Gazetteer of Early Railway Remains in Tavistock District

A gazetteer of known early railway remains in the Tavistock mining district is given below. This should not be regarded as exhaustive and may be added to in due course.


Tavistock Canal Works (Canal Tunnel; Lumburn Aqueduct), 1803-1817

Probably lightweight L section rails, pinned down to timber sleepers/frames.

Tavistock Canal, Mill Hill Branch (barge transfer haulway), 1819-1832

Heavyweight L section rails with triangular flanges to keep the barge trolley on the rails, pinned down to transverse sleepers. 5ft 6in (nominal) gauge.

Tavistock Wharf limestone yard and kiln top, 1818-1869

Probably round-shouldered trough rail (yard) and L section (kiln top and incline), possibly pinned down to granite sleeper-blocks with timber baulks forming temporary bridge over canal. Dimensions of bridge suggest gauge to have been 4ft 2in (nominal), as at Morwellham.

Mill Hill Eastern Quarries

Probably 1819-1832.

L section rails, pinned down to timber sleepers, gauge unknown.

Wheal Friendship

Possibly 1798-1830s. Certainly from 1808.

L section rails, apparently pinned down to timber sleepers. 3ft 6in nominal gauge.

Wheal Crebor

Possibly from 1803-1828, definitely from 1812-1821

L section rails, pinned down to timber sleepers. About 2ft 6in gauge, estimated from width of Inclined Shaft.

Morwellham Incline and spurs, 1816-1869

Possibly in part until 1880s as internal system. Extensive re-cycling of other plate rails, possibly from systems above, up to 1855. Unique use of trough rails as part of an edge railway system on Limekiln Quay and General Quay, possibly after 1855, with flanges running in trough. Ordinary rails were L section (several types including a few rare wrought iron), trough section (two types), pinned down to granite sleeper-blocks to 4ft 2in (nominal) gauge. Some use of timber baulk road on limekiln and for supporting points.

Two known wagon types, probably included end and side tippers and possibly flats for transporting granite. Several wagon parts including bearings and wheels are in the site finds store.

Bar Railways

New Quay Limekiln and Quayside, 1825/26-1890s

Site clearance in the 1980s revealed several lengths of wrought iron rail, some with hammer-welded feet, some without. Several wrought iron chairs of various sizes and designs were found, some clearly designed for baulk road and probably for the inclined plane. This is a very important site as wrought iron chairs for use with bar rail are nationally rare. A timber turntable on the riverside quays was uncovered in 1983 but reburied without record. Several wagon remains were also found, including a 15½in diameter flanged wheel and a wagon side extension panel.

Morwellham Limekiln and Quayside, 1820s-1869

Wrought iron rails of 4ft 3in to 4ft 3½in gauge (two sizes) and cast iron chairs (two types); cast iron T-section rails (used in conjunction with trough section plate rails). Flanged wheels of 12in and 15in diameter with severe wear from two sizes of bar rail, includes two complete wheelsets with axles of 4ft 3½in gauge. This is an important, multi-phase site, despite the lack of recorded contexts for many of the finds.

George and Charlotte Mine Dressing Floors, Morwellham, 1840-1869

Wrought iron rails and cast iron chairs. Only one broken chair known, from which presence of bar railway inferred. No evidence for railways underground.

Wheal Russell Deep Adit, Gulworthy, 1840s-1880s

This is an important site for bar railway remains, with an extraordinary variety of artefacts. Wrought iron rails (mostly removed for scrap), cast iron chairs (mixed sizes) and substantial dumps of slotted sleepers at intervals along level.

Bedford United Mine, Gulworthy, 1841-1889

Several lengths of in-situ wrought iron bar rails with cast iron chairs, bolted down to sleepers are visible in an internal level on Marquis North Lode, in one place crossing a winze. This relatively large and important mine is likely to have had more railways than this, so there is potential for more discoveries.

Trelawney Consols Mine, Calstock, 1844-1846

A cross-cut drainage adit serving several parallel lodes contains about 250 metres of in-situ bar rail track, to a gauge of 1ft 10½in gauge with wrought iron rails, cast iron chairs at intersections and slotted sleepers.

A good, well preserved site. A very odd wooden wagon with a single, centrally positioned wheelset is recorded as having been in-situ in the adit in the 1960s. This has since disappeared.

Bedford Consols Mine, Gawton, 1840s-1920s

Shallow adit, has wrought iron rails with hammer-welded feet, dumped in a heap near foot of internal winze, presumably preparatory to scrapping.

Wooden Railways

Wheal Franco (Tavy Valley), 1870s-1890s

Baulk road of approximately 1ft 11in gauge with 3½in square baulks, 14ft long, nailed to sleepers of variable dimensions at joints. Where rail joints are angled, they have relieved outer corners and inside fillets. Wrought iron strip treads nailed to upper faces of baulks, arranged to adjoin inner edges. These have convex upper faces and measure about 1in by 1/8in section by 9ft long, staggered to avoid baulk joints. Other than at joints, sleepers are irregularly placed. About 200m survives, with traces of at least 50m more at extremity of level. At right-angled bends in the passage, tight radiused corners have been formed, using lengths of small section wrought iron bridge rail, braced off the walls with timber struts to keep to gauge.

Conventional edge railways

Mill Hill Railway, 1844-1862

Cast iron chairs on drilled slate sleeper-blocks, probably Vignoles (I-section) rolled wrought iron rails of same type as laid at Morwellham in 1855. Standard (4ft 8½in) gauge, measured just north of Newton Lane Crossing.

Canal Incline and spurs, Morwellham, 1855-1869

Two sizes of cast iron chair (wider at joints) using soft iron wedges, on drilled slate sleeper-blocks, Vignoles (I-section) rolled wrought iron rails. 4ft 3in gauge. Wheelsets noted above probably also used on this line.

1855 works included replacement of entire western line of incline and horse-hauled part below tunnel, single siding at canal terminus and two sidings on Canal Company quays. Other lines seem to have remained as plateways, with trough plate rails continuing in use as flanged wheels could run in them.

Frementor Tramway, 1860-1869

Uncertain, as no artefacts have been found, but chaired or flat-bottomed rolled wrought iron rail on transverse timber sleepers is most likely. Probably standard gauge, but uncertain.

East Cornwall Mineral Railway, 1872-1906

Rolled wrought iron flat-bottomed rails set in screw-bolted cast iron chairs on transverse timber sleepers. 3ft 6in gauge, converted to standard gauge and line partly re-routed 1904-1909.

Unconventional edge railways

Devon Great Consols Railway, 1858-1903

Rolled wrought iron bridge rail nailed down to pitch-pine baulk road, with bracers and tie-bolts. Standard gauge.

Devon Great Consols mine tramways, underground and surface, 1844-1903

Rolled wrought iron bridge rail nailed down to pitch pine sleepers, to approximately 2ft gauge. Used from 1850s onwards, to replace bar rail.