The farmlands of Cornwall are well known for the production of… Clotted Cream. And very bad for the health of tourists it is too 😉 Cornwall has much else to share – beautiful scenery, maritime heritage and mining, come to mind. But one thing Cornwall could not be claimed to be is a prairie so why the title?

A visit to the Bodmin and Wenford railway will answer that question – the 45xx Prairie tank working the passenger services in the dying days of the tourist season. So, why Prairie? In America steam locomotives of a 2-6-2 wheel arrangement were referred to as prairies in much the same way as 2-6-0’s were referred to as Mogul’s in Europe. The names stuck. So a 45xx of the old Great Western Railway is a Prairie Tank and much loved by GWR enthusiasts. 5552 on the Bodmin and Wenford Railway is a classic example of the type 🙂

Our day out at the Bodmin and Wenford Railway gave us the the chance to sample one of these engines in its home environment and the atmosphere was great. Please see the photos and enjoy…

Bodmin General
5552 stands in Bodmin General Station with a service to Boscarne Junction
5552 Runs Around Her Train
5552 Runs Around Her Train
The Crew
The Crew
Drifting Steam and 5552
Bodmin General
Bodmin General – The Age of Steam

We walked dark corridors, climbed barely lit stairs, taking care on the uneven floors. Around every turn people awaiting execution for committing evil deeds could be found. But here there were also children – awaiting a flogging for stealing a sheaf of corn or merely imprisoned because their parents were incarcerated within.

A walk around Bodmin Jail is a chilling experience as the evil of the English prison system of the 18th and 19th centuries is told in the stories of so many people who spent time within the walls and in many cases met their deaths through illness, brutality or the hangman’s rope. Many visitors claim to have experienced the presence of past inmates during their tour and a number have complained of extreme headaches and experiencing a feeling of deep depression. I can’t claim that I felt any of this – the place is horrible enough without any supernatural influences to make it worse. I recommend a visit to Bodmin Jail for the experience and the insight it gives into past prison regimes. You can find more details and some of the history on the Jail’s website. Check out the ‘Most Haunted’ videos too…

Disturbed Rooks cawing,
Settle once more in twisted branches
on a hedge-bound Oak

The church tower, a gaunt finger
pointing accusingly to
the lowering Fen skies

The apse, open to the rain
with windows stained by age
Recalls the passing of
men and seagulls
Who followed the plough

Remembers the villagers
Once so many – That their singing
Warmed the very stones
and celebrated many a Sunday
as the Parson preached
the way to live one’s life

The centrepiece of life then
but of a village no longer

Abandoned, along with the land
as the call of the factory,
the dreams of fortune,
drew the young men away
to new hard labours

Denuded of festival
as the harvest was mechanised
Horse for tractor exchanged

So now forgotten
amidst long untended graves
only those called to the anti-Christ
hold tryst here now

The church stands
A reminder of lost community
A lost way of life

Haywain in Shammer, Norfolk, 1935
Haywain in Shammer, Norfolk, 1935 – photo by Richard Mark Johnson

Martin Addison 02/11/2012