Maritime Line

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Truro-Falmouth "Maritime" Line
The view of Falmouth Bay seen near Falmouth Docks station

Stations (from north to south)

(Cornish Main Line)
Falmouth Town
Falmouth Docks

The Maritime Line is a railway line from Truro to Falmouth in Cornwall, UK. The line travels close to the River Fal for some of its length.

Towns and cities served on the route are listed below.

The branch line leaves the Penzance-Plymouth Cornish Main Line soon after leaving Truro. The line is single track along its entire length, and has two tunnels, one at Sparnock (north of Perranwell) and the other at Perran (north of Penryn).

The line has regular services targeted at tourists and shoppers as well as commuters. Passenger services are currently operated by First Great Western. The line also sees occasional freight services to Falmouth docks, operated by EWS.

The line is served by a Class 150 in Summer and Winter, as the line is heavily used by commuters between Truro, Penryn and Falmouth.

Route described


Maritime Line trains start from Truro railway station, normally from the bay platform that is reached by turning left and walking along the main platform beyond the footbridge. The trains join the main line for the first half mile to Penwithers Junction, passing through the 70 yard-long Higher Town Tunnel on the way. At this point the line to Penzance curves away to the right; the line to Falmouth was originally the Cornwall Railway main line and so runs straight ahead while the Penzance line was built by the West Cornwall Railway Company. The Maritime Line today only has a junction with the westbound track; trains running towards Truro do so on the "wrong" line which can be a bit disconcerting if a train from Penzance is arriving at the same time.

From the tunnel the line emerges into the countryside outside Truro. The small excavated area of land on the left is a Local Nature Reserve which supports rare plants due to its unusual position in a triangle of rail routes - ours, the disused continuation of the West Cornwall Railway to the riverside at Newham, and a never-built route allowing Cornwall Railway trains to reach Newham. The route to Newham is now a cycle path round the edge of the city.

One and a half miles from the junction we enter Sparnick Tunnel which is a little over a quarter of a mile long. Although the line has only ever had a single track, most of the engineering, including the tunnels, was designed to carry a second one and this gives a spacious feel to the route.


Perranwell station

The line, which has been heading south-westwards, now swings around towards the south and passes high above the silted up Restronguet Creek on Carnon Viaduct. This valley was the route of the Redruth and Chacewater Railway down to quays at Devoran, about a mile beyond our viaduct. It is now part of the Mineral Tramways Trail.

Another half mile brings us to Perranwell railway station, nearly four miles from Truro. A modern shelter is situated on the platform, built in a style inspired by older railway buildings. As with all stations except for Truro, the platform is on our left as we travel towards Falmouth. In the forecourt is the old Cornwall Railway goods shed; a cast iron sign carrying the station name, and a dried up drinking fountain also hark back to earlier days.

The line now swings west, passes over the short Perran Viaduct and then south again along the hillside above Perranwell village before passing through the 374 yard-long Perran Tunnel.

Turning south-eastwards, the line now passes over Ponsanooth Viaduct, the tallest on the line. Ponsanooth village is on the hillside to our right, while the River Kennal runs below to join up with Restronguet Creek.


View of Penryn from the train.

The line passes beneath the A39 road from Truro to Falmouth at Treluswell, Four Cross, and then shortly enters Penryn which grew up at the head of a large inlet of the River Fal. Penryn railway station is at the top of the town, and we have views across the town to St Gulvias on the other side of the harbour. The station is eight and a quarter miles from Truro and has little of comment, but the platform shelter is identical to the one at Perranwell. Beyond the station the line passes over the Collegewood Viaduct . The last timber railway viaduct in Cornwall was here, but was replaced by this stone structure on 22 July 1934.

At Penryn there is a wide open space now occupied by Cornwall Motor Auctions. This was the goods yard where wagons were loaded and unloaded. There is also another - overgrown - platform visible on the other side of the train.


A Class 158 just arrived at Falmouth Docks from Truro

The line soon enters the outskirts of Falmouth. The town was established at the entrance to the inlet that leads to Penryn; it has now nearly spread to reach that town. Trains first call at the well-loved Penmere railway station, useful for people heading for the top of The Moor in the town centre, or for the newer western suburbs.

Passengers get a quick glimpse on their right of Falmouth Bay before trains call at the concrete platform of Falmouth Town railway station, which is nearer the National Maritime Museum, the waterside, and the shops.

It is now just a short distance to the terminus at Falmouth Docks railway station, 11.75 miles from Truro. Falmouth Docks are below the station on the left, Pendennis Castle overlooks both these and the Gyllyngvase Beach on the other side of the line.


Main article: Cornwall Railway

The Maritime Line was built by the Cornwall Railway, a broad gauge railway (7 feet 0.25 inch) from Plymouth to Falmouth. The purpose of the scheme was to link London with Falmouth, from where packet ships sailed to destinations in Europe, Africa, and America.

The section from Plymouth to Truro opened on 4 May 1859, and the inhabitants of Falmouth soon put pressure on the company to extend the line to their town as originally intended. The extension opened on 24 August 1863 by which time the packet ships had been diverted elsewhere.

After the West Cornwall Railway was converted to broad gauge in 1867 the Truro to Falmouth line tended to be operated as a branch, with the trains from London Paddington operating to Penzance instead.

The original stations on the line were at Truro, Perranwell (known as Perran until 19 February 1864), Penryn, and Falmouth (Now Falmouth Docks). Penmere was added on 1 July 1925, and Falmouth Town (originally known as The Dell) opened on 7 December 1970, where the line terminated for a few years before reopening to the original terminus.

The Cornwall Railway was amalgamated into the Great Western Railway on 1 July 1889. Following the amalgamation, plans were put in place for conversion to standard gauge, which took place over the weekend of 21 May 1892. The Great Western Railway was nationalised into British Railways from 1 January 1948 which was in privatised in the 1990s. After being operated by Wales and West for a few years the company split in two with the Maritime Line becoming the responsibility of Wessex Trains from 14 October 2001. When the franchise was renewed it was won by First Great Western who take over the operation on 1 April 2006.

The line was originally a dual track, evidence of this can be see at Penryn station, where two platforms are still visible. The Beeching report in the 1960s saw the reduction of the line from two to one. In 2004 a proposal was put forward to reinstate a passing loop into the line, to allow for a doubling of service frequency. While this was an idea welcome by most people, no work has been done at present.

External links

Railway lines in South-West England and the "Great Western" zone :
Main lines:  Cross-Country Route   Great Western Main Line
 Cherwell Valley Line   Gloucester-Newport Line   Exeter-Paignton "Riviera" Line   South Wales Main Line  
 Wessex Main Line   West of England Main Line   
Commuter lines:  Severn Beach Line   Slough-Windsor & Eton Line
Rural lines:  Exeter-Barnstaple "Tarka" Line   Exeter-Exmouth "Avocet" Line   Golden Valley Line   Heart of Wessex Line  
 Henley Branch Line   Looe Valley Line   Marlow Branch Line   Par-Newquay "Atlantic Coast" Line  
 St Ives Bay Line   Tamar Valley Line   Truro-Falmouth "Maritime" Line