85 Starcross (for Exmouth)

The Exmouth Branch exploration finishes at the Great Western’s “station” at the dock. Here the scout journeys on the other “branch” to Exmouth.

The ferry used to work in conjunction with the trains and there was through ticketing. Parcels traffic was also carried this way. But the crossing has been an entirely independent operation for many years and now only runs between April and October.

Passengers continuing by train to Exmouth have a 20 mile journey which can take nearly an hour.

The pier is reached from the end of the Down platform. The ramp was not fenced when the scout last came this way and he was always struck by how close the path was to the line. He was sure that this installation had been “risk assessed,” but wondered what would happen if a disobedient child or dog were to go the wrong side of the fence as a train was approaching. He will expect to see an anti-trespass panel installed.
Starcross Box once stood on this plinth. The bridge gives access to a slipway. If there is time, the scout will sit on a wall here and eat his lunch. He was about to do so on this occasion when he saw the ferry approaching, so decided to eat his sandwich on board.
The skipper told the scout that “cash only” was only because the card reader was not working; the scout had hoped that it was a principled stand.
A signalman who had worked at Starcross during the war told the scout that the Home Guard patrolled the pier after dark. To wind up a particularly nervous member, the others concealed themselves in boats one night and when the poor fellow came along, they all started tugging on the mooring ropes, which set him off back to the station crying: “They’re coming! They’re coming!” Or so the story went.
For a while in the 1980s, the atmospheric pumping station had been a museum dedicated to the ill-fated propulsion system, complete with a demonstration track sponsored by Hoover, one of whose upright cleaners powered the trolley on which a visitor could sit. Unfortunately, the museum was not popular and soon closed. The scout remembers being the only visitor one Sunday afternoon. He was taken up the stairs inside the chimney to take the view. The chimney had long ago been reduced in height because of subsidence.
Fares are not cheap but it should be regarded as a pleasure trip, not as public transport. This is an old ticket; the crossing cost the scout £7 on this occasion.

The scout had caught the train from Marsh Barton to Dawlish, toured the works there and at Parson’s Tunnel, found the top of the little-known private path from Woodland Avenue and caught the train from Teignmouth to Starcross. He was now ravenous and went to sit in one of the shelters on the front to eat his lunch.

The swing bridge can be seen in this 1947 view, but the lock gates have gone. The scout remembers as a child walking with his parents along the rows of shanties on Shelley Beach.
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