Branch Line Britain - celebrating Britain's minor railways

Western - Looe review 1

Looe train waiting at Liskeard railway station


11/8/07  Liskeard to Looe

Cost of ticket £12.00 (Ride Cornwall rover ticket)

Dept Liskeard: 12.10  Arrive Looe: 12.38

Journey time:  28 mins (single track all the way)

Distance: 9 miles  Weather: hot and sunny

Train type: Class 150/2 2-car Sprinter DMU  

Railway company: First Great Western

Frequency of trains - one every 1 ½ hours (approximately)

This is one of the most unusual branch lines operating in Britain today. The main Liskeard station is a two-platform station in a cutting on the Plymouth to Penzance mainline, but trains for Looe leave up the hill from a separate station on platform 3. The train then goes north and then turns a full 180o going south, as it passes under the Cornish mainline and then goes westwards to Coombe Junction. All the time the track is constantly descending on a gradient of 1 in 40 - a drop of almost 300 feet! Our train leaves on time and is quite full, mainly with holidaymakers going to Looe. As we turn and descend we pass first under the A38 trunk road in a leafy cutting, and then the Cornish mainline, which is on a viaduct high above us. Due to the steepness of the slope we do not go faster than 30 mph until we reach the line from Looe at Coombe Junction. We don't go further down the track to where Coombe station is, as we are not scheduled to stop here. The driver walks through the train and then we change direction as we start to go south towards Looe. This entire changeover takes less than two minutes - we even park across a minor road in the valley, which is gated. Then we stop again as the driver changes the points and we set off, only to slow down a s we go over the first of several ungated minor roads. The journey then starts in earnest as we run parallel to a small stream in a wooded valley on our right. This is in fact the beginning of the river Looe that will get wider and wider, the further down the valley we go. We then stop at St Keyne station, which has a long single platform and a brick-built shelter. I can't see any houses as we pull away, though I do spot some very bright purple flowers. We don't go very far before we come to Causeland station, which is another small and isolated country station in the middle of nowhere. We don't stop here but continue on. I notice that the stream is much bigger now and we soon arrive at Sandplace. It's another station with a long platform and a shelter and this time there are some grey stone houses nearby as well as a road on the left hand side. The stream now looks like a small river as it runs parallel to us and then starts to meander away. I see a heron and some geese further out on the river, which starts to have a riverbank. We then start to see the first houses of Looe on the opposite hillside. Then many moored boats appear and as we turn the bend we arrive at Looe station. It's sadly just a single platform station with a large white painted brick shelter. A freight line used to continue further into the docks area but this closed down in the 1960's. The train just waits a couple of minutes before commencing its return journey and stopping at all the stations on the return route.

Summary: A very pleasant branch line, which is popular in the summer months with tourists. I'm not sure how many people use it in the winter months and this could be the undoing of the line one day.  MC