Transport Around Par

Par has been a popular stop off for railway enthusiasts travelling between Penzance and Plymouth because of the nearby St.Blazey depot and the possibility of catching a china clay train on the move. The last time I visited was in the summer of 1985 so I have a few photographs from then too.

Currently, local bus services are operated by Western Greyhound and First Kernow whilst Roselyn Coaches provide, fittingly, coach trips to a variety of destinations as well as handling school contract work…

Western Greyhound
Western Greyhound 706, an Optare Solo, on the 525 route in Par. The 524 and 525 routes connect St Austell, St Blazey, Par, Tywardreath/Polmear and Fowey.

First Kernow
First Kernow 34116 crosses the railway at Par station on the 27 bus route. The route connects Par to the Royal Cornish Hospital at Treliske by way of St.Austell and Truro though not all journeys cover the full route.

Roselyn Garage
728FDV, a Plaxton Premiere bodied Volvo B10M coach, stands in front of Roselyn’s Middleway Garage in St.Blazey.

Roselyn PUI8031
Roselyn PUI8031 at their Middleway Garage amongst other buses employed on school contract duties (the yellow badge indicates their involvemnet on this type of work). The vehicle is a Volvo B10M with Alexander PS bodywork

On the railway, the one thing that has not changed since 1985 is the allocation of Intercity 125 High Speed Trains to London – Penzance Services…

43098 at Par
An HST with Power Car 43098 leading arrives at Par with ‘The Merchant Venturer’ express from Paddington, which routes via Bristol to Penzance.

43153 at Par
A shot from back in 1985 where 43153 waits for the ‘Right Away’ at Par with a Paddington bound HST. In the loop, a class 37 waits with a mixed freight – two ferry vans and some china clay wagons. Freight trains are carefully timed to fit into large gaps in the passenger services as a stalled train on the Cornish banks can create havoc to the timetable

Other things have changed considerably – almost everything is a multiple unit whilst in 1985 the mainline services were locomotive hauled. Times change and services have been streamlined to balance local use against long distance. The indigenous locals of Cornwall – the Hymeks, Warships and Westerns – have gone. Replaced by Peaks, 37’s, 47’s and 50’s initially but ultimately by the Class 66.

Back to the Present
Back to the Present and we find a class 66 diesel running light engine into Par and onto St. Blazey depot while another waits in the loop beyond the station. Semaphore signals remain the norm in Cornwall but for how much longer – perhaps another couple of years before they are replaced by colour lights. More history and atmosphere lost, though on the railway there are safety gains to be made.

150131 arrives at Par
150131 arrives at Par with a Plymouth to Penzance service. Some of these units were intended for short journeys like the Gospel Oak to Barking run in London. Like this one, they were not intended to couple with other units and no gangway between units was provided. Some of the others in the West Country have gangways – see further down the photos

Cross Country
Back in 1985 services from as far afield as Newcastle used to make their way into Cornwall. Referred to as Cross Country services they were often hauled by one of my favourite classes – the Peak’s. Here, a member of that class brings a Penzance service into a windswept Par station

All Aboard for Newquay
All Aboard for Newquay – I suspect that, were it not for the freight traffic generated by the China Clay industry, the Newquay Branch would have closed along with its fellow branches in Cornwall. But nowadays the level of passenger traffic probably justifies its retention. Most passengers are holiday makers and here are some rushing to join a service at Par. The Locals probably use the bus or car. The class 153’s seen in this photo are the normal local train on the branch but in the height of summer HST’s can be found exploring 20mph territory!

1985 Newquay
In 1985 the Newquay Branch was served by the Western Region’s Diesel Multiple Units of the 118 Class – ordered back in the 1960’s by the British Transport Commission for British Railways. Although built by the Birmingham Railway and Carriage Works, they were to a Derby design and like most other DMU’s on BR were referred to as Derby Deathtraps in much the same way that Ford cars were referred to as Dagenham Dustbins 😉 As you can see the Semaphore signals were as evident then as they remain today.

Cleaning the Rails
The train that was waiting in the loop ran through Par before reversing and coming through to clean the rails. This is necessary due to the amount of leaves that trees drop at the start of an English winter and because modern rolling stock doesn’t use brakeshoes to slow down anywhere near as much as the old trains did – the leaves get between the wheels and the rails. 66094 leads and 66011 (out of shot) brings up the rear.

150221 at Par
The Rain is never far away during an October Holiday in England. 150221 arrives at Par during a downpour with a service from Penzance to Plymouth – an example of the class 150 with the connection gangway. Some of those without gangways started their workinglives in London – to where I would be driving the next day…

I would like to extend my thanks to the First staff at Par for allowing me to take images on the station. Their support and understanding was greatly appreciated and they are a credit to their company.


  1. It’s obvious that you’ve forgotten more about the history of the rails than I know, Martin!
    Well, that and I love your photographs!
    Ridiculously impressive… on both fronts!

    1. Bob – thank you so much for your consistently kind comments 🙂 I know next to nothing about the glorious Railroads for the US. But I can give you British Railway History 🙂 Have a great Thanksgiving 🙂

      1. Hmm… now that you mention it…
        there are quite a few things I miss about film. Particularly b/w because for a time I had the opportunity to process it / make prints…
        there’s something almost magical about a darkroom… so relaxing, too (well, assuming it’s not ‘one of those days’, that is)! 🙂

      2. Film is so different from digital cameras. I used to be able to shoot using kodachrome 64 in most light conditions. A train moving at 100mph could be captured using 1/125th sec without blurring the image – you’d be lucky to achieve that in a digital cameral at 1/500th. I don’t know why that is but that is my experience. I do know that when I used the Canon AE-1 with its horizontal plane shutter you could effectively double the shutter speed by shooting an image across the movement of the shutter – ie left to right (shutter went right to left). The digital shutter isn’t a shutter as such – that’s already open, it’s when the sensor is told to start recording by the software. At least that’s my understanding 😦

  2. I was interested to learn about the need for the track cleaner! The idea that there would be so much debris as to require a cleaning car just didn’t occur to me. You do know a lot about trains! Do you also enjoy train travel? We have traveled from California to New Orleans a couple of times, and it takes a long time when passenger trains need to wait for freight to take the lead. I didn’t mind, but I know some people feel a bit trapped! I have a feeling you’d just be fascinated! 🙂

    1. Hi Debra – The ‘wet leaves’ issue is a direct result of the change to dynamic breaking from the old brake shoes on wheels method of stopping a train. It’s been a particularly bad problem on the old southern region where the modern trains are also significantly lighter.

      I love train travel – Much more civilised than commercial air travel. It’s interesting to note that the passenger trains have to wait for freight in the US. In Europe the freight trains slot in between the passenger trains which have priority and travel at higher speeds. Most major cities have hourly express passenger services as a minimum. The HST’s above entered service in the UK back in the mid 1970’s providing 125mph connections from London to South Wales and Bristol. The fastest freight trains still only travel at 75mph, so you can see that there is quite a speed difference (and most are limited to 60mph).

      Our last long distance rail adventure, which you might like to read about, was to Rome. The second part follows in the subsequent post.

  3. I loved this, Martin: a really affectionate (but ruthlessly well-informed) look at the railways we love so well. I mourn the loss of the North Cornwall lines that Betjeman used to take…

    1. Sadly.. They, along with many other lines that also deserved our recollection and have passed on. Dr Beeching did what he felt was right and unitentionally played a part in the ‘must have a car’ situation we live in today. The most frustrating thing is that Barbara Castle could have reversed the process… Politicians – Can’t trust any of them 😦

  4. I like the green bus in the 1st photo. I must say I really do miss that we don’t have passenger trains here in Tasmania. When we were in Brisbane I loved going to work on the trains & even just getting a day pass on the weekend & going for a travel around the city & suburbs.

    I am lagging in my blog reading lately Martin. Just started a new job which is permanent Afternoon Shift, 2pm – 10pm & my regular routine is all out of whack for a while till I get used to it.. I must say though it’s great to wake up when your body’s ready & not having an alarm clock screaming at you at 5am to shock you awake out of a deep sleep.

    1. I thought that was you driving it for a sec 😉 We have the H3 route between East Finchley and Golders Green that uses the same vehicle type only painted red. They’re not a bad vehicle to travel on and have a very low step entrance making it easy for the elderly and disabled to board.

      Pleased to hear you’ve found a new job Tony. Hope it goes well. Being able to relax at breakfast time is great. My day starts at 8am but fortunately the journey to work is just a walk down the hallway via the bathroom to the office. The definition of traffic congestion is either Epi or Alasdair still using the bathroom when I want too 😉

  5. When I was a little girl (remember what a great age I am today) no one traveled anywhere by airplane. (Well, Charles Lindbergh maybe.) It was all trains. I crossed the country (Brooklyn NY to El Paso TX) multiple times, enraptured by waking in the night at a station somewhere, steam escaping, great chunks of ice being delivered; by the dining cars with their “silver” cutlery and elegant food; by the clickety clack of the rails. It was an adventure.
    Then at some point came the US equivalents of Dr. Beeching and Barbara Castle and what had been an amazing nationwide rail system was systematically taken apart. Now there is a skimpy patchwork quilt remaining, not enough to keep anyone warm on a chilly night, and we all pay the price in crowded roads and cattle car planes.

    1. Wow Judith – such memories…. There must be a post in those somewhere 🙂

      I think the US Railroads were mainly victims of competition from cars and airplanes, a simple case of commercial viability, whilst the UK’s nationalised railways were trimmed in a deliberate act by the governments of the time to reduce public expenditure. Air travel in the UK and Europe is not significantly faster than the train and the railways have fought back with high speed lines and generally faster trains. And some old rail routes are being looked at with a view to returning them to use. Reopening of the Oxford to Bedford route is one that is currently being firmed up. The return of trains to part of the old Waverley route as far as Galashiels and Tweedbank in the Scottish Borders is due to open in 2015 – now that’s one I travelled on several times when I was a child 🙂

  6. Those names, Martin — Galashiels and Tweedbank — they’re magical! Childhood memories for you, I’d welcome a post about that!
    (There’s something about Scotland, too—-)

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