John Speller's Web Pages Central Cornwall Railway

John Speller's Web Pages - L&SWR

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One of the earliest railways in the West of England, the 6-mile Bodmin & Wadebridge Railway was commenced in 1828 and completed at a cost of 35,000 in 1834. One of its claims to fame was that on 13 April 1840 the company ran the world's first excursion train, which needless to say in those days was organized to take people to see a public hanging at Bodmin. This was the execution of two brothers, William and James Lightfoot, who had been convicted robbing and murdering businessman William Norway on his way back to Wadebridge from Bodmin Fair.

To prevent it falling into the hands of the broad gauge interests the London & South Western Railway illegally purchased the Bodmin & Wadebridge Railway in 1846, but it remained isolated from the rest of the L&SWR system until 1896.

While the line eventually ended up as the part of the Southern Railway's "withered arm" running from Okehampton to Padstow, an earlier scheme would have made it part of a main line to Bodmin, Truro and Penzance.

The Launceston, Bodmin & Wadebridge Junction Railway Act of 1864 authorized a 21-mile 4' 8" gauge line from Launceston to a junction with the Bodmin & Wadebridge Railway's line at Wenford Bridge. The proposed line went westward and then from near Otterham turned south toward Bodmin, skirting Bodmin Moor. As part of the scheme the South Devon Railway would have been forced to lay down mixed gauge between Lydford and Launceston.The Central Cornwall Railway Act of 1867 added a second line from a junction with the Bodmin & Wadebridge Railway's Ruthern Bridge branch to a junction with the West Cornwall Railway at Truro. This would also have included an interchange with the broad gauge Newquay and Cornwall Junction Railway somewhere around Bugle. The Central Cornwall scheme would have given the London & South Western Railway a 4' 8" connection from Waterloo, all the way to Bodmin and Truro and thence over the existing mixed gauge to Penzance. Such a line would probably have proved more profitable than the L&SWR line that was eventually built, and would certainly have been a lot cheaper. It might even have helped the long-term viability of the broad gauge Great Western main line by getting rid of a lot of the transshipment problems. Alas, the scheme was not to be there was simply not enough money around in the late 1860s to bring it to fruition. Under the Abandonment of Railways Act of 1850, a Warrant of the Board of Trade authorized the abandonment of the Central Cornwall Railway on 16 March 1870.
Map of Cornish railways in 1869, showing projected routes including the proposed Central Cornwall Railway's routes to Bodmin and Truro
Bodmin Wharf on the Bodmin & Wadebridge Railway, which under the Central Cornwall Railway scheme would have become part of the L&SWR main line to Bodmin and Truro
First & Third Class Carriages, Bodmin & Wadebridge Railway
Bodmin & Wadebridge Railway goods wagon
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