FREIGHT WORKING AT BODMIN & WENFORD RAILWAY
British Rail Days
China Clay freight working for many years kept the Bodmin Parkway - Bodmin General - Boscarne Junction - Wenford Bridge lines open well past the last passengers in BR days (Jan 1967), in fact right up until 3rd Oct 1983. This was just shy of 150 years of continous of freight working beginning 1834 as one of the first locomotive hauled lines in the UK (Bodmin & Wadebridge Railway 1832, reaching Bodmin & Wenford in 1834 from Wadebridge).
The rolling pictures to the left, taken in the 70's and 80's capture an array of diesels working the clay freight before closure. The running around of the clay hoods had to be done at Boscarne Junction, Bodmin General and Bodmin Road (Now Parkway), meaning the loco's crew had a full days work on this route, before making it down the main line. The class 25 or 37 could not travel over the Wenford branch (due to weight & curvature restrictions), so for the last 7 miles a shunter typically a Class 08 would also be employed for this latter part of the route, having also travelled usually from St Blazey depot that day.
However the freight story does not end in 1983, as the new preservation group seeked to establish itself as a heritage line. Fitzgerald Lighting situated at Walker Lines Industrial Estate near Bodmin General station, manufactured general lighting units and had a transport need across the country.
Peter Fitzgerald, a director of the fledging railway, looked to the line to haul VGA's to and from the mainline connection and speedlink freight service to then haul the lighting units to suppliers throughout the UK. The Bodmin heritage diesel group hauled many VGA's between Bodmin exchange sidings and Walker lines, providing very valuable income to the railway. However this service was unfortantely short lived and only ran from 2nd Dec 1989 until 11th Dec 1992 when RFD withdrew from the South West, after Taunton Cider switch to road haulage largely due to mainline price increases.
In 1991 talks began on the viability of the Wenford branch once again hauling Clay from the Wenford dries to the mainline at Bodmin Exchange sidings. At one stage gaining ministerial backing as well as North Cornwall Council with a promise of 3,000 less lorry journeys on the narrow Cornish roads. However by the mid 1990's the scheme was dropped and the Wenford dries themselves closed in 2002 ending any further thoughts of Clay being moved over B&WR metals.
A brief resurrection of the VGA freight for Fitzgerald Lightning occurred in 2000 to 2001 as a trial by EWS to reintroduce wagon load freight working in the south west. This ran 2 days a week normally with 3 loaded VGA wagons per trip. By now it was also utilising Fitzgerald's own locos , 20166 and 33110. However this again ceased after the trial period.
Bodmin & Wenford Days
From time to time B&WR hold an events day that re-enacts the days of freight running over the metals of the lines to Boscarne Junction and Bodmin Road (Parkway). These 'Clay days' are usually of mixed traffic and traction giving a good insight into the workings of freight on this steeply graded line. The days usually offer a rare chance to ride in the brake vans behind the diesel and steam loco hauled wagons and enjoy the sights, sounds and smells that the guards and shunter's used to see as their own!
Why not look out for the next one in our timetable and come and make a day of it?