Haytor Tramway

One of the most interesting discoveries of 2017 was the extent of the Haytor Tramway at Ventiford Basin, between Teigngrace and Heathfield on the Moretonhampstead Branch.

This was the terminus of the Stover Canal and the tramway, but no one had any idea that the track layout remained beneath the surface; all else beyond where the tramway was buried by the later railway around Granite Siding had gone and it was thought that the section near Pottery Road, Bovey, was the lowest to survive.

Ventiford Basin was in ruins until a few years ago but recent archaeological work by the Stover Canal Society and construction of a neighbouring path as part of the Dartmoor “Granite and Gears” project has transformed the area.

Through M. & S.D.R., G.W.R., B.R. and another ownership, the canal passed to Network Rail as an historical legacy. The track authority leases the dry “waterway” to Teignbridge District Council, which sublets it to the society.

Only 24 years after this stone age line was built, Daniel Gooch was able to drive a train from Paddington to Exeter and back along what was to be the modern railway.

Among those in the know, there is always some sadness when a place is opened up and interpreted, but were it not for the building of the shared path, the tramway would have remained undiscovered.

The railway camera’s battery died later so the scout failed to capture the rare sight of an engineering train on the Bickington Steam Railway, which runs around the Trago Mills emporium. The driver had turned the steam loco at the end of the three-road Riverside Station and then put the one wagon on the turntable also. The scout assumed that this was just to save running round, but he then put the wagon in a road occupied by coaches and put the engine back on the turntable. After running off onto the incoming road, he attached the wagon. Naturally, the scout had to call out and ask what he’d done and the simple explanation was that he couldn’t work the points. Most people could just walk on by.

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