Camborne & Redruth Light Railways

3ft. 6in. gauge tramway operating 7 Nov 1902 to 29 Sep 1927 with freight to 1937

Camborne & Redruth Track Layout

In 1898 a proposal for a nine mile electric tramway between Camborne, Redruth and Portreath on the coast had been defeated by the Great Western Railway and other opponents.

The tramway was a member of the Urban Electric Supply Company Ltd. Construction was by Dick, Kerr Ltd. commencing in February 1902 with a substantial completion by the September.

The tramway opened to passengers on 7 November 1902 and to freight in May 1903. It closed to passengers on 29 September 1927 with a final closure in August 1934 when the freight service of tin ore was replaced by an aerial ropeway.

Open Top 4 Wheel Tram The route length was 3.4 miles (3.7 miles with the mine and crushing plant branch lines) with a narrow gauge track of 3ft 6in as common for the smaller systems in the West Country.

Motorised rolling stock comprised of six open top double deck cars, two single deck cars and two freight locomotives. All were built by G F Milnes in 1902 and 1903. The depot was at Carn Brea.

The six double deck cars seated 22 passengers inside and 26 on the top deck, whilst the two single deck cars seated 34 passengers in one central enclosed, two outer semi enclosed and two end open sections by the driver. Four double deck and the two single deck cars arrived in 1902; the final two double deck cars in 1903.

All passenger cars were equipped with Milnes trucks, twin GE 28HP 58-6T motors and BTH B18 controllers.

Original livery of the passenger cars was dark green and cream with gold lining with the words “Camborne & Redruth” on the rocker panels, later to be replaced with a simpler all-over green.

Rigid frames were used for the two open sided freight locomotives built in 1903 with twin GE 25HP K60 motors and BTH B18 controllers. They were both rebuilt in the early 1920s with a more weather resistant enclosure. A total of twelve ore wagons were in use on the tramway.

Nos.7 & 8 1903 The freight locomotives were used to carry tin ore from the East Pool and Wheal Agar mines to the crushing plant at Tolvaddon. The Cornish Engines at Old East Pool and Taylor’s Shaft have been preserved by the National Trust. The rails and granite setts survived at several locations for many years and may still be seen today.


The following article is an extract from Histelec News 22 Supplement by Eric Edmonds
Camborne & Redruth Tramway


The Track

The laying of the track started on 7.4.02. and the men were paid 4d/hour. They struck on the next day – refused 4d and then settled for 5d/hour after one hour. No strike has occurred in electrical distribution in Cornwall since that day, not even during the General Strike of 1926. The track was 3ft 6inch gauge, the rails spaced by tie-rods, 8ft apart, and was all single track with eight loops and double tracks at each end. It was in the centre of the road, to B.O.T. requirements. The sharpest curve was 40ft radius and the steepest section 1:15 on East Hill. The rails were laid on 6inch of concrete, with 5inch x 4inch stone sets extending 16inch on either side of each rail, with macadam between and outside. These rails, weighing 83lb/yard as well as the steel trolley wire poles, were shipped in through Portreath. The “Neptune” type bonds and the 50lb fish plates were supplied by Dick Kerr & Co. The various points and the railway crossings, across the North Roskear, North Crofty and Portreath branches of the G.W.R., were supplied by the Steel Casting Co. Whilst the track was being laid down East Hill, Tuckingmill, a traction engine got too near to the north side and the nearside rear wheel went over the edge of the wall, blocking the road for over 24 hours.


Building Tramway
Fig.1 Track Laying in 1901


The Trolley Wire

This consisted of duplicate 0.324″ diam. H.D. copper (Standard Gauge 0) attached to insulated hangers which were on the plain bracket fixed to steel pole. All these poles were on the north side of the road, except between East Hill and the depot, at Rounding Walls and over the double tracks. Here the insulated hangers were suspended on strung wires, which were erected by means of a Rawlinson Trolley Ladder (horse-drawn). Single wires went into the depot and into the two mines.

In 1913 a system of signalling lights was added at exits to loops at Roskear, East Hill, Illogan Highway and Barncoose. The trolley arm made contact with a copper strip, which energised a relay and so altered two 240 volt bulbs in series, thus indicating whether or not a tram was coming in the opposite direction on that section of single track. At Commercial Square and West End, the trolley arm had to be swung around to trail for the return journey, a rope being attached for this purpose.

Supply to Trolley Wires

One traction cable was laid from the generating station to Camborne and the other to Redruth. The B.O.T. requirement was that the overhead wire was split into sections of less than 1/2 mile and these sections were fed by cables teed on to the traction cable and connected through cast iron boxes on certain poles, as under :-

1. (a) Depot 2. (e) Depot
(b) Pool Chapel (f) Pendarves Street,Tuckingmill
(c) Illogan Highway Chapel (g) Wesley Street
(d) Blowinghouse
The Tram Cars

Initially there were six – Nos. 1 to 4 open top deck, Nos. 5 & 6 single deck. The open-top units were to the Bellamy Reversed Staircase pattern, with three windows and unvestibuled end canopies with a sliding door to the driving position. The reversed stairs to the upper deck gave some weather protection to the driver, but restricted his view on the near side. The seats were hole-pattern plywood and those on the top deck had swing-over back. The top deck had a two bar railing and decency boards, which formed the base for advertisements. A column at each end supported a light, which also covered the stairs.

The trolley arm pole was on the north-side of each car to be near the street poles carrying the conductors. Contact was by a copper wheel on the end of the insulated and internally sprung trolley arm, which moved round the trolley pole. This arm had to be trailing when running and so had to be reversed with a rope by the Conductor or Brakesman at each terminus. The capacity was 48 persons – 22 below and 26 above. They were 28ft long x 6ft 3inch wide. with 6ft 6inch interior and weighed 11 tons and were built by G.E Milnes of Birkenhead and had the Milnes girder truck or bogey (of German design) with two 25 H.P. motors driving through enclosed gears all being standard B.T.H. design. There were controls at each end, the first four notches connecting the two motors in series, and then in parallel with regenerative braking. The brakes on the wheels had cast iron shoes, slipper brakes were added following the B.O.T. Inspector’s recommendation being Milnes pattern.

The two single deck cars had short two window central saloons and back-to-back cross bench seats behind the platform at each end. The outer seat was thus very close the Driver. The girder truck was identical to the others. The central trolley pole was mounted on the clerestory roof and there were 34 seats. These were known as the American cars as this pattern was in common use out there and were used to supplement the service.

The colour scheme was dark green and cream with the name in gold and crimson blocking and thick gold framing around the panels. The front and rear lights were lit by a change-over plug, which also lit the light over the staircase. Later when expenses were rising, the cars were painted green only. All cars were fitted with Jerrard’s Automatic Track Cleaner, which was a length of iron with a shaped end, attached to each bogey. The First Supply on the Network The first consumers were connected in August. 1902. A public Lighting Agreement was signed on 15.5.02 with the Redruth U.D.C. for 2 Arc Lamps, 28 all-night lamps and 148 1/2 night lights, which were connected by 1903.

Opening of the Tramway

The members of the Camborne and the Redruth Councils were taken for rides on the trams on the 1.10.02, and the B.O.T. Inspector made his formal inspection on 25.10.02; passing the whole tramway for use, except for a recommendation on slipper brakes. On 7th November, 1902, 200 local dignitaries were invited, with Mrs. Wigham, wife of an Edmundson’s Director, the guest-of-honour. After lunch, they were all taken for a trip and then the cars went into normal service. The crowd at the depot were given tea and sandwiches.


Electric Tram
Fig.2 Electric Tram – Redruth to Camborne


At 5.30am the Miners’ Special, then half-hourly with 4 cars to 8.00am, then quarter-hourly with 6 cars. On Fridays the service was every 7 minutes, 2.00-7.00 p.m. and to 9.00pm on Saturdays. The last through tram from either end went at 11.05pm and then back to the Depot. The time for the full journey was 23 minutes and the fare initially 2d. Extra trams were put on for holiday and big football matches – all County Rugby matches being then played at Redruth.

Special cars could also be ordered, but owing to the single line, such passengers had to be very careful to be at the agreed place by the agreed time. Clocks were installed in the waiting rooms in Camborne and Redruth, being carefully checked each day. A parcels service was provided, conducted by a special porter. The “pasty special” was the 12 noon from Redruth. and bicycles could be carried on the front platform of any tram for 6d until 1918. From February 1904, a letter box was attached to specific trams at the rear, with a G.P.O. sign on the near side top deck rail, and from that date also the G.P.O. mail was picked up daily from Pool Post Office.

Inevitably, there was rowdiness and overcrowding, particularly at night. The “Electrical Times” of 4.2.04 reported that notices had appeared in the trams :-
“The Camborne public will confer a favour on Urban ESCo, the Camborne Council and themselves, by not over-crowding the cars. Wait until the next.”
They added the comment that they hoped that Urban ESCo was willing to meet the Camborne public half-way by providing extra cars at times of peak load. However, this trouble continued, and in 1909 by-laws were introduced for operating the tramway and the rights of passengers.

The Mineral Line


 Mineral Train
Mineral Train – Trevenson – Post 1923

Following the failure of the electric telpher in the 1890’s, East Pool Mine had had to revert to carrying their tinstuff to Tolvaddon Stamps by horse and cart, and this was inefficient and costly. On 13.5.03. Urban ESCo signed an Agreement with the East Pool and Agar United Mines Adventurers to carry their tinstuff on the tramway at 6d/ton over the weighbridge, to provide 24 hours storage of 200 tons; the mines providing the labour for loading and unloading. Two open locomotives were purchased based on the same Milnes bogey, 2 x 25 H.P. motors, and 14 wagons – eight 21/2 ton and six 3 ton.

The Agreement provided for these trains to be run between 7.00 a.m and 5.00 p.m. daily. except Sundays, Christmas Day and Good Friday, and the cost was increased to 6 1/2d/ton in 1911. East Pool was the only cost-book company with which the Urban ESCo had any Agreements.



Tram Crews - 1920
Tram Crews – 1920

The first Engineer in charge of the Tramway was Mr. F.T. Crow, who was killed in a motor-cycle accident in 1913 and was succeeded by Mr. H.S. Sowell. There were two Inspectors and initially eight Motormen, one of whom. Mr. Joe Smith, served right through from 1902 to 1934. Normally there were eight and two spare, each with a Conductor, as permanent pairs. The uniform was dark blue with green piping, and designation on a peaked cap. The jackets were of the chauffeur cross-over type, but later loose fitting single-breasted tunics were issued. The Motormen were also issued with waterproof capes fastening up at the back, and wooden shoes. Mr. R.D. Gill, an Assistant Engineer on the supply side, had left to join Cornwall Consolidated Tin Mines Ltd. around 1906 as Superintending Engineer. Mr. H.G.Vowles joined the staff around that time.


New and Old
Fig.3 A Tram competing with old transport


Maintenance of the Tramway
The Track and Main Road

The condition of the road alongside the rails had been a continual cause for complaint from the County Council from the start and in 1910 the Board of Trade Inspector was called in. He adjudged the Company had failed to comply with conditions of the Camborne and Redruth Tramway Order 1900. An Agreement was made on 24.10.10 with the County Council, to relay the tramway by the original contractors and the track to be laid on new foundations, with Macadam inside and outside the rails at a higher level for 2,800 yards. The Company had also to pay the County Council and Redruth U.D.C. £200/annum for maintenance. A further Agreement was signed on 14.7.22 when the annual maintenance payment was raised to £400/annum.

Trams and Trolley Wire

The Company was virtually self-reliant for all repairs, and all work on the trams and locomotives was done at Carn Brea. Tram bodies were repaired and painted and the wooden frame of at least one open-deck tram was almost completely replaced due to wet rot following the ingress of water between joints of the panels. A pair of beam jacks was used to lift the body clear of the bogey, after removing the bolts. Routine overhauls were carried out on the bogies. The wheels had new tyres shrunk on and skimmed in the lathe and commutators were also skimmed, when beyond the wear that could be dealt with by the commutator grindstone. The tyres, bearings and brake shoes were all cast in the depot and this foundry work was later extended to include parts for 10kV Switchgear. All trolley wire inspections and repairs were carried out using a telescopic tower wagon. There was a water tank for softening mud in the rails, a track tool truck, which was towed out behind a tram and then lifted off the rails, and also a 4-wheel “ambulance” to deal with cases of broken axles.


Carn Brea Tram Shed 1904

Major overhaul of a tram.

The bogey has been removed after the tram body had been disconnected and lifted on beams between two pairs of jacks. The tyres are worn to their limit. A replacement tyre was 32″ in diameter on the outside of the tread and 27″ internal diameter, with 2″ of tread and a flange of 5/8″. Some 1″ of wear was permissible, reducing the wheel diameter by 3″ and hence the speed. The fitter who turned the replacement tyres was Arthur Charleston, fourth from the right.


Accidents on the Tramway

The B.O.T. requirements were for the track to be in the middle of the road and this led to several accidents over the years. On 29.11.02 at Barncoose, a man was run over and died following the amputation of a leg. In 1905 a 2 1/2 year old child died after falling under the lifeguard and in 1907 a blacksmith on a bicycle was knocked over at Foundry Lane. Horses were often frightened and on one occasion a pony in a trap bolted, resulting in a lady being killed, two persons injured and itself also being killed, when it collided with a trolley-wire pole. On 16th January 1926, a 13-year old part-time parcel boy, son of one of the Inspectors, was injured near Camborne by a motor cyclist, as he alighted as a passenger, and died from his injuries. On 8.6.08 a conductor was removing the trolley rope from the standard, prior to swinging the arm around at Commercial Square, when the rope was caught by the head of a man riding on the top of the outgoing tram. He suffered a contused wound on the neck and severe bruising of the larynx.

The Great War, 1914-1918

The introduction of the dim-out and the need to connect motors in various factories, which had turned over to munitions, somewhat curtailed the connection of domestic consumers. The call-up of men affected the Urban Company, so that conductresses were recruited. They were issued with breeches, leather leggings, coats and soft caps. They continued in service until 1920, by which time there was a bit of local comment, as so many men could not find work.

The Camborne & Redruth Tramway Ceases to Operate The Passenger Service

In 1919 the Directors had considered proposals for the establishment of Bus Services to protect the Tramway, but the outlay required. £5,750, was not available. The post-war depression reflected on the takings and, following the grant of an increase to Drivers by the Tramway Court, an application was made to the B.O.T. to increase the fares and a 100% increase was authorised for six months in July 1920. The service was reduced by running every half-hour on week-day evenings, the last car going at 10.30p.m. The losses continued and the position was worsened in 1926 when the Cornwall Motor Transport Co, started running a pair of single-deck buses, with starting times a few minutes before each tram. By September 1927, the losses for the year were already £l,500. The Tramway was offered to the Council, who declined to take it over. The trams and the track were by now worn out and re-equipment was essential if it was to continue. The Directors gave notice of intent to close it on 29th September 1927, and that the 10.30 p.m. from each end would be the last to run. Earlier in the evening extra trams were run, to give everyone a chance of a final ride. Needless to say, the School of Mines students were to the fore at Camborne. The last tram duly left, with musical honours, and about 138 persons aboard. It was reported at the time that Mr. S. Harvey was the driver, but recently it has been stated that Mr. Ernest Wallace was driving. Mr. Hards took over at Roskear and drove it into the shed.

So ended the only electrical tramway system in Cornwall. In 25 years the trams had travelled 3,600,000 miles and carried 32,000,000 passengers, with a reputation for punctuality. There were no offers to take over the tramway and soon all the trams were broken up for scrap, though one body survived for years as a greenhouse. The motors and controllers were bought by a local concern and then sold to the Bristol Tramway undertaking as spares. Some of the drivers and conductors got jobs with the C.M.T., whilst others not required on the Mineral Line, were transferred to other jobs, mostly in the Engineering Department.

Mineral Line Carries On

East Pool Mine closed in February 1921, when the Mitchell Shaft collapsed and the result was that the Mineral Line also closed until December 1923, when the new Taylor’s Shaft was in production. The new Substation beside Taylors Shaft Compressor House was established with the following plant :- a 1200cfm Holman Compressor with 215 HP motor and its twin from Grenville with 230 HP Motor and running under automatic control. A new Agreement was signed on 31.10.23. The new terms were 7d/ton of tinstuff up to 85,000 tons/annum, then 6d/ton up to 280 tons/day. If over 280 tons/day, the Mine to pay full cost of additional equipment and rolling stock, with a limit of 420 tons/day and a condition that no other concern could carry any of this tinstuff to Tolvaddon. When the passenger service closed in 1927, the Mineral Line continued to operate. When the second depression started in 1930, nine power consumers were closed down by the end of October, namely Cornish Tin Smelting, Geevor, Jantar at Porkellis, Levant, River Tin at St.Erth, South Crofty, Treskillard Minerals, Wheal Kitty and Wheal Buller. East Pool had discharged 2/3 of the men and was working one shift only with a corresponding reduction on tinstuff to be moved to Tolvaddon. By now the Mineral Line and equipment was in a poor condition and a financial embarrassment to the Company with the additional cost of change of frequency in 1933.

The last agreement was made in 1933, in which the Mine was required to pay the entire running costs, plus £900/annum. The mine decided to build an Aerial Ropeway from alongside the crusher direct across the fields to Tolvaddon. This was driven by a 20 H.P. motor and capable of 40 tons/hour. The Mineral Line was closed in August, 1934, after 30 years mining and had carried 1,300.000 tons of tinstuff, The remaining trolley wires were dismantled, the locos and trucks sold for scrap, and the track was gradually pulled up. The steel poles were used for street lights and later sold, the local councils using them for years. The Aerial Ropeway continued in service until East Pool finally closed in 1947, and was far more successful than the unfortunate Telpher Line (an overhead conveyor) between 1889-92.


Carn Brea
Fig.4 Carn Brea Generating Station & Offices

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