It has been raised as a suggestion before, usually to wry smiles and comments of 'If only' - but could Helston actually be reconnected to the railway for real?

This is the hope of Helston Railway Company, which has set in motion a long-term scheme that could ultimately see the branch line re-established between the town and Gwinear Road near Hayle, from where passengers could connect to the main line.

With Station Road, the former end point of the branch line, now heavily built on, the aim is to open a station at Water-ma-Trout.

The railway company, which has been reopening and re-laying sections of the branch line over the last decade, has now registered its interest in applying for funding for a feasibility study, which would cost in the region of £100,000.

The Department for Transport has recently opened up a new £500 million fund to cover the cost of such studies, looking into the possible reopening of closed branch lines.

Such a study would go in-depth into areas such as job creation, benefit to tourism, educational possibilities and transport benefits, including taking traffic off the road and social benefits.

Colin Savage, a director of Helston Railway and general manager of the company, told the Packet: "Initially it seems that the grant would cover a feasibility study. After that process, and were it to be successful, then I would expect other options for grant funding would come into play."

The group is also hoping that corporate sponsors will come forward now, to help support the project.

He added that there would be a huge amount of legality to get through, should such a project go ahead.

The actual bid will need to be made on behalf of Helston Railway by West Cornwall's MP Derek Thomas, who Mr Savage met with on Friday.

Steam engine Kilmersdon at Truthall Halt, who will be replaced by Eustace Forth in time for Easter

Mr Savage has made initial contact with the relevant authorities and will then take back the response to the board of directors to consider the way forward.

The trustees of its charitable company would also be involved.

The original Helston railway was opened from Gwinear Road Station in the 1860s, authorised by an act of parliament.

The line was taken over from the Helston Railway Company by Great Western Railway and after nationalisation in 1947 it was run by British Railways. Materials used in the construction of RNAS Culdrose were transported via it.

By the late 1950s, however, traffic had decreased following the rise in popularity of the motor car, and the last passenger train ran in 1962 with goods traffic following in 1964 just prior to the Beeching cuts.

The rails were quickly lifted and the old track was disposed of, with most of the buildings and structures eventually demolished - although Helston goods shed can still be seen on Station Road, now part of a sheltered housing development.

Some bridges were eventually removed and as nature gradually took over much of the route became hidden.

That all started to change when a group of volunteers decided to try and reopen at least some of the old line, starting from Trevarno estate. They began clearing overgrowth and rubbish, eventually laying a new length of railway track, and people were able to ride in a brake van pulled by a diesel locomotive.

Over the next ten years or so work has progressed steadily and the line has been extended from a new operating base at Prospidnick to Truthall Halt, where the old platform and pagoda waiting room has faithfully been recreated.

Work continues and steam trains now run on the line.

Some of the junior group members relaying track at the weekend

Mr Savage said: "This year now brings exciting and challenging opportunities for the line. The group have purchased more of the old trackbed, which will enable the line to extend towards Helston from Truthall and eventually the aim is to build a new station at Water Ma Trout on the outskirts of the town.

"At the same time work is now underway to dig out another cutting towards Nancegollan and extend the current line into a new station to be built at Trevarno Farm, for which the necessary planning permission has been granted.

"All these projects bring their own particular challenges of course, with a lot of physical work to do on clearing, cutting back, excavating, laying drains, track and myriad other things. On top of that there are legal aspects to be dealt with, a lot of investigation and research to do and of course it all costs a great deal of money even with some generous donations of materials which have come in."