The East Cornwall Mineral Railway – Part 2

The Route of the Line in Early Years

The East Cornwall Mineral Railway (ECMR) maintained a wharf on the Tamar River at Calstock which, for many years, was served by an incline. A history of the ECMR line and the later standard-gauge line are provided in the first post about the line which can be found on this link:

The adjacent image is a schematic sketch of the length of the original 3ft 6in narrow gauge line. [13]

The line’s most southerly point was in the village of Calstock where it served Calstock Quay.

In order to cope with the significant difference in levels between the River Tamar and the surrounding countryside, it was necessary for there to be a rope worked incline from Incline Station down to Calstock Quay.

Steam locomotives were used for the upper section, a stationary engine and counter-balance system for the Incline, and horses on the Quay. The Incline section was under the control of a stationary engineman, assisted by a coupling man on the Quay, a signalman at the top and a signalboy at the halfway loop. [13]

It is thought that only one major accident ever occurred, involving two runaway trucks containing granite, but this resulted in no injuries as the points were deflected allowing the trucks to end up in a field. The ECMR terminus at Williams Quay was leased by Vivian & Sons, smelters and coal dealers of Swansea. Manure for the farms and coal for the mines was brought in and ore exported. [13]

The quay continued in use long after the incline was closed. A wagon lift was provided alongside the viaduct which was completed in 1908 to allow access from Calstock Station down to the wharf.Calstock Incline ECMR From the Alan Harris Collection. Seven men and a horse have stopped work to pose. Also, note that there is a wagon on the incline. You can only see part way up the incline here – it curved around to the right and continued to climb. Lime Kilns lay off to the left as did the River Tamar. [1]The station layout at Calstock shows the standard-gauge railway crossing the viaduct in 1910 with the wagon lift in place adjacent to the viaduct. In order to ensure compatibility for wagons the track gauge on the wharf would have had to be increased from 3ft 6in to standard-gauge. [2]The above map shows the track layout on the Calstock Quay in 1905, before the construction of the new viaduct. The map is the OS Six-inch Map of 1905. [16] The adjacent map is a 25 inch OS representation of the same location in 1906. [19]The 1896 One-inch to the Mile OS Map from shows the 3ft 6in gauge railway running along the quay on the Tamar River and the Ferry which crossed north to south across the river at Calstock. Calstock was on a promontory which the River Tamar circumnavigated. The river is visible on the map both to the north and south of the village. [3]

The two One-inch to the Mile OS Map excerpts here show the full extent of the old line’s deviation from the route of the later standard-gauge railway.The incline was a just over 700 metres in length and curved away from the river as it climbed.[3]

The incline at Calstock was built in 1859 by the Tamar Coal, Manure & General Merchandise Co to bring supplies to mines on the higher ground, and to bring their products down. It was 2,310 feet (704 m) long on a gradient of 1 in 6. It was self-acting, but a stationary steam engine was provided at the top. The incline is shown on the adjacent 1905 Six-inch OS Map.

It was single track with a passing loop halfway, and a three-rail section above it (as shown on the next imagewhich is an extract from the 1906 25 inch OS Map). [8] A two wagon lift was usual, each conveying 3 tons. [4][5][6]

When the ECMR line was built, the incline was taken over by the railway company. There is evidence of realignment of the incline: the later route was higher up the hillside and reduced the sharp curve near the bottom. [6] It is likely that this was done at the time of adoption of the incline as part of the ECMR. A 14 hp (9 kW) stationary steam engine was provided by the ECMR. An electric bell system was installed for the operation of the incline, later replaced by a telephone. Two loaded or three empty wagons were moved on the incline at a time. [4]

Two bridges were still in evidence on the route of the incline in 1990. The first of these accommodated a single track lane which ran underneath the incline just to the south of the passing loop and is shown in the adjacent image, (c) Roger Winnen. [1]

The second was directly under the location of the passing loop and is shown in the next image, (c) Roger Winnen. [1]

These structures were not in good repair in 1990. I have not been able to establish their present condition in 2019!

The Incline Railway (Argall’s series postcard): the incline rises steeply to the left from the Quays of Lower Kelly, at which the boats are moored. Also visible are the Danescombe Hotel (the last building on the left), which has had various other names over the years. The lime kiln and the supporting bridge (centre) still exist. The Danescombe Valley (behind the curve in the Incline Railway) is believed to be the route taken in the 9th Century by the Danes, before their battle at Hingston Down, which resulted in Cornwall losing its independence. In the 1800s, it was exploited first by the Danescombe Mine, later by Cotehele Consols and Calstock & Danescombe Consols. [9]Calstock, River Tamar (Peacock’s Series Postcard c. 1890): This was taken before the building of the viaduct, which would be at 1 on the Calstock side. Anyone who has visited Calstock and climbed the steep flight of steps from Kelly to the station will remember them (at 2). To give another locator guide, the Rectory, Sand Lane is indicated at 3. [11]The quay at Calstock on the River Tamar (Valentine’s Series Postcard c. 1900). [11]Calstock Lower Kelly Lime kiln is shown above in 21st century. [10]

The ECMR extended the quay at Calstock, and it was 1,359 feet (414 m) long. Horses performed wagon movement on the quay. [4][7] The lime kiln in the image above was at the West end of the quay. with the incline behind it. The incline had to bridge a minor road which is shown in the adjacent image. [12] The railway crossed the road, not at the bridge but on a traingular wooden support stretching from the top left of the photo to the top right hand side of the bridge. [13]



Above, the top of the incline in 1994 including, on the left, the remains of the water tower which also accommodated the winding engine, (c) Roger Winnen [1]

The adjacent sketch from the 1950s is drawn from a vantage point a little further back from the photographer of the image above. [7]

This next image shows the watertower/winding house in 1990, (c) Roger Winnen. [1]

The image below was taken at the same time in 1990 as that of the water tower and shows the remaining storage shed, (c) Roger Winnen. [1]

The buildings pictured were all part of the site of what was known as Incline Station. The station site is shown in the map excerpt below which comes from the 25-inch OS Map of 1906. Each building is in evidence including the locomotive shed. [19]

The adjacent image is taken from the track-bed of the ECMR looking north and was taken in 1990, (c) Roger Winnen. [1]

The next picture shows the view in 2019 back South across the site of Incline Station towards the incline. It is a Google Streetview image and is taken from just to the West of the parapets of the arch bridge which carries the single-track lane over the route of the ECMR.

Below the next picture are two excerpts from the 25-inch OS Map. they show two consecutive lengths of the ECMR. The first has Incline Station at the bottom and the second takes us through Drakewalls (later Gunnislake) to the junction which served Pearson’s Quarry.Not visible on either of these two maps is the village of Albaston nor the hamlet of Drakewalls, both of which were to the West of the line.

To the Northeast of Incline Station was the first mine encountered close to the route of the ECMR – East Calstock, or Calstock Consols.

The OS Map records Calstock Consols as being primarily a copper mine. It  did also produce a small amount of tin.  It was originally known as East Calstock when it first opened in the 1820’s, then later it was renamed Calstock Consols, before closing in 1879. It is also possible that the mine produced arsenic and arsenical pyrites in the 1870s.

In 1865, this mine was recorded as employing 32 people – 27 men, 3 females and 2 boys.  The ‘females’ would probably have been ‘bal maidens’ – working above ground, on manual ore processing jobs. [18] At that time, it also had 42-inch pumping and 24-inch winding engines. [17]

The next mine encountered, Drakewalls Mine, produced mainly tin, also some copper, wolfram, arsenic, molybdenum, lead, & silver, originally from a long “gunnis” or open cutting. Hence the later name of the station near the mine which was named after the village of Gunnislake. The mine was worked from the 11th Century to 1905 (also 1909-10), with periods of closure. [20]The image above is taken looking back down the line of the ECMR towards Incline Station, the picture comes from Google Streetview.

The adjacent satellite image  shows the remaining length of the ECMR before its track-bed joins the modern branch-line to Gunnislake.

Drakewalls Mine produced mainly tin, also some copper, wolfram, arsenic, molybdenum, lead, & silver, originally from a long “gunnis” or open cutting. Hence the later name of the station near the mine – Gunnislake. The mine was worked from the 11th Century to 1905 (also 1909-10), with periods of closure. [20]

The mine was sited close to the ECMR to the East of the present village of Drakewalls.

The sketch of the mine below was produced in 1938 and included in a book by D.B. Barton. [17]

He says of this mine that in the 1860s and very early 1870s: “Drakewalls sold £218,000 worth of black tin in seventeen years without sinking the mine so much as a fathom.” [17, p67] At that time it would have been one of the more profitable ventures in the area.

The following photograph was taken in the early part of the 21st Century and shows the derelict buildings of the mine.The route of the ECMR is shown above in the left half of the sketch map. Caltock Consols, Drakewalls are also shown along the route of the line. [17]The newly constructed Gunnislake Station in 1994. The picture is taken from the A390, (c) Roger Winnen. [1]The picture above is a Google Streetview image, taken looking North, of the end of the modern branch-line at Gunnislake, just before the old track-bed reached the modern A390 which is in the trees ahead.

The adjacent map shows the A390 and the junction with the West of England siding to Pearson’s Quarry. [19] The next road to cross the old line is now called Station Road and can be seen on the adjacent map just to the north of the branch to Pearson’s Quarry. The bridge appears below.Station Road bridge had sheet metal parapets. It sat just north of the junction with a branch-line to Pearson’s Quarry which headed off beyond the trees on the right of this Google Streetview image.

What is today known as Pearson’s quarry opened in 1808. It was advertised for sale in 1826. Edward Storey took over the quarry in 1880 from the Gunnislake Granite Co. He erected buildings for polishing and dressing the granite. The stone was mostly excavated by hand as the quarry was close to the houses and they had to be very careful when blasting. One man would hold a hand drill known as a ‘jumper’ whilst two others would hit it alternately with a sledgehammer. [21]

In a day, a skilled worker could cut ten feet of kerbstone from rough granite weighing nearly a ton or fashion 70 to 80 paving stones. In its heyday the quarry employed 700 people. The quarry yielded hard fine-grained granite which was used in Devonport Dockyard and the fortifications around Plymouth. The quarry closed in 1896 but soon reopened in 1898 when it was taken over by S. Pearson & Son. They supplied stone for the breakwater in Dover. It was Pearson &Son that built the railway branch to connect with the East Cornwall Mineral Railway and had a quay at the bottom of the incline in Calstock so that the stone could be transported on the Tamar. The locomotive ‘Ada’ was purchased from the Calstock viaduct contractors. There were lots of sidings in the quarry including one which crossed the main opening on two granite pillars and led to a small quarry to the south known as Hardwall Quarry which was worked by Thomas Westlake between 1896 and 1902. [21]

Pearson’s employed 200 men, though there were 175 when the quarry closed in 1907. The quarry was nearly a quarter of a mile wide and 150 feet deep in places. [21]

The 25-inch OS Map of 1906 shows Pearson’s Quarry close up against the village of Gunnislake. [16]The Lake on the modern satellite image above locates Pearson’s Quarry close to the village of Gunnislake. The route of ECMR is shown in red. The route of the branch-line is shown in Green.

North of the junction with thee branch-line and beyond Station Road bridge there was a siding which gave access to Sandhill Brickworks. It was a single track, gated s-ding as shown on the enlarged view of the 25-inch OS Map from 1906. The works was already disused at the time the map was drawn.

To the North and West the railway crossed the fields first on an embankment and then in cutting, as shown by the red line on the adjacent satellite image from 2019.

The next map excerpt from the 25-inch OS Map shows the route of the line in 1906.  As it passes Greenhill Arsenic Works two branches leave the line to the North and East. The first fed Plymouth Works in North Dimson and is seen in full on the 25-inch map below. The second was a tramway which served Gunnislake Clitters Mine.The Greenhill Works was a combined Arsenic, Brick and Chemical Works. It  was built in 1875 closing very soon after due to financial difficulties. However it was taken over in 1882 by Gunnislake Clitters mine. At the beginning of the 20th Century it was treating ore from several local mines including the Tavistock mines. The date of closure is uncertain but it is believed to be 1823 but other sources say the plant was still at work until the 1930’s. The site remains are quite extensive with some abandoned buildings and blackened burnt tailings between the railway and the Chilsworthy road at North Dimson, Gunnislake (opposite the Clitters Engine Houses). Further along the Chilsworthy road up on the right are some old building in use as industrial premises and most of all the Arsenic stack (flues mostly gone) which stands at just under 200 ft tall, originally this was 212 ft tall but the top 12 feet were blown off by lightening in 1989! [23]Greenhill Arsenic and Brick Works in December 2010 are shown above in a Google Streetview image. The main chimney at the works, shown in the adjacent image taken at around the same time was hit by lightning in 1989.

In 1839, the Plymouth Brickworks was recorded as being in existence at Lower Dimson. [24] Those works are shown disused on the 25-inch OS Map from 1906 but all of the industrial structures seem to have remained in place at that time. [16] The satellite image from 2019 shows a much changed situation. The group of hoses on the left of the map still remain, as does the large building on the inside of the curve of the track. Little else is visible.

The next ‘branch’ was that serving Gunnislake Clitters. it is marked on the 25-inch map above as a Tramway and can be picked out on the West (left-hand) side of the map excerpt.

Gunnislake Clitters Mine was a large copper mine near Gunnislake. Its layout was as shown on the adjacent 25-inch OS Map from 1906. [1]

The mine sett was leased from the mineral owners the Duke of Cornwall and the Rev. H. W. Bedford. Spargo in his book The Mines of Cornwall; Statistics and Observations (1865) [25] says that it had a 40-inch pumping engine, a 30-inch winding engine and a 30-inch stamps engine as well as a 40-foot waterwheel used for pumping. It employed 192 people. [26] Inclined tramways carried materials to and from the mill. [27]

The engine house is depicted in the adjacent photo in the early 21st Century, (c) Brian J Williams. [27]

Although Gunnislake Clitters opened in 1820, the main period of production was between 1860 and 1890. Production: 40 tons of copper ore between 1822 and 1827. For the periods 1860-69 and 1902-94 the mine produced 33,310 tons of 8.25% copper ore and 510 tons of black tin. [26] in this period, the main dressing floor was linked to the lower slope dressing floor and arsenic works by a tramway, part of which survives. [27]The engine house and chimney of Gunnislake Clitters Mine hiding among the trees in the 21st Century. [28]Apart from the two North South links to the mine from the ECMR and from Bitthams Lane, there was a network of lines around the main built up site of the mine and a tramway running East to West  alongside the River Tamar and linking two other shafts with the main buildings. [1]

To the West of the tramway to Gunnislake Clitters Mine, the ECMR passed under the Latchley and Chisworthy road. The metal bridge parapets can be seen in the Google Streetview photograph below.The black arrow shows the location of the picture immediately above the map. From this point West the road and old railway route run roughly parallel across the north flank of Hingston Down. [1]

The village of Chilsworthy is very close to the old line, just to the North. The road overbridge at the west (left) end of the map excerpt  was immediately adjacent to the small halt that served the village.

The Halt was originally a single platform with a small shelter on the Up side of the single line, situated just west of the over-bridge, but in later years there were also a number of sidings in close proximity. The halt was closed on 5th November 1966. The adjacent photo shows that the platform was still in existence in 2003. The access path to the halt from the adjacent road now forms part of a public footpath. [29]

A narrow road to Latchley drops away from the Delaware Road above the line and originally ducked under the line via a bridge with stone abutments and a steel span. Only the abutments remain.The photograph above looks back along the line at Hingston Down Farm. There was a halt here when the line was active and single short siding alongside the house. The Halt was called Latchley after the nearby village. The location is shown on the 25-inch OS Map in the adjacent image.

Latchkey Halt had a single platform on the Down side of the running line, which was recorded in 1908 as being 220′ long. Immediately west of the platform the railway crossed the minor road from which the modern pictures are taken by an un-gated level-crossing. There was a siding on the Up side opposite the platform, which was accessed by a connection facing to Down trains at the Gunnislake end of the station. A small loading platform was located between the main line and siding in front of the main platform and opposite this again outside the siding was the stationmaster’s house and ex-ECMR goods shed. The siding was removed at some unknown date after 1950 and the station itself was closed on 5th November 1966. The station house and track-bed are now in private ownership. [29] The next image looks West from the same lane.The next places of interest on the 25-inch OS Map from 1906 are shown below. [1] The Tamar Works were operational in 1906, the Phoenix Works were closed at that time.The Tamar Works site is now a static caravan park (Tamar Park). The Phoenix Works has completely disappeared but the quarry at rail-side just beyond the works can still be seen on satellite images.Looking back along the line to the East.The Phoenix Works would have abutted the railway fence on the right-hand side of the image. The was a short siding at this location. The Halt was known as Seven Stones Halt. It was just a simple platform on the Down side, which was opened in 1910 in order to serve the nearby Phoenix Pleasure Grounds. Sometimes it is referred to as Phoenix Mines Halt after the nearby mines, whose owners contributed to its cost. The halt was closed when the Pleasure Grounds shut during World War I, the date being given variously as 1914 or 1917. A later plan records the platform as being 140′ long. Part of the platform still remained in 2003 over 85 years since it was last used by passengers! Immediately west of the platform the railway crossed the minor road from which these two pictures are taken by an un-gated level-crossing. [29]The same Halt in 1950 looking from the West. [30] Looking ahead along the line to the West from the same position.The route of the line turns to the Northwest and passes to the North of Monkscross.The hamlet of Monkscross was served by the station which can be seen on the 25-inch map above. Very early in the life of the line the station was known as Monks Corner. It was later known as Stoke Climsland and eventually as Luckett after the village some distance to the North and close to the River Tamar. The station had a 225′ platform on the Down side and a loop siding opposite it on the Up side, with connections to the main line at both ends of the station, (although this does not appear to be the case on the 25-inch OS Map above). Immediately to the west of the station the line was crossed by the minor road from which the following pictures are taken, on a girder over-bridge. There was a further siding on the Down side at the Gunnislake end of the platform, with a connection that faced Up trains, and apparently this siding boasted a carriage shed for some years. There was originally a small ground-level signal-box here on the Up side at the Callington end of the loop, but in 1923 this was reduced to a ground-frame. A separate small ground-frame worked the Gunnislake end of the loop siding. The carriage siding was taken out of use on 31st March 1923. The loop siding was taken out of use on 23rd September 1962 and the station itself was closed on 5th November 1966. The station house and track-bed are now in private ownership. [29]Luckett Station from the road over-bridge, a Google Streetview image.The road over-bridge is shown above with the station off to the right of the picture. The railway line was in cutting to the West and that cutting has been filled in.

The adjacent satellite image shows the station site in the early 21st century.

Beyond Monkscross the line curved gently round to a South-westerly direction and passed the Kit Hill Quarry Tramway shown below. [1]The Quarry was served by an incline from a small exchange facility next to the main line which consisted of a single siding off which branched the tramway incline.

The incline was of a similar design to that at Calstock with a single track bottom section, a passing loop and then a three-rail section covering the top half of the climb.

These three 25-inch OS Map excerpts from 1906 show the full length of the inclined plane.

The fourth map excerpt shows the track layout at the quarry in 1906.

Below the maps are a series of monochrome photographs the first two of these show the incline when it was in use. The remainder show the rolling stock in use on the Kit Hill Incline. [31]

Included below are two more up-to-date images of the incline as it appears in the 21st Century.

The ECMR continued beyond the Kit Hill Incline as far as Kellybray. A 25-inch OS Map excerpt, below the colour photos of the incline, shows the remainder of the ECMR before the line was extended and the gauge was widened in the early years of the 20th Century.

For the remaining run to Kellybray, the line travelled in a generally Southwesterly direction to the terminus. After a short stretch at I in 45 the line terminated close by Kelly Bray Mine, north of Callington. The original intention had been to extend the metals to the latter town but this was never done. The steepest gradient, above Gunnislake, was I in 50 and the usual practice in either direction was to make two journeys with a few wagons up the heavier grades as far as Monk’s Corner and there combine these for the easier run down to either Kelly Bray or Kelly Yard. [17, Appendix 2]









Wagons in use on Kit Hill Incline. [31]




The top of the incline, (c) Tony Atkin. [32]The view from the top. [33]25-inch OS Map excerpt showing the remaining length of the ECMR. [17]

During the 1820s and 1830s a significant capital investment enabled the development of tin copper and lead mines in the area around Kelly Bray. In 1843, the mine at Kelly Bray amalgamated with the neighbouring mines of Holmbush and Redmoor to form the Callington Mining Company employing a workforce of over 250 people. The mining activity around Kelly Bray continued until 1946. [34]Holmbush Mine, lies just north of the village of Kelly Bray, to the northwest of Kit Hill in the Callington Mining District of East Cornwall. The mine was known to have been at work from at least 1845 and produced lead and silver as well as copper ore. Over the years it has been known by several names: In 1868 it was known as Holmbush & Kelly Bray United and in 1877 as Holmbush Mining Co. Ltd. Between 1888 and 1893, Holmbush Mine was amalgamated with Kelly Bray and Redmoor Mines to form Callington United Mines. It was abandoned in 1893. [35]

Kelly Bray and Redmoor Mines mainly worked lodes of tin, copper, and arsenic. The mines opened in the eighteenth century and closed by 1888. Kelly Bray, Redmoor, Holmbush were usually worked together, Redmoor and Kelly Bray Mine made up Emmens United. The group also included at times South Kelly Bray, West Holmbush,and East Holmbush. Between 1888 and 1893, Holmbush Mine was amalgamated with Kelly Bray and Redmoor Mines to form Callington United Mines. Redmoor re-opened briefly between 1907 and 1914 and in 1934 and 1943. [36]

Thomas Spargo, the mining historian, in his book of 1865, ‘The Mines of Cornwall and Devon: Statistics and Observations’ writes that Kelly Bray Mine was ‘… in the parish of Callington, Cornwall, in 5,000 shares, commenced in 1845. The Purser and Manager is Captain George Rowe, of Wheal Edward. Secretary, Mr. Edward King, London. Rock, clay-slate. 39 men, 4 females, and 4 boys employed (total 47). Mineral Owner, Duke of Cornwall. Dues, 1-30th. Depth of adit, 27 fathoms. Under adit, 135 fathoms. Pumping-engine, 60-inch. Winding-engine, 18-inch. Crushing-engine, 36-inch. Water-wheel, stamping, of 35 feet diameter. Minerals sold in 1864: Copper ore for £1,694 15s 9d and Arsenic for £20 0s 0d making a total of £1,714 15s 9d. The expenditure over receipts, from the beginning, amounts to about £20,000; in the year 1864, to about £1,200′ [25].These parallel images show Kelly Bray towards the bottom of the images and Holmbush Mine towards the top. [37]The site of Holmbush Mine in the early 21st Century above, and in 1906 on the adjacent map. [37]

The comparative map and modern satellite image below show the village of Kellybray. [37]

A closer view of the map follows the parallel images. It shows the railway terminus and the Kellybray Mine. [37]This final parallel image shows the site of the Redmoor mine just to the Southwest of Kellybray. [37]


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  5. C R Clinker; The East Cornwall Mineral Railway; in The Railway Magazine, May 1951, p291-295, 306-307.
  6. Martin Bodman; Inclined Planes in the West; Twelveheads Press, Chacewater, 2012.
  7. Roger Crombleholme, Douglas Stuckey and C F D Whetmath, Callington Railways, Branch Line Handbooks, Teddington, 1967.
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  17. D.B.Barton; A Historical Survey of the Mines and Mineral Railways of East Cornwall and West Devon; D. Bradford Barton Ltd, Truro,  Second Edition, 1971.
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Appendix 1 – The Railway Magazine – October 1912

One of the prettiest railways around Plymouth is the line of the Plymouth, Devonport and South Western Junction Company, which runs from Bere Alston station to Callington. Originally it was a narrow gauge mineral railway, constructed for the purpose of carrying minerals and stone from the various mines and quarries from Callington and district to Calstock Quay. It was bought by the Company, and worked by them for several years as a mineral line, the ultimate object being to connect it with their main line at Bere Alston, which is being worked as a part of the London and South Western Railway system. In 1908 the Plymouth and Devonport Company re-modeled the mineral line, substituting modern appliances for the old, and converting it into a standard gauge railway. They also built a costly viaduct over the river Tamar, and cut a new line from Calstock to Bere Alston station.

The rolling stock consists of 5 locomotives, 4 first-class saloons, 12 third-class coaches and “compo.” brakes, and 52 goods vehicles. Opened for traffic on March 2, 1908, the line runs through some of the most beautiful scenery in the West. There are no sulphurous tunnels, and one need not be afraid to look out of the carriage windows to admire the beauties of the district, or to inhale the fresh air from the neighbouring hills.

Two 0-6-2 tank engines, the Earl of Mount Edgcumbe and Lord St. Levan, have been doing some fine work over this small line. Some of the gradients are 1 in 38 and several of the curves are of 6 chain radius. The Tamar river is crossed by means of a fine concrete viaduct, and Calstock station is on the western side. On the viaduct a wagon lift, worked by steam, has been erected for lifting loaded and empty wagons from Calstock Quay to the running roads. The capacity of this lift is 16 tons, and the height from the quay to rail level is 110 ft.

A break of journey at Calstock will enable any persons interested in railway appliances to inspect the lift. Calstock, a small town situate on the Cornish banks of the Tamar, is somewhat unique as a parish in this part of the county. Its river scenery is unsurpassed, and unusually variegated. From the time it skirts the parish below the rural and picturesque Horse Bridge to its passage past Cotehele, we have here well wooded and gentle slopes, there beetling crags rising hundreds of feet; then a village nestling amidst rich orchards and fertile gardens; and next an island, small, but like a gem set in the silvery waters. From the tortuous river the ground rises like a series of terraces to Hingston Down, one of the numerous moors running through Cornwall. This has its natural crown and gloryin Kit Hill the highest point in the neighbour­hood, whence may be seen such widely different points of the compass as Caradon, Windmill (in Launceston) the tors of Dartmoor, and Saltash railway bridge. The main road which leads to Callington is 700 ft. high, and from it the sea to the south by day and the revolving lights of Eddystone by night are clearly dis­cernible.

After leaving Calstock, the line begins a climb of 400 ft. to Gunnislake station, winding in and out curves of 6 chain radius. If seated in a rear carriage, a passenger can often see the 0-6-2 tank engine toiling with might and main on her way up the grade of 1 in 38 round some sharp curve.The above picture is a typical illustration of one of these curves.

Readers will note the check rail, and the fact that the line is literally cut from the side of the hill. After leaving Gunnislake, still climbing, we get fine views of Brent Tor, Latchley, and the Tamar meandering through the valley hundreds of feet below. Passing along, we come to Luckett station, where the summit of Kit Hill is within easy distance. Here we find a smart and trim lady station mistress, who, single handed, attend, to passenger, parcels and goods traffic, and is responsible for signals. Kit Hill, famous as the highest land in the district, except Caradon Hill, is at an altitude of 1,067 ft. above sea level. Situate about 1½ miles from CallingtonTown, it forms the summit of Hingston Down, whereon are seen a mine stack and buildings, as well as the remains of a large encampment, still marking the scene of a terrible battle fought centuries ago.

The remarkable pile of stones called the “Cheesewring” or “Wringcheese” — so named because they rest upon each other in cheese fashion—is situate on the common called Stowes. Comprising a large mass of granite rock 22 ft. high, these stones over- hang their base so much that the wonder. is how they remain in position. Ten in number, the stones are at the broadest place on the top about 34 ft. diameter, and at the narrowest part of the base about 17 ft. This place is an object of great interest to the tourist, and a natural curiosity. Within a mile to the northward of the Cheesewring, stands another extraordinary assemblage of rocks, termed, owing to their conical arrangement, “SharpPointTor.” The elevation is 1,200 ft. above the sea and the panoramic scenery is very fine. This, with Kilmer, is the highest point in the district of East Cornwall. Tourist and Excursion tickets are issued from all the principal stations on the London and South Western Railway to any station on the Plymouth, Devonport and. South Western Junction Railway, and the line is becoming exceedingly popular for school pleasure parties, extensive accommodation being made at the various grounds on the system.

Appendix 2 – D.B. Barton; A Historical Survey of the Mines and Mineral Railways of East Cornwall and West Devon; D. Bradford Barton Ltd., Truro Cornwall, Second Edition, 1971, p56-66.

Of the many, chiefly small mines in the immediate vicinity of the granite intrusion of Kit Hill, the most important and extensive were the formerly rich workings centred on Kelly Bray, due north of Callington.

The oldest of the mines here was Holmbush, whose massive burrows stand immediately beside the Stoke Climsland road, almost hiding from view a group of three surviving engine-houses. The first plans of the mine are dated 1796 and considerable quantities of copper had been raised by 1826 when 45-inch and 36-inch pumping engines, together with several horse-whims, were sold by auction from East and West Holmbush respectively. The former lay in the valley below the main workings, where a large engine-house still stands. The mine was re-started by a London company in the early 1830’s and by 1844 was 110 fathoms deep, employing over 100 men and boys underground, with the same number at surface. Two 50-inch pumping engines and two steam whims had been installed and for short periods in 1850 steam was raised for one of these 50-inch engines by using turf as a fuel instead of coal. In addition to copper, considerable quantities of lead were produced from a N—S lode intersecting the sett and the profits in the six years prior to 1844 had totalled £39,000. The neighbouring Redmoor Mine, south of Kelly Bray in the angle formed by the Linkinhorne and Stoke Climsland roads, also at this time had 50-inch and 60-inch engines, several water-wheels and a small steam whim. This latter was a non-condensing ‘puffer’ whim with horizontal locomotive-type boiler and with its noise and clouds of steam whilst working attracted considerable local attention. In 1851 blocks of copper and lead ore weighing 30 and 25cwt respectively were raised from the mine for display at the Great Exhibition in London. To raise these the whim kibble was dispensed with and the winding chain fastened round the ore.

Between these two concerns lay Kelly Bray Mine, which although shallower and less extensive, employed 118 persons in 1858 and at its richest period in the 1860’s had three engines. At one time it was worked with Holmbush as the Callington Mines Company and the two had again been combined by 1870 in an attempt to weather the copper slump. Some 250 people were then employed but the following year the engines (70-inch pumping: 18-inch whim) were for sale and the mines standing idle. This left only Redmoor active and that on a small scale. In 1876 a new company started Holmbush for the mispickel (arsenical pyrite) left unworked in earlier years and the following year almost 10.000 tons of this were raised. To obviate the low price offered by the limited number of companies who would purchase mispickel, the company considered establishing their own arsenic works at this time but the capital available was barely sufficient for developing the mine, let alone any form of expansion, and working was again suspended in 1879. Another working by the New Holmbush Mining Co. Ltd. commenced in April 1880, followed by the re-starting of Redmoor twelve months later. At the latter, then 125 fathoms deep, 80-inch pumping, and 30-inch whim engines were installed. The mispickel produced was sent via the East Cornwall Mineral Railway to the Greenhill Works at Gunnislake, which the mining company then owned. By 1884 Holmbush was drained to the bottom (175) level and three rock-drills had been installed. In that year the company sold 1103 tons of refined arsenic. then worth about £9 per ton. The following year the ‘make’ had increased to 1748 tons, as well as 2756 tons of copper ore sold from the mine. In 1887 the company went into liquidation and all three mines were taken up the following year, re-styled Callington United Mines, with two 80-inch engines to cope with the pumping. This final working for tin and arsenic was also destined to be short-lived, with the company failing from inadequate capital and other causes in 1892. Since then, intermittent development work has been carried out from 1907-14, in the 1930’s and as recently as 1941-43.

North of Kit Hill, in Luckett village close by the Tamar, is New Consols, a mine with a long but largely unsuccessful history of intermittent working, bedevilied by complex ores which defied payable treatment. In 1884, as Wheal Martha, the mine was restarted for copper, having been worked earlier for tin to shallow depth. Pumpingand hauling was done by three water-wheels, of 40-feet, 34-feet and 30-feet diameter, and a 60-inch and 32-inch combined engine. The mine attracted some attention in the late 1840’s from the claim that the main Devon Great Consols lode ran westward through the sett but this was merely a ruse to try and secure further capital to continue the working, which ceased in 1848 as a result of the financial depression. A new company took up the mine in 1859 and added a 50-inch engine to replace the pumping water-wheel. Six years later 190 persons were employed but a loss had been made on the working as a result of the difficulty and expense of dressing the ore. This contained not only tin and copper, but considerable amounts of arsenic, wolfram, silver and lead. In the late 1860s before the company abandoned the mine it was proposed to sell ore just as raised to surface to a chemical works for treatment, and at least one cargo of 200 tons was sold to a Newcastle company in this way.

Early in the 1870’s another company was formed to take over the mine. re-named New Consols. and to establish on it a works in which a new chemical method of metal extraction would enable the ores to be dealt with. A vast amount of capital was spent on re-opening the mine, then 112 fathoms deep, and on new surface equipment. Little if any profit had been given in the earlier workings but notwithstanding this New Consols was boastfully said to be going to outshine and outlast even the treat Dolcoath herself. Two pumping engines of 80-inch and 50-inch were installed, together with a 50-feet x 4-feet 6-inch water-wheel for additional pumping: a 24-inch steam whim. two other water-wheel whims, and several horse-whims: a 36-inch engine operating 36 head of stamps: a 28-inch crusher, plus a smaller 12-inch crusher which also powered the mine’s sawmill. Large dressing floors were laid out, with no less than seven calciners and ten reverberatory furnaces, together with over a mile of flues and arsenic chambers. A great ‘tank-house’ was also erected, in which the lixiviation and precipitation processes were carried on. These. briefly described, consisted of rapid leaching of the ores by steam-heated water after a preliminary roasting to remove the arsenic. Thereafter the liquid passed to copper precipitation tanks and the solid residue was sent to the stamps for its tin content.

When all the mine and auxiliary buildings had been finished it was said that there was more masonry in Luckett than in Callington Itself. The company was using 400 tons of coal a month and it was proposed to lay in an inclined tram-road from Monk’s Corner on the East Cornwall Mineral line, then being constructed. In the village itself the company erected a large boarding-house to accommodate fifty miners, an earlier proposal having been to build thirty cottages for the same purpose. When major arsenic production started in 1872, the fumes did considerable damage to the adjoining fields and, it was claimed, to the local inhabitants as well, and as a result the mine was all but stopped for a time by an injunction on this account.Derelict steam whim, New Consols, 1930

Thereafter the arsenic flue was extended up the hill-side halfway to Monk’s Corner, one of the two stacks where this terminated still standing there beside the road. Despite the colossal outlay on equipment at surface, only 180 persons were employed and little work was being done underground. The result was a foregone conclusion and the company went into liquidation in 1877, leaving heavy debts. In this working Wheal Sheba, at the head of the Luckett valley west of New Consols, had also been taken up as part of the concern. This smaller mine, 73 fathoms deep, had also been known as Great Sheba Consols and as West Wheal Martha. At first it was worked primarily by water power, and being on the same run of lodes as New Consuls, suffered from similar troubles in dressing such complex ores.

In the first World War the extensive Nov Consols dumps were worked over and taken to Gunnislake Clitters for re-treatment. Then in 1947, after being idle for almost seventy years. underground work was again re-started in the mine. The water was cleared by submersible electric pumps driven by diesel generators, and twenty head of Californian stamps erected, with a connecting aerial ropeway. At one stage over 160 men were employed and the mine was officially opened in September 1949. A sum approaching £200,000 had been put into the company, largely provided by an American concern, but the working – described as a large-scale prospect – was a failure and had ended by 1954 with very little ore sold. Once again Luckett reverted to its old quietude, and the village forms today an interesting outpost of former industrialism as well as something of a graveyard of speculative mining hopes.

Kit Hill itself has been the scene of much sporadic underground activity, although mining there has never been successful on any large scale. Kit Hill Mine was re-started close to the summit of the hill in 1855 and was also known as Kithill United in 1859 when a 32-inch engine had been put in. After having been idle for some time the sett was taken up in 1881 with the intention of sinking the existing engine shaft to a junction with a tunnel driven south under Kit Hill from Deer Park Wood. This latter had been started in 1877 by Kit Hill Tunnel Ltd., in the hopes of laying open two or three ‘champion’ lodes amongst the score or more that would be cut in its two mile length from north to south. The company also hoped for royalties as a result of use of the tunnel as an adit and haulage level by mines connecting with it—in similar fashion to the celebrated Sutro Tunnel then approaching completion in Nevada to assist in working the Comstock lode. The new company of 1881, as Kithill Great Consols. sank their engine shaft to 112 fathoms with the aid of a 30-inch rotary engine built by Messrs. Nicholls Williams. At the same time they re-started work in the tunnel with two Robey 16-inch semi-portable engines. Measuring eight feet square, it was driven for most of its distance in granite and proved quite dry. Progress however was both slow and expensive despite the use of rock-boring machines. The ultimate intention was to lay a double line of tram-road operated by an endless wire-rope, but the work had come to a standstill before May 1885 when the company was wound up. Re-named the Excelsior Tunnel, driving was subsequently resumed on more than one occasion but only one good bunch of ore was ever encountered, yielding some £15,000 of tin in 1902-03. By 1911 it had still only been driven 350 fathoms, less than half the distance to the bottom of Kithill Engine Shaft. This has recently [before 1971] been the site of underground test explosions carried out in connection with Government research. Another similar tunnel has been driven almost half a mile into the southern side of Kit Hill, this being the other portal at which the original tunnel company also commenced operations in 1877.The eighty-five foot high stack that crowns the hill and forms such a conspicuous landmark in East Cornwall is a relic of Kit Hill Mine. The boiler and engine-houses which flanked it still retained their roofs until after 1905 and the walls remained standing until about 1928, in which year the access road to the summit was opened to the public. The square pedestal base and lipped top of the stack are thought to have been ornamental features stipulated by the Duchy of Cornwall at the time of building in order that the structure might assume the appearance of a monument. It is now preserved by the Duchy, the top of the bore being sealed by concrete to keep the structure water-tight.The small East Kithill Mine was worked with Kithill United at one time, the tin-stone from Kithill Mine being stamped and dressed here in a period of activity after 1900. During the war, output from a considerable amount of surface prospecting and adit driving on the slopes of the hill was conveyed to Hingston Down by an aerial ropeway. This was 2½-miles long, on the monocable system, with a capacity of 15-20 tons per hour and worked by four men and four boys. The Duchy of Cornwall, working these mines during this period, employed considerable numbers, with 70 surface and 100 underground workers in 1918. South Kithill was another small tin mine, situated on the southern slope of the hill, and sunk to a depth of 52 fathoms in the main period of activity from 1870 to 1883.

South of the main road several other small mines have been worked, primarily for silver-lead. Amongst these were Wheal Duchy and Wheal Langford. The former exploited a small but at times rich lode, opened about 1810. After being idle for some thirteen years it was re-started in 1833 as Wheal Brothers, some ore then having such a high silver content that it sold for as much as £500 a ton. The normal output of the mine at this period however sold for £30-£50 a ton, its brief riches being responsible for the starting of Wheal Sisters in the same year on the eastern part of the lode. Wheal Langford had been started as Wheal St. Vincent early in the same century for silver-lead, and closed down in 1824. In 1833 it was then re-worked for a few years as East Cornwall Silver Mines. In 1848 the mine was re-christened Wheal Langford and later again, New Langford, but the mine has never been very extensive, producing small amounts of lead, zinc, silver, copper, and manganese ores. Maximum depth attained in the successive workings was 40 fathoms below adit (10 fathoms from surface). Nearby, Wheal Newton was equally as rich as Wheal Duchy at one brief period in the 1870s, when over £1,000 worth of true silver ores was broken in one twenty four hour period. This was part of the old Harrowbarrow Mine which had also been worked with adjoining setts under the name of Calstock United but the total depth attained was only 60 fathoms below adit.

A short distance farther east Prince of Wales Mine was re-started in 1861 in an area of ground that had been worked for tin and copper in a small way under a variety of names, to adit level (42 fathoms) or a little below. Working at first was aided only by a water-wheel but in 1864 when the shaft came into good ore ground at the 45 fathom level it was decided to erect an engine. By 1870 the mine was 75 fathoms deep and employed 120 persons. Some tin was then being returned and the following year stamps and other dressing machinery were erected but a few years later working was temporarily suspended, due to the existing small 25-inch engine which proved unable to keep the mine in fork. In 1879 a new company put in a50-inch engine and sinking re-commenced. The depth then was 90 fathoms and the mine came into tin at 102 fathoms depth, with the ground continuing tolerably rich as sinking continued. In 188, a second-hand engine and 36 head of stamps were put in and at this time the mine was also with a 24-inch steam whim. Two years later 148 were employed and in 1892 the company was re-constituted  to limite liability in a vain endeavour to secure more working capital. After a short period of suspension during the worst of the tin depression a new company took up the mine and working continued until the outbreak of war, the depth of the mine at abandonment being 193 fathoms. On the summit of the ridge, north of the A390 road, lay Hingston Down Consols, the main working of which commenced in 1846 for copper, the granite of Kingston Down having, been the scene of t mining activity as early as the seventeenth century. In 1850, rich copper was encountered at the 35 fathom level and considerable amounts of ore were sold throughout the rest of the decade. In 1864, the mine employed 225 persons, a number that had declined to 180 by 1876. Two years later the main workings, then 172 fathoms deep, were allowed to fill with water, with the machinery left in situ in the hopes of re-working in better times. Meantime, attention was turned to the western part of the sett and activity continued here on a small scale until 1885, when the company was wound up and all the materials sold off. In 1910 the sett was taken over by Clitters United, which in the next four years treated the Hingston dumps as well as those of the old Greenhill Works. From 1905 onwards, Hingston itself was re-opened and a set of stamps was installed, driven by an engine that had formerly worked on Devon Great Consols. The company. however experienced continual trouble with other second-hand machinery and with the crookedness of the main shaft, and the mine again closed in 1908.

These mines on the slopes of Kit Hill and Hingston Down weighed and sampled their ores at Calstock, where extensive wharves had been built to carry on this trade, as well as the import of coal and timber for mining purposes. By the 1860s this traffic had grown so much that a railway was projected to serve the district. As the Tamar, Kit Hill and Callington Railway, this issued its prospectus in January 1864. With a capital of £60,000, it was proposed to take over Kelly Quay at Calstock with its engine-works, stores, limekilns etc. owned by the Tamar Coal, Manure and General Mercantile Company. Five of the new directors were the proprietors of this latter company, which was already operating an inclined tramroad at Kelly Quay for hauling coal up the steep valley side from the river. Construction of the line started in 1864 and by August the earthworks were completed for over half the distance to Callington. 250 men were employed on this work and 600 tons of rails had been landed at Calstock ready for laying. The line however was only partially completed and a further Act was passed in 1866, by which date a portion of the line was in use — probably as far as Gunnislake Clitters. Two years later yet another Act was obtained, under the name of the Calstock and Callington Railway, before construction was finally completed. After a change of name to the East Cornwall Mineral Railway in the interim, the official opening came in May 1872.

Seven and a half miles long and built to 3-feet 6-inches gauge, the line commenced at the eastern end of Caistock’s river frontage, at Williams’ Quay, leased as ore and coal yards by Messrs. Vivian & Sons, the Swansea smelters and coal factors. Calstock was then a busy port, with steam paddle tugs bringing up three or four barges or sea-going schooners on every tide, and with regular steam packet services to Plymouth and London, and after the opening of the railway management of the port passed entirely to the E.C.M.R The other chief wharves were Steam Boat Quay, Vosper’s Quay. and Kelly Quay. with a total length of some five hundred yards, plus various timber ponds. Horses were used to move wagons on these wharves, the two diminutive four-coupled saddle tanks, purchased by the company from Neilson & Co. of Glasgow, being used solely on the main section above the incline. This started its steep climb, at approximately one in six. at the western end of Kelly Quay, being single line with a passing loop midway. Working was by counterbalance assisted by a semi-portable steam engine, with two loaded wagons upward or downward at a time, each carrying three tons, or with three empties. At the head of the incline—at what was variously known as Kelly, Kelly Rock or Kelly Yard—the locomotives were housed, the site being close beside the surface buildings of Calstock Consols. The line thence ran successively past Drakewalls Mine, the Gunnislake quarries, Greenhill Works. and Gunnislake Clitters Mine, all of which had sidings, or in the case of the latter an inclined tramway; thence along the northern flank of Hingston Down—which at this date was largely unenclosed waste—to below Kit Hill where another inclined tramway connected with the granite quarries. Sidings were also provided at Monk’s Corner to serve Luckett and after a short stretch at I in 45 the line terminated close by Kelly Bray Mine, north of Callington. The original intention had been to extend the metals to the latter town but this was never done. The steepest gradient, above Gunnislake, was I in 50 and the usual practice in either direction was to make two journeys with a few wagons up the heavier grades as far as Monk’s Corner and there combine these for the easier run down to either Kelly Bray or Kelly Yard. Granite proved an important source of traffic but coal and ore were the chief sources of revenue before the mining depression came.

In 1876, a branch line was proposed from Kelly Yard eastward across a viaduct over the Tamar at Gawton and so up the Tavy valley to Tavistock, together with a short branch northward from Gawton to Morwellham but neither this, nor the various other extensions proposed in the 1880s to connect the line with the national railway system, came to fruition. By the end of the century, nearly 70,000 tons were being carried each year, a consider¬able portion of this being granite from the Gunnislake and Kit Hill quarries. The line was still solely mineral, with no passengers carried. In 1908 the line was re-laid to standard gauge and amalgamated with the P.D. & S.W.J. Railway, crossing the Tamar on a fine twelve-arch viaduct high above Calstock to a junction at Bere Alston, The old incline was abandoned, but to enable the still considerable river traffic in granite and bricks to continue a wagon lift was installed alongside the viaduct to raise and lower wagons the 113 metres between the quays and the new line. Powered by a steam winding engine with vertical boiler, this hoist was of 15 tons capacity and was one of the tallest of its type in Britain. It survived here until 1934 when a serious decline occurred in the shipment of bricks from Calstock.

The mine at the head of the incline, Calstock Consols, was originally restarted in 1847 for copper as Wheal Calstock, being re-named Calstock Consols in 1850 when the setts of Wheal Zion and Danes¬combe Valley Mine were incorporated. The latter had been stopped in 1842 or 1843, at which date a 30-inch winding engine, a steam whim and a 40-foot water-wheel were sold. In 1865 Calstock Consols had 42-inch pumping and 24-inch winding engines, employed 32 persons and had been sunk to 62 fathoms below the 55 fathom deep adit. Relatively small amounts or copper were sold hut. considerable quantities of mispickel were raised during the 1890’s, when arsenic prices were high. In 1899 this was being treated at the Coombe Arsenic Works, Harrowbarrow, which drew its supplies from the many small mines producing mispickel in the area

North of Calstock lay Wheal Arthur and Wheal Edward, two intercon¬nected mines divided by a cross-course. The former was re-started in 1852 and was 110 fathoms below the surface when abandoned in 1885. In its later years it was amalgamated with Wheal Edward, which had been started in 1851 after an earlier working by the Imperial British Mining Company in the 1830’s. The once important Drakewalls Mine lay north of these, close beside the main road, Unlike the majority of the other mines in the area this was primarily a tin producer, the lode here backing up to surface. In consequence the mine was one of the earliest at work in East Cornwall and during the eighteenth century, then called Drake’s Wall, was worked in a long Gunnis or Cutting, open to the day, to considerable depth.

6 thoughts on “The East Cornwall Mineral Railway – Part 2

  1. Pingback: The Bere Alston to Callington Branch | Roger Farnworth

  2. Martin Smith

    Great research and as the owner of the incline between Lower and Higher Kelly thank you. The contemporary image of the lime kiln is actually the one opposite the boatyard not the one contiguous with the incline. I could send an image of the correct limekiln if you need it.

  3. Gerald (Gerry) Andrews

    Absolutely fantastic research of a line that git me into the areas history many years ago, but I never had the chance to do anything. Thankyou for this. I need to get the book now.


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