Friday, 29 May 2009

Racing the train....

I am a regular user of the sleeper train between Camborne and London Paddington and, when I heard that Theresa Villiers, the Shadow Transport Secretary, was going to make a visit to Cornwall at short notice, I told the events team that the sleeper was the best possible way to get to Cornwall in the time she had.

The main line to Penzance goes right through the middle of Trevaskis Farm and so I grew up with trains regularly passing through. Today, Derek Thomas, the Conservative PPC for St Ives, and I had agreed to meet Theresa at Penzance station for the first visit at 8am. It is a twenty minute drive to Penzance but, just as I was finishing my coffee, I saw the Night Riviera go through Trevaskis soon after 7.30. She was running ahead of time. Better get my skates on.

I finally caught up with the sleeper on the approach to Penzance. Theresa had had a good night's sleep and commented that it was a relaxing way to travel. We went on to Manna's diner for breakfast - a local charity that employs people with disabilities before visiting Penzance Harbour, the campaign to improve the A30 and finally a visit to the Helston Railway Preservation Company which is based at Trevarno near Crowntown.

The old Helston branch line had closed long before my time but my father remembers it well. Gwinear Road Station, where it started, is just next door to Trevaskis Farm and you can still see many of the old bridges and tracks through which the line used to run and can make out the remnants of the platforms at Gwinear Road station.

The project aims to re-open a section of the line to passengers again - possibly starting before the end of this year. Twenty volunteers work - usually on Thursdays and Sundays - to clear the line, lay ballast, sleepers and track. They have even bought a shunter train and small passenger train ready for action.

One of the volunteers, Daniel Farr, is one of our most active leaflet deliverers too. So I heard a lot about the challenges encountered getting down the ballast (which surprisingly is the most difficult and time consuming part of the operation).

Today we were met by Richard Cox of Trevarno Estate together with Ken Wood and some of the volunteers on the project. They had some fantastic old photographs of Gwinear Road Station and told me that they had rescued the old station sign.

It was time to head for Redruth to get Theresa back on the train to London - but not before buying a book on the history of the line for my father...complete with pictures of the old station at Gwinear Road.