LINE OF THE MONTH
A Tale of the Ale John Rogers describes the unusual dual-gauged Pigsty Brewery Railway
Anyone old and lucky enough to have visited Cornwall in the 1950s will remember the products of the Pigsty Brewery; Old Boar Bitter and Old Sow Cider were a regional, nay national, institution in that county. The brewery was established in 1898 by Nigel Trewithen of Cheesewarne Farm, soon after the opening of the Pigsty Hill Light Railway’s Mevagissey Extension. In fact, it was unusual in being dependent on rail transport from its inception, there being very limited road access to the site.
It is believed that the PBR was the inspiration behind the Oakhill Brewery Railway in Somerset, opened in 1904, although this only lasted a few years until 1921. During this brief period, the line was operated on the same push-pull basis as the PBR.
In 1961, the closure of the PHLR, which linked Pigsty Hill with St Austell and the rest of Cornwall, tolled the death knell for the brewery, and St Austell Ales bought out its goodwill and its public houses. Indeed, they brewed Old Boar Bitter right up into the 1980s, although old-timers could be heard to complain that “I tell ‘ee, me handsome, an Old Boar bain’t what he were in my day”.
ORIGINS OF THE RAILWAY The Pigsty Brewery Railway existed solely to link the Pigsty Brewery to the PHLR at Pigsty Hill station. Because of the availability of secondhand stock and portable track, it was built to two-foot gauge, and very lightly laid. Of course, this involved trans-shipment at Pigsty Hill to the 2ft 6in gauge PHLR, but this was not seen as a problem, as there were never any plans for through running. A minimum radius of 48ft was applied when laying out the line.
When the line was first constructed, trains (and, worse, their smoke) were visible from Heligan House, spoiling the Tremayne family’s view of Pigsty Hill and St Austell Bay. In those days, the local landowner’s word was law, and something had to be done. The obvious solution was to run the line around behind Pigsty Hill, but there was insufficient room there to take both the PBR’s track and that of the PHLR.
At the request of the chairman of the Pigsty Brewery, officers of the PHLR and Pigsty Brewery met to discuss a proposal that a section of the former should be converted to mixed gauge, with running rights for the PBR on the two-foot. Perhaps surprisingly, the PHLR board agreed to this proposal and committed itself to laying the third rail at its own expense.
The PBR was to have its own bay platform at Pigsty Hill, with cross platform transfer of goods and a smart new yard crane. It might seem strange that the PHLR board was so easily swayed, given the costs involved. Cynics might take note that the meeting was held at the Pigsty Brewery, after a sumptuous meal and comprehensive beer-tasting. Furthermore, the minutes were taken by Chastity Tregorrick, a lifelong teetotaller and niece of the Pigsty Brewery chairman.
ROLLING STOCK Initially the PBR purchased two small 0-4-0T locos Malt and Hops from Peckett of Bristol, which gave many years of good service. They were replaced in the early 1950s by a Rapier 4wD diesel and a curious railcar that would be described as a ‘draisine’ on the Continent, where these beasts are much more common. They took on the names of their steam predecessors.
The working vehicles were two four-wheel wagons and a brake van, but a coach was purchased, as was the fashion of the times, for the conveyance of the directors. In later years, these covered vehicles were used for enthusiasts’ specials and brewery tours. Curiously, many of the same faces were to be seen on both.
MODELLING THE PBR The line itself is modelled using Mamod track, as was part of the first-ever PHLR, a quarter-century ago, and with a mixed-gauge section produced by adding a third rail to LGB tracks. The track diverges using ‘escapes’ produced by Sunset Valley Railroad in the USA. More will be said about this in a future article, with the editor’s permission. One of these leads to the PBR bay platform and the other, at least in principle, to the brewery. I have always had a lot of respect for Mamod track. Admittedly, it is a bit fragile and very light in section. On the other hand, it is stable if properly ballasted, it is ideal for small locomotives, and gives just the right impression for an industrial line. It has a strong resemblance for the portable ‘Jubilee’ track that was often used on these railways.
The locos are from the IP Ezee Range, as is most of the stock, but one of the wagons was a gift from Colin Binnie intended, no doubt, to convert me to the narrow path of virtue. As you can see, he partially succeeded. The bay platform is built, like the rest of the station, from a plank with lolly sticks cut to size and glued on.
ARDEN G Rail