I had wanted my entrance to Penzance station to be suitably grand, but my train was the local service from Plymouth, rather than one of the expresses from London. As a result, it was a Sprinter rather than an HST. Shame.
That’s not to say it was an unimpressive experience. After many miles travelling through open countryside, we rounded a curve, passed under a bridge – and suddenly there was the Atlantic Ocean. For the last mile or so the line hugs the coast, so I got to enjoy the sea view for a short time before my train pulled in to Penzance station.
Penzance is the terminus of the Cornish Main Line, 300 miles and approximately 5 hours travelling time from London Paddington. It is southernmost station on the British railway network and the westernmost in England – contrary to popular belief, there is a station in Scotland, Arisaig, that is further west. We are deep into Cornish country here, as evidenced by the preponderance of bi-lingual signs, such as this inscription welcoming visitors in both English and Cornish.
Three of the platforms are under a train shed, which isn’t glazed and unfortunately lends the station a bit of a gloomy atmosphere. Apart from that, though, the station is a thoroughly decent place to wait for a train. There is a travel centre and a small cafe (which sadly was closed for the evening by the time I arrived). In a pleasing example of integration, the bus station is right outside.
Another, much rarer, form of public transport is also in evidence – there’s not many stations where you’ll see a sign directing you to a heliport. Also near the station you’ll find the harbour, and rows upon rows pleasure craft of various shapes and sizes.
Of course, there was one other sign that was of interest to me, too. This one only required three attempts to get right – I’m getting the hang of this!
Near the bus station I saw a sign for a coastal path. I walked along it for a short length to get a better view of Penzance station signal box. Although much of the Cornish Main Line is still controlled by semaphores, Penzance itself is strictly colour light signalling only.
My hotel, located on the interestingly named Market Jew Street, turned out to be even closer to the station than it seemed from the map. I checked in, then went out for a nose around. Penzance is full of grand buildings (this is a bank) but again, it was evening and most places were closed for the night. There were pubs, of course, but for people like me, who are not particularly gregarious, they are not attractive places to visit alone (this actually turned out to be more of a problem the following night, when I had a couple of hours to kill before riding the sleeper train).
So my second day of train travel left me, quite literally, at the end of the line. Penzance was to be my base for the following day’s travels over the St Ives branch line. Before that, though, I headed back to my hotel for dinner, The Apprentice, and some well-earned sleep. Thursday was going to be another long day.
This seems an appropriate time to mention my visit to Land’s End which I squeezed in while I was in the area. I blogged about it over on my personal site.