(All photos © Rob Jones)
Through the 19th century, the Cornish fishing port of Padstow was hampered by a lack of land connections to its distant markets. The London & South Western Railway - although prevented from encroaching into the area by agreements with the Great Western - encouraged the nominally independent North Cornwall Railway company to develop a meandering route of almost 50 miles that would connect the L&SW network at Hawill to Padstow via Launceston, Camelford and Wadebridge.
Authorised by an Act of Parliament on 18th August 1882, construction was progressed in stages, reaching the 15 miles to Launceston in July 1886. The onward eight miles to Tresmeer opened on 28th July 1892; Camelford was reached in August 1893 and Delabole two months later. It was 1st June 1895 before the 11-mile section to Wadebridge saw its first traffic. Padstow's rail connection was made in March 1899. Closure was triggered by Beeching's 'reshaping', with the Halwill Junction-Wadebridge section last seeing trains on 3rd October 1966.
The only tunnel on the route (structure number NCL/125) took the single-track railway under the small, picturesque village of Trelill, five miles north-east of Wadebridge. On a curve of 30 chains radius, it extends for 354 yards on a falling gradient of 1:73 to the south.
A small landslip and associated fallen trees partly blocked the northern entrance. The attractive portal is masonry-built with an impost band and substantial pointed parapet. The wings walls are perpendicular to the track and set slightly back from the headwall.
Horseshoe-shaped in profile, the tunnel is lined throughout in stone although there is a channel of six brick courses at the crown of the arch. The refuges are also framed by brickworkl and considerable in number, located in both sides; some have exposed rock at their rear.
The tunnel is wet in places as a result of two drains introducing water at the north end. This runs in a channel at the foot of the west wall. Extensive mineral deposits are found locally on the arch.
It is presumed that the south portal is similar in design to that at the north.
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