Thursday 16 February 2023

Lonely Locations And LED Lights (1)

Getting To Gunnislake

The video is not particularly informative, but it does give some taste of the quality of this branch. fbb has ridden it several times and each time he marvels at its survival! It is so quaint, so slow and everything that the modern railway isn't.

You just have to love the road signs on unprotected level crossings seen here adorned with the steam loco icon for a "crossing without gates or barriers".
How does it work. You will see trains coming to a dead stop, hooting their horn and them proceeding with extreme caution

Here is a map of almost the whole of the line.
The Tamar Road Bridge is bottom centre and Gunnislake terminus is top centre. The odd track layout at Bere Alston is because Gunnislake was once an intermediate station on the branch from Bere Alston to Callington. The "main line" continued to Tavistock, Okehampton and Exeter, being the London and South Western Railway's route from Plymouth to London.

The map explains why this line has survived. It services an isolated peninsula between the Tamar and Tavy rivers. There is no direct road access to the two Beres from Plymouth and even Gunnislake and Calstock are a bit of a wiggle to get to via that red road!

This video misses out one of the fascinations of the line, namely Bere Alston, where the train driver has to get out and change the points for the last bit to Gunnislane.
And that bit is climbing and wiggling all the way. The screech of the wheels on the tight corners is a much loved (?) feature of the line - unless you live next to the squeaky bits! Gunnislake station is reasonably remote from the village that bears its name and, of course, there is the mighty viaduct at Calstock, mighty but surprisingly graceful.
Today's Tamar Valley Line timetable shows 9 trips Monday to Friday ...
... eight on Saturday and five on Sunday. The GWR table also includes other trains serving destinations in the Plymouth area.

Keith Shayshutt's book tells us that Western National buses ran from Tavistock to Bere Alston and Bere Ferrers back in 1996.
Keith records roughy an hourly service 185 to Bere Alston with just two journeys on to Bere Ferrers and a couple of extras on Friday evenings and (although not in the book) presumably ditto for evening journeys on Saturday.
Today, the 87 is less frequent ...
... and Bere Ferrers is still the poor relation. 
It is quite a trek from the riverside up to the station but it is a delight when you get there!
The 87 terminates at the end of Station Road, a little over half way up the hill.
To add to the delight of this intriguing bus rail interchange possibility you will also find "The Tamar Belle" at Bere Alston station.
Here, in the former goods yard, you may enjoy an eclectic assemblage of railway rolling stock, holiday accommodation and a dining car serving meals on certain days. Both the latter are, of course, in railway carriages.
Looks intriguing?

And, "what about Calstock?" we hear you cry. 
Today, Calstock is served by part of the 79/79A service "operated by" the all conquering Transport for Cornwall. You will be taken right down to the river with gorgeous views of the viaduct. Needless to say, the station is at the top of a steep hill!
The 79 also offers road connection between Gunnislake and its distant station (and another steep hill!)
The 79/79A was a very optimistic hourly route under the grand subsidised scheme, but was reduced to every two hours in April 2022; a sign of the times.
fbb recommends exploring this area, the quaint line and the quaint bus services. A visit to Cothele is also something quite special.
Sadly, you won't get there by bus!

Looking After LED Lights 
Put it simply, fbb didn't! But it always was an experiment. Long-term readers may remember that the old bloke discovered little strings of battery-powered 20 LEDs designed, amongst other uses, to be scrunched up in jam jars ...
... to add a cosy glow to your romantic dinners. The fbbs had mince and spaghetti for Valentine's Day and watched Antiques Road Trip on iPlayer. Ooooh, the passion!

The LED strings were installed in the pub and church ...
... in the station ...
... and, coloured, in the trees surrounding Peterville Castle.
The pub and castle module were usually kept in the cupboard for most of the winter, but the cupboard was outside and damp. However, during the operating season the modules remained outside.

But half the pub/church LEDs worked. The coloured lights at the castle had failed completely but, perversely, the lights at the station, which have been outside in the rain and wind all the time, worked faultlessly.

All three little battery packs and their switchgear were rusted and had to be discarded. So one and a half out of three sets was not a bad result for something which was always an unlikely long term winner.

The castle lights were replaced and are seen below attached roughly. The shiny wires will be painted dark green to match their arboreal background and they will disappear visually. Because fbb bought a batch of eight sets of lights for less than £1 each, they were all "warm white".
Some of the castle LEDs will have shades glued on to simulate floodlights

So next is the pub and church module to resolve.

To be continued.

 Next Location and Lights blog : Friday 17th February 


  1. The 79/79A was at a combined hourly frequency long before the introduction of the 2020 contract and for a time under DAC Coaches operation operated more frequently than that.

  2. Both of the level crossings on the Gunnislake branch are soon to be converted to Automatic Open crossings, with traffic lights instead of barriers, but with white light indicators for the train driver. This will remove the need for trains to stop and hoot.

  3. Is there any update on the proposal to extend the line to Tavistock: