Narrow Gauge Pleasure

The Launceston Steam Railway

The Railway Today

Lilian at the head of her train
on a cold night

The 2' gauge Launceston Steam Railway links the town of Launceston to the hamlet of New Mills by an attractive railway running through the picturesque Valley of the river Kensey. When you travel on this line your train will be hauled by an ex Welsh Slate Quarry saddle tank locomotive built by Hunslet, most narrow gauge lines seem to have one of these, the Launceston Steam Railway has four! Like almost all the surviving examples two of these fascinating locomotives have had cabs added, the other two are as built in this respect. The cabs are very practical but, in my view spoil the lines of these classic machines.

Passenger stock on the Line has been specially built and includes open carriages which make the journey very pleasant on the hot summer Cornish days (Cornwall offers far fewer wet summer days than North Wales where most of our 2' gauge railways are!). If you have enjoyed your trip up the line another is included in the price of your ticket.

At the New Mills terminus their is space for a picnic and several attractive walks so consider breaking your journey here. Alternatively there are intermediate stations at Hunts Crossing and Canna Park where the train will stop if you ask the guard.


All Four engines
at Launceston Station
Another group of passengers
enjoys theRailway

Many pleasant hours can be spent at the Railways headquarters at Launceston which offers a cafe, shop and a comprehensive transport museum featuring Vintage cars, motor cycles and a stationary steam engine as well as railway related exhibits. The town of Launceston (Cornwalls only walled town) is also well worth a visit with its extensive military history.

History and Origins

The Railway is built on the trackbed of the much older Launceston and South Devon Railway, built to the Brunel gauge of 7' 1/4". The railway (long since converted to standard gauge) was closed in 1962.

The narrow gauge history really began with Nigel Bowman, a trainee teacher, buying a scrapped Hunselt engine (named Lilian) from Penrhyn slate quarry for £60. Bowmans attention wandered from teacher training until he found himself earning a living by making parts for vintage machinery. All the hard work left Nigel Bowman with a superb steam engine but nowhere to run it. In the area around his Surrey, there seemed little prospect of there ever being a 2' gauge railway due to land prices and planning restrictions.

Nigel Bowman teamed up with Jim Stone and together they approached Launceston Council in 1971. In an area dependant on tourism for much of its economic activity they had a much more sympathetic hearing than in the Surrey stockbroker belt. It took twelve years to resolve problems over the ownership of the land and build the first section of the railway but, on Boxing Day 1983, the new railway was opened to the public.

Comments on this Railway

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Chris & Chris   22 Jan 2015
Great Railway with a good friendly atmosphere, excellent web site, thanks to Nigel and Kay and web manager. Mother-in-law and my wifes brother live and trade in Launceston Hope to build amodel of the Launceston Station area in 009 gauge, can't get the Hunslet Loco's at present. Regards from Chris Chris East Kent
Rex Mottershead   09 Jun 2014
Yesterday my wife and I dropped by to take a look at Launceston station while on our way home from collecting an ebay purchase. We expected to spend 30 minutes there and ended up leaving reluctantly an hour and a half later! The place is amazing - a complicated multi-level narrow-guage terminus that looks like it has always been there (but hasn't), with a range of wonderful industrial buildings and engine sheds, one with a museum of nice old oily things (railway stuff, motorbikes, vintage cars, stationary engines). I stand in awe of the energy and dedication of Nigel Bowman, who with his wife and a few others have created this railway. No-one with even a passing interest in steam should miss this.
   28 Jan 2013
I worked as a guard on the line in the early days. Now I am disabled I still get there from time to time, I always enjoy chatting to visitors who thoroughly enjoy their experience Model makers get a special welcome.
   08 Jan 2012
this railway is a fantastic day out for people of all ages. i had the pleasure of going on their oldest engine and it was fantastic. recommended.
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