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Lappa Valley Steam Railway - Newquay, Cornwall
With three separate miniature railways running through a huge environmentally friendly conservation area in a wooded valley, enjoy wildlife and steam trains in a protected environment.
And, it's not just about miniature railways and a steam railway. There are picnic areas, the Old Forge Coffee Shop, an old Cornish mine, a boating lake, maze, crazy golf, an old gypsy caravan ... and much, much more.
The track was originally laid out in 1849, to service the needs of the East Wheal Rose tin mine, transporting minerals away from the site and work materials to the site.
Over the years the railway grew in importance and was part of the main railway network. By 1905 you could take the train from Newlyn East to Truro. Between 1930 and the 1960s it was a popular route with holidaymakers. However, in 1963 Dr Beeching's axe on the railways decided that the Newquay to Chacewater route should be closed as it was uneconomic. Once closed, the track and bridges were removed. In 1973, Eric Booth bought this section of the route and opened up Lappa Valley Steam Railway.
There are four steam locomotives using the track at Lappa Valley. Two coal-fired steam locomotives, one diesel-powered and one petrol-driven.
The ten 15" gauge carriages, were made locally, with adjustments being made over the years to cope with varying weather, to extend the usefulness of the trains as an all-weather attraction. There are completely open carriages, perfect for long, hot, balmy summer days - and even a fully-enclosed and sumptuously upholstered carriage, perfect for a little bit of olden-day luxury.
There is one mile of track running through the Lappa Valley, with two stations. Trains run to a schedule, every 40 minutes, so if you miss one you'll have to wait! The first train runs at 10:30am and the last one at 4:00pm/4:40pm/5:20pm, depending on the season.
If you arrive for the 2:40pm train or later then you'll pay the afternoon saver fares rates, which is £2-2.50/person cheaper.
The train will take you to East Wheal Rose, you can then return on any train.
East Wheal Rose Engine House
East Wheal Rose is a former engine house and about 160 years ago over 1200 people were employed at the mine. The East Wheal Rose Engine House was built in 1881-82 to house a steam-driven engine that pumped water out of the mine.
The chimney stack on the site is 120' tall.
There is a mine shaft in front of the East Wheal Rose Engine House that's nearly 1000 feet/300 metres deep! This is now completely flooded because the engine house no longer pumps water out of the mine.
The East Wheal Rose Disaster of July 1846
Watch the dramatised film telling a sad story of a disaster which happened at the mine on 9 July 1846. In a freak weather event, a huge thunderstorm and cloud sat over the area. The storm lasted more than 1½ hours and there was a torrential flood that came down the hills towards the mine. 300 men were tasked with piling up earth to try to fend it off, but to no avail as the water inundated the area and overwhelmed their efforts.
39 lost their lives in the mine that day as water surged down the mine shafts and through the tunnels like a tsunami. 22 widows were made that day and 60 children left fatherless.
It took until November to get the mine fully cleared out and operational again.
Other Railway Routes on the Site
In addition to the main steam railway, there are two other lines on the site to enjoy.
This miniature railway is 0.2 miles long (350 yards) and runs in a circle, through a tunnel, round the Trevithick maze, past the nature pond and back to the main station at East Wheal Rose.
This miniature railway is modelled on the modern Intercity 125 trains and the Advanced Passenger train. It runs on a 7¼" gauge railway.
This miniature railway runs from East Wheal Rose for half a mile along the original track bed. It has been running since 1995.
The route runs to the Family Games Field and the start of the nature trail, then follows the Lappa river on the return journey.
What Else Is There to Do at Lappa Valley?
It's really not about steam trains at all - in fact, the steam trains are just the transport you use to get you around the site. The first train takes you to the East Wheal Rose, then there's a choice of two circular trips on two additional railways, or you can make your way on foot around the extensive valley.
Lappa Valley Boating Lake
There are canoes and paddle boats on the large boating lake, which has two large islands to navigate your way round. There's a lot of wildlife in the area, so see if you can spot dragonflies or damselflies.
This is an unusual brick and turf maze, the design is based on a railway locomotive from 1804. Richard Trevithick is a Cornishman, from Camborne - and his steam engine was the first in the world to run on rails.
The maze is 6x the size of a locomotive and shows all the main mechanical parts. It took 10,000 bricks to build the paths. The maze contains half a mile of paving.
Starting from the outside, using only the brick paths, make your way to the centre of the maze and ring the bell! There are also secret, hidden, symbols to spot along the route.
There's a crazy golf course and a pitch & putt area - fun for the whole family, no matter what your ages!
9 Hole Golf Course
If you're a little more serious about your golf, then why not have a quick round on the 9 hold golf course. This is a separate activity to the Lappa Valley, so there's an additional charge to pay. It's open April-October and you can hire all the equipment you need.
See the authentic gypsy caravan - and imagine how it'd be to live in one, travelling the country at horse-pace.
Nature Trails & Badger Spotting
There are two separate nature trails at Lappa Valley. Have a short ramble around ancient Willow Carr, where you'll see bluebells, ferns and lots of small birds and other wildlife. While Arthur's Walk takes you on a longer hike of nearly half a mile, bringing you back to the entrance area, you might see badgers on this route. So, if you want to do badger spotting, this is the route for you!
There are plenty of great grassy play areas too. There's a play train, swings, a slide, a roundabout, climbing frames and even a sand pit.
Older kids can enjoy a tubular slide or even exploring inside a small castle.
At Newlyn Halt you'll find a Family Games Field, with room to play football.
If the weather's dry and fine, there's a play area with miniature trampolines and a ball pool - although these are outside, so not available if the weather's wet.
Coin Operated Cars
There's a track with miniature cars and motorbikes for hire. These are coin-operated so will cost you a bit extra if you use them.
For Under 5's there are pedal cars on a separate track, which are free to use.
All in all, there's plenty to keep everybody amused and happy for a whole day. The Lappa Valley site is large and you can go on the small railways as often as you like. Nearly everything is included in the price, meaning it's possible to budget. Take a picnic to eat, or eat at the Old Forge Coffee Shop on site. It's your day and your choice!
Directions to Lappa Valley
Lappa Valley is just a few miles west of Newquay, near the village of St Newlyn East.
There's plenty of free on-site parking available.
Admission Prices (2016): Prices include all activities except coin-operated cars.
Adult £12.50, Child (3-15 yrs) £10, Family (2+2) £40, Over 60s £10. Dog £1.
Special rates for the disabled and their carers
Vouchers and Discounts: If you arrive late in the afternoon (for the 2.40pm train onwards), then admission is discounted
Disabled Friendly: Not only do you get a discount, but two compartments in the 15" steam railway have been adapted with ramps and removable seats. There are disabled toilets at both stations and the main areas of the site are flag-stoned.
Dog Friendly: Dogs are welcome, but must be kept on a lead at all times.
Address: Lappa Valley Steam Railway, St Newlyn East, Newquay, Cornwall, TR8 5LX
Telephone: 01872 510317
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Photographs are from Lappa Valley Steam Railway and are actual scenes from the atrraction.