The Hayle Railway

A line was opened from Hayle Foundry to Pool and Portreath on 23 Dec 1837 with branches to Roskear and North Crofty mines. The next year saw the extension to Redruth and a branch to Tresavean—17 mikes of track in total. This was all built narrow gauge (4’ 8½”) single track and locomotives were used on the whole length except, initially, on the Angarrack Incline down to Hayle itself where horses were used. The first passenger service was on 22 May 1843 in two carriages built by Will Crotch of Hayle. Initially the service was mixed passenger and freight. The line crossed the earlier Redruth and Chacewater Railway but there was no interchange as this was four foot gauge.

The West Cornwall Railway

In 1846 this new company took over the Hayle Railway extending it on one end to Penzance and on the other to Truro. Being a Brunel company it planned to use broad gauge (7&rsqo; later increasing to 7’ ¼”) but to save time and initial expense obtained permission to continue in narrow gauge so long as it was made possible to change later. This, maybe accidentally, conformed with the report from the Gauge Commission that proposed that all new lines be constructed to narrow (standard) gauge.

In 1852 the Hayle section was rebuilt changing the old style inclines to viaducts but in the process bypassing the original Hayle Foundry terminus station. These viaducts were typical Brunel style being timber construction on masonry pillars—the Penzance one had to be replaced in 1871 after sea damage and eventually by an embankment in 1921. The first passenger service from Penzance to Redruth was completed on 11 Mar 1852 with three trains a day and two on Sundays. Later that year an extension to Higher Town was built completing the route to Truro and in 1855 the Truro terminus at Newham was completed This remained until 1859 when The Cornwall Railway completed their link to Plymouth. Stations from Hayle to Penzance were St Ives Road and Marazion Road.

The change of gauge at Truro became a considerable inconvenience and in 1864 the Cornwall Railway Company insisted that the agreement to install broad gauge was honoured. Unfortunately The West Cornwall Railway company could not afford to do it so was taken over by a consortium of the Great Western, Bristol and Exeter & South Devon Railway Companies on 1 Jan 1866 who put the work in hand. Broad gauge was completed that year (some sources say Mar 1867) doubling up with standard gauge and the first broad train ran through to Penzance on 6 Nov of that year. In practice local traffic continued to use the standard track while through trains used the broad.

The St Ives branch was opened in Jun 1877, one of the last new B-road gauge lines, from St Ives Road, renamed St Erth, through Lelant and Carbis Bay and in 1888 standard gauge track was installed in parallel as far as Lelant so local goods could reach the quay. The new station was the origin of the name for the village of Carbis Bay.

The Great Western Railway

The West Cornwall Railway became fully owned by the Great Western when the latter absorbed the Bristol and Exeter & the South Devon in 1878. The company was distracted by developments to the east and the west Cornwall section remained largely unchanged even through the great conversion to standard gauge in May 1892 with only the last section from Lelant to St Ives having to be altered. The now obsolete broad gauge track was gradually removed over a period of years. The line from Marazion was doubled in 1893 but not eastwards from there until 1929. The Cornish Riviera Express ran from 1904 reducing the time from Paddington to Penzance to 7 hours. A regular freight service saw Newlyn fish and daffodils, broccoli and new potatoes delivered to London fresh every day when in season. After nationalisation and through the branch closures during the 1960s the West Penwith lines remained intact with even the St Ives branch surviving after an appeal. Only Marazion station closed on 6 Dec 1965 and it is now a private house. Lelant Saltings station was added to the St Ives Bay line in 1978 to serve as a Park and Ride service. Though this has moved to St Erth, the station remains.