Perranwell to Goonhavern Halt to Shepherds Station

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This page shows the history of Goonhavern Halt and Shepherds Station over the years.

Truro – Newquay Branch line:

So ended the last run over the line originally constructed in two sections. The first section of about eight miles to Perranporth, was opened on July 6, 1903. The contractor was Arthur Carkeek, who was knighted in 1916. Hundreds of men, without mechanical aids, cut their way through high mounds of stone and rubble, shovelled thousands of tons of rocks into gullies to make embankments, built some thirty bridges and the fine five arch viaduct near Goonbell.

The 10-mile second section from Perranporth to Newquay was completed on January 2, 1905, well behind schedule, as it had been hoped the line would be in use for holidaymakers in the summer of 1904, but the engineers had met considerable difficulty. It was opened on 14th August 1905. At Goonhavern, sand instead of stone was found, and there were many falls.

Ripping up of Newquay line.

The final blow came when on 2nd January 1964 when there was a short item in the ‘West Briton’. The final episode in the 60 year history of the Chacewater – Newquay line was begun yesterday, when a start was made on the removal of the rails. A train drawing five trucks went from Chacewater to Shepherds, and this will continue once a week until the rails are removed back to Chacewater.

Excerpts courtesy of The Cornwall Railway Society website – http://www.cornwallrailwaysociety.org.uk/

Shepherds Halt – the true story of Shepherds Station.

Recent research into the history of Shepherds Station has unearthed a hitherto unknown and quite interesting story. What most books would lead you to believe is mostly true, but there are sinister undertones involving the War Office, and the British and American Militaries.

Penhale Camp

In the late 1800s, the War Office saw the potential of establishing a large training camp on the dunes above Perranporth. The camp was split into two for operational and security reasons. The main part of the camp was positioned on the headland between Ligger Point and Penhale Point, the other smaller part of the camp was hidden in the valley to the southwest of Cubert.

Here, well away from prying eyes, troops were trained in all sorts of offensive combat, including demolition and sabotage. Whereas the Cornish population were usually keen to avoid any entanglement with government officials, especially the Excise Men, this ‘not seen anything’ attitude was encouraged by the War Office in order to keep the camp and its activities as quiet as possible. In exchange, the Government itself discouraged too much involvement of its officers with the locals’ nocturnal dealings. Even today, only the main part of the camp on the headland is marked on OS Maps of the area.

With the arrival of the railway first to St Newlyn East, and then later to Treamble, the War Office were able to move troops and supplies to and from Penhale Camp far easier and with even less fuss.

Creation of the Halt

In 1903 the GWR opened the line from Chacewater to Perranporth. The War Office pressed for the line to be extended to join with the Treamble branch, and Shepherds farm was chosen as the most inconspicuous spot. In order to help with the subterfuge, the original direct link to Treamble (& Penhale Camp) was re-aligned, and a simple halt with a kickback siding installed.

This simple arrangement allowed freight trains arriving from Truro to leave a wagon or two in the siding, from where they would be collected later by the small loco running the Treamble branch. Similarly, wagons could be left in the siding and collected by any passing Newquay/Par bound freight. These collections were usually timed to be between any scheduled passenger trains.

Shepherds Halt

Shepherds Station

Also well known and well documented was the removal of the rails from Shepherds Halt to Treamble, allegedly to help with the overseas rail lines during the First World War. The track bed was still used by the War Office as an alternative route to the Camp and a massively over engineered bridge was built over the track just to the east of the Halt.

As clouds darkened over Europe again in the 1920s, a decision was made to re-instate the Treamble branch, with a cover story that the mines in the area had re-opened. In reality, the War Office and the American War Department wanted somewhere in Cornwall to store munitions and other non-perishable supplies in preparation for an assault on the European mainland, should the ‘Peace in Our Time’ intuitive fail. Deerpark Mine, just to the south west of Rejerrah was chosen as the adits were still sound and relatively water free.

It was at this time the track plan at Shepherds halt was altered to that seen in the popular railway publication and press. This re-connection of a direct link to Penhale Camp made it much easier to move troops and supplies, as trains could now run from London straight to the camp itself.

The fact that Shepherds was never an efficient or important station, as far as the GWR were concerned, can be seen by their reluctance to develop the site to their normal standard. There was no goods shed, the ‘cattle dock’ was built using old track rails rather than the usual fence post & rails, the platform itself was only wood, unlike the solid brick and stone constructions elsewhere on the line. The signal box was a short affair, placed on the platform rather than a separate building.

The War Office & The Camping Coach

With no road access to Deerpark Mine, goods to be moved out of the stores were re-loaded onto wagons and brought the few hundred yards back to Shepherds Station. The wagons were unloaded onto lorries out of sight of the station, the lorries then used the over bridge to join the main road network at Fiddlers Green.

The bridge also stretched across the wide yard to the south of the lines – this area was used for marshalling the lorries.

As the cattle dock was not really intended to be functional, much to the War Office’s dismay the GWR installed a camping coach in the siding. However, this proved to be of benefit as it was commandeered and used by the British and American military top brass to discuss the D-Day preparations.

Closures

Following the end of the war, the Treamble branch saw less and les military traffic and was closed in 1952. In 1963, the complete line from Chacewater to Tolcarne Junction was closed. In order to maintain the secrecy of the smaller Penhale Camp and the role it played, it was decided to remove all traces of Shepherds Station. This exercise was not completely successful, for the sharp eyed there are still some remnants to be found.

Courtesy of stubby47 on RMWeb. 

The Treamble Branch:

The minerals branch line from Shepherds to Treamble had a chequered history. The mine closed in 1892 but the track was left in place. In January 1917 it was taken up and shipped to France as part of the war effort. However, after the war there was an upturn in the minerals market and the rails were re-instated, the line being in use again by 1926. Further prospecting took place at Treamble in the 1930s & 1940s but the revival of mining was short-lived. The branch was used by troop trains for Penhale Camp during World War 2 but the line was closed in 1952 and the track taken up in 1956.

 Shepherds Station:

Shepherds was a sizeable station, one of only three on the branch (Chacewater – Newquay line), built on traditional lines with a weighbridge, passing loop, separate “up” and “down” platforms and a stationmaster.

The Passenger Service:

In the early days of the branch line, passengers were conveyed between Newquay and Chacewater by steam railcars but these were not popular and were soon replaced by steam locomotives hauling conventional carriages. To start with, the service was planned to meet the anticipated travelling requirements of potential passengers and in 1905 six trains operated each way between Chacewater and Newquay with one extra train on Saturdays only and no trains on Sundays. lt appears that the running of trains on a Sunday was never contemplated, probably because of the strong Methodist following in the area.

Travel to Truro by train was now cheaper than going via Par and quicker,  all be it still by a roundabout route. For example, the ordinary return fare from Newquay to Truro was 2s 6d as opposed to 6s 8d via Par. As traffic increased so the service became more frequent and was eight trains in each direction in 1927 and twelve in 1938 but dropped back to eleven in 1958. From 1962, diesels took over all services. Passenger traffic was light but constant during the winter months and usually heavy during the summer. Beach Halt at Perranporth, opened in July 1931, was the last halt to be built on the line and was popular with those wanting a day out on Perranporth Beach.  For those wanting a railside holiday, there was a camping coach in a siding at Shepherds which was generally well booked.

By the 1960s growth in the ownership and use of cars had significantly reduced the number of passengers travelling by public transport. The Government was looking to reduce subsidies and set in motion a review of railway operations. The so-called “Beeching Plan” was the outcome and proposed the closure of many branch lines where annual expenditure exceeded income. The Chacewater to Newquay branch came into this category despite the fact that, even in winter, it was reckoned that 600 passengers made return journeys daily, and that the line carried a total in excess of 250,000 annually. The economics of operation were considered to be the key factor and receipts only covered about two-thirds of the annual expenditure of £38,000 Economies were made, one being to make Mr. Badcock, the stationmaster at Shepherds, redundant and pass control to the stationmaster at Perranporth, but income never quite matched expenditure. The line always remained “rural” and, in winter, it was part of the guard‘s duty to set up and light the oil lamps at the halts before it became dark and then, on the last train of the day, to switch them off and put them on board the train.

Excerpts from the book on St Newlyn East & Surrounding area.

Perranwell:

Goonhavern Halt:

Shepherds Station:

One thought on “Perranwell to Goonhavern Halt to Shepherds Station”

  1. These single platform stopping places were originially known as “Haltes” but within a short time, the e was dropped. As for Goonhavern Halt itself, although the second stage of the line from Perranporth to Shepherds Station was opened on 2nd January 1905, it wasn’t actually until 14th August of that year that Goonhavern had its own stopping place. Oh how I wish the line had survived because actually, it would have been the most logical one to retain due to the fact it would now serve four popular tourist destinations (Truro, St Agnes, Perranporth and Newquay) and would have served the shoppers in Truro and Newquay very well I would have thought. And did you know that the Chacewater to Newquay line actually closed about 7 weeks before the Beeching Report was actually published? Also, the passenger service on the Chacewater to Newquay line was only under consideration for withdrawal before the formulation of the report?

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