The South Caradon Mine Website resurrection is still on-going, although the pace has slowed. Here is another of its railway themed posts, with a touch of light editing.
The South Caradon Mine provided the core traffic for the Looe and Caradon Railway (LCR) for most of its history, and without the Railway the mine’s development would have been severely restricted. This interrelationship explains the presence of the LCR trackbed within the dressing floors of the mine. 1844 was the year that the LCR started transporting ore from South Caradon, seven years after the mine has started production.
The railway layout in the Seaton Valley
The unusual layout of the lines Within the Seaton valley came about from the historical development of the railways around Caradon Hill. The Original LCR line split at Polwrath depot, with one branch following the western slope of the valley up to the Granite quarries at Cheeswring via the Gonamena Incline. South Caradon Mine was served by the lower branch that ran to a siding at Valley floor level.
In 1861 the line was extended around the Southern slopes of Caradon Hill to Tokenbury Corner, with the siding at South Caradon becoming a headshunt for trains using that branch. The layout changed again in 1877 with the opening of the Kilmar Junction Railway, which enabled trains to reach Cheeswring around the Eastern side of the Hill, and therefore bypassing the Gonamena incline.
This Plan is based on OS Maps 1882 (Copyright reserved),site visits, interprestions of the photographs in Messenger and notes within that book.
In the view above a small office is prominent beside the railway track at the head of the ore yard. The hut is dwarfed by the reveted piles of waste rock behind it and a lone worker appears to be busy with a shovel just outside its door. It has been assumed that the building was an office associated with the ore transport and was possibly owned by the LCR rather than the mine. CAU Minions survey.
The Office Today
The remains of the office in 2001 as seen from the footpath. The foundations can be seen to the left of a patch of undergrowth with a line of fence post runnung infront. None of these fence post existed in the Victorian photograph, indicating that these originate from the period when the LCR remained open but the Mine was shut, and the headhunt remained in use to allow trains to reverse onto the Tokenbury branch.
Using the hut as a reference point it can quickly be seen how much material has been removed from the valley floor since South Caradon’s closure. The huge wall of rock had disappeared and undergrowth now grows over the ore floors
The tolls in 1877 paid by the mines to LCR varied from 5s to 5s 9d per ton.(ref messenger pp 48)
For each wagon loaded the railway would collect about £1 10s and earn approximately 5s profit. South Cardon would therefore be paying tolls of just under £30 per week and adding to the railways profits by approximately £5 weekly.
Today these figures seem small, but to place them in perspective the amount of profit made on each wagon was roughly the same as the weekly wages paid to some of the mine’s surface worker at the time.
The photograph above shows three wagons alongside the loading bank on the South Cardadon siding, The head shunt ran in front of these wagons and the ore yard can be seen behind. Dressed ore was probably delivered to the yard by the overhead tramway in the background.
The wagons shown are some of the stock bought in the early 1860’s when the line was converted to steam haulage. Smaller bottom discharging hopper wagons were used In the lines early history when the line terminated at Moorswater canal basin. These unloaded from overhead stages direct into the canal boats and only carried about 3 tons.
The wagons in the photograph were 6 ton capacity and to enable gravity working had screw brakes ( handles can be seen on the back right hand corners).These brakes enabled a guard to ride on a platform on the buffer to control the wagons descent down the gradient to Moorswater.
Parcels of ore can be seen piled up behind the wagons. This ore had been dressed ready for sale to the Copper smelters who would bid for it by a system called ticketing. Copper Ore was normally concentrated ready for selling to the point where it contained about 6.5% metal.
the parcels would be sold by a system called ticketing. At certain dates the smelters agents sampled the ore parcels and made bids by placing tickets on them. The parcel would go to the smelter with the highest bidding ticket in on the parcel. From here the parcels would go down to loow where they would be stored on the quay ore yard to wait shipment by sea to the South Wales.
Some Traffic figures to give a sense of scale
Estimated weekley traffic In wagon loads:
- Ore from South Caradon 16
- Freight Carried on LCR 99
- Maximum Ore from South Caradon 22
- South Caradon ore as a percentage of LCR Freight tonnage 17%
Estimated weekly ore traffic In wagon loads from South Caradon, by decade:
- 1840’s 12.69
- 1850’s 12.05
- 1860’s 18.58
- 1870 ‘s 19.09
- 1880’s 17.46
The above figures are based on Ore production figures published in Burt and LCR figures in Messenger with an assumed wagon size of 6 ton capacity. They only show the Copper ore traffic and do not indicate the return freight of coal,timber and machinery. Despite the limitations of the calculations they show that a couple wagons of ore a day must have left the siding for the quays at Looe, and also indicate that the mine gave provided a relatively consistent source of traffic right up to its closure.