The Steaming Sixties: #04 'The Days That Were' -The Withered Arm in Cornwall- (IR092A)
Product No.: IR092A
Title: The Steaming Sixties: #04 'The Days That Were' -The Withered Arm in Cornwall-
Author(s): Coster, Peter
Publisher: Irwell Press
Binding: Laminated Pictorial Boards
Dust Jacket: None
Edition: 1st Edition
Publication Year: 2009
Features: 64 Pages with Colour Photos.
This book has a common thread in reminiscing about the fascinating railway that once ran through Devon into Cornwall, terminating at the Shangri-La of fish cuisine, Padstow. That common thread is the letter W. Think about it - West, Withered Arm, Wadebridge, Wenford, Well Tanks, Woolworths, er - Western, and yes, to many of us, Wonderful. My visits to the West Country, before I moved here, were opportunities to photograph a railway that was almost diametrically opposite to my daily experience on the electrified main lines, yet still a railway, with some common features.
So these photographs tend to be bunched into certain dates, but still a reflection of many things that were going on at the time. The low speed and vagaries of colour film half a century ago have led to some wastage of precious shots, something that continues to irritate. The O2 0-4-4Ts had just gone, alas, displaced by Ivattisation with his excellent 2-6-2Ts. The marvellous little N 2-6-0s were still in evidence, and among the engines that I rode on, I had the particular privilege of riding on No.31837 on her last day in revenue earning service - so far as I know, that is. It was a very sad experience to ride on such a fine little engine that had years of good running in her, soon to be reduced to scrap by an accountant's pen.
I can also claim to have ridden on both the very last up and down Atlantic Coast Expresses to and from Okehampton, on September 5th 1964, but the weather later was not good and few photographs were possible. By Padstow it was drizzling - perhaps even God was sad, too. The North Cornwall was a fine railway in difficult terrain, well engineered, and despite its distance from villages and towns, is still sadly missed. The Wadebridge-Padstow track is now the Camel Trail, and has more users than the railway ever did. It was one of the most beautiful stretches of railway on the system, and is ever more widely enjoyed today.
The book tends to concentrate on the Wenford Bridge branch and its freight service, for which I make no apology. I had a few shots of the Beatties, but on travelling on the line, the GWR panniers had just started work. The countryside was - and still is - remote and beautiful, and the railway was utterly basic and yet a common sense one. When the Beeching Report was officially launched upon BR staff, I remember my horror at the opening shot - a Beattie well tank chugging along through fields south of Helland Bridge. If the Good Doctor had stumbled on Wenford, the fat was well and truly in the fire. But it was a beautiful shot - I wonder whether it survives anywhere?