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Launceston Steam Railway

engine at launceston steam railway

Full Steam Ahead at Launceston Steam Railway

All aboard for nostalgic journeys back to the golden era of steam travel aboard the vintage locomotives of Launceston Steam Railway. This lovingly restored railway offers families a taste of rail travel past as engines chug slowly through blissful Cornish countryside revealing uplifting views showcasing this lesser-discovered corner of the county.

Our guide has everything you need to plan a visit to this heritage line near the Devon border, from prices and timetables through to the best bit – waving to sheep as you clickety-clack behind a hissing steam locomotive!

launceston steam railway

Getting to the Launceston Steam Railway

The railway runs between Launceston and Newmills, 5 miles south. Use the postcode PL15 8EX then follow signs to the town centre station.

By Car: Free parking at Newmills yard (PL15 8EX) or various town centre car parks.

By Train: National Rail services along the Exeter to Penzance line stop at the main Launceston Station, a short walk to the steam railway.

By Bus: The 12, 12B and 12C services connect regularly with Bude, Holsworthy and Exeter, stopping in Launceston.

Opening Times

Standard operating months are:

Easter Week – End of Oct: Weekends & Bank Holidays

Occasionally they run Santa Specials on selected December dates, but keep an eye on the website for this.

Launceston Steam Railway Timetable

From Launceston: 11am | 12pm | 1pm | 2.30pm | 4pm

From Newmills: 11.20am | 12.20pm | 1.20pm | 2.50pm | 4.20pm

Tickets

Adult £13.50 | Child £9 | Concessions £11.50 | Family 2 adults 4 children £37 | Under 3 | Dog £1

steam engine and car

History of the Railway

Established in 1882, the railway initially served as a vital transportation link for the local community, connecting the town to the mainline railway network. The line was instrumental in facilitating the transport of goods, including agricultural produce and minerals, fostering economic development in the region.

Originally a standard gauge line, the Launceston Steam Railway underwent a significant transformation in 1965 when a preservation society was formed to rescue it from closure. The society worked tirelessly to convert the line into a narrow gauge heritage railway, preserving the charm and character of steam travel. In 1968, the first steam-hauled train chugged along the revitalized track, marking the rebirth of the Launceston Steam Railway as a heritage attraction.

Today, the Launceston Steam Railway offers visitors a nostalgic journey through the scenic Cornish countryside aboard lovingly restored steam locomotives. The railway remains a living testament to the dedication of preservation enthusiasts who have worked diligently to ensure that this historical gem continues to captivate generations with its timeless allure.

red steam engine

Top Things To Do

All aboard to experience the rhythmic sway of vintage train carriages winding slowly through lush Cornish valleys capped either end by stations with quaint heritage charm.

Climb into charming 1950s compartments complete with curved ceilings, padded bench seats and wide windows perfect for leaning out waving at farmers herding sheep as you pass. Coal wagons turned summer open carriages offer breezier viewing for warm days. Friendly staff in period uniforms happily share railway tales during the journey too.

There is a lovely gift shop at the Launceston station with lots of books and great gifts to take home. There is also a museum with vintage cars and locomotives and transport articles from the past.

Meet the Engines of the Launceston Steam Railway

Train-obsessed kids find endless fun observing the engines steaming, shunting and having their water tanks refilled at Newmills yard while parents admire the gleaming paintwork and intricacies of locos dating from 1901-1961.

black steam engine
Lilian

Built in 1883 by the Hunslet Engine Company for service at Port Penrhyn and the Penrhyn Quarries in North Wales, the Lilian Douglas-Pennant locomotive boasts a rich history. Named after Lilian Douglas-Pennant, daughter of Baron Penrhyn, it was part of the ‘Penrhyn Port class’ alongside Gwynedd and Winifred. After falling into disuse by 1960, Nigel Bowman, aged 19, purchased Lilian in 1964 for £60. Restored in his parents’ garden in Guilford, Surrey, Lilian found a new home at a friend’s farm from 1968, where occasional tests were conducted.

Lilian’s restoration inspired Bowman to establish the Launceston Steam Railway in 1983. A 1993 in-house boiler replacement included a conversion to top-feed for corrosion prevention. In 2008, a tender, incorporating wheelsets from Cliffe-at-Hoo Cement Works wagons and WW1 bogie springs, was added. Lilian Douglas-Pennant, with its fascinating journey from neglect to preservation, stands as a testament to the passion and dedication of railway enthusiasts.

Dorothea
Dorothea

Dorothea, constructed in 1901 for the Dorothea Slate Quarry in North Wales, initially resembled Covertcoat but featured an enclosed cab with sliding doors. Abandoned in a dilapidated shed in the early 1940s, it lay neglected until 1964. Enthusiasts Dave Walker and Tony Hills salvaged its remains in 1970, with Walker collecting scattered parts at his Warwickshire home. In 1989, Nigel and Kay Bowman acquired Dorothea, and despite skepticism, Kay ambitiously restored it using original materials. The engine, utilizing Covertcoat’s boiler, steamed for the first time in 2001 and entered full service in 2012. Kay’s exceptional efforts earned her the John Coiley award for Locomotive Preservation. Dorothea continues to receive cosmetic enhancements, showcasing a remarkable resurrection in railway history.

Covertcoat
Covertcoat

Built in 1898 for shunting at Port Dinorwic and Dinorwic Quarry, Covertcoat, initially named “The Second,” earned its moniker in 1913, named after Sir Charles Asheton Smith’s Grand National-winning horse. Serving under the quarry-owning Smith family, Covertcoat operated in Port Dinorwic until 1925, later moving to the ‘Californian’ level in the quarry. After falling out of use in 1959, it was preserved by John Butler in 1964, finding a new home at Launceston Steam Railway in 1984. Covertcoat’s unique open-back cab design, introduced during the restoration, and a tender added in 1991, contribute to its distinctive appearance and enhanced functionality. The locomotive’s ongoing preservation efforts include a larger firebox and boiler, crafted in 2005/6 for improved performance.

Join In With Special Event Days

Beyond the usual timetable, Launceston Steam Railway offers themed special events expanding on their rail heritage like 1960s Days, Diesel Galas, Real Ale Trains and Santa Specials at Christmas. Kids adore annual highlights like May’s Teddy Bear’s Picnic or August’s Superhero Weekend – check listings online for latest additions.

Dorothea
Dorothea

Stop to Explore Launceston Town

Schedule time before or after your train to explore charismatic Launceston – dubbed the ‘Gateway to Cornwall’. Must-see sights include the 12th century castle ruins above town or walking a section of the medieval town wall. Kids find ancient narrow walkways lined with curious independent shops fascinating to wander not to mention indulging in sweet treats!

Frequently Asked Questions

How long is the Launceston Steam Railway journey? – The journey is approximately 2 miles long.

What is the gauge of the Launceston Steam Railway? – The railway is a 2 ft gauge railway.

Are there toilets at the stations? – Yes, there are toilets at both Newmills Station and Launceston Station.

Is it accessible for wheelchairs? – Yes, wheelchairs can be accomodated on the trains.

Do I have to book tickets in advance? – No, generally it is fine just to turn up at the station, but if you are a very large group it maybe worthwhile booking in advance.

Are dogs allowed on the trains? – Yes, well behaved dogs on leads are welcome

Nearby Attractions

Combine Launceston’s steam railway jaunts by visiting nearby family-friendly attractions:

  • Bodmin Jail – Dating from 1779, this ominous former prison is around a 25 minute drive from Launceston. Walk the original cells and learn about convict transportation ships, harsh conditions and public executions.
  • Jamaica Inn – Immortalised by Daphne du Maurier, parts of this remote inn on Bodmin Moor date from 1750 when it was a smugglers hangout. The menu features Cornish ales and you can even stay overnight.
  • Launceston Castle – These ruins offer far-reaching views over Cornwall from a motte and bailey castle built after the Norman conquest in 1068, just a short walk uphill from the town and steam railway.
  • Lanhydrock – Explore the expansive ‘Great House’, gardens and wooded parkland at this National Trust property near Bodmin, around 20 minutes’ drive away. Highlights include the long gallery and gatehouse.
  • Golitha Falls – Found on the edge of Bodmin Moor, these peaceful woods hide a stunning waterfall surrounded by oak, rowan and beech trees – just a 30 minute drive from Launceston. There are riverside and woodland walks to explore nearby too.
  • Cotehele House & Quay – A short drive northwest sits this medieval turreted manor house filled with tapestries and armour on display. Visitors can also walk to the quay on the Tamar river to visit the mill, discovery centre and take boat trips.
  • Cardinham Woods – Enjoy peaceful walks beneath mature oaks and sweet chestnuts or let kids scramble over fallen trees in these enchanting older woodlands near Bodmin, under 30 minutes away.
  • Tamar Valley Line – This picturesque rail journey follows the Tamar Valley from Plymouth to Gunnislake, crossing the Tamar river into Cornwall over the Victorian viaduct with lovely views.
  • Morwellham Quay – Travel back in time at this riverside port frozen in the Edwardian era, with costumed guides, a copper mine, ferry trips and even horse-drawn barge trips along the tranquil River Tamar.

Whether you’re a trainspotter or not, a peaceful ride aboard Launceston Steam Railway’s vintage locomotives lets families immerse in Cornwall’s proud railway heritage while creating special memories framed by timeless rural scenes gliding slowly past carriage windows. A thoroughly recommended attraction to visit.

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