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Western - Gunnislake review 1

Gunnislake Railway Station

11/8/07 Plymouth to Gunnislake
Name of Line: The Tamar Valley Line
Dept Plymouth: 08.57
Arrive Gunnislake: 09.44
Journey time: 45 mins
Distance: miles
Weather: Sunny spells
Train type: 2-car Class 150 Sprinter DMU (single track all the way)
Railway company: First Great Western
Frequency of trains - one every two hours

The train I get is a Class150 single car and leaves from platform 3 of Plymouth station. It is a large station with eight platforms and busy as you would expect on a summer Saturday. We are a few minutes late leaving due to the late running of a Penzance train ahead of us. We travel along the Cornish mainline stopping at Devonport, Dockyard and Keyham, all of which have two platforms and aluminium framed shelters. Soon after Keyham the line splits with the Cornish mainline going on the left to St Budeaux Ferry Road. We move to the right and into St Budeaux Victoria Road. St Budeaux is really one station with two different names joined by a walkway. Here the guard gets a token from the signalman before he can go on the single branch to Gunnislake. Then line then goes under the Cornish mainline and ahead you can see the large Tamar Bridge, which is single track for its crossing.
We turn northwards onto the right hand side of the River Tamar, following this river valley for the next few miles. We pass the Royal Naval Armament Depot on the right, speeding up to about 50 mph, before slowing down as we cross the river ? Tamerton Lake ? We pass the site of Tamerton Foliot station. Then we cross over the River Tavey on a long viaduct. This is an estuary of the River Tamar. We start to climb here and the train speeds up again. We then come to a stop at Bere Ferers station. The original Victorian station building is still standing and is now a private dwelling. We continue to climb again passing fields with sheep grazing in them on both sides.
At Bere Alston the train stops a little longer than at other stations, whilst the driver changes ends. The line originally continued across Dartmoor to Meldon Quarry as part of the Southern Railway route from Plymouth to London. The station building is still standing and there are two platforms, one of which is now disused.
We then come out of the station again and turn north westwards. We start descending once more and soon cross over the river Tamar again, this time on the twelve span Calstock Viaduct. As soon as we have crossed the viaduct we come into Calstock station, which has quite a wide single platform, with a red brick shelter. Quite a few walkers get off here. We are now in Cornwall. The train goes quite slowly passing through some woods and then we go over an unmarked crossing. The line goes westwards now and we slow almost to a halt as we go over another unmarked crossing.
You can then see the houses of Gunnislake on the hillside ahead. We then come into the station, which is a single platform station with a shelter. You can see a monument in stone to the builders of this station, which was opened in 1994, further east to the original station. There are a lot of passengers waiting to get on and as I am taking some photos the doors shut. I bang frantically on the door to be let back on! Luckily the guard does open the doors, but he tells me off, calling me "Sir!" at the same time. Obviously because of the late departure from Plymouth, there is not as much turnaround time. If I hadn't been allowed back on, it would have meant a two hour wait for the next train and my visits to the Looe and Torquay branch wouldn't have happened. We get back to Plymouth on time and I am able to get my FGW train to Liskeard and onto Looe,
Summary: A busy line in the summer with many tourists using it, but in the winter months, not so well patronised. MC