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A heritage railway comes to the rescue of a 118-year-old boat

A heritage railway comes to the rescue of a 118-year-old boat

Published: 3rd August 2017

Work has begun to restore the slipway on Cotehele’s historic quay thanks to help from the Bodmin and Wenford Railway.

Once the slipway is repaired, the team at the National Trust house, garden and estate in South East Cornwall will be able to haul the Shamrock, a Tamar sailing barge built in 1899, out of the water for repairs.

Bodmin and Wenford Railway came to the rescue after Cotehele appealed on Twitter for spare rails. Chris Hatton, Manager of Bodmin and Wenford Railway, responded with an offer of rails, cut ready to fit; and he even had them delivered to Cotehele.

‘It’s been two and a half years since the Shamrock has been out of the river,’ says Cotehele’s Lead Ranger Joe Lawrence, ‘so she’s in desperate need of her bottom being checked.’

‘We can’t get her out of the water onto the slipway without rails, so Bodmin and Wenford Railway have really solved a problem for us.’

Shaune Blight, Shamrock Captain taking delivery of the rails from the Bodmin and Wenford Railway on Cotehele Quay.

CREDIT: ©National Trust Images / Joe Lawrence

Chris Hatton says the railway has been happy to help. ‘We’re really pleased the rails are going to have a new purpose,’ he says. ‘They’re too worn for our big heavy passenger trains, but they’re perfectly acceptable to use for a boat cradle. It’s great that they’re going to be used at Cotehele rather than just being scrapped.

‘The rails are 60ft long, so we’ve cut them in half to fit on a lorry, and we’ve supplied fishplates to link them together.’

Bought at minimal charge and a scrap value, the rails were paid for by a generous donation from the South Devon National Trust Association.

Shamrock will be brought up out of the water during August. Some of her hull planking needs replacing, her deck needs re-caulking and she’s also getting a new false keel and a new set of sails. Repair work will be undertaken by Shaune Blight, Shamrock’s master and shipwright and Adrian ‘Shugs’ Grigg, a qualified shipwright from Falmouth.

Shamrock’s repairs will complement her brand new engine, paid for with raffle donations. Once she is mended and the engine is fitted, she will be able to take visitors on trips up and down the river and out onto Plymouth Sound at every state of the tide.

‘We’re going to put in a viewing platform while she is being repaired, so visitors can see the progress,’ says Joe.

An appeal has been launched to raise funds for the work. The Polperro Fishermen’s Choir will sing a benefit concert in support of Shamrock on Sunday evening, 10 September.

Find details at www.nationaltrust.org.uk/cotehele.

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