From Portreath to Scorrier, the Railway before the Train

Please Welcome David W. Wilkins as he comes by to talk about some railway history.

Guest post by David W Wilkins

The research for The End of the World is something of a chicken and egg story. I should imagine that many tales that end up as novels have similar births. One thought leads to another and then a third and more. Finally a story of plot begins to germinate and then research follows.

For The End of the World I had long had an interest in Steam Engines. And then the age of locomotives that was shortly to come. Near the end of the Regency. But as I did research without thought to writing a Regency Romance I came across this line on the Wikipedia, ‘In 1809 a horse drawn tramway was constructed between Portreath and Scorrier…’

Laying down railway tracks before we even thought to create a train engine. Why? How?

The distances here are from Portreath to Scorrier not five miles, so not too excessively far, but certainly a novel concept. Why not have my hero be the man who starts the use of such, for before one puts carts on rail tracks, it is donkeys, mules, carting the ore to Portreath.

Still horse power to cart the output to the ships for transport, but faster, better, smarter. The call of the industrial age on the horizon.

R.F. Delderfield in God is an Englishman has a notion that the cartage business has merit, I remembered from reading over 20 years ago. There was a way to do things faster, better, cheaper.  So that was one of the skills of my hero, Samuel Billingsly Lynchhammer.

I delved into the Cornwall mining industry during the Regency, setting our tale near the end of the period of the Napoleonic war. Samuel’s father and brother were to be serving naval officers.

Some of the other influences on the story for The End of the World, an allusion to Cornwall being the End of the World, were decidedly American. There is an old Troy Donahue/Karl Malden movie called Parrish. They grew tobacco in Connecticut instead of mining copper in Cornwall.

Copper mining had begun to surpass tin mining at this time in which I set my story and from 1819 to 1840 just the Consolidated mine alone yielded 300,000 tonnes which sold for over ₤2 million. Using some of the research that I did on currency, that would be about $4 billion today. And that is one large mine, but only one mine in the area. If one mine is doing $200 million a year, then one can see that these are lucrative businesses for the aristocracy to own.

The Gwennap area of Cornwall would become the ‘ “Copper Kingdom” and then the richest known mineralised area in the world.’

In 1842 at the Tresavean Mine, in Lanner near Redruth, very close to where my story takes place, the first ever man-engine was installed. This was the height of Cornwall copper mining. So setting the scene 30 years before, when the first rail line is installed and Steam Engines are used to pump the water out of the mines, so the miners won’t drown are plot points for the The End of the World.

In 1824, the rails were made into an actual railway from Redruth to Chasewater.


Mr. Wilkin writes Regency Historicals and Romances, Ruritanian (A great sub-genre that is fun to explore) and Edwardian Romances, Science Fiction and Fantasy works. He is the author of the very successful Pride & Prejudice continuation; Colonel Fitzwilliam’s Correspondence. He has several other novels set in Regency England including The End of the World and The Shattered Mirror. His most recent work include the humorous spoof, Jane Austen and Ghosts, a story of what would happen were we to make any of these Monsters and Austen stories into a movie and  Two Peas in a Pod, a madcap tale of identical twin brothers in Regency London who find they must impersonate each other to pursue their loves.

He is published by Regency Assembly Press

Read his blog  The Things That Catch My Eye which hosts the Regency Lexicon and the current work in progress, the  Regency Timeline .

Follow him on Twitter at @DWWilkin  and  at Pinterest Regency-Era

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