The celebrations for the centenary of the official opening of the Plymouth Devonport & South Western Junction Railways (PD&SWJR) branch line from Bere Alston to Callington (Kelly Bray) started early on Saturday 23rd Feb. with the first of many planned events. David Lane from Calstock Footpaths Society led a walk around Calstock (5 miles) taking in the river, Okel Tor, Oakenhays House and the Danecombe Valley. In the evening passengers on the 21:24 train from Plymouth were entertained to jazz by the John Shillito Select Four, and drinks from the bar.
On Sunday Morning Stephen Docksey led a walk "Up the Down Line" from Gunnislake station to Latchley Halt taking in many of the remains of the old line.On Sunday afternoon (24th) passengers on the 14:12 from Plymouth were treated to a talk by local historian John Snell about his experiences working on the line. John joined the railway in 1949 and spent all his working life on the railway, much of it on the Callington Branch and at Bere Alston station.
Friday 29th saw the start of a three day of an interactive arts project called ‘Station 2 Station’ where teams from Plymouth University collected stories and tails of life around the TamarValley.
19:30 saw the start of a weekend of activities at Bere Alston Parish Hall stating with the first ever screening of a film produced by the ‘South West Film & Television Archive’ (SWFTA) covering 100 years of the Callington branch line. The film was enjoyed by a capacity audience who also had the opportunity to see a superb exhibition of photographs, memorabilia and railway related artefacts, put on by local heritage groups, the exhibition was on for three days and very well attended.
Festivities continued on Saturday with more walks ‘Underneath the Arches’ and an exhibition by the Calstock Parish Archive and at Calstock Station car park there was the chance to take part in a circus skills workshop.
In the evening Bere Alston put on a ‘Railway Extravaganza’ at the Parish Hall which included African Drums, a talk on the Callington Branch by John Snell, a play abut the problems John Lang encountered while building the viaduct and his disagreements with the Board of Directors. The finale was a selection of ‘Railway’ songs by thr Tavy Tars, some old, some new and some adopted. The guests of honour for the evening and the whole weekend were Jenifer Squires and Susan Medhurst, great granddaughters of John Charles Lang who was the builder of the viaduct. At the same time it was the turn of Calstock to enjoy the SWFTA film show.
Sunday, like Saturday was bright and sunny. A large crowd assembled at 10:30 at Gunnislake station to witness John Snell unveiling the first of three plaques celebrating the centenary of the opening of the branch from Bere Alston to Callington. Many people, some in period costume, boarded the train to travel to Bere Alston where the Stannary band and children from Bere Alston School were entertaining the crowd as they inspected a display of vintage vehicles in the station car park.At 11.45 Geoffrey Cox, MP for West Devon and Brian Greenstead, leader of DCC unveiled the centenary plaque on Bere Alston Station and with the arrival of a crowded, newly refurbished class 150 the main event of the day got underway when it became the first class 150 to be officially named. The name chosen was ‘J CHARLES LANG’ who was the man responsible for the building of the ‘Bere Alston & Calstock Light Railway’ (BA&CLR) which includes the magnificent viaduct at Calstock. Although Lang had his problems with the PD&SWJR board over his chosen method of construction and delays there is no doubt that he was a first rate builder.
The naming ceremony was carried out by Jenifer Squires and Susan Medhurst, both great grandchildren of John Charles Lang, Jenifer flying over from her home in Canada for the occasion.
The official party and many others boarded the train to cross the viaduct to Calstock Station exactly 100 years after the first official train at 12:00 on 2 March 1908.
The reception at Calstock was magnificent with many in period costume for the arrival of the first train. The platform was crowded with the Calstock ‘Rubber Band’ providing the entertainment. Colin Breed, the MP for South West Cornwall unveiled a plaque on the side of the waiting shelter while the station car park boasted an ‘Edwardian Fair’ which included many stalls of local flowers, pottery and gifts. Music and magic, a carousel of horses, suffragettes, a fortune teller and freak show.
The Calstock Parish Archive exhibition at Calstock Hall drew a good crowd and the Rail Exhibition at Bere Alston with its magnificent ‘O’ gauge model railway was well attended.
Monday was a “Once in a lifetime” opportunity to walk across Calstock Viaduct. As soon as the 14:24 from Gunnislake had cleared the branch three groups of fifty people were allowed 30 mins each on the viaduct. Each group was given a short safety talk before being let free on the viaduct to explore and take those one off photographs. After one short shower the sun shone as it had for the whole week-end.
Change of Direction by First Great Western?