Portreath Plateway, Cornwall

Portreath Plateway, Cornwall

he Gwennap mines were remote from both the north and south coasts, and as a result incurred high charges for the transport of timber, coal and ore. In response, John Williams of Scorrier constructed a horse-drawn plateway from his mines at Poldice through Scorrier to a newly-constructed harbour on the north coast at Portreath in 1819 – the first railway in Cornwall. The conditions of use of this tramway strongly favoured Williams’ interests and John Taylor responded in 1824 by building a railway from his mines near St. Day to a new harbour at Devoran on the Fal Estuary. This line – the Redruth and Chasewater Railway - was eventually extended to Wheal Buller and Redruth via Carharrack and Lanner, though was never completed to Chacewater. This railway and its extensive wharves at Devoran caried a diverse traffic and remained in use well into the 20th century; Williams’ Portreath Plateway, in contrast, did not long survive the closure of the principal Gwennap mines.

The need for an efficient transport system for the vast amounts of mineral ore and coal passing between the local mines and Portreath Harbour resulted in the building of the Portreath to Poldice tramway, in 1809. It was a horse-drawn railway and the first in Cornwall. Towering above the village is also the great incline of the Portreath branch of the Hayle Railway, erected in 1838. This too was a mineral line linking the mines of Camborne and Illogan with the harbour. A stationary steam engine once moved trucks up and down its steep face whilst its network of rails fanned out along the quaysides.

 

The tramroad was opened in 1812 and connected the copper mines around Gwennap with the harbour at Portreath. Copper ore was then shipped to the South Wales Coalfields for smelting. The ships were then 'back-loaded' with timber and coal for the mines.