington branch in the yard, happy days!, and then it would be time for the last train back to Delabole.

All too soon our holiday would be over and the familiar shape of a West Country class engine would appear in the cutting before Delabole station to take us back to Exeter and home.

By Ivor Berry