48 Teign Valley Branch

Several years before his journey on the Exe Valley train, the railway’s friend, Richard Holladay had photographed what were soon to become the ruins of the Teign Valley Branch.

Again, the scout has gone back, as near as possible, to where Richard had stood to take corresponding shots. These have been supplemented by a large assortment of library photographs which have not been published before and some more present-day views.

On 27th November, 2011, with the Class 142 D.M.Us. stationed at Exeter about to go “off hire,” a farewell tour was organized. Here, the train of three units is seen in No. 6 platform at St. David’s with its “Christow” destination board. +
A still of a last-day train at St. Thomas Station taken from an archive film.
The “Class 142 Farewell” tour, which felt much like a family and friends’ outing, is seen at Exeter Railway Junction, about to join the branch. The scout was on the train, while the railway’s photographer was standing near the buffer stop on the old Down Branch. +
Alphington Road Good Yard is seen at left. The train is approaching the main line and the Fireman has just dropped the single line staff hoop onto the “horn.”
Copyright: Roger Joanes. Shared under Creative Commons. +
On 17th April, 2010, a CRANKEX ran along the branch. Here, it has reached the gates of the scrap yard and is permitted to go no further. A parapet of Marsh Barton Bridge, which is seen in the shots below, can be seen.
What has become the train loco is standing on the former Basin Loop Junction, the line from which went beneath the main to join the City Basin Branch. The building occupies part of the former cattle market; its siding and extensive pens followed the wall nearest the train. +

Not far beyond the bridge lie the gates of the scrapyard, beyond which the branch becomes a private siding.

In 1998, a Sainsbury’s superstore was built on what had been Government Buildings. The developer was obliged to build the first part of the Grace Road Link, which caused the branch to be truncated and the embankment to be severed. The new road was never used in this form. Ten years later, the embankment was further reduced to build Marsh Green Road West.

Steps led down to Church Road from this end of the platform.Copyright: Roger Joanes.
Shared under Creative Commons.

Erected on what is left of the railway embankment, between the former Alphington Halt and Ide Lane, an illuminated sign used sometimes to exhort motorists to cut congestion by walking, cycling or using the bus or train.

At the time, both railways that people coming into Exeter from this direction might have used were closed long ago. The former Southern main line reopened in 2021 as far as Okehampton but the sign has not been seen displaying advice to motorists about the new train service.

For all those who insist that the obstruction can’t be overcome. +

Less than 20 years after government paid for improvements to the line, Royal Marines were called in to blow the bridges. This is the second accommodation bridge between Ide Lane and Polehouse.

In 1986, enquiries were made about blowing up one of Scatter Rock’s concrete hoppers at Christow. The Royal Engineers said that they had no explosives and the Royal Marines said that the structure was too close to properties.

This demolition was also recorded on a short film.

The poster advertizing the events the railway organized to commemorate the centenary of the opening of the Exeter Railway and Christow Station. +

11th February, 2022: The scout passes the turning into Polehouse Lane almost every week. It occurred to him that he couldn’t remember ever having gone left at the far end and taken the road down to Alphington.

When leading the commemorative walk from the junction to Christow in 2003, the scout had gone ahead with the intention of sending the bulk of the forty and more participants directly to Ide; about half a dozen that he had judged young or fit enough, he would take along the more challenging route via Polehouse Lane Bridge.

He remembers being horrified that a great many of the forty judged themselves to be young or fit, including several men who were grossly overweight.

After taking these shots, the scout continued up the hill and turned left into Markham Lane. He quickly came upon someone on the road with a tripod, which he thought at first was a surveying instrument. When he realized that it was a fellow filming, he drew up quietly and waited. It turned out to be John Ayres, the well known B.B.C. Spotlight reporter. The scout, despite having been watching the chap’s 2014 coverage of the Dawlish Débâcle only a few days before, could not think of his name and so “you’re on the television” had to do.

He was filming (two seconds in the broadcast) for a piece on the proposed housing development nearby, which he discussed with the scout along with numerous other subjects, most notably the sea wall. The story he told the scout will be repeated on the railway’s web pages.

How fortuitous it was that the scout’s decision to photograph an old bridge that day led to him having twenty minutes alone with the reporter who was first on the scene at Dawlish.

Some time after the complete closure of the line between Alphington Halt and Christow in June, 1958, but before the line was lifted a year later, Richard captures the abandoned Ide Halt. This was one of the three original stations on the Exeter Railway, which in 1903 made the Teign Valley into a through route from Exeter to Newton Abbot.
The line here is now the dreary St. Ida’s Close. The bank at left is largely undisturbed. The scout’s bicycle is propped by the kerb where the station building once stood.
Goods facilities at Ide consisted of a loop siding and a carriage chute. These had been closed in 1955 and the materials recovered soon after.
From 1935, a camping coach had been berthed in the short chute siding.
Next to the pile of sleepers is the motor trolley “run-off” at 2 miles 8 chains.
The white post marks the change in gradient from the short relaxation through the station at 1:204 to 1:58 for the two and a half miles to the top of the incline at Longdown.
This was taken not far from where Richard was standing.
For many years, this was the only dwelling built on the entire course of the railway. There are now another in Ide and one, or two, in Alphington.
The other house on the course of the line in Ide is seen under construction in 1991.
Looking towards Exeter, one boundary of the filled in “Devon Cutting” can be seen in the field at centre right.
Slightly out of sequence, but appropriate to the one above, is this shot of the two-span girder bridge on the Dunchideock road in Ide, which was replaced around 1953.
A public footpath and farm track went beneath the span at right.
Here, the new girders have been installed and floor sections are being lowered into place at each end.
Commenting that the men have no harnesses or protective clothing is not criticism of modern health and safety requirements, which have much reduced the hazards of this sort of work. But knowing that the men and materials would have come by rail and seeing the lifting being done by rail-mounted cranes, does call into question today’s methods, which rely heavily on road vehicles and plant.
The postcard view that was sold in the village shop until the 1970s.
Copyright: Roger Joanes. Shared under Creative Commons. +

The new Ide Community Orchard overlooks the railway and fine views of the station site and village can now be enjoyed. Sadly, the quiet there would have been here once is drowned by the constant drone coming from the A30 dual carriageway.

Devon Cutting, the longest on the line, between Alphington, and Ide, and the cutting between Ide and Halscombe Lane, were filled with waste by different councils. This is looking towards Ide, just around the curve, in 1977, before tipping started.
Young and not so young faces are caught by the B.B.C. cameraman recording the last day of the passenger service on 7th June, 1958.
It is hard to place this exactly. Judging from the telegraph post being on an embankment, the train could be passing Rainbow Brake, or be above Fordland Farm, or be passing through Pond Field Covert, all within Perridge Estate. The camera is facing in the Exeter direction and in a few minutes the train will enter Perridge Tunnel.
Looking along the 600-yard straight towards Exeter in 1996. The train could have been on the embankment beyond this cutting, or on embankments behind the camera. Fordland Farm is below at left. At right, the pylon marks where one of the two 400kV grid power lines serving Devon and Cornwall crosses the railway.
The formation passing through Pond Field Covert is a shelf, with a small embankment at left.
The train is about to pass beneath the bridge carrying the Perridge carriage drive.
Copyright: Roger Joanes. Shared under Creative Commons. +

The project which continues today at Christow was started at Longdown in 1975 with the intention of rebuilding the one and a quarter miles of line to Dunsford Halt. This was then all part of the Culver Estate, whose owners wanted to open a woodland park, not a commonplace at the time.

Bought back for a peppercorn after closure, along with Culver Tunnel, the station was heavily damaged by ruffians from Ide.

This was published in the Express & Echo in 1973. The damage and deterioration were a lot worse by the time the nascent Teign Valley Railway started work here. +
The project was given up in 1978 because the death of the landowner meant it could go no further. The station by this time was “lived in” once again and ready for track laying.
The slates and ridge tiles used to repair the roof came from Exeter East Signal Box, closed in 1973.
The writer of this post under the heading “Best Preserved Genuinely Disused Station” on an enthusiast’s chatter page clearly does not know the station’s history. +

July, 2022: It was agreed that Longdown’s running-in board could return to the station on the occasion of a guided walk along the line and so the scout went along beforehand to measure the posts which he had put up in 1977.

Signs Come Home

All three of the Exeter Railway’s buildings were near identical, except that Longdown’s arrangement was a reversal of the other two. Originally, there were two rooms reached from the nearest door, but when the station became a block post in 1916, the dividing wall was taken down to help accommodate the large token instruments. In the photo below, the chimney is seen marking the dividing wall, whereas here it has been moved to the end wall.

Christow’s two rooms were made into one when an extension provided a spacious Station Master’s Office. Ide’s building remained the same.

The mortar soon perished in all the Exeter’s platform walls and the very heavy, concrete-cast edgings began to lean. Remedial work was done at Ide and Christow. At Longdown, the lean became so bad that the only safe course was to take the edgings down, which the estate did in 2013, neatly stacking them nearby.

The path to the village rises behind the building. It is less than a mile from here to the war memorial.

Longdown was not at first a block post. The installation of a Down “section” signal in 1906 was unusual. Its purpose was to protect Christow. Before clearing the signal, using a lever on the ground frame seen at left. the Station Master at Longdown would have to have obtained a verbal “line clear” from Christow. It became the section signal proper when token instruments were installed in 1916.
The building is unaltered in this photograph.
The turnout led to a short loop siding.
Much of the formation upon which the 1943 goods loop was installed had already been made, possibly from surplus construction material.
Common Piece Plantation, the wood seen on the hill at right, is on the edge of the village.
Copyright: Roger Joanes. Shared under Creative Commons. +
Copyright: Roger Joanes. Shared under Creative Commons. +
Copyright: Roger Joanes. Shared under Creative Commons. +

It would be impossible, or in some cases very hard, to take these 1977/78 photographs today.

This was the occasion of an open day at the station in the early 1980s.
“ALL STATIONS TO HEATHFIELD,” which had “ALL STATIONS TO EXETER (ST. DAVID’S) on the reverse, seen propped behind the downpipe, had been “KING’S CROSS TO EDINBURGH” in white on blue. The scout found it on No. 1 platform at St. David’s. No one could explain how it had got there. Mark I carriages had brackets above the cant rail for destination boards.
It can be seen be seen lying on the ground in one of the gallery images above.
The eastern portal of Culver Tunnel, photographed in 1977.
To bring this photograph to life, watch a train entering Greenway Tunnel on the Kingswear Branch.
Copyright: Roger Joanes. Shared under Creative Commons. +
The railings are of Cotley Lane Bridge and just ahead on the right is the short platform of Dunsford Halt.
The halt to start with would have been of rudimentary wooden construction. Like Chudleigh Knighton, it was later rebuilt in concrete. This is looking towards Exeter in 1977, not long before it was demolished. The edging slabs had already gone.
Copyright: Roger Joanes. Shared under Creative Commons. +
Greenwall Lane Bridge, between Dunsford Halt and Christow, was demolished in 2013 at a cost of £95,000. Altogether, £232,605.12 was spent on the bridge from 2000 to the end of its destruction.

It must have been on another occasion that Richard visited Christow. At a guess, the photos below were taken at the same time as the one which follows showing the scoured embankment near Ashton River Bridge. This was caused by flooding in October, 1960.

If this is the case, then Christow had been cut off in both directions.

After the track was lifted from Alphington to Christow, the end of the line from Heathfield was one chain short of the seven and three-quarter milepost (Exeter Railway mileage) in Sheldon Cutting.
The milepost can be seen at left, ahead of where a sleeper has been placed across the rails.
The line here is rising at 1:75 before steepening to 1:64 for most of the climb to Longdown.
Five chains of the single line were left beyond the loop points.
The bridge rail milepost is still there; one of its faces was mocked up for this photograph.
Access courtesy of Mr. & Mrs. Angeloni.

The wall at left, the point rodding and the extended Down Main were all new in 1943 but Richard found them derelict 17 years later. Many features, however, have survived.

Richard is crouched at the end of the Down platform at the now deserted Christow Station.
A photograph taken from this position today would not show much, so below are three from the library that were taken nearby.
Copyright: Roger Joanes. Shared under Creative Commons. +
The late David St. John Thomas was there and recalled the last train in a letter.
Copyright: Roger Joanes. Shared under Creative Commons. +
Copyright: Roger Joanes. Shared under Creative Commons. +
Copyright: Roger Joanes. Shared under Creative Commons. +
A year after opening.
In the mid 1950s.
A still taken from the film, “Teign Valley and Moretonhampstead Branches,” shows the “board on” (Outer Home signal at danger) as the cameraman’s train approaches Christow. The Down train is at the platform and in a moment the signal will be cleared for the Up to enter the station.
From 1882 to 1903, this had been Teignhouse siding, the terminus of the Teign Valley Railway. An end-on junction was made with the Exeter Railway just this side of the bridge. At left is the Refuge Siding and the wagon weighbridge.
Severe flooding, widespread across Devon, in October, 1960, scoured the low embankment between Ashton and Christow river bridges. This was not repaired and so Christow became cut off by rail, officially closing to goods and parcels the following May.
Ahead of the hanging track can be seen the accommodation crossing which gave access to the riverside meadow isolated by the railway. Beyond, the parapets of Ashton River Bridge can be seen.
At first glance, the hill could be mistaken for Scanniclift Copse, meaning that Richard was looking towards Christow. But the telegraph pole would then have been on the other side of the line.
Part of the boundary fence up to the gate is still there today. The river and the remains of the bridge are at the treeline. The extension of the bridge made from concrete pipes was not enough to let the floodwater escape and so it tore through the unconsolidated railway embankment.
The trees make the hill look less imposing.
Access courtesy of Mr. & Mrs. Baber.

With the exception of the Ide postcard and the Express & Echo view of Longdown, the black and white photographs above are the copyright of Richard Holladay. http://www.exeterfoundry.org.uk/about.php

The remains of Ashton River Bridge, six miles and 53 chains from Heathfield, seen around 1981 when the riverbank was dotted with daffodils. The floodplain extension of the bridge is at right.
Copyright: Roger Joanes. Shared under Creative Commons. +
Copyright: Roger Joanes. Shared under Creative Commons. +
Copyright: Roger Joanes. Shared under Creative Commons. +
Huxbear Bridge, on the River Teign. The steelwork was once considered for recovery and reuse but the site was judged too difficult to reach.

It is commonly thought that Chudleigh Station is buried beneath the dual carriageway. In fact, the station was beside the river and the site is still visible. It can be positioned by the overline bridge, now flanked by concrete additions.

Chudleigh, seen in better times, was very prone to flooding. Beyond the bridge, on slightly higher ground, was a short platform which allowed trains from Exeter to be terminated here. Buses would then take passengers to Chudleigh Knighton and Heathfield.
In April, 1968, Peter of Teignmouth captured what was probably the last freight traffic on the branch proper. A PIPE and a BOPLATE, the latter containing what look like galvanized steel fabrications, are seen in the siding where, ten years before, a camping coach had been berthed for the holiday season.
The station had been officially closed to freight traffic in 1965 and the line beyond only led to Crockham Quarry and the concrete works, whose sidings had been deemed unfit for use in November, 1967.
The station closed completely in July, 1968.

Devon County Council, doing its bit to provide for universal car ownership and the explosion of road freight transport, had acted for the Ministry of Transport in designing the Chudleigh Bypass; its route had been decided upon in principle many years before.

Accommodating the branch railway would have added £100,000 to the £3.9-million cost of the new road. In the event, B.R. was happy to give it up and closure of Chudleigh in 1968 was quickly followed by the start of road construction. It was opened in 1973.

The incursion of the road was not as bad as many believe and was only total between Bellamarsh and Knighton Heath.There is still an unobstructed path for a new railway beside the dual carriageway which could be made as flood-resilient as the road.

North of Chudleigh, only a simple deviation from the original course would be needed. The line would pass beneath the B3344 (the former A38) using the original bridge and its flanking arches. The railway would be defended by a flood wall and nearly half the width of the bridge would be a flood channel. +
The abominable National Highways would object to a line of railway being built next to an arterial road because trains could distract drivers (from their phones).If public transport were given precedence over self-centred transport, then this section would again involve a simple deviation. +
The line would pass beneath the viaduct carrying the B3193 and cross the River Teign. After bridging Pipehouse Lane, where there would be a halt, the line would rise over the edge of Knighton Heath. +
To save it having to bridge the railway, the B3344 would be diverted to a new junction with the road from Cross Roads to the A38. After passing beneath a new Little Bovey Bridge, the line would recover its original course.
The cost of all this work would be about the same as widening the A386 between Newton Abbot and Heathfield (£33-million in 2022). +
Usefully, the sign on the Chudleigh Bypass for the “Chudleigh Station” junction is on the exact course of the former railway. The scout is looking from the bridge that carries the B3193 diversion. The old course of the road from the front of Chudleigh Station is along the northbound (left hand) carriageway, crossing to the other side before going into the trees beyond the layby. The new joins the old at Bellamarsh, not far to the right.
As the A38 crosses the course of the railway, it also crosses the Teign. In the bed of the river beneath the road bridge, severed concrete-filled cylinders act as markers.
Nearly ten years since passengers waited on the platform at Chudleigh Knighton Halt, this shot of a diesel locomotive wearing B.R. corporate blue brings the Teign Valley into the modern era.
But the new B.R. would have no room for residual operations like this and very soon the railway, the loco and everything seen here would be gone.
Until now, this is the only one of the photographs taken by Peter of Teignmouth to have been published and is fully described in an entry under “What’s New?
Between “Level Crossing Cottages” and the village, there is now not a single line of rails, but a four-lane road carrying fast and heavy motor traffic. And whereas there was once only the passing branch trains, there is now the unceasing din of rubber on tarmac. +
Copyright: Roger Joanes. Shared under Creative Commons. +

No mention of the rebuilding of the 1877 Knighton Bridge, which carried what became the A38 over the Teign Valley Railway at Chudleigh Knighton, has ever been found and were it not for a set of official B.R. photographs recording the commencement of the works, the scribe would have known nothing of what happened here; although there are glimpses of the new bridge in photographs taken from the level crossing.

The lower right plate below shows the bridge’s condition. Timbers temporarily buttress the spandrels, whose failure may have been caused by weight of road traffic, poor construction or subsidence.

The photographs must have been taken between 1948 and 1955. In the aerial photo which follows, the road is unaltered; the 1955 Ordnance Survey shows the new bridge.

The lookoutman present tells that trains were running and so it’s a weekday. It’s daylight and it’s the main Exeter to Plymouth road: how long would it be before a photographer would never be able to catch it even momentarily free of traffic?

In the two views taken at track level, men appear to be excavating and loading a bucket by hand ready for the foundation of the southern abutment of the new bridge, whose construction would not interfere with road traffic until each end of a new road formation was connected, whereupon the original bridge could be demolished.

The new concrete beam Knighton Bridge was built on much more of a skew and after it was opened the road had very nearly recovered its original turnpike alignment.

Unlike the original, the new bridge would span only the single line. It would be fanciful to think that clearance was provided for overhead electrification.

Over the extent of the works, the telegraph lines have been taken down, gathered and tucked inside a running rail.

It can be seen that the track had two-hole fishplates and close-sleepered joints in the 45-foot rails.

Beyond Knighton Bridge in the upper left plate can be seen Little Bovey Bridge.

Heathfield to Christow was mostly easy work for locos, but in leaving the Bovey Valley and cutting through Knighton Heath to the Teign, there were short lengths of 1:66 in both directions.

All that is seen here would be obliterated by the Chudleigh Bypass, opened in 1973.

The four photographs in the gallery above were obtained from British Rail and were marked copyright of British Rail/O.P.C.

An Up “auto-train” pauses at the halt in 1957. Beyond can be seen the new Knighton Bridge. (E.R. Shepherd)

April, 2021: Since writing about the “new” Knighton Bridge, another official works photograph has come to light, this one showing construction of the abutments well advanced.

The southern abutment appears to be complete, while work continues on the opposite side. The severe skew will put the A38 trunk road back on its straight, turnpike alignment. Milepost One is seen at right uncloaked.

And the scribe, returning after a very long time to a full-length print of the only known film of this section, was reminded that one view from the carriage window is of the train running along the near three-quarter mile straight beneath Little Bovey and Knighton bridges.

Knighton New Bridge, seen from the carriage window in 1958.

Above left is the point at which the old turnpike, later the arterial A38, curved to cross the Teign Valley Railway. The scout’s bicycle must not be far from where the official photographer was standing in the top right of the set of four. The road through Chudleigh Knighton is now the B3344 and it continues from here on a new course parallel with the dual carriageway, out of sight at left.

The scout looks back towards the village in the photo at right. Little Bovey Bridge once stood in the scrub to the left of the bench and the road from the A38 once passed across the picture. The railway passed diagonally at a lower level.

The only track remaining between Marsh Barton and Heathfield is at Bovey Lane Crossing. The county council’s plans to remove it were thwarted by local opposition.

The Teign Valley’s double-line junction (curving right) with the Moretonhampstead Branch at Heathfield, part of the 1943 government works, in what is thought to be the early 1960s, when both branches had closed to passengers but were still open, at least in part, for goods.
The huge quantity of track sections, both at right and in the “vee” of the junction, cannot be fully explained. It is likely that the chaired concrete-sleeper sections at right are for re-laying the line between here and Gulf Oil’s new terminal of 1966, half a mile towards Bovey. (B.R./O.P.C.)
The layout, still the same, but without the controlling signal box, is captured by Peter of Teignmouth in 1968.
The double line, becoming single, at left is still open for goods traffic to Bovey. The Teign Valley bay platform line, behind the hut, is used for unloading wagons. The far siding was new in 1961 and served van Geest’s banana-ripening shed. The signal box stood where the trolley wheels lie.
In July of this year, the remainder of the Teign Valley would be closed, save for the line as far as Bovey Lane Crossing, left as a headshunt.

The junction and the branch as far as Bovey Lane remained until 1983. In 1996, the course of the branch, the station yard and the bay platform were sold and over the following years became another scruffy “business park.” https://www.teignrail.co.uk/political-campaigning.php#heathfieldstation https://www.teignrail.co.uk/whats-new.php#boveylane

A dozer levels material brought in to widen the Teign Valley formation, which would become an access road from Bovey Lane.
The station where trains would often be standing in each of the three platforms had been reduced to this sorry scene in December, 2020.
A branch lying across the rails of the Down Main marks where the double junction was and the pent-roofed building at top right stands on the course of the Teign Valley Branch, whose bay platform was at middle right.
A lone VANFIT of sugar beet pulp nuts, probably destined for Messrs. Wyatt & Bruce at the former BoveyStation, has just been unloaded on the Teign Valley bay platform line. The station buildings at centre burnt down not long after this. Geest’s 1961 unloading shed is seen at left.
The junction and the branch bay were still there in the early 1980s. +

Discovered only recently, this is one of a set of 12 aerial photographs taken while circling “Candy & Co. Ltd., Great Western Potteries,” mostly in 1948.

The one below, taken from the south-west, has been chosen because it affords a splendid view of the Teign Valley line as far as Chudleigh, whence it it hidden.

In accordance with the terms of use, the image is reproduced uncropped, with attribution.

To aid following the two railways, they have been picked out in red on the faded clip which follows.

The find is especially rewarding because it has produced the only known sighting of Chudleigh Knighton Sidings, installed in 1943 to serve the U.S. Army fuel dump (P.O.L. (Petrol, Oil, Lubricant) Depot) scattered on the heath. The facility was used for a few months before and after “D-Day,” but in the aerial view two lines of wagons can be seen. Possibly the sidings were used to store surplus freight rolling stock.

Part of the formation can be traced today and thanks are due to the railway’s friend, Stephen Szypko, for exploring the area and identifying the remains.

The curvature of the A38 over Knighton Bridge is revealed, as well as the residue of its original straight course.

Incidentally, the disturbed area seen alongside the A38 at the bottom of the photo is the remains of the U.S. Naval Construction Battalion Depot.

By entering “Britain from Above” and registering, the high resolution version of this image can be viewed in great detail.

The Teign Valley Branch is hidden from view beyond Chudleigh.
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