Visitors to Falmouth on Saturday could be forgiven for rubbing their eyes in disbelief, after a huge old steam train appeared on the Moor overnight.
The improbable, and imposing, sight of a 45 ton steam locomotive in Falmouth was part of the weekend of celebrations to mark 150 years of the Maritime Line railway service.
The Bank Holiday weekend saw celebrations and events across the town on the anniversary of the railway reaching the town 150 years ago, organised by Richard Burningham of the Devon and Cornwall Rail Partnership.
Built by the Great Western Railway at Swindon in 1937, 0-6-0 Pannier tank no. 6435 is owned and operated by the Bodmin And Wenford Railway, and normally rattles the rails between Bodmin Parkway, Bodmin General and Boscarne Junction. Pannier tank engines were once a common sight working on branch lines throughout the Southwest.
In the cab for the day was driver Courtney Berryman. Originally from St Agnes, he started his working life in 1956 with British Railways at Truro motive power depot.
He regularly worked trains along the Falmouth branch, when it was very busy with freight as well as passenger traffic. He recalls days shunting the goods yards at Perranwell, Penryn and the interchange sidings at Falmouth Docks.
The Poly has also been hosting a special ‘Falmouth on Track – How the Railway Changed the Town’ exhibition of photographs and memorabilia from the Royal Cornwall Polytechnic Society history collection to mark the 150th anniversary of the Falmouth railway line. There was the opportunity to view working models of early trains courtesy of Falmouth Model Railway Group and plenty of railway based activities for the young visitors.
Sunday saw the anniversary continue with the arrival of a special train into Falmouth Docks station. The fast mainline train, which usually plies its trade on the Penzance to London route, travelled the Maritime Line from Truro packed with railway fans and local dignitaries.
The chairman of First Great Western, Charles Howeson, and leading driver Phil Jones then joined Falmouth’s mayor Geoffrey Evans on the station platform to unveil a plaque commemorating 150 years of rail service from Truro to Penryn and Falmouth.