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Trail Stop No 10 - 1930s:
Tregenna Castle locomotive sets a world speed record

The St. Ives Branch line was the last broad-gauge line to be built by the Great Western Railway (GWR), and was opened on 24th May 1877. Some 300 men were involved in the construction of the line, which involved complex and expensive engineering to blast a number of cuttings and construct several embankments.  It immediately proved popular both for the carriage of fish and other freight, and with passengers, with over 53,000 tickets being sold in the first year of operation.  The opening of the line fuelled a boom in tourism, and Tregenna Castle was reopened as a hotel run by GWR in 1878.

Tregenna Castle No 5006 was one of a number of Castle Class locomotives used to haul Great Western Railway passenger trains. They had a 4-6-0 formation and were designed by GWR's Chief Mechanical Engineer Charles Collett. 155 Castle Class engines were built between 1927 and 1950, and they were heralded as Britain's most powerful express passenger locomotives.  Tregenna Castle was named after the GWR hotel in St. Ives and came into service in 1927. The locomotive operated mainly on the line between London Paddington and Cheltenham.

There was fierce competition internationally for the title of fastest locomotive and the Paddington to Cheltenham route was recognised as one of the quickest, with the Castle Class engines operating it becoming known as 'Cheltenham Flyers'.  On 6th June 1932 Tregenna Castle, driven by Harry Ruddock with driver Harry Thorp, set a new record covering the 77.3 miles between Swindon and Paddington in 56 minutes and 47 seconds, at an average speed of 81.6 mph. For the 29 miles between Wantage and Twyford the engine averaged 90.1 mph.

Tregenna Castle remained in service with GWR on the Paddington to Cheltenham line until 1962, and was retired after clocking up some 1,812,966 miles (2,917,685km). Other engines were used to bring holidaymakers down to Cornwall on what was known as the 'Cornish Riviera Express' which carried passengers to Penzance and Falmouth as well as to destinations in Devon. 

The last scheduled steam services on the St. Ives Branch Line ran in 1961 with only occasional workings over the next year as diesel trains were introduced.  The number of passengers using the line began to decline from the late 1950s and the line was earmarked for closure in the Beeching Report of 1963, with a bus service recommended to replace it. Following numerous local protests a temporary reprieve was granted by Transport Minister Ernest Marples but closure was announced again in October 1965. This led to an inquiry by the Transport Users Consultative Committee in March 1966, and eventually in September that year Barbara Castle who was now Minster for Transport announced that the line would remain open.

Castle Class Locomotive No 5006 'Tregenna Castle'

Tregenna Castle Name Plate in St. Ives Museum

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