Discovered by a good neighbour amongst the possessions of a departed soul was a small canvas covered book that could very easily have been discarded without a second glance. But a moment's curiosity revealed some walks from and to stations on the Teign Valley line and so the book was kindly loaned to the railway.
From the author's words, "as Exeter is re-built," and references to the railway companies' stations, the book must have been written in the late 'forties. It would certainly have conformed with the "economy standard" under paper rationing so it could have been published in the latter years of the war. One gazetteer puts it at 1949.
Published by A. Wheaton & Co. Ltd., the Paternoster Press, Exeter, the book's 88 pages contain a mere eight illustrations and one sketch map. The author, G. Frankis, began his Preface: "Around Exeter is a countryside of great variety, but always of surpassing richness and colour." He went on to say that he hoped to entice the walker beyond the main routes and encourage a better appreciation of "The Calm of the Countryside."
In contrast to almost every book of rambles on sale today, Frankis makes no mention of driving to the start of his walks; very few of his readers would have owned cars in the immediate post-war years and in any case only a few of his walks were circular.
Instead, he suggests modes of public transport: the train and bus. For some walks he suggests the bus when catching the train would be possible and vice versa. Anyone anywhere writing a walks' book twenty years later would not have been able to suggest the train as much, and this is true of walks within 15 miles of Exeter.
To summarize, Frankis suggests the train at one or both ends of 17 walks and in only three would that be possible today. In fact, train travel could have been used for the start of 29 walks and at the finish of 31; 22 walks could have involved the train at both ends. In only 14 of the walks would rail be of any use today.
There are six walks between Teign Valley Branch stations or halts and another using a single station. Eleven of the 45 walks could have started and, or, finished at Teign Valley stopping places.
Some extracts which bring the Teign Valley line to life and touch on some minor historical details
OMNIBUS AND TOURING CO. LTD.
(in association with British Railways)
Kept amongst the train timetables in the office at Christow is a supplement to the May, 1964, bus timetable, issued consequent upon services being transferred from Paul Street Bus Station to the new Paris Street in July of that year.
Mention of the Chagford service working via Leigh Cross in the Rambles item above, led to the scribe fetching out this supplement and thinking that some of its tables would be worthy of reproduction.
The service to Christow village was sparse at this time and its level was not much different from today's, which has suffered heavily as a result of government spending cuts. The overall service then and now was and is very much worse than it was at the peak at the turn of the century, when for three years, funded by a grant for rural services, today's 360 service was extended to Newton Abbot Station and there were five through workings in each direction. This, together with services 878 and 887, made the Teign House crossroads a busy bus stop; so much so that the railway prepared a simplifier for its campers wishing to get to the neighbouring villages.
The 5 55 Exeter still runs over 50 years later, only now working via Dunchideock instead of the main road, but still getting in at about the same time. Doddiscombsleigh now sees nine buses a day, whereas in 1964 there were only two.
In its day, Leigh Cross was a busy junction, too, and Mrs. Worth in the cottage there acted as Devon General Parcels Agent.
To stay on the night of 15th September, 2014, came Dan, at the end of his 111th day of a four-month cycling odyssey across the British Isles.
Unlike the chance meeting with Eve on her Buzz Tour, Dan had booked his night in TOAD from Manchester on the 79th day of his journey, having had the accommodation recommended by regular guest, Kirsty Garside. It was quite something that he still had to ride the Welsh coast and all the way from Bristol to Scilly before turning east, yet he rolled in at Christow on schedule.
Dan is the sort of intelligent company that is craved at Christow, to counter the crushing apathy of the "Lost Valley." He must have read some of these pages for he had a good grasp of the thinking behind the project and was curious to know more of the detail. The conversation continued the following morning and delayed his departure for Lyme Regis until midday.
Before he left, the fitter checked Dan's old Raleigh. Remarking on its weight, he put the rear wheel on the scales and they gave five stone (32 kg.). The E. & T.V.R. scout had ridden many of the same roads around the peninsular; when Dan spoke of his weariness at the sight of another hill, the scout could only think of that load.
It was not until later that his writing was found on the library computers and it was revealed that in the short time he was here he had got the story down in his cyberlog, which he had kept up all along the route every day. He must have been mentally and physically sapped when he finally made it back to his home in London.
The complete log, found at searchingforalbion.com, has now been distilled into a book, Island Story, published by Repeater Books, a copy of which has been ordered from Hive and waits to be collected from Crediton Community Bookshop.
Rather browned off at hearing locomotives referred to as trains, the railway's scribe
attached a side label to the diesel shunter in an attempt to maintain usage of
Later, this was supplemented by a ruling on stations, as another alien term
A photograph of the label now heads a campaign page on the worldwide
web and the scribe has added his own comments.
If these former hubs on an extensive and all-encompassing transport
system are to remain as little more than bus stops, as even the larger ones would be today if stripped of their coffee shops and shopping malls, then there is no harm done in letting "train station" and its like take hold.
For more than just tradition, though, should not railway station be maintained to remind everyone of what was once offered; to keep alive the image so as to inspire the young generation to agitate for a real railway to regain its position at the centre of all transport?
Trains negotiate curves. There is no "S" bend on a railway; there is a reverse curve.
Trains ascend or descend gradients or inclines, which are rising or falling.
A locomotive is "in steam" if it is working (it is not so inaccurate to refer thus to an electric locomotive whose prime mover may be a steam turbine).
Trains have a head and a tail and can be hauled or propelled.
Another Americanism was long ago adopted with the arrival of the self-propelled carriage and is now used in relation to multiple unit trains. Dining, restaurant, buffet and sleeping cars were once common, too.
Although the Americans kept the original "rail-road," it became more of a slang term in Great Britain, the shortened "road" being more often used than "line."
As in a variation of the American SNAFU, with an Exeter Controller handing over at two o'clock on a summer Saturday: "All to hell on the down road, as usual." Or in P-Way men being paid double time on a Sunday, only if they "broke the road." Or in Terence Cuneo's classic painting, "Clear Road Ahead."
What was at first suspected as being a thinly disguised excuse to reconnoitre by agents from the Okehampton area turned out to be a friendly visit by eight enthusiastic railway promoters, again kindly arranged by Tony Hill.
Had D.R.S.A. members come to see what progress had been made on what they would call the "other" inland diversionary route, the word taken back to camp would have quelled any unease that the Teign Valley may have been further forward.
In the course of his preamble, the E. & T.V.R. guide pointed to a short length of the Up Main he had laid and remarked: "I'm only asking the state to do a thousand times more than I've done."
The proportionate figure for the Southern route would be far higher, no matter how much had been done by way of tokenism between Meldon and Bere Alston. But even the modest initial demand by the Okehampton interests for a reinstated weekday service on the existing line where there is proven need, almost entirely a paper exercise to bring about, languishes with all the other stalled schemes.
Not one chain of closed line has yet been reopened in the West Country.
The nearest to reconstruction is the Portishead Branch, only three miles of which needs relaying. The demand is pent up, the case cast iron and the formation almost complete, yet the exhaustive process drags on and prospective passengers must now wait until 2020 at the earliest to catch a train. What chance is there for lines further west without the sort of step change which brought the Borders to fruition?
It is a shame that more Dartmoor members could not have come but the conversations were lengthy with those that did, and the interest was deep, so the number was not at all disappointing. Anyway, a reciprocal visit by the Friends of the Teign Valley would muster even fewer.
The E. & T.V.R. wishes the Dartmoor stalwarts every success in their campaigning and will continue to support their most ambitious aims.
In the concluding pages of his last book, a scholarly work celebrating the normally unsung engineer and permanent way man, the late Andrew Dow, always a staunch champion of the railway at large, wrote:-s
In 1920, 2,202,224,000 passengers travelled on the railways of the United Kingdom, this including the whole of Ireland. The figure includes 635,390,000 season ticket journeys. In the same year 4,802,000,000 passenger journeys were made on the tramways of the country. In other words, just over seven billion journeys were made on railed transport of various kinds, by a population of about 42.5 million, about two-thirds of today's figure. In addition, although it was not a peak year for freight, in 1920 Britain's railways carried 317,877,500 tons of freight, not far short of four times today's figure.
Robert Stephenson's London & Birmingham Railway was built in five years from 1833 to 1838 at a cost of £5.5 million. In today's terms, that equates to five years and £386 million. An early estimate for the HS2 line, in the first stage as far as Birmingham, was for it to take 14 years and to cost £32.5 billion. This enormous increase in time and money well illustrates the truth behind the words of Kevin Schieffer, writing inTrains magazine in January 2007: "A hundred years ago the challenge to build a railroad was a construction and engineering challenge. Today the challenge is just getting permission to do it."
Reproduced by kind permission of Pen and Sword Books Limited.
From The Railway Magazine, February, 2016
It was good of Dave Rogers, 1st Take, to give the railway's spokesman a generous hearing. He had no idea beforehand what he was going to be asked or what exactly was required of him.
This excellent television documentary, part of the Timeshift series,
was first broadcast on BBC Four on 9th September, 2015.
Narrator (Lesley Manville): "Martin's* artistic rebranding cleverly coincided with the zeitgeist of the '20s and '30s. This was an era which saw increased leisure time for the lower middle classes and turned the stylish O.S. map into a must-have travel accessory."
Author, Map of a Nation
Narrator: "Many people's favourite series of O.S. maps, known as the Popular Edition, is from this era, published between 1919 and 1926.
President, National Geographic Society
And, it could have been added, the time when the railway system was
at its greatest extent and Britain was the "Workshop of the World."
* Ellis Martin, the artist hired after the First World War by the Ordnance Survey to produce attractive covers for its maps to compete with the many pirated versions being sold.
The reader might have expected that the author of these pages would be an Ordnance Survey enthusiast.
Rebekah Hartley vowed that she would recreate the trip she enjoyed with her late father in 1997, and here it is ...
Buckfastleigh to Heathfield and back will run as a separate excursion for local passengers.
All bookings and enquires to the Branch Line Society.
It's a pity there couldn't be an "Ashburton Enquiry Special," with a nod to Mallingford in the classic Ealing comedy. The Dartmoor lot would of course hire Pearce & Crump.
In the year before he died, the well known author and publisher, David St. John Thomas, wrote to thank the railway for sending him a copy of A Journey in Time. Actually, the book must have been sent by someone else but anyway there was further contact and this letter was received, accompanied by a photograph taken on the last day of the passenger service, 7th June, 1958.
The sun shone and it was the spring day—surely the very day—when the wild flower display was at its finest, bursting with colour and freshness.
Dr. Tom Greeves, rebel, folk leader, the founder and chairman of the Dartmoor Society brought 36 members to Christow for an afternoon visit, following the "railway debate" at Meldon Village Hall in October.
Most of the guests had a ride in Jenny Wren, the manumotive narrow gauge observation saloon, and all roamed the site, discovering its quirks and points of interest. Unfortunately, the diesel shunter was under heavy repair and GANGCAR was misbehaving, so there was not much movement on the standard gauge lines. A demonstration was given of "running-off" the motor trolley and some connections were made between Wickham, the maker, and Dartmoor.
Seemingly the most popular place as the afternoon went on was TOAD, the station buffet for the occasion, made possible by the kindness of two local ladies. Fiona brewed the Co-op's Fairtrade Indian Prince tea and served Rosalind's homemade cakes.
Closing his introductory remarks, in which he claimed that the "curvaceousness" of the Teign Valley line did not render it useless, Colin Burges, the owner, although not much one for anniversaries, pointed out that he began work on the project at Longdown Station on 13th May, 1975. He therefore thanked the society for giving him the excuse to get out the dressing-up box to mark the day.
Dr. Tom promptly sent a letter of thanks, saying (in part):-
On behalf of everyone, thank you so much for such a splendid afternoon on Wednesday.
I think all of us were astonished and delighted at what you showed us and what we saw. And it was serendipitously so special that we were there on your 40th anniversary!
You provided so much excellent information and demonstrated such fascinating engineering marvels that we're all dreaming trains!
Congratulations on what you have achieved—it's very special.
While the attitude towards the railway of the vast majority within the lost valley is, at best, steadfast indifference, it was again gratifying to find that interest and understanding comes from outside.
There is no Dartmoor society here but thankfully there is one beyond.
After over 40 years almost unbroken subscription to the Western Morning News, Colin Burges gave up the paper in February.
Having been increasingly dissatisfied with the editorial style and standard of reporting, particularly during and after the Dawlish débâcle of 2014, the final straw was the refusal to publish the railway's letter of 4th February, countering yet more tosh on the subject of railway development.*
It has to be admitted that another major influence was cost. Without much by way of explanation, the price had gone up and up while the paper seemed to get smaller. Added to this was the delivery charge in the country, bringing the total to nearly £1 on weekdays. The days when advertisers as good as paid for most newspapers are gone, readers are told, although the publishers of Metro manage to give it away.
Funnily enough, one of the deciders was the introduction of a Sunday edition of the Western Morning News last year, which has never been seen here. Breaking the continuity by going without one edition led to questioning the value of the rest.
The paper claims that it has no allegiance to a political party or interest group, and this may be technically true. But it has become sickeningly such a mouthpiece for big business, clamouring for new roads, airports, science parks, housing estates and the rest, that far from protecting the uniqueness of the West Country, it would happily see it turn into an extension of the South-East, where everyone is so much more content. And there comes a point when a fellow can read not one more word about the wonders of rising house prices or any more self-congratulatory claptrap.
Since starting in business at Christow in 1995, never once has the paper picked up any stories supplied by the railway, which may have helped its position in some small way. Giles and Samantha who opened a bijou retro shop in St. Columb Major got a report. There was a half-page spread on some oddball who collected gnomes. On a slack day the editor did a piece on his vinyl record collection and feature writers, when short of copy, go on about their mid-life ailments or just "Google" a subject. But never was a column inch given to this railway and its letters were routinely mutilated to make them nonsensical.
The reader misses the feel of a newspaper in his hands, the randomness of the subjects, the differing opinions. He will miss clipping articles, trying to identify the place in the picture without reading the caption. He will miss the regular contributors, particularly Bendell, Coaker and Hesp, and the letter writers like good old Tony from Noss Mayo.
But, in the end, he says bollocks to the paper in its dingy squat in Millbay.
* There is ample criticism of the paper under Dawlish Débâcle.
All that's left of the original Teign Valley Branch track between Marsh Barton and Heathfield
As part of the improvements to Bovey Lane and Accommodation Lane, a bridleway leading on towards Bovey and the Wray Valley, to make the route safer for pedestrians, riders and cyclists, Devon County Council planned to reduce the hump created by the railway embankment by about two feet, removing the embedded track in the process.
Residents of Haytor View, Heathfield, the terrace of houses built by Candy & Co. for its workers, were notified that work was to commence on 16th February.
Formidable spokeswoman for the little community and battle-hardened campaigner, Chris Mitchell immediately protested that the hump was not to be touched, for it deterred drivers from speeding and had historical value. She drew attention to the problem of increased traffic from Heathfield taking a short cut to the A38 since its junction with Old Newton Road had been closed.1
Her summary of the problems affecting Bovey Lane finished by pointing out that "the rails on the hump are the only rails of the Teign Valley line remaining" and quoting Devon County's own strategy for the Teign Valley which aims to "Protect the route of the disused Teign Valley Railway for potential reopening or recreational use."2
A site meeting was arranged for the morning of 10th February. Along came Chris with some Haytor View residents to meet County, District and Town Councillor, George Gribble, and Peter Burge and Ian James, project engineers responsible for delivering the cycle route as part of the "Granite and Gears" initiative.
The E. & T.V.R. scout, whom Chris had invited, fully expected that after a bit of an argument the work would go ahead regardless, but was pleasantly surprised when the very amenable council officers put the matter to Coucillor Gribble to decide, who said that he would bow to the local community's wishes.
And so the old level crossing will stay, subject to a safety review in a year's time.
1 Had the A38 been a railway, it would not have been able to sever Old Newton Road: a bridge or crossing would have had to have been provided when the line was constructed.
2 see www.devon.org
The situation at Bovey Lane is complicated now that there is an entrance and a road following the alignment of the branch to the scruffy "Station Park" trading estate. This has spoilt Bovey Lane, both by its presence and by the volume and type of traffic it has generated.
See >> Heathfield Station >>
This type of development so often springs up around stations and lines, but is seldom anymore connected with rail transport.
Here is another example that the E. & T.V.R. scout came upon this year while on a rural ride following part of the route of the Somerset & Dorset's main line from Bath to Bournemouth.
Where once the place resounded with railway activity, this being the junction of the Somerset Central's original line to Burnham-on-Sea, via Glastonbury*, with a branch to Bridgwater, now all that is left is a name and a railway curve fossilized in the walls and fences of an untidy access road.
On Sunday, 21st. December, Rebekah Hartley* of First Great Western organized a special service of seven trains from Newton Abbot to Heathfield and back to raise money for Hannah's at Seale-Hayne, the pioneering charity that has worked with and championed disadvantaged and vulnerable children, young people and adults with a range of disabilities for more than 230 years.
The remnant of the Moretonhampstead Branch was billed as the "Teign Valley" for the occasion.
Members of the Branch Line Society and other enthusiasts were allowed to step off the last train of the day at Heathfield, which, upon its return to Newton, drew up at No. 9 Platform, the "Moreton Bay," before re-joining the main line.
The railway was kindly given a pitch in the booking hall at Newton.
Rebekah and her team of volunteers worked tirelessly all day and brought delight to lots of children of all ages.
On 25th March, a giant cheque for the sum of £4,864.94 was handed over at Seale-Hayne. A promise of £500 from Sibelco will bring the total raised to £5,364.94. Staff at Hannah's, receiving the donation with much gratitude, said that it was a quite remarkable achievement for one day's activity.
Rebekah is now planning this year's trains so her employers had better look sharp.
* Daughter of the late John Hartley (see "Kingskerswell Bypass")
What future for railways and their heritage on Dartmoor?
This informal debate took place at Meldon Village Hall, not far from Meldon Junction and the viaduct, on Saturday, 11th October.
Dr. Tom Greeves, the charismatic Chairman of the Dartmoor Society, gave a very interesting talk about railway archaeology on the moor; Bernard Mills presented a wonderful slide show; Richard Searight of the Peninsula Rail Group argued the case for reopening the Southern main line to Plymouth; and Colin Burges rambled about the Teign Valley and railways in general.
Copies of this railway's report to Government and the stock leaflet, There were once 31 stations on and around Dartmoor, were handed out and many acquaintances were made.
The Dartmoor Society is planning a group visit to Christow in May.
After scoffing the leftover grub, in the remaining light of the day the E. & T.V.R. scout rode up the lane to the old main line and along to the viaduct, where he was once again awed by its height and slender construction.
Members of the Dartmoor Society visited Christow on 13th May, 2015.
One of those happy coincidences that Lady Luck arranges occurred on Easter Monday, when the delightful Eve, walking the length of England "to pollinate change for a healthy environment," stopped off at Christow.
Having started at Totnes on the 11th April, she came across the station after calling at nearby Embercombe. She was surprised by what she found.
"I wasn‘t sure at first," she said. "But then I saw the crushed car."
A bringer of tidings from the land beyond the lost valley, she talked about the danger looming large for mankind and the much that is being done to counter it.
Though she had intended to continue further north that day, she was enticed by the railway‘s unique accommodation. TOAD being occupied, she was put up in TADPOLE, which was berthed by the river. The other, regular campers invited her to join their table for dinner.
This is the kind of hospitality she is hoping will be offered all along the way.She is uplifting. Read about her purpose and follow her progress on www.buzztour.org
This time on a bicycle, and having ridden non-stop from Totnes, Eve came to stay again for the first night of her new expedition.
Now fast becoming a celebrity, she is still humble enough to mingle with unexceptional people.
She was given chips and Tramp Juice and then she bedded down in TOAD. Her bike was checked before she set off the next day heading for Wells and encounters new.
A book, Pollinating Change, and documentary DVD record last year's adventure.
The only independent bookseller serving Mid-Devon, Crediton Bookshop was taken over in September, 2013, and is now being run as a not-for-profit Industrial & Provident Society for the Benefit of the Community.
By combining up-to-date technology with the passion and knowledge of real book lovers, local bookshops provide a unique bookselling service. Even with the domination of Amazon and the development of e-books, local bookshops and particularly children‘s bookshops, continue to survive, even flourish. Unlike online selling of books, they provide high street havens of book culture, venues for literary events and where readers meet authors, and opportunities for face-to-face discussions with knowledgeable staff and other book lovers.
Crediton is fortunate in having a vibrant High Street with a significant number of independent retailers. In addition, the town boasts a very active Arts Centre, a bi-monthly farmers‘ market and, through Sustainable Crediton (www.sustainablecrediton.org.uk) is part of the Transition Towns movement. There is a good train service from Exeter and a pleasant café at the station.
Objectives of the Bookshop
To serve the community in Crediton and Mid-Devon with a self-sustaining, independent, local bookshop where excellent customer service takes priority
To provide an outstanding selection of children‘s books
To be the best resource for Devon writing including local authors, literature, history, geography, travel guides, maps etc.
To promote reading and literacy in all age groups and provide a meeting place and focus for book lovers and local reading and writing groups
To provide access to literary resources and specialist sales on the internet and through social media
To promote the works of local authors, including self-published and specialist local books
To develop the shop as a Tourist Information Point which draws visitors
The only connection here is that at least one Teign Valley resident has become a shareholder. And, as far as he is concerned, it is great that, unlike other investments that have been lost, this one promised no monetary return.
A campaign has begun to reinstate the passenger train service on the remaining four miles of the Moretonhampstead Branch.
Nothing more than is stated on the project‘s web pages is known.
The E. & T.V.R. sent a message of support in November and is prepared to join forces with any organization working towards a railway revival.
As a matter of interest, word reached the railway that a Teignbridge Council officer* had telephoned a business on the Heathfield Trading Estate asking if any employees would benefit from improved cycle routes, in particular along the ―old railway.‖
It has long been suspected that the railway‘s passage beneath the A38 dual-carriageway was identified as the preferred alternative to the dangerous pedestrian level crossing at the severed Old Newton Road.
This threat has more or less been lifted now that it has been announced that a new bridge is to be built as part of further road expansion at Drum Bridges.
Or so it was thought. See:->> Great Western Main Line West of Exeter Route Resilience Study >>
* An enquiry at Forde House elicited that this was probably Chrissie Rowe, responsible for Green Spaces & Active Leisure. This has not been confirmed.
June, 2014: Before taking down the web posting, the organizer announced that owing to his work he had no more time to give to this campaign.
The organizer was Paul Beard, who is involved with a commendable campaign to reopen part of the Somerset & Dorset Railway‘s extensive network, the closure of which left great voids in the two counties not served by rail.
Sunday, 23rd June, 2013
"What we lack in length, we make up for with variety," was part of the brief opening announcement. For where else would anyone enjoy five short but different rides — and on the Teign Valley Branch?
It has been some years since the Branch Line Society visited and again it was as much our pleasure entertaining 29 members, this time under the very capable leadership of Kev Adlam, who was working a tight diagram of fixtures over the weekend.
For a project that is shunned by the vast majority of those in the locality, it is always good when people from outside show such enthusiam and interest.
Kev was kind enough to follow up the visit with a very warm letter, thanking the railway for its effort.
As the Teign Valley Branch train service obviously is not yet running, the waiting area of the newly-opened Temporary Booking Office has for now given place to part of a small exhibition of bits and pieces from days gone by.
The exhibition is intended to be of interest to the seeker of general and local knowledge, as well as to those particularly concerned with railways.
What anywhere else might be termed a “visitor centre” will also hold the railway’s educational and propaganda bumph and Gift Shop.
The portable cabin which houses the Temporary Booking Office is positioned at the Sheldon Lane entrance, where it is meant to be inviting and accessible to visitors and passers-by.
Unfortunately, the only ticket the booking office will be able to issue at this stage is its souvenir Christow platform for admission. This costs £1 for adults and 50p for supervised children.
The exhibition should keep an intelligent person absorbed for at least half and hour and freedom to wander around the railway is included.
There will not be fixed opening times. Anyone planning a visit may telephone beforehand to check.
Sunday, 27th November, 2011
The Class 142 Diesel Multiple Units help to explain why the Germans like to come to England: because to them it‘s the nearest third-world country. Oh! The units are so unutterably bad that they have become likeable; Col. Stephens would have loved them. For an old-school railwayman, they are a throwback: easy access for cycles and strollers, good visibility and, on track with dipped joints, tremendous fun; the nearest it‘s possible to get to riding a freight car.
So why bother to take part in the farewell? Simply because of the rare opportunity to gain some publicity and photos from a local excursion heading to some obscure places.
A phone call to First‘s H.Q. in Swindon fortunately found an enthusiast in Jon Godden, Train Planning Systems Manager, who took up the idea of destination boards and rang back, as promised, the next morning to give the OK. Geoff Fiddler, a supervisor at St. David‘s and appropriately, originally from Moretonhampstead, allowed a Class 142‘s lamp bracket to be measured. Brian Payne, Chris McNaughton and others were friendly and helpful.
Destination boards using "Rail Alphabet" were made up, the size being dictated by "Moretonhampstead," claimed to be the longest single station name in England (Is this true?). "Christow" was thought to be more appropriate than "Heathfield;" some trains did only go half way.
It was tempting to do more: the excursion was going on to Barnstaple Junction and Meldon Quarry, so boards could have been made for Ilfracombe or Torrington and Plymouth or Padstow.
On the day, a "Teign Valley" train at St. David‘s No. 6 platform was photographed by many, as intended. Thanks to Network Rail, Stephen Angeloni, the celebrity photographer, was the only one able to capture the train at City Basin (Exeter Railway Junction). He took the best shot of the day: the train leaving the main line for the branch. A passenger train—any old wreck would have done—passing over those points, getting nowhere, but reminding as many as possible that the line did once go on for another 16 miles.
Souvenir E. & T.V.R. platform tickets were sold on the train and copies of a 1930 diversionary notice, with some explanation, were handed out.
Apart from not being able to reach all the former destinations, the greatest disappointment was seeing the track of the Moreton Branch lifted beyond Heathfield. All the recovered material was stacked at the station. The line had only recently pointed tantalisingly towards Bovey, going within one and a half miles of the town, yet now there was just ballast and weeds. Senseless destruction and another example of how the industry still manages to pull the rug from beneath rail transport campaigners.
This sad sight was countered to some extent by the ground being prepared at the former Teignbridge Sidings for the start of timber traffic, which would safeguard the branch for a few more years.
Part of the press release was taken up by the Mid Devon Advertiser, which reported the above story, but was typically ignored by the Express & Echo and Western Morning News.
The destination boards were meant only to be carried over the branches, but "Christow" went to Newton Abbot and ―Moretonhampstead‖ went back to St. David‘s—without a risk assessment and method of work statement. Boards joined free tickets, a session on the driving simulator and a model train as prizes in the raffle for the Railway Children, the charity which helps "street kids" worldwide.
Shortly after the Class 142 Farewell tour in November, 2011, timber traffic commenced at the place where ball clay was loaded from high platforms into 12-ton wagons for the potteries. This traffic ceased in the early 1980s and the loop sidings were lifted.
The branch still carried away clay from two places where government grants had helped build elaborate loading facilities for the new 60-ton air-braked hoppers, and brought in oil and other traffics to the Heltor depot at Heathfield.
Nearly all traffic had ceased by the turn of the century and in 2010 the line was ―mothballed,‖ with crossed sleepers at the commencement of the single line beneath Kingsteignton Bridge; although, refreshingly, the Track Section Manager at Newton Abbot advised that the line had to be kept in a state that would have it back in use in 6-8 weeks.
And this is what happened. In 2011, a gang brushcut the entire line and began fettling it up for traffic. The area once occupied by the clay platform and siding was made ready to receive lorry loads of larch from forests in the West Country where emergency felling was being done.
Although the traffic was only originating from Teignbridge, most of the line would come back into use as trains would work to Heathfield for the loco to run round. Unfortunately, this did not stop the remaining half mile being ripped up, leaving only an engine length beyond the station loop.
The economics of the operation confound every observer—freight margins are extremely poor and the traffic is a low value commodity—but all have agreed that it does not matter; it has justified the line‘s existence; Sustrans can take its black, beady eye of this one for the time being. So hats off to Colas Rail, one of the new crop of operators spawned by denationalization.
Something of the decline which this railway insists is still the case, despite rocketing passenger numbers, is evident in the statement by Andy Saunders, Business Development Manager for Colas Rail: "We searched long and hard for a freight siding in the West Country but there are very few left that were suitable and not in a town."
Well, there were once at least 150 stations in Devon alone where this traffic could have been loaded. Not many would have been able to accommodate a log pile like the one at Teignbridge, but then the traffic would have been dispersed. Loads would have been brought from the forests to the nearest yard and loaded by the lorry or trailer‘s own grab, with wagons making their way through the system along with lots of other freight traffic, handled by versatile railwaymen and universal traction.
Actually, this sort of traffic was still being forwarded in the 1990s and was one that Ed Burkhardt (bless him) saw could be handled, Wisconsin-style, at any siding still accessible.
November, 2013: Timber traffic has ceased, it is hoped temporarily.
"What's the connection with Christow Station?" a reader may ask.
Well, Le Marchant Mining & Construction has narrow gauge rolling stock stabled here and two "U" tippers were requested by the organizers to be used in the tramming section of the games.
The budget ran to a grit blast and spray for the Hudson trucks, last used in the ball clay mines of Watts, Blake, Bearne & Co. in the Bovey Basin. None of the railway‘s own identical wagons was considered.
A white line was painted on the inside to denote "full" for the female miners. But the impression was given that some of the participants needed to be given no advantage.
At left is an extract from the Western Morning News piece of Monday, 2nd April.
Very seldom does the E. & T.V.R. photographer turn out to observe a CRANKEX—as they used to be termed in the special notices—but one occasion which could not be missed was the excursion organized by U.K. Rail Tours on 17th April, 2010, taking in a traverse of what little remains of the Teign Valley Branch.
There was no need to mention that the E. & T.V.R. was a customer of South West Crane Hire, the firm which occupies the triangle of land bounded by the Great Western main line, the branch and Low Level Loop, because the boss is one of those amenable types who was quite happy to let the few spotters into his yard to clamber over his equipment in search of the best vantage point.
The General Motors Class 66 hauling the train came abruptly to a halt—freight drivers do not worry about spilling the soup in the diner—on the Down Main, near to where the 1962, cedar-clad Exeter City Basin Junction signal box once stood. After setting back over the crossover onto the Up Main, the driver powered the special over the junction and onto the branch, the first loco-hauled passenger train since closure to passengers in 1958 (A D.M.U. had worked over the branch in 1972).
Until 1990, the train could have gone almost as far as Alphington Halt, to the buffer stop above Church Road, but the blind adherence of authorities to 1970s‘ road policies, the power of a big property developer and the treachery of Railtrack caused the truncation of the line to a point short of Marsh Barton Estate Junction (Refer to Exeter’s Industrial Railway and the report under Political Campaigning for the full history of this case).
What remained of the Marsh Barton Trunk and the siding of E. Pearse & Co. was closed and the end of the Teign Valley Branch was given to the scrap yard so that wagons could be loaded on the embankment. Thus, the excursion could only proceed as far as the gates blocking the line, leaving the rear locomotive standing by what was Basin Loop Junction, where it was photographed.
Departure was supposed to be immediate but in fact there was sufficient time, even after dallying, for the E. & T.V.R. photographer to fold up his tripod and cycle around to Marsh Barton Road Bridge, where a larger group of spotters was gathered.
The last train to Newton Abbot, via Christow, on 7th June, 1958, passed over what was then Marsh Barton Lane at about 10 p.m. In 1960, the short steel span was taken down and the side arches demolished to allow the road to be widened and troughed to increase the clearance to 16 feet. A new long girder span was installed which for much of its life was restricted to shunting engines, even though latterly the wagons being despatched by the scrap yard had a 25½-tonne axleload. The restriction was lifted to allow Class 37 locos to pass, and now Class 66, weighing 125 tonnes.
This unusual event in 2010 followed a year in which, thanks to the Perridge Tunnel case and John Hartley of Devon C.P.R.E., the Teign Valley Branch was talked about more than at any time since closure.
The E. & T.V.R. wrote to thank U.K. Rail Tours for arranging the spectacle.
The writer has walked or cycled or driven the E. & T.V.R. utilicon beneath this bridge most weeks since 1975, Exeter‘s Marsh Barton Trading Estate having been one of the main sources of tools, materials and services for the projects at Longdown and Christow. Seeing a dining car standing on it for the first time quite made his day; to think that this would have been a regular sight during diversionary working. This train, instead of hurrying down the main line to the sea, could have turned and be about to weave its way through the hills to Christow and the Teign Valley.
The railway does not mind being a member of a club as small as this one.
The first the railway knew of this was when the picture editor telephoned from Wapping to ask for something to accompany the article.
"Eh? What article?"
It was later learned that it was Sam, bless her, at the Independent Hostel Guide, who had suggested the railway to Vinnie Crump. He never came to stay or even called, and his piece was somewhat inaccurate: while the staff at Christow may be shitbound most of the time, it is unlikely to be soot grime. And mod cons and convivial conversation? He obviously never encountered the khazi and Bodkin.
Nevertheless, there is still snob value attached to The Sunday Times, despite it being a Murdoch title. And although the feature brought only a little extra holiday custom, it had a worthwhile outcome unconnected with camping, which is covered by another article.
Having had what he thought were constructive talks with Ian Harrison, Deputy Executive Director of Environment, Economy and Culture (sounds like a government position in a banana republic) at County Hall, John Hartley submitted an introductory letter in August. This was met with the standard, "thank you for calling, now piss off," reply from Dave Black, Head of Planning and Transportation, in October.
Had he lived, John would have pressed the matter further and in doing so would have pointed out that the amount of money he was asking for was paltry compared with what has been squandered on the South Devon Link Road project. The county‘s response to a Freedom of Information request revealed that £896,204.74 was spent on this long running pet project between August, 2009, and September, 2010, alone.
>> Appendix >>
John Hartley would say: "Kingskerswell was bypassed long ago. What they intend building is a link road."
The Teign Valley, shamefully, did not take part in the opposition, so this cannot be filed under "Campaigning."
Was it any surprise, late in 2012, to hear the announcement of government funding to make possible the construction of the South Devon Link Road? An ambition held for over fifty years, promoted at fever pitch in the last ten years by all the great, the good and the stupid, reached its inevitable climax—the go-ahead. Could it, within the present structure and with orthodox thinking, in the end have been any different?
These schemes, once born, develop a life force, fostered by men almost unwittingly down through the years. At some point, most lose sight of the original purpose and close their minds to any review in the light of changed conditions. In this case, such a crescendo of clamour was reached that the road became the singular means of breaking Torbay‘s shackles. The same doggedness usually defines the path to war.
It has been hard to pull off, though. Promoters have had to nibble away at the costs to make them acceptable. The project underway is billed at £110-million, but nobody will check what the damage is at the finish, or whether Torbay remains a shithole.
What about this for a By-Pass?
Before throwing £138-million* at a new road, why do they not examine the guided system already in place that is only functioning at a small fraction of its capacity?
Kingskerswell Station (closed 5.10.64), with the edgings of its long platforms thrown back, was one of a number once listed for reopening. Since Ivybridge (a sort of "parkway" stop) was opened in 1994, the subject of further openings has been practically—and some may say, conveniently—dropped.
At the last public enquiry in connection with the South Devon Link Road, held in July, 2009, the railway was mentioned as if it were merely a geographical feature and might have been an irrelevance in transport terms.
* The figure before trimming took place.
The railway has always tried to encourage this form of tourism when promoting its humble accommodation, but without much success. As from October, 2010, the encouragement has become more overt.
The new differential charging is designed to give those who would normally plump for the car an incentive to choose a benign means of transport, at least for the duration of a holiday or break. The charging is also meant to confer privilege for once on the pedestrian, the cyclist and the public transport user.
The railway owner lacks the moral fibre needed to impose the new charges on those who have been coming by car, in some cases for the last eleven years.
With thanks to Peter of Teignmouth.
A B.R.-blue liveried North British ―63‖ diesel-hydraulic waits at Knighton Crossing in April, 1968, a few months before the line was closed between Bovey Lane Crossing and Crockham sidings (Trusham).
Curvature of the line obscures what is behind the locomotive, but it may be a ducket of the brake van that can be discerned. If it is just the engine and van, then a train must earlier have been propelled as far as Chudleigh, traffic having ceased altogether from Crockham at the end of March.
The photographer is standing on the disused platform of Chudleigh Knighton Halt, opened in 1924. At left is the former crossing keeper‘s cottage. Only introduced in 1959, the "63" — later Class 22 — was one of the shortest-lived designs, all being scrapped by the early '70s as a result of B.R. standardizing diesel-electric traction.
The level crossings at Bovey Lane and Knighton were originally unauthorized. The Board of Trade only allowed the line to open on the understanding that the crossings were a temporary measure.
After closure, the railway formation suffered a heavy incursion by the construction of the dual-carriageway Chudleigh Bypass, completed in 1973 at a cost of £3.9 million. The cottage was demolished and Pipehouse Lane taken in cutting beneath the new road. Crossing Cottages, just off picture at right, are still there and provide a bearing.
Not many years later, there was talk of widening the A38 to make it into a motorway and this probably remains the dream of some half-baked traffic engineers at County Hall, schooled in 1960s transport ideology. What was once a tranquil and idyllic spot is now pervaded by the unending din of a busy trunk road, carrying traffic which should be on rail or which only exists by reason of cheap oil.
While all trace of Knighton Crossing was obliterated, Bovey Lane remained unmolested for many years, with the rails still in the road. A little remains even today, enough to measure four inches of cant on the curve, but not enough to obtain a versine from which to calculate the radius.
In 1986, it was still possible to put the remaining gate across the road for a ghost train. The reaction of the first motorist to stop on this occasion? Curt, would be the best description.
A worthwhile and quite unexpected result of the Sunday Times camping exposure was that it led to the return home of two ―running in*‖ station name boards to the Teign Valley.
Even if there had once been many of them, they would probably still be rare today. But there were only ever four made for the Exeter Railway: two for Christow and one each for Longdown and Ide; Dunsford and Alphington halts opened after the small company had been absorbed. Supplied by Patent Enamel Co. Ltd. of Birmingham, they had green lettering on a white ground. The shade, teal, may also have been used in station paintwork.
The original sign at Ide was taken away in 1923 when the station was relegated to a halt and given a standard Great Western board.
It appears that the remaining signs were untouched after amalgamation in 1923, but after nationalization in 1948 they were painted over with new cream letters on Western Region brown. Had the stations been more prosperous, British Railways would have run to new standard enamel signage, including small, supplementary ―double-bubble‖ ―totems‖ fixed to lamp posts and suchlike.
When the boards were taken away in 1958, there was little collectible value attached to them.
Along with "Ashburton," they somehow came to be in a garden near Exmouth Junction shed in Exeter, where they were spotted in 1960 by a 16-year old enthusiast who gave 1/6 (7½p) each for them out of his pocket money. He was a lad with a particular penchant for the Teign Valley, which he had seen operating at the end of its time.
Years later, Diana Shepherd, reading the Sunday Times travel supplement, noticed a piece about camping on rail in the Teign Valley and, knowing her husband‘s boyhood interest, passed it to him. And so it was that, fifty years on, Philip Shepherd got in touch with the railway.
The same Philip Shepherd who, in the late 1970s, was Area Maintenance Engineer at Exeter (St. David‘s) and who was contacted because he was rumoured to have the Longdown station sign; Longdown was then the project base.
Nothing came of that encounter, except that he lent a copy of a report he had written about Deutsche Bundesbahn during one of B.R‘s exchange jollies.
Now a jet-setting international railway consultant, he came to inspect the work at Christow and was convinced over lunch at the Nobody Inn that his signs should come home and be exhibited. He kindly agreed to their continual loan.
They are not yet on display but it is planned to use the old water tower pumphouse as an annex of the exhibition for large items.
When new wooden frames have been made, it would be nice to photograph the signs on the station platforms where they lived. Even nicer would be to have them on show for the first train.
Philip has also been kind enough to share these delightful snaps ...
The only known photograph of the Christow motor trolley
outside its shed at the top end of the Up platform.
And this leads to another story ... GANGCAR 194 >>
Before anyone remarks that trains would have continued to run in the old days, it must be said that these conditions would have beaten any railway at any time. There are some adversities which would once have been overcome but it would have been madness to send trains, whether drawn by steam or diesel, through raging currents such as these.
The water courses here are complicated and greatly altered; none are visible. Broadly, the River Exe, joined a few miles upstream by the Culm, comes from the right between the pylon and the railway and passes beneath the left hand line off picture. A flood channel links the Exe to the River Creedy, which makes a natural confluence further downstream. The Exe passes beside the junction and beneath the road immediately to the left.
Two valleys converge, both with flood plains narrowed, and in the midst of this are three man-made embankments: the main road to North Devon and two lines of railway.
This is not the first time that floods have disrupted the railways here and it will not be the last. In 1960, a railway bridge collapsed and three were subsequently rebuilt, with the line to the left being singled.
There is usually always an engineering solution; any application here would surely be extremely expensive and disruptive. Despite government noises, customary after any crisis, nothing much is likely to happen.
Above here lie enormous catchments, stretching high up onto Exmoor. At one point, according to an Environment Agency contact, the River Culm was the chief troublemaker. There will be run off from saturated ground but the built environment must shed water more quickly. From the train can be seen the great expanse of the M5 motorway and many of the new roads, buildings and hard standings that have sprung up since 1975 in the Culm catchment.