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Cornwall’s 21st Century Preservation Project
Incorporated in 2006, the Helston Railway Preservation Company Limited is a 'social
enterprise' company limited by guarantee, whose aim is to re-open a 3 mile section
of the former Helston Branch Line.
Helston Railway at a Glance
Type: Preserved railway
Gauge: Standard, 4’ 8½”
Length: ½ mile (1 mile track bed cleared)
First opened: 1887
Closed: 1962 (passenger) 1964 (freight)
Re-opened in preservation: TBA
Trevarno station can only be accessed via Trevarno Gardens main entrance, Trevarno's
normal entrance fees apply, members of the Helston Railway receive a 25% discount.
To reach Trevarno station, walk along the Estate Walk from Trevarno House, past the
daffodil and reindeer fields.
For Trevarno Gardens opening times and entry fees, please visit Trevarno Garden's
website (see link below)
By Train - The nearest stations are Camborne, Hayle and St Erth about 6 miles away.
All are served by First Great Western services from London Paddington and Cross
Country Trains services from Bristol, the Midlands and the North.
By Car - Trevarno Gardens is signposted off the B3303 Camborne to Helston road. From
Helston turn right after Crowntown, and from Camborne turn left after Nancegollen.
Refer to the map above for directions and postcode.
By Bus - The nearest bus service is First Devon and Cornwall Buses Camborne to Helston
Service 39. This bus stops at Sithney, a one and half miles from Trevarno. Refer
to the Cornwall Public Transport website for current timetable (see link below)
The map below shows the location of Trevarno Gardens and station, at present the
only station on the Helston Railway. Click on the markers to see the name and postcode
(where applicable). Use the zoom and pan tools to explore the map.
In December 2010, the Helston Railway received the Ian Allen Heritage Railway of
the Year Award which was presented to to Director Stuart Walker, General Manager
Alan Burton and Vice President of the Society Chris Heaps by Pete Waterman OBE.
Ian Allan Publishing chose to give the award to the Helston Railway as the company
had made a great deal of progress in a short space of time, and following a visit
earlier in the year, the chairman David Allen was impressed by the amount of commitment
and enthusiasm he saw in the volunteers.
Having visited the railway myself in 2009 and seeing the progress in later photographs,
I agree with Ian Allen’s choice. It must be a great encouragement to members of the
society who have worked so hard.
This is still a fledgling project which has yet to be approved for carrying passengers
but it deserves all the support us enthusiasts can give in order that the goal of
opening 3 miles of the former branch from Nancegollan to Water-ma-Trout can be achieved.
Access to the new platform at Trevarno can only be gained via Trevarno Gardens. In
our case, my wife is a keen gardener and I am a keen railway enthusiast so it was
the perfect combination for a visit.
Although we visited on a weekday in April there were several volunteers present.
Some from the Helston Railway Diesel Group were working on the Park Royal Class 103
DMU and others were manning the shop.
At the time of our visit, the footpath to the south of the platform was still crossing
the line on a partial infill of the cutting, this has now been replaced with a new
footbridge to allow progress of track laying southwards. This, in addition to the
completion of the platform shows incredible progress.
Although train rides are not possible yet, a visit to this railway and use of the
shop or any other donation you can give will help the railway to realise the goal
of restoring another bit of British railway heritage. There is also the opportunity
to see the only preserved complete class 103 DMU!
Attractions and Facilities
Station - shop and exhibition in a converted Mail Van with photo archives and much
Gardens - National Museum of Gardening, Vintage Soap Museum, Honey Bee Information
Centre, Vintage Toy Museum (small additional charge), Fountain Garden Conservatory
Café, plant sales, gift shop, toilets.
At present the railway has not been passed for passenger operation. However, the
platform area with it’s shop and exhibition in a converted mail van can be visited
and occasional special events are held.
In July 2010 a steam event was held with visiting Bagnall 0-4-0ST Judy from the Bodmin
& Wenford Railway. Visit the Helston Railway website for further details (see link
Locomotives & Multiple Unit
Ruston & Hornsby 165hp 0-4-0 Diesel Mechanical Shunter (Build No 327974) built in
Park Royal Class 103 Diesel Multiple Unit W50413 and W56169 (the last surviving complete
set) introduced in 1957.
BR General Utility Van built in 1958.
The present day Helston Railway occupies part of the track bed of the original 8
mile 67 chain Helston Branch which ran from the Great Western railway’s main line
station at Gwinear Road to Helston, with intermediate stations at Praze-an-Beeble
and Nancegollan. A further halt at Truthall was built after the line was opened.
1879 - After five attempts to build a line to serve Helston, the Helston Railway
Company was formed to build a line from Gwinear Road station to Helston. The Great
Western Railway agreed to operate trains for 50% of the receipts.
1880 - An Act of Parliament was passed and received Royal assent on 9 July, the next
two years were spent on raising funds and acquiring land.
1882 - The first sod was cut at a ceremony on 22 March and construction commenced.
1883 - The original contractor, Messrs. Maddison and Company withdrew as they were
unable to meet the onerous financial terms imposed on them. New contractors, Messrs
Lang & Son of Liskeard took over and completed the construction.
1887 - The Helston Branch opened on 9 May operated from the outset by the Great Western
1898 - Following healthy profits from quarry, agriculture and passenger traffic (including
tourist traffic in the summer) the owners sold the line to the Great Western Railway
on 1 July.
1905 - Truthall Halt (also known as Truthall Platform) approximately 2 miles north
of Helston, was opened primarily to serve Truthall Manor.
1939 - With the outbreak of the Second World War, passenger and freight traffic on
the line increased and the goods yard at Nancegollan was enlarged. A second (metal)
bridge was also built at this time to carry the road over the new goods yard access
1948 - Nationalisation; The Helston Branch became part of British Railways Western
Region. Freight was beginning to decline but passenger numbers were still good partly
owing to pupils travelling to Helston School and the close proximity of RNAS Culdrose
1962 - With declining use due to competition from the roads and no cost saving measures
that some other branches had, such as DMU operation and unstaffed stations, the Helston
Branch closed to passengers on 3 November. This was one of Dr Beeching’s earliest
closures, before his 1963 report was published.
1964 - The line closed to freight on 4 October, Gwinear Road station at the main
line junction closed the next day.
1965 - The track was lifted and over the next 20 years or so the land was sold in
sections. Nancegollen station site has been developed into an industrial estate,
at Praze-an-Beeble the girder road bridges have been removed and a private house
built on the station site and at Helston, the track bed is buried under Water-ma-Trout
2005 - With the kind permission of Trevarno Gardens who now own part of the track
bed, volunteers started clearing part of the track bed.
2006 - Helston Railway Preservation Company Ltd was incorporated.
2010 - The new Trevarno station platform was completed and to celebrate, a special
steam event was held on 25 and 26 July.