Almost 135 years ago, in March 1882, the then mayor of Helston inaugurated work on the proposed railway between Helston and Gwinear Road by cutting the first sod of the project.

On Thursday, 1st September, the current Mayor of Helston – Councillor Gillian Geer – and Mrs. Elizabeth Bolitho were in attendance when the former Commissioner for Transport for London (TfL) and now the Chairman of Network Rail – Sir Peter Hendy, CBE – officiated at a similar ceremony to launch a short extension and a new platform at Trevarno Farm for the Helston Railway Preservation Society (HRPS).

Sir Peter cut the ceremonial first sod using the same engraved silver spade that had been used in 1882, and placed the sod in the ceremonial wheelbarrow also used at that time. Both items were kindly loaned for the event by Helston Museum. The great-grandfather of the chairman of HRPS – Chris Heaps - and the grandfather of another HRPS member present on Thursday – Ted Williams – had been present at the ceremony in 1882.

The Helston branch opened in May 1887, but closed to passengers in November 1962 and totally in October 1964.

With the support of the then owners of the Trevarno Estate, members of Helston Railway commenced work to restore part of the branch in 2005. Within six years, not only were trains operating over part of the line but the railway had received the Heritage Railway Association Ian Allan Publishing Heritage Railway of the Year Award. The railway, now again the most southerly line in the United Kingdom, currently operates over more than a mile between Prospidnick (south of Nancegollan) and Truthall Halt. Planning permission for the extension was granted on appeal in June.

Speaking at the ceremony, Chris Heaps thanked Sir Peter for agreeing to cut the first sod. He reminded guests that at Transport for London Sir Peter had overseen the reopening of a railway in south London that had been closed for over 100 years and that last year, at Network Rail, he had officiated at the opening of a brand-new railway link in Oxfordshire. Now he was giving support to one of the smallest and most recently restored lines in the country.

HRPS is a charity supporting the restoration of the line, but it is operated by Helston Railway Preservation Company Limited, whose chairman – James Packman – thanked all the volunteers, helpers and donors who had made the reopening possible.

Responding, Sir Peter said that it was astonishing that so much had been achieved by so few in such a short time, and without the vast resources of money and equipment available to Network Rail.

After the ceremony, Sir Peter and the Mayor were accompanied by other guests on a trip on the line to Truthall Halt and back, during which Sir Peter commended the quality of the track. Light refreshments were served, albeit not on the scale as in 1882, when a luncheon was held at the Angel Hotel at which no less than 15 toasts were proposed, no doubt accompanied by speeches.

The Helston Railway operates on Thursdays and Sundays between Easter and November, and additionally on Bank Holidays and on Wednesdays in August. Santa Specials operate in December.

Anyone interested in becoming a member or helping with the restoration is invited to contact for further details.