A quick detour now mining history and steam engines into railways. And this post covers a fascinating railway, and one that provides a walking route through some of the most amazing historical industrial landscapes in Cornwall.
This railway was driven through some of the richest copper mining ground in the world. As it did it fed the
mines with the coal their hungry engines demanded, and took away the rich ore bound for the smelting furnaces of South Wales.
Taylor saw beyond the shafts and dressing floors of his mine to the supporting infrastructure. Heavy investment in this infrastructure often formed a part of John Taylor’s mining strategy. At Wheal Friendship it resulted in the Tavistock Canal, and Consolidated instigated the Redruth and Chacewater Railway.
In June 1824 the act was laid. A company was formed by John Taylor’s London associates with capital £22,500.By 1825 more then nine miles were operating. The line was 4ft gauge, and originally horse drawn. Steam was introduced in 1854.
Coal and ore was its main traffic main traffic. Its route linked the sheltered inland port of Devoran with the very heart of the Cornish copper mining district.
“The main line of this railway commences at the extensive tin works on the east side of the town of Redruth, whence it takes a south-easterly course round the mountain of Cam Marth; thence north-easterly by Carrarath to Twelve Heads, whence it takes a south-eastward course by Nangiles and Carnon Gate to Point Quay, situate on an estuary branching out of Carreg Road. Its length is nine miles, two furlongs and four chains; in the first mile and seven chains of which, to Wheel Beauchamp, there is a rise of 103 feet; from thence to its termination it is one gradual inclination with a fall of 555 feet to high-water-mark. From Carnon Gate there is a branch to Narrabo of one mile one furlong; another branch from Nangiles to Wheel Fortune of three furlongs and five chains; another from Twelve Heads to Wheel Bissey, two miles, two furlongs and five chains in length; and another from Wheel Beauchamp to Wheel Buller, of two furlongs four chains in length. The total length of main line and branches is thirteen miles, three furlongs and eight chains.”
From A Historical Account of the Navigable Rivers, Canals, and Railways, of Great Britain by Joseph Priestley 1831
Taylor achieved far more then just securing an export route for his ore with this railway, he had also won another crucial battle with his war against the William’s family. The Scorrier dynasty had secured a strangle hold over the mines in the area with their Portreath Tramway. They had pushed the limits of their near transport monopoly with their tramway, squeezing the mines has hard as they could, and given preferential treatment for their own traffic. Taylor had smashed that monopoly with this railway, his line not only served a far less weather dependent port but also was a public carrier. This latter feature resulted in fairer rates for its users. Williams profited, the local mines profited and the William’s lost out.
The line was a success, reducing costs for mine and made large profits. John retained control for the rest of his life. After 1850 son Richard took over. This was another of Taylor’s successes.
The fortunes of the Redruth and Chacewater was inevitably tide in with those of the copper mines, as the declined so the railway’s traffic. It’s death was hastened by the arrival of the GWR, and the final train ran in 1915 down to Devoran Quay. Although the line is silent today it still serves a valuable purpose. Its network of tracks that impregnated into every corner of this once rich copper district now provides cycle paths for those wishing to explore the area’s amazing industrial heritage.