The East Wheal Rose branch was upgraded to carry passenger trains and became part of a new route beginning at Chacewater on the main line to London. The completed passenger line was opened to the public in 1905 and greatly improved the mobility of local people who could now get to the market town of Truro by train.
During the Second World War the line was upgraded to mainline standard for use as a diversionary route in case the line between Truro and St. Austell was blocked by an enemy air raid. If you look carefully at the bridge at Metha halfway along our steam railway, you will see that it was widened in order to allow wartime traffic, including tanks on flat wagons, to pass through.
From the 1930s until the late 1950s this branch line to the coastal resorts was very busy, particularly with summer holidaymakers. However, by the early 1960s road transport was becoming increasingly competitive and the government called for a review of the nationalised network. Dr. Beeching’s report recommended that, among many other lines he considered to be uneconomic, the branch from Newquay to Chacewater should close.
On 4th February 1963 the last standard gauge train ran along the branch line and the track and railway bridges were quickly removed.
Ten years later, in 1973, Eric Booth bought our section of the old railway line and the story of Lappa Valley Steam Railway began.
Cornwall Minerals Railway
The Lappa Valley Railway runs on one of the oldest railway track beds in Cornwall. In 1843 J. T. Treffry, a pioneer of Cornish railways, suggested building a tramway between Par and the growing port of Newquay, with a branch to East Wheal Rose mine which was then entering its most prosperous period.
East Wheal Rose Engine House
In 1846 over 1,200 men, women and children were employed in the mine at East Wheal Rose. In those days the valley would have been filled with the sounds of ore being broken up, wagons rolling in and out, steam engines hissing and whistling, and the general hubbub of so many people at work. In an age before television, this scene was the wonder of the neighbourhood and a favourite place for Sunday excursions.
East Wheal Rose Mining Disaster
On the morning of 9th July 1846, it was bright and sunny but at midday heavy clouds formed in the north-west and then gathered directly over East Wheal Rose. A tremendous thunderstorm began, lasting more than an hour and a half. Torrential rain fell on the mine and surrounding hills but, strangely there was no rain at all three miles away.
Becoming a Family Attraction
In 1974, just over ten years after the railway closed, Eric Booth bought a section of the old railway line and the story of Lappa Valley Steam Railway began. Through hard work and determination, Eric built the new railway to realise his vision of a place where children and adults could enjoy the steam train experience. His passion for this project was to create a place for children to play safely and learn about nature from their surroundings.