Favourite photo-spots: Liskeard

Dramatic scenery and numerous viaducts make Cornwall something of a dream for railway photography, with the added attraction of most local services now being formed of the ex-HST 2+4 “Castle” sets and semaphore signalling at five main-line stations within the Royal Duchy.

First up of this quintet is Liskeard, 264½ miles from Paddington (via Bristol) and home to a rare centre-pivot semaphore as well as being a junction for the scenic Looe Valley branch line, whose platform (3) stands as right-angles to the main line and is adorned with 1960s-style chocolate and cream signage.

Having spent time at Liskeard station in the past, I was keen to seek out the first of the six semaphore signals here, the down outer home (LD35) which westbound trains will pass on approaching the station before rounding a sharp left-hand curve that takes them onto Liskeard Viaduct and into the station.

After some study of local maps and invaluable help from Google street view, I had worked out that there was a promising vantage point from which to see trains passing LD35 from a bridge carrying a narrow lane called St. Keyne Road some distance south-east of the station.

150265 has just passed LD35 with the 11.26 Exeter SD-Penzance (2C24)

43097/093 passing LD35 with the 11.50 Penzance-Plymouth (2P13)

Anyone who knows the Looe branch will appreciate the steep descent towards Coombe Junction, where branch trains must reverse, so no surprise then that the challenging 35-minute walk from Liskeard station to St. Keyne Road over-bridge (264 miles 10.75 chains) involves a fair amount of hills. 

150247 at Lodge Farm Crossing with the 13.36 Liskeard-Looe (2L83)

Leaving the station and turning left to cross the railway bridge, the walk involves following the B3254 downhill and eventually crossing a bridge over the upper section of Looe branch line, before taking a sharp left turn up a narrow lane close to an ungated level crossing (Lodge Farm Crossing) on the lower section of the Looe line, south of Combe Junction.

802008 passes LD32 with the 08.04 London Paddington-Penzance (1C72)

802216 departs Liskeard with the 10.15 Penzance-London Paddington (1A84)

This narrow lane climbs steeply up hill, eventually bearing round to the right and finally joining St. Keyne Road at Housey Farm. Turning left here and continuing in a north-westerly direction for about ten minutes brings you to the over-bridge and a fine panoramic view of the railway and signal LD35. 

43187/158 pass LD33 with the 08.55 Bristol TM-Penzance (2C67)

On a day (Monday, 26 October 2020) of rapidly changing weather I had got a soaking on my outward walk to the bridge, and got even wetter during a torrential downpour on my return walk, but miraculously the sun appeared just in time for my photos showing 150265 on a westbound service and 43097/093 on a Plymouth-bound working. 

43005/192 approach Liskeard with the 10.50 Penzance-Bristol TM (2U20)

Besides this bridge, there are great views to be had from the station’s platform ends and the road over-bridge, as trains from the Plymouth direction near the station and cross Liskeard Viaduct, while looking west the lines falls way and curves first right and then left as it passes down section signal LD32, which is on the right of the tracks for sighting reasons (photos below).

43040/188 arrive at Liskeard with the 12.50 Penzance-Exeter SD (2E15)

Liskeard’s 1915-vintage Great Western Railway signal box has been newly-repainted in an attractive chocolate and cream (it was white when I was last here), but has yet to be adorned with one of the heritage-style nameplates that are feature of other boxes in Cornwall.

150247 arrives at platform 3 with the 14.08 ex-Looe (2L84)

Its 36-lever frame controls a total of six semaphore arms, along with a number of shunting discs. In the down direction the four semaphores are LD35, featured above, which is followed by home signal LD34 at the station end of Liskeard Viaduct (seen in top photo and below) starter LD33 at the end of the down platform and section signal LD32 beyond and on the right.

The only up semaphore signal visible from the station is home signal LD3, a wooden-armed centre-pivot signal (pictured above) that is something of a rarity and one of only four surviving examples on the national network, along with those at Droitwich Spa, Shrewsbury and Worcester Shrub Hill.    

Out of sight in a westerly direction is an up outer home signal (LD2) which stands close to Moorswater Viaduct, which the main line crosses high above the freight line leading north from Coombe Junction Halt to the one-time china clay works that is now Moorswater cement terminal and sees regular rail traffic.