The 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. John Williams of Scorrier constructed a horse-drawn tramway from his mines at Poldice through Scorrier to a newly constructed harbour on the north coast at Portreath.

Shortly after John Taylor also built a railway from his mines near Carharrack and St. Day but to new wharves at Devoran on the Fal River. This line was called the Redruth and Chasewater Railway and opened in 1824. It extended eventually to Wheal Buller and Redruth via Carharrack and Lanner, although a line on to Chacewater was never built. From the port of Portreath the raw tin ore would go to the smelters of Wales and to onward exportation. Tin smelting requires a higher heat than copper and in Wales coal was cheap. Coal was shipped back to Cornwall to work the mighty steam pumping engines that raised the gallons of water from bottom of the wet mines.

Into the wharves at Devoran would come the timber and other goods needed to keep the mines in production, as well as coals and iron, for the major foundry at nearby Perran-ar-worthal Traffic on the Redruth and Chasewater line survived until well into the 20th century.

Mineral Tramways logo

The Mineral Tramways Project was set up by Cornwall County Council in 1989. The principal purpose was to open up the old railways and tramways which originated in the great days of copper and tin mining in the County, and to preserve them as cycleways, bridleways and footpaths, so that people could use them to explore the relics of the industry. In addition, it was proposed to restore many of the old engine houses and other buildings which remain from that time.

The Project is creating 18 miles of trails which will offer better access to the remarkable remains of the area’s 19th century mining heyday. The trails have been designed to be accessible to walkers, cyclists and horse riders. If your mobility is impaired, you will also be able to access some sections and sites on the new trails.

More information about the Mineral Tramways Project can be found on the Cornwall Council website including maps and guides of the trails.

The principal routes in Gwennap Parish at present are the Coast to Coast Trail which runs from the Parish boundary near Zimapan, through the Poldice Valley and on to Twelveheads, and the cycle route which follows the Redruth and Chasewater Railway from near Twelveheads to the Crofthandy crossing.

At present Gwennap Parish Council has two members who sit on the Mineral Tramways Steering Group, which meets at three monthly intervals.