Friday, 25 September 2015

A Steam Railway and Jamaica Inn

Tuesday 15 September 2015. We set off after breakfast for Bodmin & Wenford Railway, a steam railway operating out of Bodmin. We got there slightly before opening time and were joined by another couple from our B&B who had also decided to do the train today.

We went for a cuppa in the station buffet whilst we waited for the ticket office to open and then bought tickets and headed onto the platform to watch the preparations for our journey. It wasn't a totally promising day as you can tell from the damp on the platform and the sky, but just at this point it decided to be sunny for a while.

Our loco was a Great Western Railway 2-8-0 tender locomotive, No.4247. Built in 1916 this was one of many such in its class designed to pull coal trains from South Wales mines to the ports. They had to be "strong" for such work and were built with large boilers and limited water tank capacity. The lines between mine and port were equipped with water supply points in abundance to make up for the narrow side tanks.

4247 also had a spell hauling china clay in Cornwall. It was withdrawn from service in the 1960s and was recovered from the Barry scrapyard around 20 years later. (Source: Bodmin & Wenford Railway website)

The Bodmin station is nicely maintained too with little touches like this railway advert for Weston-Super-Mare. Nearby was the disintegrating but interesting remains of a corrugated iron nissan hut containing a bench with a hole...

There's a toot from the whistle - it's time to get into the carriages! We join Carl and Sandra in a compartment on a corridor carriage and take our seats. The train sets off from the mid point on its route. So we will travel first to Boscarne Junction where the locomotive will swap to the other end and take us back to Bodmin General. Then after a short wait it will go the other way to Bodmin Parkway and back again to complete the journey.

About halfway to Boscarne Junction the train comes out of a cutting and I spot a female red deer racing up a field away from the sudden apparition of this noisy, smelly thing puffing smoke out of its funnel. As the ticket collector checks our tickets we go through a dark tunnel and she says afterwards "Sometimes I nip to the next compartment in the dark and then when we come out of the tunnel I'm standing there and they all jump!"

The end of our journey. We arrive back at Bodmin General for the second time and take a few last photos before moving on.

We have several hours to pass before our booking at Jamaica Inn so we head west from Bodmin towards Padstow. It's a nice drive, but on reaching Padstow we find the car parks full to bursting. The road ends at one of them and there is no choice but to turn into it where we immediately join a queue of cars who are waiting for spaces. These will never materialise because the cars trying to exit are blocked by this same queue... It takes 20 minutes to get from the car park entrance to the exit - approx 60 yards distance. We retrace our steps and go for some lunch in the middle of nowhere at a large garden centre. The photo of Padstow (taken on a similarly wet day) was taken in 1992.

We headed back to Bodmin and to the Jamaica Inn where we had a table booked for 6 o'clock. By the time we got there it was about four and was pelting down with rain. I left the camera in the car once again and this time my photo is from 1996. We parked and dashed into the gift shop and then I dashed back again to deposit our bought goodies in the boot and picked up my sketch pad.

This is the main bar and is from a letter card that was bought on a previous visit. We bought drinks and settled onto the bench to the right of the fireplace and I sketched the room, trying to convey it as it might have appeared in the smuggling days of yore. I'm not totally sure when the Days of Yore were, come to think of it. Further back I think than Back in The Day (a phrase I hate) but perhaps not as far back as In Days of Old...

Anyway this is the result. I went wrong straight away with the angle of the beam and it was hard to work back from that. I should have whizzed it and started again really...

This is a bit better - I did this one yesterday especially for this blog and again ignored some of the outbuildings in an attempt to show an earlier version of the Jamaica Inn. It was indeed the haunt of smugglers and wreckers - those who shone false lights far inland but visible from the sea so that sailors thought themselves well away from the rocks of the shore. Daphne Du Maurier lived here for a while and wrote her famous book Jamaica Inn around the smuggling activities, but her inn does not take guests as it did in real life, but was merely a tavern with a storage facility. The inn, which dates from 1750, was also owned for a while by author Alistair MacLean.

But my favourite memory of the inn has to be of the parrot that used to reside in the bar in a large cage. In 1989 we were down in Cornwall as part of a large family party - my parents, the three of us, my brother and his son and my uncle. My uncle in particular was sitting next to the cage and had tried all evening to get the parrot to talk. It was having none of it. It would look at him and occasionally would screech but in the way of actual words it was totally the opposite of Shakespeare...

At the end of our visit, we got up and walked out one by one. Miss Franny and I brought up the rear and my uncle was in front of us. As he passed the cage he said "Come on... are you not going to speak to me?" In a perfectly understandable and loud voice it said quite distinctly "**** off!" His expression was priceless...

Cornwall Holiday Index

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