The Bodmin & Wenford Railway is part of a network of railways that grew up around Bodmin from 1834, when the original Bodmin & Wadebridge Railway opened. The line ran from Wadebridge to Wenfordbridge, with a branch line to Bodmin, and was built to transport sand from the Camel Estuary. It was the first steam-worked railway in Cornwall, one of the earliest in the world and one of the first in Britain to carry passengers.
Several years later, a station was built at Glynn Bridge, which is now Bodmin Parkway. Before long the Great Western Railway had taken over this new line and they built a link to Bodmin, the line on which the present steam services run. The Bodmin branch line opened from Bodmin Parkway to Bodmin in 1887 and a second line, from Bodmin to Boscarne Junction, opened a year later to connect with the original Bodmin & Wadebridge Railway. Until the main Cornwall Railway line was converted to the standard gauge in 1892, passengers and goods had to change trains at Bodmin Parkway. As main line locomotives were unable to use the branch line, GWR had a separate locomotive shed at Bodmin.
In 1923 the L & SWR lines became part of the Southern Railway but the two companies operated separately. This meant that GWR could run their trains on the Southern Railway's tracks to Wadebridge but could not stop at the other company's intermediate stops. Consequently, each company maintained its own railway staff at Wadebridge.
During the Second World War, the line was part of a diversion route around Plymouth and larger locomotives ran on the line. Troop trains ran from Bodmin station, which was situated opposite the local barracks. In 1944, Field Marshal Montgomery and General Eisenhower arrived at Bodmin by train when visiting these barracks. Steam passenger services ended here in 1963, although clay trains continued until 1964, on their way from Boscarne Junction to Fowey docks. Passengers travelled on diesel trains until the end of January 1967, when the passenger line closed. The line to Wenfordbridge was used by china clay traffic until 1983.
The Bodmin & Wenford Railway is typical of a branch line in the 1950s, running both steam locomotives and diesel trains. It is the only standard gauge railway in Cornwall still operating steam engines. The main station is Bodmin General, where there are a souvenir shop and cafe in the restored station buildings. The engine sheds are also here.
The trains run through some delightful countryside and there is a direct link with the Camel Trail at Boscarne Junction. This trail is a footpath and cycle track running along the old railway bed between Padstow and Wadebridge.
Bodmin Parkway station is on the main London to Penzance line. It is close to Lanhydrock House, and there is a beautiful walk along the old carriage drive from the station. The trains operate on the Bodmin & Wenford Railway from March to December each year, on a daily basis from the end of May until the beginning of October.