Interesting stuff with a local or Dartmoor Railway connection, however tenuous, but without an obvious place on any of the other pages. Contributions are welcome.
140 years of progress in track fittings
1881 London & South Western Railway rail chair from the Arthur Westlake Museum
... and the 2021 equivalent, on a concrete sleeper, ready for the track construction train.
Ganger's Occupation Key Box
Last spring Colin Burges of the Exeter and Teign Valley Railway provided us with a fascinating insight into the various activities he had been occupying himself with in the first lockdown. (See the next article). One of the photographs showed one of Colin's Christmas presents; the unrestored bits of a ganger's occupation key box, the signalling equipment used with GWR's 'Economic' and 'Motor Economic' Systems of Track Maintenance.
The equipment has been the subject of a typical high quality restoration and is now able to provide demonstrations. It can be seen in the following photographs.
Our grateful thanks once again to Colin Burges, who also provided the photo captions and the concluding notes.
These huts were made at Taunton's concrete works for fogmen to shelter in and to house intermediate key boxes. The bench seat is missing because most of the time this is the site khazi. This was made up from huts I retrieved from Bovey Lane Crossing and Aller Junction. A chalked date can still be seen: 8/3/39.
This is the position the ganger would start from if he wanted to withdraw the key to take occupation. After moving the key anti-clockwise to position "2," the signalman, with the co-operation of the signalman at the other end of the section, would be able electrically to release the instrument to allow the key to be turned to position "3" and withdrawn, thus locking the main token instruments.
"FREE" displayed in the window means that the signalman has released the instrument. The ganger can now turn the key to "3" and withdraw it. Reference is made in the regulations to using a plunger to test the main token instruments when the key has been returned, so I included one in this assembly. This box may have been half way between Christow and Longdown, and one of three places where the motor trolley could be "run-off" onto a side track.
With the key in his possession, the ganger was safe to work on the line without further protection, or to rerail the trolley and proceed through the section.
A great many of the lines on which these instruments were used were closed; this one may have come from the Didcot, Newbury & Southampton. In any case, gangs started using road transport in the 1960s so I doubt if one of these instruments has been used since then. When I was with chaps who would have remembered the system, I didn't have the knowledge to question them.
Exeter and Teign Valley Railway Spring 2020
[Preparing this piece made me realise just how fortunate we are to have so many small, interesting, heritage railway sites close at hand: Christow, Woody Bay, Launceston, Bere Ferrers, Torrington, Bideford, Yeovil etc]
Living on your own railway site makes a fairly productive isolation possible. When Colin Burges emailed a few pictures of his recent activity on the Exeter and Teign Valley Railway at Christow I asked for permission to use them on our website, and he responded with lots more. They paint a picture of activities and equipment which will be familiar to many DRSA members (CCT, running in board, drop window, station barrow etc., though perhaps not fake rivet heads), carried out to high standards. I hope they will help maintain the interest of our frustrated volunteers, as well as providing fresh ideas.
This simple website doesn't allow the editor to have control of fonts. I have put Colin’s inimitable commentary in the photo captions, which forces them into italic mode, whilst my own interjections are in the main body of the page, and thus in standard text, so that the distinction is clear.
Many of our members will be familiar with the Exeter and Teign Valley Railway. For those who aren’t, there’s more information in the reports on DRSA’s 2 visits. Scroll down this (chronologically ordered) page to May 2016 and May 2019.
How many people do you know who do standard gauge trackwork on their own? I've been meaning to change one rotten sleeper for about three years and finally got on with it at the weekend. With the G.W.-type of bolted chair, with the nut on top, it is difficult to extract a sleeper without removing the rails. Because bullhead rails are tipped out into the four-foot, it makes sense to take them to opposite sides using boards. You can see that the left hand rail has gone over the empty chairs on the right. The old sleeper had gone to pulp but is the only one I've changed in the 25 years this road has been down.
It used to be double time for P.W. men on a Sunday if they "broke the road."
Here are three track gauges I've just refurbished. Unfortunately, the levels are wrong but they're close.
Old and new beater picks. I've "hard faced" the old one.
"Christow Brown" is a particularly warm colour when the evening sun catches it and the corrugations are accentuated.
There are 2 GWR ‘Toad’ brakevans on the E&TVR. One was used as camping accommodation for many years, in the spirit of the old camping coaches. The other is being refurbished for a client.
I convinced my client that he wanted a new face for the vacuum gauge on his van. Note the "mark" is 25 in. - the lesser railways used 21.
He bought sawn, untreated, unseasoned douglas fir for the floor of the verandah. I've done the best I can with it. The side plates are new, with faux rivet heads on the outside.
The platework and much more has been stripped from TOAD. It was in use as camping accommodation for 21 years. The stories it may tell, if it could.
This side spring showed signs of scaling between the leaves and I thought it would have to go away for rebuilding. But when I got it out, I was able to prise the leaves apart, clean up and regrease. The links had long ago seized and an enormous amount of heat was used to free them. The wagon had to be lifted a long way before the spring could be freed; it took on a very different shape when off load.
The worst-affected spring on the 1922 van belonging to my client shows what happens when scaling is left.
The two vans are outwardly the same but actually differ considerably. The axleguards on the '22 van are 5/8in thick, while on the '49 van they are 7/8in, one of the ways in which the diagram must have been beefed up in response to operational experience.
The Matisa Track Recording Trolley will never record again; its gear is being stripped bit by bit, a rainy day job. One of the underslung trolleys has been scrapped but the other two will remain as ballast; the trolley is used to move the diesel shunter.
All the doors of the CCT have been removed and parts which I hope will be needed in future reconditioned.
Parts of twelve pairs of "self-aligning" hinges have been electroplated in black and clear zinc.
E&TVR and DR both have a CCT (Covered Carriage Truck). Ours is 94691, the grey van in Platform 1. Its combination workshop and boudoir interior isn’t standard BR.
The components of a "self-aligning" hinge. The ball and pin have considerable "float" to allow for inaccurate fitting and movement of the body.
B.R. maroon is revealed on a (CCT) end door by the cutting lamp.
Early maintenance dates are revealed on the carriage end panel.
I have stood at these drop windows and taken in the air and the views for most of my life, and hope to do so on the private railways (if any is left) for a bit longer. It is testimony to a good, robust design that it was used, unchanged, in three marks of B.R. carriage and is still in use today, what, 65 years on? I have mocked up the working parts because I mean to write to Beclawat (Beckett-Laycock-Watkinson) in Canada when the war is over, both to let them know that I will be reusing these windows and to enquire about new ones.
I hope that the recovered parts will be used in new doors for both the CCT and Ferryvan. The "lazy-tongs" spring seems quite strong when off load but only just balances the window. The spring cylinders are adjustable. My apologies to old hands in C. & W. who already know all this.
My client wanted - or was convinced by me that he wanted - faux rivet heads to take the eye away from the new welds. Unable to find any, I made them out of polyester resin and stuck them on with mastic.
The moulds produce 1/2, 9/16 & 5/8in heads. The heads are relieved on the back to give the mastic somewhere to go.
There are many applications, such as floorboards and interior work, where only a countersunk coach bolt should be used. These long ago ceased to be obtainable and so I have always made my own, or rather converted them from cup head bolts. For neat work, I would usually touch the top of the bolt head with a sanding disc. It helps to have someone heating the bolts. My pal Bob says his ears are still ringing after the last batch we did together.
A Christmas gift left in my post box was a Ganger's Occupation Key Box. These are listed at high prices on the web. It will be mounted on a board next to a bus telephone and displayed occasionally in the ‘khazi’, the concrete hut which was adopted to house this apparatus at various points along single lines.
Sometimes I will take a job into the workshop if I can see it will not get put aside, unfinished. This G.W. barrow from the Newton Abbot factory had lain outside for decades. The ash frame had survived because I had often sprayed it with creosote. It was in and out of the workshop in seven days and received a shortened axle recovered from a four-wheel trolley. The ironwork is simply sprayed with WD40.
£537.09, according to the "Small Work" job sheet.
Not quite in and out, but achieved without difficulty, was this contraption, which Tony thankfully never managed to move. It's name is one you would never guess: Semi-Mobile Stillage. The lever lifter can of course be used with any number of units. £405.89, according to the job sheet.
Some years ago, John Coxon and I made the new running-in board for Meldon Viaduct station, to replace the dilapidated one which said Meldon Quarry anyway. To my surprise it’s still in one piece, but it’s fair to say that Colin’s are rather better than ours.
When I machined the timber for the two original running-in boards, I did enough for another "Christow." In fact, there was nearly enough for "Ide" as well. So I machined a bit more meranti and now I have the makings of a complete set of Exeter Railway boards. Ide is the shortest station name in the country. IBM in Scotland doesn't really count, but if it did, Ide would still be typographically shorter. The reproductions will have 2mm aluminium panels sprayed white before assembly.
The joint is a "splined mitre," with plenty of side grain for gluing.
Being without a loco, I am reduced to shunting with this 24V winch, mounted on a frame which sits in four draw hook patterns; the set screws take up the different widths.
The welds of the two pins which engage with the draw hook can be seen; a third detachable pin is used on the continental drawhook.
The power supply comes from this 60A carriage battery charger mounted in a lineside cabinet. A picture in one of Colin Maggs's Bristol books shows a cabinet, similarly deformed, with a tubular barrow. I recovered this from Exmouth Junction and the tubular barrow was stolen the day I outshopped it. The winch is rated at 3.5/2 tonnes, depending on how much wire is on the spool. Even being used at a fraction of its capacity, it is powerful enough to haul 30 tonnes up the 1:70.
I bought my top of the range Felder woodworking machine secondhand in 1995, using part of my B.R. redundancy payment. A new machine at the time cost £11,000. The cast iron table has a groove for a straight-edging board. Wany-edged timber sits on the board and travels past the sawblade; for subsequent cuts, the fence is used.
EN1A cold-rolled "bright" mild steel was used. It comes dead straight, sharp-edged and with accurate dimensions.
The board is captive once it enters the groove.
With many thanks to Colin Burges.
Launceston Steam Railway October 30th 2019
This summer the Launceston Steam Railway has been hosting Adrian Shooter's 1889 built Darjeeling Himalayan Railway locomotive no. 19B. Its last week of service provided the Station Maintenance Team with an excuse for an impromptu awayday.
I couldn't believe it was 14 years since I'd last visited the LSR. It's only 30 odd miles from Okehampton, and a fascinating railway, but inexplicably slightly below the radar. It is a 1' 11½" gauge railway laid on the trackbed of the standard gauge North Cornwall Railway - the line from Halwill to Padstow - for two and a half miles along the River Kensey to New Mills. At New Mills a farm park provides a tourist attraction in better weather. Once there was a plan to double the mileage with an extension to Egloskerry, but this is now unlikely to occur. The present Launceston station seems authentic but is actually a modern construction, a short distance west of its ancestor, of which there are few remains.
The initial trigger for creating the LSR was Nigel Bowman's acquisition and restoration of the 1883 Hunslet locomotive 'Lilian'. There are now two further Quarry Hunslets at Launceston - the 1898 built 'Covertcoat' and 'Dorothea' from 1901, the latter the result of a near-miraculous restoration by Kay Bowman. Practically all engineering is done in house, even boiler making. [See Quarry Hunslet note below photographs]
Interesting (former gasworks?) buildings house a museum of transport and engineering which we needed more time to explore. Apart from lots of interesting railway bits, there is also a collection of early motor cycles, and several cars, e.g. a Trojan van, and a very authentic 1930s chain driven Frazer-Nash which turned out to be a replica built by Mr Bowman and a colleague in the 1980s. It's not slickly presented, and you have to dig around for yourself, but that's part of the charm.
When we visited on October 30th there was an hourly train service. (The run to New Mills takes about 15 minutes). The DRSA group had one run behind 'Covertcoat', then a couple behind the Darjeeling locomotive. If anything the former seemed to perform better, although there was one less carriage on for the Hunslet. Finally, everyone's day was made by a cabride on the final run behind 'Covertcoat'.
Despite relentlessly filthy weather it was a brilliant day out at an interesting, refreshing railway. The staff (there are no volunteers) are friendly and knowledgable, and there isn't a hi-vis jacket to be seen. It is now closed for the winter, but go and visit in 2020. There's so much more than can be described in a few paragraphs. They have a website at launcestonsr.co.uk.
I am indebted to Sue and Tom Baxter, and Paul Vodden, who provided the following after the failure of my camera:
1898 Hunslet 0-4-0ST 'Covertcoat' at New Mills.
Another view of 'Covertcoat' at New Mills. The cab and tender are modern additions.
1889 Sharp, Stewart built Darjeeling Himalayan Railway 0-4-0ST no. 19B, at New Mills.
Side-on view of the Darjeeling locomotive at Launceston, emphasising the long boiler. Four wheels don't look enough.
Close up of the Darjeeling locomotive.The grey item in the centre of the photo appears to be the air pump for the brakes. Elsewhere there must be an electrical generator.
No excuse needed for yet another picture of this fascinating locomotive. It has a certain amount of bling, like that brass thing speared on the smokebox door.
As it says on the front, it's an experimental railcar - a long term project to provide comfortable, out of season, transport. The power (nearer) bogie has a traction motor from a GPO tube unit. The engine we think is a 2 litre Peugeot diesel. We didn't discover why it's called The Gherkin.
The highlight of the day for the DRSA group was a cab ride on 'Covertcoat' on the last train of the day. The hardier half of the group travelled on the tender-first leg.
Note: I confess to a bias in favour of the Quarry Hunslets. For those unfamiliar with the term, it refers to a group of classes of 0-4-0 saddle tank locomotives built, needless to say, by Hunslet of Leeds. They saw extensive service in the slate quarries of North Wales from the late 19th century to the mid twentieth, and the survivors are to be found in many narrow gauge preserved railways, e.g. Bala Lake, or Llanberis Lake. There are lots of nice pics of them here.
Our justification for publishing photos of GWR locomotives in Somerset is that they were taken by our regular C&W correspondent, David Bell. Although they actually date from 2009, such is the authenticity of the WSR scene that you have to look pretty hard for clues that they don't date from the steam era. (Black bin liner and driver's 'Crocs'!)
GWR 'Large Prairie' 2-6-2T 4160 at Bishop's Lydeard
GWR 'Large Prairie' 2-6-2T 4160 at Bishop's Lydeard
Our thanks to stalwart DRSA volunteer Andrew Turner who has recently been visiting events at the North York Moors Railway and the Great Central Railway, and photographed some Southern locomotives in action there:
A pair of Maunsell Southern Railway locomotives under the overall roof at Pickering on the North York Moors Railway: S15 4-6-0 825 and 'Schools' 4-4-0 926 'Repton'. Looks like the North Eastern Q6 0-8-0 3395 in the background.
825 again at Pickering
926 'Repton' again, this time at Quorn on the Great Central Railway.
Ex-LSWR Drummond 4-4-0 T9 30120 and 926 'Repton' running non-stop through Quorn.
30120 on the GCR again.
Some views of the Granite Way south of Meldon Viaduct, resulting from the website editor getting on his bike. To be extended, as time and knees allow.
Just south of Meldon Viaduct is bridge 614, identified as such by the modern bridge plate. Much older is the stencilled mileage from Waterloo a few feet below.
A very welcome effort has been made (by whom?) to highlight features of interest.
Meldon Junction, remembered in benches. Sadly the route to Halwill is blocked.
Lavis Bridge, just north of Sourton
The 14th Century church of St Thomas a Becket at Sourton, and one of the distinctive National Cycle Network signposts. The enterprising church was serving cream teas and sandwiches on Sunday afternoons in August.
Overbridge at Sourton. Engineered to carry a farm track for ever.
The 9 arch Lake or Southerly Viaduct, built of granite and opened in 1874.
Platelayers' hut just south of Lake Viaduct. An Exmouth Junction concrete works product.
Tarka Valley Railway open weekend July 13th 2019
It's always good to visit the TVR and see how the railway is developing. They have a clear idea of where they are going, and having cracked a lot of administrative obstacles like their charitable status (they are a Charitable Incorporated Organisation), the Devon County Council lease, and planning permission, they are now able to push on with the physical task of reconstructing the railway (along with paying for it), and are making good progress.
They have an imaginative solution to co-existing with the Tarka Trail walking and cycling route, involving moving the path a couple of metres to one side of the formation, installing track on the other side and fencing between them. It's being carried out with considerable expertise. The first phase is 300m of running line and storage siding, along with some maintenance facilities. Currently there is a £25000 appeal for the king point which will connect the siding. An OO scale model of the proposed station layout was on show at the open weekend.
Other current projects are the 'Torrington Cavalier' shunter, renovation of an LNER brakevan, and various station infrastructure tasks. If you can't visit, the best way to keep tabs on what's going on is via their Facebook page.
(Scroll down this chronologically sorted page for reports of previous visits on Sept 10th 2017 and Sept 6th 2015).
A few photos:
The Tarka Trail cycle and walking path, sharing the trackbed with the TVR. The former Torrington station - now the Puffing Billy restaurant - is in the background.
High-tech level crossing - a typically well executed TVR solution.
LNER type brakevan, being restored to become TVR's first passenger carrying vehicle.
More goods wagons, and the 'Torrington Cavalier', TVR's Ruston Hornsby shunter gradually being brought back to life.
The cab of the 'Torrington Cavalier'.
Concrete lamp store, adjacent to the signal box site, being renovated
Ex-North Devon Clay Company 1945 John Fowler diesel shunter 'Progress' being demonstrated.
Exeter and Teign Valley Railway visit May 15th 2019
3 years on from our previous visit, a group of 10 DRSA members visited the E&TVR at Christow on May 15th. It was encouraging to see a couple of unfamiliar faces in the party. As we've been there before, and reported on it on these pages, these notes are fairly abbreviated. [Scroll down to May 11th 2016 for the first one].
We enjoyed repeating some of the previous activities, like charging around the site's 2 foot gauge peripheral line on the anthropomotive 'Jenny Wren' 4 seater saloon based on a mine wagon, or watching Tony Hill demonstrate the low rolling resistance of a 9 ton railway van, or seeing Colin Burges singlehandedly manhandling 16cwt of Wickham trolley onto the track via a portable turntable. This time the electronic ignition on the immaculate Wickham didn't let the side down and enabled the party to travel the standard gauge demonstration line.
The Matisa Neptune track measuring vehicle is in running order and carried us a few yards sounding very crisp; sadly this almost unique machine might be destined for scrap due to a lack of demand. Since the last visit, Mr Burges has built a Wickham shed and permanent way tool store with an authentic feel, and started restoring a GWR 'Toad' brakevan for a station-owning neighbour. We enjoyed just wandering around making interesting discoveries, whether artefacts like the length of bridge rail on display, or more abstract concepts like how embarrassingly well organised the workshops are.
It's an extraordinary place, unlike any other railway site; as much a backcloth for a campaign for rail reinstatement as a 'visitor centre', with plenty of engineering excellence for good measure. Several of us have now been twice and would happily go again. Visiting the E&TVR website is essential. Our thanks to Colin Burges for his hospitality, not least of which was an enjoyable lunch in the brakevan. Thanks also to Tony Hill for arranging the visit.
A few pictures:
Access to the site is across this pedestrian bridge over the River Teign - there must be a story behind that skinny deck on big piers.
It's not clear why we do this, but Tony Hill seems to enjoy it.
Photographer: Jon Kelsey
E&TVR's gorgeous 1949 Mk 27 Wickham trolley, sitting on the Improved Wickham Turntable.
Close-up of Wickham wheel showing the adaption from 8-stud to 6-stud fixing, the sanding mechanism and the oak brake block.
A general view of the site with the DRSA party exploring and pondering.
Photographer: Jon Kelsey
The restoration queue at Christow.
Very high standard of bodywork restoration on this 14 ton Motor Car Van. Where are the pop rivets?
Colin Burges' party piece is a demonstration of the effect of wheel conicity. The wheelset on the track has a conical taper of 3 degrees, or about 1 in 20. It rolls along the track and back, constantly correcting its position, never derailing despite the absence of a flange. The wheelset in the foreground is cylindrical, i.e. without taper or conicity, and in the same trial wanders off the track at the first opportunity.
Rowtor visit November 14th 2018
The visit to Rowtor target railway resulted in enough material to justify a page of its own, published here.
Swanage Railway Autumn Steam Gala October 12th
The Swanage Railway's Autumn Steam Gala took place on the weekend of August 12th-14th, and celebrated 70 years since the 1948 Exchange Trials. Regular DRSA volunteer Andrew Turner was on the Isle of Purbeck on the Friday, and enjoyed a choice selection of Southern and LMS steam power. Our thanks to Andrew for the following:
Swanage. Battle of Britain class 4-6-2 no. 34053 Sir Keith Park
Swanage. The National Collection's ex-LSWR T9 class 'Greyhound' 4-4-0 no. 30120.
LMS 4-6-2 no. 6233 Duchess of Sutherland at Norden.
Southern pair. U class 2-6-0 no. 31806 and Battle of Britain class 4-6-2 no. 34053 Sir Keith Park.
Corfe Castle. U class 2-6-0 no. 31806 and Battle of Britain class 4-6-2 no. 34053 Sir Keith Park double-heading, LMS Black 5 4-6-0 no. 44871 about to join the rear of the train. They probably had adequate power.
Narrow gauge steam in the Celtic fringe.
The Baxters were involved with the Welsh Highland Railway's Superpower Weekend on September 14th-16th. We're grateful to them for some images of the WHR action, and also of a brief trip to Llanberis. [There are also a couple of links to YouTube coverage of the events at WHR and Llanberis]:
DR guard Sue Baxter on replica Festiniog Railway 'sentrybox' brakevan at the Welsh Highland Railway 'Superpower' event.
DRSA's Tom Baxter played a pivotal role at the WHR Superpower weekend, supervising the loading of this miniature Garrett into a van.
WHR at Dinas. Train of Festiniog Railway 'Bugbox' carriages, headed by 1891 Hunslet 0-4-0ST 'Lilla'.
WHR at Dinas. DR guard Sue Baxter about to give the right away to 'Bugbox' shuttle.
WHR at Waunfawr. LBR's Baldwin 2-4-2T replica 'Lyn'.
WHR at Waunfawr. LBR Baldwin replica no 762 'Lyn' and Festiniog single Fairlie 'Taliesin'.
WHR at Waunfawr. 'Lyn' and 'Taliesin'.
Snowdon Mountain Railway at Llanberis. Swiss Brienz Rothorn Bahn no 2 and SMR no 3 'Wyddfa'. No 2 was visiting briefly as part of a Swiss holiday promotion. BRB and SMR use the Abt rack and pinion system for dealing with steep gradients.
Snowdon Mountain Railway at Llanberis. Swiss Brienz Rothorn Bahn locomotive no 2 and coach.
A couple of weekends later the website editor was at Woody Bay for the Lynton and Barnstaple Railway's Steam Gala:
LBR at Woody Bay: Replica Baldwin 2-4-2T 'Lyn' and replica Manning Wardle 2-6-2T 'Lyd'.
LBR at Woody bay. Demo goods train with 1915 Kerr Stuart Joffre class 0-6-0T 'Axe' and new build 0-4-2T 'Faith'.
LBR at Woody Bay. 'Lyn' and 'Lyd'.
Conversations at these events often seem to explore railway minutiae, and at Woody Bay a topic was the variety of types of narrow gauge couplings. Here are a few examples from the WHR and LBR events:
LBR at Woody Bay. Ballast wagon to 'SR' brakevan.
LBR at Woody Bay. 'SR' brakevan to 'Faith' 0-4-2T.
WHR at Waunfawr. LBR's Manning Wardle replica 'Lyn' to Festiniog Railway's 'Taliesin'.
WHR at Waunfawr. Festiniog Railway's distinctive 'Taliesin' to vintage brakevan.
Langridge Private Railway May 30th 2018
The May DRSA committee meeting took place at Langridge, Tony Hill's home near Winkleigh. Tony has a 15" gauge railway at the bottom of his garden, as you do. Mainly powered by gravity, with a little bit of anthropomotive assistance, the LPR's main purpose is to shift logs around the estate, although on this occasion it was used for the not dissimilar task of transporting committee members. We travelled in the passenger carriage, which has a dismountable body enabling it to be converted to a flat wagon. Our thanks to Tony for an interesting evening.
Rosie showing disapproval
A tight squeeze
Tavistock May 5th 2018
A number of DRSA members attended the events organised by Tavistock Heritage Trust commemorating 50 years since the last train left Tavistock.
In the afternoon there was a walk led by Stephen Fryer. The group first examined the 1889 viaduct, and then was given privileged access to Tavistock North station. Here the renowned local railway photographer and author, Bernard Mills, who used to work in the station ticket office, regaled the large party of walkers with some fascinating reminiscences. Subsequently the group walked over the viaduct and southwards along the line.
DRSA's Tony Hill, the only member of the party to have travelled on the last train, had produced a commemorative wreath, with which Bernard posed.
In the evening Stephen and Bernard gave an illustrated talk on the history of the line.
The station, much more elaborate than Okehampton, has been in private hands since closure, and is in lovely condition. Architectural detail can be found on the English Heritage listing.
Part of the beautifully maintained Tavistock North station building, showing, on the right, the sympathetically designed modern extension.
Close-up of the elaborate station canopy brackets.
Bernard Mills with Tony Hill's wreath commemorating Tavistock rail services
Kelsey and Baxter with Tony's wreath.
Rail train March 29th 2018
Geoff Horner happened to be at Okehampton Station when 31452 showed up propelling the 'Sturgeon' bogie rail wagon, loaded with rails, possibly collected from Bow. D4167 was fired up, and hauled the wagon on to Meldon. Such movements are unusual on the DR, and Geoff took us a few pictures:
Photographer: Geoff Horner
Photographer: Geoff Horner
Photographer: Geoff Horner
Photographer: Geoff Horner
Photographer: Geoff Horner
Christmas 2017 on the Welsh Highland Railway
Possibly underwhelmed by the DR festive fare, the Baxters spent the pre-Christmas weekend helping with Santa trains on the Welsh Highland Railway, and sent in the following pictures, all taken on or of the 1215 Dinas to Rhyd-Ddu on Dec 23rd.
Festive WHR crew at Rhyd Ddu - about one third of the total train complement. It's good to see Tom pulled out all the stops with his outfit.
Welsh Highland Garratt no. 138 leading Ffestiniog Railway Funkey diesel 'Vale of Ffestiniog' round Fridd Isaf curve.
Garrett no. 138 at Rhyd Ddu, in rather Meldonian weather.
Garrett no. 138 at Rhyd Ddu.
Garrett no. 138 at Rhyd Ddu.
South African Funkey diesel-hydraulic 'Vale of Ffestiniog'. Built in 1967 for service in a Namibian diamond mine, it was imported in 1993 by the FR, who have painted it in a proper livery.
Plym Valley Railway December 3rd 2017
The Station Maintenance team has been trying to organise itself to visit the Plym Valley Railway for at least 2 years; thus far without success. It's all of 30 miles away after all. However, the Baxters got there last weekend, and sent in a couple of pictures:
This is the Plym Valley Railway's class 08 shunter 13002, subsequently D3002. It was built in 1952, making it about 10 years older than ours (08937/D4167) and possibly the oldest surivor of the type.
This is Bagnall 0-4-0ST 'Judy', built in 1937. The cut down cab and short wheelbase were necessary for operating at Par harbour. It is visiting the PVR for the Christmas trains, courtesy of the Bodmin and Wenford Railway.
Greystone Quarry Open Day Sept 30th 2017
The Dartmoor Railway’s landlord, Aggregate Industries, held an interesting open day at Greystone Quarry near Launceston. The quarry extracts and processes dolerite, an igneous intrusive rock known locally as blue elvan, for use mainly for road surfacing. Examples of its use include the recent resurfacing work on the A30 (about 48000 tonnes), and imminent work at Exeter Airport. Some goes as far as the Isle of Wight, by boat from Plymouth. Sadly, none of the annual output of about 275,000 tonnes goes anywhere by rail.
Quarrying has taken place at Greystone since Victorian times. The site employs 18, including 2 apprentices whose recent appointment is a measure of AI’s confidence in the future. Recent planning permission to extend laterally has added 33 years to the quarry’s life.
AI had put a lot of effort into the day. Several minibuses had been hired for transporting visitors around the site, a reception and refreshment tent had been erected, and many of the quarry’s staff were on hand to give guidance. The display of minerals, equipment and photographs in the small Heritage Centre was a fascinating part of the tour, and several of AI’s essential sub-contractors had equipment on display. All of which was rewarded by a good turnout of visitors, and hopefully continuing good relations with the community.
Grateful thanks are due to Aggregate Industries and the Greystone staff including Quarry Manager Brian McGinnity for an enjoyable day. Perhaps we can have the same at Meldon should it reopen.
A few pics:
Quite a large hole in the ground. AI can expand downwards one more bench level. The building on the extreme left houses the 1974 Allis-Chalmers gyratory crusher - recently overhauled and now good for another 20 years.
Open Day visitors swarming over some of the big boys' toys.
The plant which grades the material in sizes ranging from several inches down to dust.
Tarka Valley Railway Open Day Sept 10th 2017
The Sunday of the TVR's Open Weekend seemed to offer marginally less atrocious weather than the Saturday, and the website editor spend a little time at Torrington nosing around. Visitor numbers were undeservedly low.
The TVR is in the process of finalising a lease agreement with Devon County Council, after which work will start on realigning the Tarka Trail, installing fencing and laying track. Stage 1 provides a running line down to the first bridge - along with a couple of sidings - enabling the first passengers to be carried in the TVR's brakevan. There was an OO model of this in the display tent.
A recent acquisition is a Ruston Hornsby diesel shunter, currently being repainted into a more appropriate livery than its present pale blue. There's also a fair bit of mechanical work to do to it. The engine is a replacement of the correct basic RH type, but from a generator rather than a locomotive, and the installation has never been finished or tried. After which there are the electrics to sort out ..
The TVR is run by a small but enthusiastic bunch, with a clear idea of where they're going, working in an area rich in industrial heritage. It's well worth a visit. They have a website here.
A few pics:
New motive power on the TVR. The last locomotive out of the Ruston Hornsby factory in Lincoln, built in Feb 1969.
The Torrington Cavalier again.
View from the platform end, with a couple of permanent way trolleys in the foreground, and the John Fowler diesel shunter 'Progress' and Mk1 coach by the old station building, which is now the Puffing Billy restaurant.
LNER-type brakevan, in the late stages of restoration. It is being modified to carry passengers.
I forgot to ask what this is.
China clay wagon, type OOV, built in the late 1950s, though to a much older GWR design.
'Progress', operational at the North Devon Clay Works at Peters Marland until the 1980s. Built in 1945 by John Fowler, and now fitted with a 6 cylinder Leyland diesel engine. It has hydrostatic drive and braking (whatever that is) with Westinghouse air brakes as a secondary system.
Mid-Hants Railway Steam Gala Feb 18th 2017
Recently our Chairman, Rev Philip Wagstaff, cunningly moved to Crewkerne, ostensibly to take up another post, but in reality to get a bit nearer to some of the major heritage railways. He was at the Mid-Hants at the weekend, and sent us these pictures:
Ivatt Class 2 2-6-2 tank 41312 at Alresford with a demonstration freight
LMS Black 5 45379 at Alresford with ECS for the 2nd train of the day
LMS Black 5 45379 at Medstead and Four Marks
BR Standard class 4 76017 arriving at Medstead and Four Marks
BR Standard class 4 76017 at Medstead and Four Marks, back in service after a 20 year restoration.
BR Standard class 4 76017 at Alton. Unusually in preservation, the signal box controls early colour light signals.
BR Standard class 4 76017 at Ropley, under the former North Tawton footbridge.
The former Exmouth Junction breakdown crane, 45 ton Ransome and Rapier DS1580, at Ropley.
Class 33 33053 at Ropley
BR 9F 92212 and Standard 4 76017 at Alresford
BR Standard class 4 76017 at Alresford.
Ivatt Class 2 2-6-2 tank 41312 at Alresford
Lynton & Barnstaple Railway Autumn Steam Gala Sept 25th 2016
The excuse for including coverage of the LBR is that it's another Southern line in Devon, and there were at least 4 DRSA members there. Numbers seemed to be a little down on last year, presumably because of the showery forecast, although in practice the rain held off nearly all the time. As ever the LBR put on a well organised show, with 5 immaculate locomotives in steam, lots of other attractions, and a warm welcome.
Kerr, Stuart 0-6-0T 'Axe', hopper wagons and fine Exmoor scenery beyond.
LBR's 2 Bagnalls, 'Isaac' and 'Charles Wytock', on shed at Woody Bay.
'Faith', a very smart looking 0-4-2T about which we haven't much information, though it looks like a new build.
The frame in the signal cabin at Woody Bay.
'Lyd', the Manning Wardle replica built at Boston Lodge on the Festiniog Railway, arriving at Woody Bay with the LBR's heritage coaches. What other preserved railway with a discontinuous history can run such an authentic train?
Fred, the DRSA assistant secretary, admiring the view at Killington Lane.
Exeter & Teign Valley Railway members' visit May 11th 2016
A group of DRSA members spent an enthralling afternoon in a lovely corner of East Dartmoor visiting the Exeter and Teign Valley Railway on May 11th. Sadly we only numbered 7.
The Teign Valley line left the South Devon main line at Exeter City Basin junction, and proceeded via Ide, Longdown, Christow, Ashton, Trusham and Chudleigh to Heathfield on the Newton Abbot to Moretonhampstead branch. First proposed in 1860, it wasn't completed until 1903, and sadly, by then the plan to include a branch from near Christow up the Teign Gorge to Chagford had been dropped. During WW2, four of the crossing points were enlarged to enable the line's use as a diversionary route, but nothing saved the line from closure to passenger services in 1958.
The E&TVR is the brainchild of Colin Burges, and is established in the former Christow goods yard, which still contains evidence of the infrastructure which handled the output from Bridford and Scatter Rock quarries. Well lubricated fishplates and an absence of piles of abandoned junk are the first clues that this is a slightly different railway site.
The main 'running line' is a quarter mile long 2 foot gauge layout around the periphery of the site, on which we travelled on 'Jenny Wren', a 4 seater observation saloon built on the chassis of a skip wagon. It is described as 'manumotive', meaning it is pulled and pushed by Mr Burges, though the route is carefully planned to make the most of gravity. It's a tad disconcerting to begin with a 1 in 12 descent towards the River Teign, but 4 little flanges and good maintenance keep the passengers dry. The route includes a neat turntable, and a carriage shed built from the body of a standard gauge van.
One third of the DRSA committee plunging towards the River Teign.
A GWR Toad brakevan has been converted into a compact camping van, for which, sadly, patronage is declining as apparently even campers are moving upmarket these days. More fascinating still is 'Tadpole', a tiny camping van built on another narrow gauge skip wagon chassis, and only suitable for people shorter than 5' 9”. It's beautifully made, though unfortunately not a commercial success.
Tadpole camping van.
A 1949 Wickham type 27 has been extensively rebuilt, and looks as-new, though it wouldn't start during our visit thanks to a fault with the modern electronic ignition fitted to the Ford 10 engine. The Improved Wickham Turntable enabled Mr Burges to demonstrate how one man could get three quarters of a ton of trolley off the track in a few minutes.
Demonstration of the Improved Wickham Turntable.
There is a line of standard gauge rail vehicles, comprising a Ferry Van like ours, a Covered Carriage Truck (CCT) like ours, an 0-4-0 Drewry shunter (like a BR class 04) which came from the coal concentration yard at Exmouth Junction, and a Matisa Neptune track measuring and recording machine. All seem to be deteriorating faster than they are being restored, and suggest that Mr Burges could use some help.
Some of the standard gauge kit awaiting overhaul.
Time was starting to run short by the time we reached the modern cabin which functions as the 'booking office'. The interior was a surprise as it is nicely crafted in the style of a traditional railway office, and houses a display of fascinating railway paraphernalia, as well as selling replica tickets and railway oriented gifts, but not tat.
Booking office entrance.
It's hard to encapsulate the essence of the E&TVR in a few words. There is much to entertain and educate railway enthusiasts and thoughtful 'normals' alike, but the real point is support of an idealist's campaign for railway reinstatement, and opposition to its alternatives. In addition, there's a great deal of engineering excellence to admire for those who appreciate these things. It's an intriguing place.
There is more detail and a great deal of Mr Burges's writing on his website, and Peter Kay's book 'The Teign Valley Line' is one of the better branch line histories. Our thanks are due to Colin Burges for giving up so much of his time to describe his fascinating railway project to our embarrassingly small group, and to Tony Hill for organising the visit.
A few more pictures:
New committee member induction - pushing a 9 ton van up a gradient
Demonstration of conicity using flangeless wheelsets. The LH one has parallel sided wheels, and wanders off the track. The RH one has a conic section profile, which confers directional stability. It rolled to the end of the track and back without derailing, without needing flanges.
General view of the E&TVR site.
Mid-Hants Railway Diesel Gala April 23rd 2016Our Chairman Rev Philip Wagstaff attended the Watercress Line diesel gala, and took a couple of pictures of their Class 205 Thumper 1125. It looks to be in nice condition. Is 1125 or our 1132 the correct shade of green?
Class 205 Thumper DEMU 1125 at Medstead and Four Marks on the Mid-Hants Railway
Class 205 Thumper DEMU 1125 at Medstead and Four Marks on the Mid-Hants Railway
West Somerset Railway Steam Gala March 5th 2016
Thanks to organiser Andrew Turner, a substantial contingent from the DRSA visited the WSR's Steam Gala on March 5th, and in better weather than was forecast, a good time was had by all. The weekend commemorated 50 years since the closure of the Somerset and Dorset line, and the locomotives in operation were chosen for their S&D connection.
A few photos:
BR class 9F 2-10-0 92214 at Minehead. This actual locomotive saw service on the Somerset & Dorset Railway. It is based on the Great Central Railway.
Scene inside the shed at Williton, headquarters of the Diesel and Electric Preservation Group. Class 33 D6566 (l) and Class 35 Hymek D7018 (r). Hymek D7017 can just be seen outside the shed gate.
LMS Stanier 8F 2-8-0 48624 and SR Bulleid Battle of Britain class 4-6-2 34070 Manston at Bishop's Lydeard. The 8F is an honorary Southern engine, having been built at Ashford in 1943. It is based on the Great Central Railway, and was a last minute stand-in for a Black 5. Mercifully the crimson livery it carried recently has been overpainted with something more authentic.
BR Standard class 4 2-6-4 tank 80072, masquerading as its mate 80043, at Washford.
Somerset & Dorset Fowler 7F 2-8-0 53809 at Williton
SR Battle of Britain 4-6-2 34053 'Sir Keith Park' at Minehead
1910 built Barclay 0-4-0ST no 1219. It's at Washford, whatever the sign says. Caledonia Works was the name of the Andrew Barclay factory at Kilmarnock, and 1219 was originally their yard shunter.
Built at Bristol in 1929, this is the Somerset & Dorset Railway Trust's Peckett R3 class 0-4-0ST 'Kilmersdon'. It spent its working life shunting collieries in the Radstock area, of which Kilmersdon was one, and was the last working steam loco in the Somerset Coalfield when the final colliery closed in 1973.
4 compartment, 6 wheeled first class carriage no 4. Built at Highbridge in 1886, it was taken out of use in 1930 and spent 50 years as a cricket pavilion at Templecombe before being restored by the S&D Railway Trust at Washford. Eat your heart out, C&W team!
Built about 1902, this LSWR brake van, seen at Minehead, was restored by the Somerset & Dorset Railway Trust
SR brakevan like ours, albeit in slightly better condition. What appear to be vacuum brake cylinders are mounted on one of the platforms.
Scene at Minehead shed with LMS Fowler 4F 0-6-0 no 44422, GWR 4-6-0 no 4936 'Kinlet Hall' (not in service on the day) and LMS Stanier 8F no 48624
Another locomotive which saw service on the Somerset & Dorset, LMS Fowler 4F 0-6-0 no 44422, at Minehead
Too shiny! Somerset & Dorset Fowler 7F no 53808 at Bishop's Lydeard, having hauled the DRSA's private train back from the Norton Fitzwarren triangle. 48624 was on the other end for the ride.
Tarka Valley Railway September 6th 2015
The Tarka Valley Railway held an open weekend on September 5th & 6th, and I spent a gloriously sunny Sunday morning at Torrington looking around.
Passenger services to Torrington ceased in 1965, but freight lasted until the early 1980s. Both platforms of the station survive, along with the station buildings (as the Puffing Billy pub and restaurant) and a coal platform. The goods shed was demolished in 1970 and replaced with a fertiliser warehouse which is now occupied by a cycle hire company. The trackbed is owned by Devon County Council and forms the Tarka Trail cycleway, hence its immunity to 'development'.
TVR is pretty clear about its objectives, the goal being Bideford. In the meantime Plan A is the 300 yards to the first of 3 overbridges which cross the meandering Torridge in quick succession, as well as laying 2 sidings to the west of the line. The Tarka Trail will have to be moved about 1 metre to the right to accommodate the railway, and a fence will separate the two.
Planning permission has been granted, and the railway is in the final throes of negotiating a lease agreement with DCC. A major boost came with the recent award of charitable status, based not just on the interesting local railway history, but also the 15th Century Rothern bridge a short distance away, and the 19th Century Rolle Canal.
The only locomotive is a 1945 John Fowler 0-4-0 diesel shunter 'Progress', nicely scruffy but in working order and being demonstrated enthusiastically during the open day. It was donated to the railway having spent most of its working life at the North Devon Clay Company's Marland Works. Its driver described it as having a hydrostatic transmission, but neither he nor I knew the difference between hydrostatic and hydraulic. The original Fowler engine has been replaced by a Leyland.
There is a Mk1 TSO with seating in about half of it, the other half being used for book sales and an enquiry desk. It looks to be in fairly tidy condition, apart from the roof. Appropriately there is a 1955 china clay 'hood', which looked very nicely restored when I first saw it several years ago, but is now in need of a coat of paint. An LNER-style BR brakevan is sheeted over and partially dismantled. The most recent item of rolling stock is a tank wagon of unknown ancestry.
Everyone seemed very knowledgeable and friendly. It's well worth a visit. There's much more information on their website. A few pictures follow.
The Tarka Valley Railway's 1954 Mk1 TSO
The Tarka Valley Railway's 1945 John Fowler diesel shunter 'Progress', which spent most of its life at the North Devon Clay Company
The Tarka Valley Railway's goods stock: 1959 LNER design BR brakevan, 1955 Clay Hood and undated tank wagon
The Tarka Valley Railway's 1955 China Clay wagon
The 15th Century Rothern Bridge 100 yards from Torrington Station
Okehampton Station photosSome fabulous photographs of Okehampton and Meldon, taken in 1975, can be found here.
Tom and Sue Baxter have escaped again, this time to a wet Mid-Hants Railway. The MHR shares SR ancestry with the Dartmoor Railway of course, and to reinforce the connection they have a large piece of our infrastructure. Their station maintenance team is a bit different though. Many thanks for the photos Tom, and for reminding us how things are on heritage railways. It's also nice to have an excuse to show an LNER locomotive.
Ropley's ex North Tawton footbridge. The gentleman in the picture, one of the Baxters's WHR colleagues, was a little the worse for the previous evening's excesses, and was waiting to be banked up the bridge.
Commemorative plaque on Ropley footbridge. Can we have it back please?
Poster for Ropley's site 'Care & Maintenance' Team. 26 members with an average attendance of 15! Free tea and coffee! They don't know they're born.
LNER A4 Pacific no. 4464 'Bittern' and BR 9F 2-10-0 no. 92212 in Ropley shed yard. Rear of SR Schools Class 4-4-0 no. 925 'Cheltenham' in the distance.
SR Lord Nelson Class 4-6-0 no. 850 'Lord Nelson' awaits departure from Ropley under the ex North Tawton footbridge
SR 'LN' Class 4-6-0 no 850 'Lord Nelson' approached to couple onto its train at Alresford. Lots of SR detail around with cast iron signs, LSWR/SR lower quadrant signals, SR type metal fencing, plus a superbly restored BR Cattle Wagon as an added bonus.
That big blue LNER engine again, with SR 'Heath Robinson' chimney cover
SR 'Schools' Class 4-4-0 no. 925 'Cheltenham' at Ropley. Although a 4-4-0 this design was apparently inspired by the much larger 'Lord Nelson' 4-6-0 and incorporated some of its features. The Schools class being smaller and designed to cope with lines with a restricted loading gauge, such as the Tonbridge to Hastings route. In the distance can be seen some of the MHR diesel fleet. Amongst them a number of class 37s. The footbridge in the distance incidentally came from Kings Cross station in London. Neat!
LMS brakevan on the Churnet Valley Railway
Tom and Sue Baxter recently visited the Churnet Valley Railway, and noticed an LMS brakevan similar to ours. Numbered 731790, it is a bit younger than ours, having been built in 1944 at Derby to diagram 2068 lot 1363. (Ours, 731411, was built in 1942 to diagram 2068 lot 1332 at either Derby or Wolverton). Interestingly the brake setter has been moved from the cabin to the veranda, and like ours it has had doors fitted; both mods presumably to enable brakevan rides.
LMS brake van on the Churnet Valley Railway.
Close up of modified veranda on the CVR's LMS brakevan
On July 3rd we welcomed a group from the South Devon Railway. In the absence of a rail connection to Okehampton on any day other than a summer Sunday, they arrived in their Routemaster bus. They are hoping to come back on a running day in the near future.
A group from the South Devon Railway visited us on July 3rd in this Routemaster bus. It's the next best thing if you can't come by train.
This sign has been around for a year or two, and Paul Martin had a closer look when out cycling recently. It's clearly not an original railway sign, but interesting nevertheless, marking 200 miles from Waterloo near Meldon Junction, which must be about right. The post is a piece of old rail, with 'WATERLOO' added with what looks from the photo to be beads of weld. Quite neat writing with an arc welder. Does anyone know who put it there (and whether they would like to join the DRSA Station Maintenance Team)?
The mystery sign near the site of Meldon Junction
Bere Ferrers trip
As part of the celebration of 125 years of railways in the Bere peninsular, the Tamar Belle Heritage Railway held an open day on May 30th, and 5 members of the DRSA station maintenance team took the afternoon off to attend (not having done a great deal in the morning, it has to be said).
It's a fascinating place, absolutely heaving with relics, with a slant towards the Plymouth, Devonport and South Western Junction Railway. They have 3 ex-MOD Hunslet shunters, a number of coaches including 3 Gresley LNER ones which are variously in service as buffet, B&Bs or exhibition rooms, and other rolling stock. Historical displays and model railways are everywhere. The former Pinhoe signal box has been reconstructed there, with a computerised simulation. There are short standard gauge and narrow gauge running lines - we had a ride in a coal truck accompanied by a group singing railway songs. An old wagon turntable provides a compact right angle in the path to the engine shed which is under construction. We all had a spin on a pump trolley, constructed from scratch by Tamar Belle's engineers.
A 1938 Peckett 0-4-0 saddle tank is the subject of a two-thirds complete share appeal to rebuild its boiler. We brought back details if anyone is interested. Wouldn't it be nice for a spell of brakevan rides on the DR when it's finished?
There's much more detail on their website. We are very grateful to proprietor Chris Grove and stalwart volunteer Dennis, both of whom gave up a lot of time to show us around this extraordinary place. A few pictures below give a flavour.
General view of the lovely Bere Ferrers station, with the former Pinhoe signalbox. FGW Plymouth-Gunnislake services use the station.
The interior of the former Pinhoe signal box.
One of the 3 Gresley carriages, with the 2 ton Stothert and Pitt goods crane in the background.
Tamar Belle's 3 ex-MOD Hunslet shunters. The green one was in service on the day of our visit.
Mark Williams, Sue Baxter, Rosie and Jon Kelsey pondering someone else's station maintenance problems.
1927 goods turntable, used to good effect on this compact site.
Mark Williams and Tom Baxter blasting past the Peckett on the pump trolley, with proprietor Chris Grove keeping an eye on things.
We're not the only ones with vegetation clearance problems.