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East Cornwall Mineral Railway
An Outline History of the
East Cornwall Mineral Railway
Introduction Bibliography
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The East Cornwall Mineral Railway (ECMR) was an independant railway in the east of the county of Cornwall, England. It was constructed as a narrow gauge (3' 6") single-track line to carry ore and stone from the mines and quarries in the area around Callington down to quays on the River Tamar at Calstock.

The town of Callington is situated in an area of east Cornwall that once supported many mines and quarries. The Tamar, Kit Hill and Callington Railway Company (TKH&CR) was formed in 1862 to construct a railway to connect Callington and the mines to the quays at Calstock, where the minerals could be loaded into barges on the River Tamar. Work started in 1863, but halted in 1866 because of financial difficulties. In 1869 a new Callington and Calstock Railway was formed to take over the work and in 1871 the railway was re-named as the East Cornwall Mineral Railway (ECMR). The ECMR was constructed as a mineral railway of 3' 6" gauge and it was opened officially on 7-May-1872, although by that date some sections had been in use for as long as five years previously.

The ECMR was almost 8 miles long and it ran from Kelly Bray (about 1 miles north of Callington) to Calstock, where there was a rope-worked incline about 800' long down which dropped down 350' to reach the riverside quays. There were public goods depots at Kelly Bray, Monks Corner, Cox's Park, Drakewalls and on Calstock Quay, as well as private sidings at various intermediate locations serving various mines and quarries.

 Map of the East Cornwall Mineral Railway
Map of the East Cornwall Mineral Railway

In 1891 the ECMR was purchased by the nearby Plymouth, Devonport & South Western Junction Railway (PD&SWJR) and in 1908 the PD&SWJR extended the ECMR eastwards across the River Tamar to a new junction at their existing station at Bere Alston. At the same time the line was re-gauged to the 4' 8" standard gauge and upgraded to carry passenger trains, with new stations built to replace the old mineral depots. The extension was known officially as the "Bere Alston & Calstock Light Railway", but often called simply the "Calstock Light Railway" and this term seems to have been used for the whole of the line to Callington.

The PD&SWJR retained control of the former ECMR as an independant railway until it became part of the Southern Railway at the 1923 Grouping, although some sources suggest that it was absorbed by the London & South Western Railway (L&SWR) in 1922. After nationalisation in 1948 what was now known simply as the "Callington Branch" was controlled variously by the Southern and Western Regions of British Railways. On 5-Nov-1966 the line was closed completely from Callington to Gunnislake, but the section from Gunnislake through Calstock to Bere Alston remains open for passenger traffic, served by branch trains from Plymouth.

For more detailed information about the ECMR, its route and locomotives etc, please see the separate pages in RailWest about the history of the Callington Branch.

Chris Osment 2003


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