One of a number of large, industrial objects on show in our outdoor display area.
The Hayle Railway opened in 1837 to link the foundry and docks at Hayle with the mines of Camborne and Redruth. This single track, standard gauge (4ft 8 ½ inches between the rails) railway was operated by steam locomotives except on two steep, rope-hauled inclines.
From about 1841 these trains began to carry passengers and in 1846 the line was integrated into the West Cornwall Railway's new 23 mile line between Truro and Penzance, which avoided the two inclines and followed the route that still exists today.
The Chief Engineer for this project was Isambard Kingdom Brunel. His work included the magnificent viaducts in Hayle (the original timber version, developed into the current brick structure in 1886) and nearby Angarrack.
In 1866 the West Cornwall Railway converted to broad gauge (7ft ¼ inches between the rails), allowing it to link with the Great Western Railway (GWR) and on 1 March 1867 history was made when the first through passenger train ran from London Paddington to Penzance.
However, broad gauge was a short lived project; the whole of the GWR converted to standard gauge in 1892, by which time the local line had officially merged with the Great Western line - 'God's Wonderful Railway'.
The West Cornwall Railway was mostly made up of Barlow rail (designed to be held in place by ballast alone, thus requiring no sleepers) and Bridge rail (this rail was bolted to longitudinal wooden supports with sleepers only every few feet – the section pictured is a rare example, discovered on Trevassack Farm, Hayle, and donated to the Heritage Centre in early 2017). This type of rail was used by Brunel on the GWR.