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Ben’s Blog – February 2020

10 February 2020 | News

Our latest update from Ben Harding, our Railway Operations Manager, shining the spotlight on what happens during our winter months.

Lappa Valley closes during January and much of February – but that doesn’t mean we’re not working hard! On the contrary, this is an essential time for us to undertake vital maintenance to make sure that Lappa Valley is looking tip-top for you all when we open daily on Saturday 28 March.

Work is progressing well on the construction of our new £1.2 million cafe and indoor play area. We started work in November 2019 and since then over 65 concrete piles have been installed.

The pile-driving has now finished and work has been handed over to the groundworks contractor. They have constructed an access road for lorries and large vehicles and begun digging out for the concrete footings. These will go in shortly.

Most of the work is under the ground at the moment, so there’s not much to see right now, but we’ll keep posted updates as the building goes up. We’re excited to share this with you all!

The main project for the railway team this winter is renewal of half a mile of track between Metha Bridge and Benny Halt. We are making good headway with this and are aiming to complete the job by February half term. We’ll then undertake a renewal of the track at the platform of East Wheal Rose before moving on to carry out the annual track maintenance on the Woodland Railway (7.25” Gauge) & Newlyn Downs Branch line (10.25” Gauge).





Ruby completed her 2019 season at our Steam Gala Extravaganza gala at the beginning of November and was drained the following week and winterised. She only needs routine maintenance and a deep clean this year, as well as the repainting of her smokebox. It is hoped that Ruby will be in steam during February half term along with Ellie.


Much like Ruby, Muffin was drained after our winter gala in November and put to bed for the winter. The main job for the winter for Muffin is having new bronze washout plugs machined, as the old ones have reached the end of their serviceable life. These should be back at the workshop in time for the annual boiler exam day. We think Muffin will re-enter traffic in late March in time for the main season.  Washout plugs are long threaded plugs (usually tapered) which unscrew from the boiler to provide access to areas within the water space you cannot see for both inspection and cleaning purposes, hence the name washout plugs.


Ellie has completed all of our winter weekends in November and our Santa Specials in December, performing faultlessly.  Ellie has since been drained and winterised. Ellie will work the February Half Term trains in top ’n tailed form with Ruby, before having some routine maintenance carried out on her before her boiler inspection day. Ellie will probably come off the rota then until April to even out the mileage on the locomotives.


The flagship locomotive of Lappa Valley has now been withdrawn from service pending an overhaul. It is planned that we will carry out as much work as possible on her in house with the intention of having her back in service towards the end of the coming season. We’ll do a separate blog post on  Zebedee when work starts – this will hopefully be as soon as City of Derby is out shopped.


Work is progressing really well on the overhaul of the loveable baby Deltic lookalike. In the workshop, Troy has been concentrating on working on the buffer beams and new skirts that surround them, having manufactured new ‘dual height’ couplings for it. The cabs have seen significant progress with the fitting of the new dashboards and control panels in both ends. It is hoped City of Derby will be back in traffic in time for the main season in late March after undergoing some proving runs when we are closed.


Very little to report this time on this great lister workhorse. Arthur is working all of the winter works trains faultlessly at the moment, moving heavy loads of sleepers, rails and fixings around the railway to help the track gang. It is expected that Arthur will have a week in the workshop between City of Derby coming out and Zebedee going in, just to have an engine oil and gearbox oil change, some minor work on the engine mounts and a small tidy up.





The Alan Keef built engine performed well for the back end of the season last year. Only routine maintenance and a paintwork tidy up is expected on this locomotive this year.


Duke of Cornwall is requiring of some servicing work to be undertaken prior to the season commencing to get it running smoothly. Powered by a 1.6l Ford Crossflow, engine parts for this are becoming harder to source!


The Exmouth Express made an appearance at our recent winter gala on static display in the headhunt. Unfortunately, we are unable to run this lister powered locomotive on the railway due to a low clutch plate which fouls the point work on the railway.



As ever, the popular Woodland Railway trains are running reliably with only routine maintenance required. We welcomed new carriages last year built by South West Steam Engineering in Launceston and these are settling in well and are proving very popular and comfortable.

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