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Wadebridge

Wadebridge station was originally a terminus and as such was the oldest part of what was to become the London and South Western Railway. Opened on 4th July 1834, the Bodmin and Wadebridge Railway, from Bodmin to Wadebridge Quay, was the first standard gauge railway to open in the West Country, the first to use steam engines and the first to carry passengers. The line became part of the L&SWR in 1847 when they purchased it after an earlier agreement to buy it by the Devon and Cornwall Railway fell through when that latter company failed to proceed. The D&CR had, in turn, out-bid the Cornwall Railway, a protégé of the Great Western Railway, and the L&SWR stepped in a) to further their plans for a line to Cornwall and b) in an effort to block any plans the GWR may have had for a line into the North Cornwall area. This purchase was made without Parliamentary approval and was, in fact, illegal - a situation that was not put right until 1886.
 
Wadebridge

photograph by Stephen Hughes, courtesy of Terry Heeley

A view across the station on a busy day in the 1950s.

 
As mentioned above, Wadebridge was originally a terminus, with just one platform road, which was rebuilt in 1888 ready for when the L&SWR (in the guise of the North Cornwall Railway - an independent concern whose services were operated by the L&SWR) finally reached Wadebridge in 1895, and again as a through station in 1899 when the extension to Padstow opened, with the facilities now increased to three platform faces, a new and larger engine shed and a 50' turntable. Over the years a wide range of locomotives were shedded here, from Beattie Well Tanks, through 'Jubilee' 0-4-2Ts, various 4-4-0 classes including the Drummond T9s, '415' class 4-4-2Ts, O2 class 0-4-4Ts, to GWR Pannier Tanks and Ivatt 2-6-2Ts. Then there were visiting locos to be serviced, such as various 0-6-0s based at Exmouth Junction, the ubiquitous N class moguls and the Bulleid pacifics that were too large to be turned at Wadebridge so had to travel to Padstow for turning, sometimes working a one coach train in the process.

Being well over a hundred miles from Exmouth Junction, the staff at Wadebridge's MPD needed to be self-sufficient and were provided with a lifting crane, work benches, boiler washout facilities, sand store and etc. In the last decade of Southern ownership there were six links, requiring 13 sets of crew, for the Wenford line, the North Cornwall line, the Bodmin line, the Yard Pilot, one for Rest Day Relief and one spare. After the takeover of the lines by the Western region the shed was divorced from Exmouth Junction and came under the auspices of St Blazey, following which some diesels arrived.

 
Wadebridge

photograph by Stephen Hughes, courtesy of Terry Heeley

The "London" end of the station. The crane-like object on the right is a conveyor for coaling locomotives. The Wadebridge MPD was always busy as it also looked after engines that needed servicing after arrival at Padstow, a station that had a turntable and water column only!

 
Once the layout of the station had developed to the stage it was at in 1899 it remained virtually unchanged until final closure of passenger services. One feature, and in later years a constant source of annoyance to the emerging private motorist, was the level crossing over Molesworth Street. This was situated in the middle of the railway's land with the station and yards on the east side and the quay lines on the west. On this west side the line ran adjacent to Eddystone Road, right up against the buildings there. The road today has, of course, taken over the land once used by the railway and when you stand and look at the space available it is hard to realise that there was once a main railway line there too.

There was much goods traffic with china clay, cattle, pigs, rabbits, farm produce of eggs, wool, sheepskins and seasonal flowers all going out whilst things like coal, seed potatoes, animal feedstuff, newsprint and general produce all came in. When the Household Cavalry took part in the Royal Cornwall Show their mounts arrived at Wadebridge station in a train of smart green horse boxes from Knightsbridge via Kensington Olympia. Increased trade meant the goods shed had to be enlarged in 1939 and wartime brought a lot of extra traffic. After the war a decline in traffic set in, not just due to road competition. The china clay that had previously passed through Wadebridge for shipment at Padstow was diverted via the GWR to Fowey and Par. This decline accelerated in the 1960s and freight traffic ceased via the North Cornwall line from th September 1964, though continued via Bodmin. Passenger numbers declined dramatically and services were pruned accordingly until the inevitable happened. First the North Cornwall line closed entirely on 3rd October 1966, then the line west to Padstow was closed on 30th January 1967 - leaving Wadebridge only connected to the national rail network for goods services through the original Bodmin and Wadebridge route to Boscarne Junction, thence via the Western Region route to Bodmin Road and their main line. Final closure came on 31st December 1978 when the last goods service was withdrawn.

The station and yard sites today have been fully developed with retail outlets, a car park and private housing where once mighty pacifics and diminutive well tanks ruled. There are just two remaining railway artefacts, part of the station buildings remain as the John Betjeman Centre for the elderly and the former goods shed is now the Betty Fisher Centre, used for community projects.

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This page was last updated 25 January 2005

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