Dobwalls Adventure Park: From the Biggest Tourist Attraction in Cornwall to Shuttered Theme Park

Petar Djajkovski
Photo Credit: Foulger Rail Photos / Flickr CC BY-SA 2.0
Photo Credit: Foulger Rail Photos / Flickr CC BY-SA 2.0

Southwest England is home to the small market town of Liskeard. Within this small peaceful community was once a family-run visitor attraction known as Dobwalls Adventure Park. Founded by John Southern in 1970, it was the largest tourist attraction in all of Cornwall. Sadly, it’s since been shuttered and replaced.

Attractions at Dobwalls Adventure Park

Guests riding a locomotive at Dobwalls Adventure Park
Photo Credit: Foulger Rail Photos / Flickr CC BY-SA 2.0

At first, Dobwalls Adventure Part only had one miniature railway network, along with a large green area where guests could do all sorts of outdoor activities. Complementing the vast area was an indoor spot that included an award-winning art gallery.

The main attraction was the 7.25-inch miniature railway network. This represented a small-scale replica of two great American railroad routes: the Rio Grande Cumbres Pass line and part of the Union Pacific Railroad – more accurately, the Sherman Hill section. The trains went through tunnels, over wooden trestles and metal bridges, and down and around canyons.

The Rio Grande Cumbres Pass line opened in 1970. At the time, it was the world’s steepest miniature railway, with a climb of four percent. It was surrounded by a forest, resembling the Colorado rail tracks. Nine years later, the second line was constructed. The recreation of the Union Pacific Sherman Hill Line in Wyoming opened in 1979 and was also very steep.

Attractions began to shutter

Guests riding a locomotive at Dobwalls Adventure Park
Photo Credit: Ron Hann / Wikimedia Commons CC BY-SA 2.0

In 2006, at the end of the season, Dobwalls Adventure Park announced that, after more than 25 years of continuous operation, the Union Pacific Sherman Hill Line would be closing. The last train traveled along it on October 29 of that year.

In June of the following year, another announcement was made, this time regarding the Rio Grande Cumbres Pass Line. It stated that the miniature railroad wouldn’t be reopening the next season and noted that visitors could only enjoy a shortened ride on a simplified rail line.

Selling off what was left of Dobwalls Adventure Park’s attractions

Two miniature locomotives parked on railway tracks
Photo Credit: nick macneill / Wikimedia Commons CC BY-SA 2.0

After the shuttering of its two major rail lines, most of the locomotives at Dobwalls Adventure Park were either sold to other parks or private collectors. Some are still used, while others are in storage and kept safe as works of art.

The “William Jeffers” locomotive is now part of a private collection, but had previously roamed the rail tracks of Diamond Valley Railway in Australia. “General Palmer” met the same fate. Three more engine locomotives – the “Queen of Nebraska”, “Queen of Wyoming” and “Otto Mears” – reside in private collections in Australia.

The small, blue “David Curwen” was sold in 2005 and is now part of Eastleigh Lakeside Railway.

What remains of an abandoned attraction

Miniature locomotives parked beside a building
Photo Credit: Foulger Rail Photos / Flickr CC BY-SA 2.0

At first, Dobwalls Adventure Park was only temporarily closed for renovation and redevelopment purposes. The plan was to add new holiday lodges, train tracks, an arts center and many other small shops to boost income. This idea came mostly as the result of competition from newer and bigger theme parks.

Some of the old attractions hadn’t been working for a while. The Go Kart track was demolished, and some other small-time kids attractions and play equipment had to be removed. There were also plans to remove the Southern Gallery and build a new home for it on the park’s premises.

However, this never happened. After the demolition, the trains stood still on the rusty tracks.

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In 2012, the land where Dobwalls Adventure Park was put up for sale, with it selling the following year and being turned into a home for eco-friendly log cabins.