Once the agreement is in place the first task will be to get the 08 running and back in service. This will enable our rolling stock to be moved from the yard into the shed where it will be secure from the ravages of the Dartmoor weather and other unwelcome attention it has suffered from over the last 4.5 years. Once inside we will be able to undertake detailed surveys of the condition of the rolling stock and make informed decisions on its future.
The C&W volunteer team, which will always welcome new volunteers, can now look forward to once again getting down to more rewarding work after months of carrying out only occasional essential maintenance and damage repairs.
World Cup of Stations [Updated May 25th and 27th]
Update: you can vote in the semifinals until midnight tonight (May 25th), at https://www.raildeliverygroup.com/component/rsform/form/46.
Okehampton has been shortlisted in the Rail Delivery Group's 2023 World Cup of Stations competition. The purpose is to identify the best loved station in each region - highlighting the work of the volunteers who support the stations - with an overall national winner to be crowned on May 26th. Okehampton has been shortlisted with Yatton, Penmere and Liskeard in the South West. The competition is based on public voting, and unfortunately the final date for South West voting is May 22nd (i.e. today), so please crack on and cast your vote if possible. You can do this at https://www.raildeliverygroup.com/uk-rail-industry/campaigns/world-cup-of-stations.html.
Three Peaks Challenge
Signs of things to come
Seen in the second of Dave Ellis's photos (below) at the ticket window of Okehampton booking office museum is well known West Country railway photographer and author Bernard Mills, who, whilst never working at Okehampton, worked in the former Southern main line booking offices at Tavistock North and Bere Alston in the 1960s. Bernard described himself as an "Old time booking office clerk in an old time booking office." If only there were more of both.
L to R: Mike Moore of Connect Bude, stalwart local Councillor Julie Yelland of Okehampton with the Christow sign, Alan Clark of ACERail and Richard Searight of TavyRail.
Bernard Mills at the Okehampton ticket window.
The reverse sides of the three signs show the last days of trains at Bude, Bideford and Tavistock, using photos all taken by Bernard Mills.
Okehampton on TV
You may also be interested in a piece by Aaron Greenway on the Cornish & Devon Post website, outlining the background to the closure, dormancy and reinstatement of Okehampton station. Read it here.
Photographer: Colin Burges
Ever the committed supporter of local rail reinstatement initiatives, Colin Burges of the Exeter and Teign Valley Railway has commissioned three station signs, and would like them to go to the groups campaigning for lines to be reopened, whose members may like to use the signs as 'stage props' and in publicity photos.
Made by Rydon Signs, Exeter, the firm which had the British Rail contract and which still supplies much of the national network, these signs are four-fifths of the normal size and use the original 'double arrow', Rail Red and Rail Alphabet.
As Tavistock is - or should be - a two-direction campaign, Colin thought that the sign could be shared between TavyRail and OkeRail, and perhaps kept at Okehampton. Richard Searight, chairman of the Peninsula Rail Group, has already 'booked' it for the Carnival and EcoFest events in July.
Bideford is naturally going to Tim Steer of ACE Rail, and Colin hopes that Bude will go to Connect Bude.
Now the signage is done, all the groups have to do is rebuild the railways.
We applaud Colin's initiative and generosity, and wish him every success with Christow.
Personally I don't think the role of Minister of Transport Marples ever received due attention.
Wickham 10842 as most of us remember it, piled high with Polar Express detritus.
Robel permanent way trolley at Meldon, when it was Dartmoor Railway's backup traction.
Not much left now.
TRA/ACE Rail article
Formal opening of Okehampton Station Booking Office heritage display
Former BR SR and WR Exeter Area railway staff, from left: Tony Hill, Graham Robinson, Richard Westlake, Mrs Ruth Letten, Roy Letten, prior to the official opening of the Okehampton station Booking Office Museum by Richard Westlake.
Most of the now historical items in the Booking Office were kindly provided by former rail staff Graham Robinson, Colin Burges (who was unable to be present), Richard Burningham and Tony Hill.
Roy Letten (now in his 90s) interestingly was ‘marooned’ in Okehampton Booking Office one night after duty there, due the Great Blizzard of 1962/63. Roy from East Devon, whose home station was then Exmouth, was a Relief member of Southern Region staff expected to work as ordered at any Booking, Parcels or Goods Office anywhere on the main line between Salisbury and Devonport and on Branches to Ilfracombe, Bude and Padstow; how’s that for flexibility and productivity!
Further coverage on the Dartmoorline website.
DRA's new shop
View of DRA's new shop from the DNPA shop.
Platform 3 entrance to the new DRA shop.
Eggesford Crossing Cafe
Tarka Line extension proposal
Annual General Meeting
02/10/2022The 2022 Annual General Meeting took place on Thursday September 29th, as a consequence of which the DRA committee now comprises Sue Baxter, Tom Baxter, Christine Horner, Geoffrey Horner, Paul Vodden, Ron Kirby and John Caesar.
Dartmoor Line traffic
25/09/2022During the 4 week Period 6 (mid August to mid September), 23,516 journeys were made on the Dartmoor Line. This follows three periods of 18,000+ since the hourly service was introduced in May. All of which is more than double the pre-opening projections.
Destination Dartmoor Day
25/09/2022Destination Dartmoor Day on Saturday Sept 24th included the opening of the Dartmoor National Park Information Centre and buffet at Okehampton station. The Okehampton Times provides coverage at https://www.okehampton-today.co.uk/news/cafe-and-information-centre-opens-at-okehampton-station-565457.
In fact the DRA shop, waiting room and booking office are still to be finished; this should be done by the end of October, and certainly be done by the first anniversary of reopening on 20 November
The cafe will be open from 0700 to 1700 Monday to Saturday and 0900 to 1600 on Sundays.
31/08/2022Local groups featured heavily in Railfuture's Rail User Group awards which followed their national AGM at Bristol on Saturday 16 July 2022. The Judge's Special Award went to Okerail and the Dartmoor Line, the Gold Award for Best New Group (the Oliver Lovell Award) went to the Tarka Rail Association for their ACE Rail campaign and the Tarka Rail Association was also awarded a Commendation for Best Newsletter. More details on Railfuture's website. (While you're there have a good look at their Devon and Cornwall Branch page).
Michael Ireland, who accepted Okerail's award, said the successful re-introduction of a regular train service from Exeter to Okehampton followed a 14-year campaign by OkeRail which took over from its forerunner Destination Okehampton. “Everything we said was underpinned by solid research,” he said. “We worked the (Exeter-Okehampton Summer Sunday) trains and undertook surveys. We organised special trains to London for 500 people and trips to other destinations. We met rail ministers in London and we proved there was plenty of demand. We were forceful but you must have the relevant MPs to support you.”
01/08/2022Facebook users can see a recording of Tim Steer's July 19th presentation to a full meeting of Crediton Town Council, about the Tarka Rail Association's award-winning ACE Rail campaign for a restored Atlantic Coast-Exeter Railway. Go to the Crediton Town Council Fb page and find the posting for their July 19th meeting. The presentation is at the beginning of the meeting, occupying just under half an hour. It was well received, and resulted in positive coverage in the Crediton Courier.
Meanwhile, for an enjoyable modern take on the original ACE, have a look at TrainsToBeyond's posting 'In the Footsteps of the Atlantic Coast Express' at https://trainstobeyond.com/2022/07/29/2022-uk-in-the-footsteps-of-the-atlantic-coast-express/.
Sampford Courtenay latest
22/07/2022Maintenance of Sampford Courtenay station is now in the hands of a Parish Council initiative. We've put more details in the SC section of the Line Guide page.
Bideford to Barnstaple reinstatement
15/07/2022Tony Hill reports that a presentation starting at 1900 on Tuesday 19 July will be given at the Crediton Town Council meeting, which will be held at Old Landscore School, Greenway, Crediton, EX17 3LP, about the recently launched campaign for reinstatement of the railway between Bideford and Barnstaple.
Anyone wishing to attend physically should note the requirement to contact the Town Clerk first, as stated on CTC's website.
Dartmoor Line latest
12/07/2022Our thanks to Tony Hill, who gleaned the following statistics from the latest Rail User Express:
The newly restored Dartmoor Line between Exeter and Okehampton enjoyed over 50,000 journeys in its first 20 weeks since opening on November 20th 2021. This - as is often the case with reopenings - is more than twice the number predicted. The service frequency was doubled to hourly from May 15th.
Crediton station, the biggest intermediate stop on both the Okehampton and Barnstaple lines, now has two trains an hour in each direction, as a consequence of which, footfall has also risen by 39% against pre-pandemic levels.
Also, a decision on the provision of Okehampton Parkway station is now understood to be deferred until the autumn.
Dartmoor Line award
28/06/2022The Dartmoor Line reinstatement is in contention for the Institute of Civil Engineers South West Civil Engineering Awards 2022, in the People's Choice category. Follow https://myice.ice.org.uk/about-ice/near-you/uk/south-west/awards/civil-engineering-awards/south-west-awards-voting to vote for the line. Please also share the link as widely as possible.
Booking office appeal
Richard Burningham of the Devon and Cornwall Railway Partnership is masterminding the Platform 3 booking office re-creation, and has published the following appeal:
Can you help? The current phase of work at Okehampton is refurbishing the interior of the main station building. After this (probably in July) will be fitting out and then it will open to the public. The photo is the inside of the booking office - the plan is to turn this into a recreation of a 1950s booking office. People will be able to view it from the buffet and by way of a glass panelled side door already in the ticket office itself. This door will be locked so everything will be secure.
I have some items already or offered (e.g. two datepresses) but what we really need are one or two ticket racks. They need to be flat ones, with no folding side panels. The main one for between the booking windows needs to be 4ft wide. It doesn't necessarily have to be SR or BR S (though that would be good) - I used to have a rack of about the right size from Teignmouth but sold it many, many years ago! The second one would be a smaller one - about 2ft wide - and it would be particularly good to have one with larger slots for season tickets.
The bookng hall is to be restored in a similar style - one element will be a Quad Royal posterboard with a "Train Service" header - I'm fine for that but the Dartmoor Railway Supporters' aspiration is that the station is in 1959 condition as far as possible (hence all the S Rly signage as the orignals were still all up in 1959) and this means I'm looking for a 1959 timetable poster, ideally Summer 1959. We will getting the poster photographed and a copy put up so won't be displaying the actual original - this means we could simply borrow it, if so wished, and return it afterwards.
If anyone can help, could they contact me at email@example.com please and we can take it from there. Many thanks.
Hourly train service
11/05/2022The track works between Coleford and Okehampton by Network Rail and their contractors have now successfully been completed, enabling the removal of temporary speed restrictions. Upon the introduction of GWR's summer timetable on May 15th, the Dartmoor Line service will go hourly, seven days a week.
This also gives Crediton its best ever train service; two trains per hour to and from Exeter Central.
To download a timetable go to http://gwr.com/timetables.
Okehampton museum exhibition
10/05/2022We understand that the When The Train Came To Town exhibition at Okehampton's Museum of Dartmoor Life - presented to commemorate the line's sesquicentenary, and November 2021 re-opening - will be continuing until the end of May. Opening times are 1000 to 1600 Monday to Friday, and 1000 to 1300 on Saturdays.
The museum is selling a booklet about the history of the railway in Okehampton, containing information from the exhibition. It is printed on sturdy card and is good value at £2 per copy.
Car parking charges
22/04/2022The Okehampton station car park charges are now active. The red signs came down on Weds April 20th, to be replaced with temporary yellow ones reinforcing the notification of the start of charging. Also we understand the number plate recognition system is active. There is a non chargeable set down time of up to 20mins for people dropping off or picking up passengers.
We are hoping soon to receive details of the concessionary arrangement for DRA volunteers working at the station.
Dartmoor Line upgrade work
20/04/2022Network Rail's website has details of the imminent upgrade work on the line here. Services will be affected between April 25th and May 10th. Be sure you understand how your journey will be affected before travelling. The latest information is available on https://www.gwr.com/check.
20/04/2022The Tavistock Times website is carrying a report on the Peninsula Rail Group's recent packed meeting to discuss the restoration of rail services to Tavistock. Read about it here.
Class 50 Railtour Visit
We're grateful to Network Rail's Craig Munday who photographed the train at Okehampton, and DRA committee member Tony Hill who captured the train crossing the North Dartmoor landscape in both directions. Thanks also to David Ellis, whose video of the train departing Okehampton is on his Youtube channel here.
GB Railfreight Class 50 50007 Hercules at Okehampton with UK Railtours' "Springtime Hoovering in Devon" railtour
Loco 50007 ‘Hercules’ (with one side masquerading as 50034 ‘Furious’) heading the 1412 Paignton to Okehampton 1Z52, UK Railtours 12 coach Special train just west of North Tawton on about the only stretch of the Dartmoor line west of Coleford Jn that is in open country.
Loco 50049 ‘Defiance’ heading the 1632 Okehampton to London Paddington 1Z54 return UK Railtours Special train, seen approaching North Tawton with Cawsand/Cosdon Beacon and Belstone Tors in the distance.
Dartmoor Line video
01/04/2022National Rail video of an Okehampton - Exeter journey here.
More vandalism (updated 04/03/22)
02/03/2022Sadly we have to report another vandal attack on our rolling stock at Meldon. Most of the glass has been smashed in our two coaches, Lab 11 and the FK, S13436. The damage took place sometime between 1500 on Friday Feb 25th, and the beginning of Monday Feb 28th. It's another body blow for DRA's volunteers who restored these vehicles, and have worked hard to protect them through the difficult times of the last couple of years.
A team is visiting Meldon today to clean up and set up some protection.
Previous episodes of vandalism have mainly involved graffiti and were relatively easy to rectify. Acquiring and fitting new window glass will be expensive and time consuming.
Lab 11 at Meldon, with most of its glass smashed.
The FK, S13436, has also lost nearly all its glass. (The graffiti was from an earlier episode).
Broken glass inside
March 3rd postscript from Geoff Horner:
In spite of the drizzle and wind a six strong team of C&W/Station Maintenance volunteers gathered at Meldon to get the stock as secure and weatherproof as possible. Both the FK and Lab11 carriages are now weatherproof and measures taken to prevent unauthorised access. Similar steps were also taken on the LMS brake van. Thanks to all those who rallied round.
Rail improvement work on the Tarka and Dartmoor Lines
08/02/2022From Saturday Feb 19th to Sunday Feb 27th, bridge repair work will be taking place between Crediton and Yeoford. Buses will replace trains between Crediton and Barnstaple/Okehampton. Trains will continue to run between Exeter and Crediton.
From Monday April 24th to Monday May 9th, track renewals and structures work will be taking place along the Dartmoor Line to Okehampton to support the start of hourly services in the summer. Buses will replace trains between Crediton and Okehampton. Trains will continue to run between Exeter and Crediton.
Use the links on our service page to get the latest info.
Okehampton railtour visit
26/01/2022The UK Railtours website is advertising its 'Springtime Hoovering in Devon' railtour on March 26th. We think it will visit Okehampton briefly on the way back from Paignton, perhaps after crossing the 1524 departure from Okehampton at Crediton. Passengers probably won't be able to disembark, but we're hoping such an unusual visitor will encourage plenty of enthusiast photographers to platform 2.
More details on the UK Railtours website here.
For English speakers, 'Hoover' is a nickname for a class 50 diesel.
13/01/2022A new initiative to campaign for the reinstatement of the railway between Bere Alston and Okehampton was launched recently. The brainchild of Jack Martin Leith, JoinUp aims to get the Dartmoor and Tamar Valley lines joined up as soon as possible. There is a great deal of interesting material on the project website at https://join-up.uk/. Do study it, and perhaps consider joining Joinup yourself.
There is also a Twitter feed at https://twitter.com/joinupthelines.
The project acknowledges and complements the work of the Northern Route Working Group, and DRA endorses both.
12/01/2022DRA members will be interested in an article in the current (January 2022) Railway Magazine. Entitled 'Okehampton Restored', it is by John Heaton, at one time the BR Area Manager at Exeter.
12/01/2022Covid-related staffing issues have resulted in GWR operating to a temporary timetable. Customers are urged to get the very latest information before travelling. See the links on our Service Information page.
Cowley Bridge flood relief video
31/12/2021A very interesting video about the flood relief works at Cowley Bridge has recently become available on Youtube. See it here.
Over 10000 passengers in 2 weeks!
18/12/2021Over 10000 passengers used the reinstated service in the first 2 weeks. Full story here.
08/12/2021From Sun 12 Dec. 2021 the new National Railway timetable starts, and applies until May 14th 2022. Dartmoor Line train times have some small amendments compared to the timetable which came into force on November 20th.
Dartmoor and Tarka line train times are published in Great Western pocket timetable D2, available at most manned Devon stations.
You will see that most trains on the Dartmoor Line will now call at both Exeter Central and Exeter St David’s seven days a week.
The Dartline operated 118 Rail Link bus (Tavistock – Mary Tavy - Brentor – Lydford – Okehampton West St – Okehampton station) will now run seven days a week, timed to connect with trains. See the bus timetable in this PDF leaflet from Devon County Council, who are financially supporting the bus service.
The new Okehampton Rail Link bus at Lydford
Railway Studies and Modellers Show
07/12/2021A Railway Studies and Modellers Show was held on December 4th at the Railway Studies Collection in the Passmore Edwards Centre in Newton Abbot. DRA had a stand there, organised by Geoff Horner. Geoff takes up the story:
"We took the DRA display stand along with a small selection of items to sell from our shop to the Railway Studies Library model railway show held at Newton Abbot library on Saturday 04 December. The stand was manned by Chris Horner, Geoff Horner, Tom Baxter and Dave Clegg. This was the first outing of the stand under the DRA name and proved very beneficial with a great deal of interest shown in the Dartmoor Railway/Line and, importantly for us, in the DRA , what we are doing and what is planned for the future. It also brought us into direct contact with a number of other associations and societies and the wider heritage railway world. Our efforts were well justified in sales made on the stand and hopefully in some future new members."
The DRA stand in the Bulleid Room in the main Railway Studies area at Newton Abbot
Dave Clegg and Chris Horner manning the stand
YouTube coverage of the reopening
28/11/2021A selection of YouTube videos covering the line's reopening:
Dartmoor Line to Okehampton has Reopened – Geoff Marshall
The Dartmoor Line Returns - GWR Trains at Okehampton 20th November 2021
Mark Hopwood GWR MD Introduces the VIP Event Opening of the Dartmoor Line Okehampton – OkeRail
First regular Okehampton train since 1972 – Paul Barlow
First regular passenger service to Okehampton in 49 years 20th November 2021 – British Rail Productions
The Dartmoor Line - IQ Devon and Cornwall Branch event – Institute of Quarrying (talk by Christian Irwin and others)
Dartmoor Line in Modern Railways
24/11/2021Andy Roden has written an interesting piece for Modern Railways touching on the wider implications of the Exeter-Okehampton reopening. Read it at https://www.modernrailways.com/article/little-okes-could-mighty-routes-bloom.
New bus service
12/11/2021A new Tavistock-Okehampton bus service is being launched to connect with Okehampton rail services. Details, including timetables, on the Dartmoor Line site here.
08/11/2021There's good coverage of the line in an article published today in the Guardian and on their website.
Dartmoor Line on Britain's Scenic Railway
28/10/2021The new series of Britain's Scenic Railways starts next week, initially on More4 with a Channel 4 repeat to follow, probably early in 2022 but dates still TBC.
Episode 1 - Wednesday Nov 3rd @ 9pm More4
LAKESIDE & HAVERTHWAITE RAILWAY
NETWORK RAIL AIR OPS/ECOLOGY
FORTH BRIDGE PAINTING/INCHGARVIE INSPECTION
OKEHAMPTON STATION/DARTMOOR LINE RE-OPENING
Episode 2 - Wednesday Nov 10th @ 9pm More4
KEIGHLEY & WORTH VALLEY RAILWAY - GREEN DRAGON/IVATT/BRONTËS
FAR NORTH LINE - JELLICOE JOURNEY
RIBBLEHEAD VIADUCT - RESCUE EFFORT
ROYAL ALBERT BRIDGE - MOM INSPECTION
Episode 3 - Wednesday Nov 17th @ 9pm More4
STRATHSPEY RAILWAY/5025 BLACK 5 RESTORATION
NETWORK RAIL AIR OPS/AERIAL SURVEY
FORT WILLIAM/JACOBITE JAYNE
RIBBLEHEAD VIADUCT - LANDSCAPE PHOTOGRAPHY
REDBRIDGE VIADUCT/SCOUR PROTECTION
Episode 4 - Wednesday Nov 24th @ 9pm More4
SEVERN VALLEY RAILWAY - FOOTPLATE/STONEMASON/FALLING SANDS
BRITANNIA BRIDGE/PEREGRINE FALCONS
DAWLISH - RAIL RESILIENCE/DAWLISH BEACH CAMS
HIGHLAND MOMS - CULLODEN VIADUCT/ACHNASHEEN
KEIGHLEY & WORTH VALLEY RAILWAY/RAILWAY CHILDREN ANNIVERSARY
Dartmoor Line guide
25/10/2021GWR has published a guide to the line, and we have received a batch, which we will distribute locally. Here (3.1Mb) is a scan of it.
Dartmoor Line press release
12/10/2021This morning the Department for Transport released a document entitled "Government restores the Dartmoor Line as services resume for first time in half a century from 20 November 2021". Read the full press release here.
The BBC has coverage here.
Okehampton Rail 150
We're grateful to photographer Steve Szypko, whose images below nicely capture the atmosphere of the Okehampton Rail 150 festivities on Sunday October 3rd at Okehampton Station. Thanks also to our good friend Colin Burges of the Exeter & Teign Valley Railway for facilitating the use of Mr Szypko's photos:
Dartmoor line timetable
04/10/2021The timetable for the Exeter service has now been published, and can be seen here. Fares to Exeter St. Davids, Central or St. Thomas will be £4 single, £8 return. Crediton will be £2.50/£5.00.
In the event that the line is reopened before Dec 12th then train times will be seperately advised, as they might be slightly different.
Sampford Courtenay Autumn clean-up.
The Sampford Courtenay workparty.
Sampford Courtenay parishioners, including some neighbours of the station, together with some DRA members (can you spot them?), turned out for litter and vegetation clearance organised through Network Rail by Sampford Courtenay's very proactive Parish Council on Sunday September 26th.
Local people have an aspiration to see trains call there again, but justification for funding the minimum necessary works will be needed. The event was an opportunity to quiz Network Rail about the prospects and obstacles. The council has published a report here.
Sampford Courtenay Survey
23/09/2021Sampford Courtenay Parish Council's Dartmoor Line Working Group is conducting a survey in support of trains calling at Sampford Courtenay.
See https://www.sampfordcourtenay-pc.gov.uk/node/674 for details. The deadline for entries is September 30th.
Wickham at North Weald
Photographer: Epping & Ongar Railway
The former Dartmoor Railway Wickham trolley (10841) and its trailer (8385) have been sold, and are to be based on the Epping and Ongar Railway in Essex, where they arrived on September 15th. The team leader of the restoration group explained a little about their plans:
"The immediate plan is to service the engine, mechanical parts etc., and ensure operational reliability. The next phase will be to carry out some bodywork repairs, including the roof-supporting angle irons, after which will come a full repaint into a more-suiting livery (as yet undecided.)
Long term, once a second bench is fitted, some modifications will be made to allow safe passage of fare-paying passengers, something that has proven popular at Midsomer Norton for example."
We're delighted to see that our former vehicles appear to be in good hands, and we wish the new owners well of them. A few more pictures in this gallery.
09/08/2021Interesting material on the TXM Plant website about their contribution to the project.
Annual General Meeting
29/07/2021DRA members please note that we will be holding the 2021 Annual General Meeting shortly. Like last year, it will be conducted entirely by post and email. The next issue of the Pony magazine is in preparation and will be published soon. It will contain the usual AGM documents, and a proxy voting form for the election of the 2021/2022 committee, to be returned by email or post.
Nominations for the election of anyone wishing to join the committee need to be received as soon as possible.
Thumpers in Scotland
Thumper 1132 at Brechin
Last month Thumpers 1132 and 1128 were removed from Meldon by road. They are now a very long way from the Southern Railway, on the Caledonian Railway at Brechin in Angus, Scotland. They have acquired both as 3-car units, and hope to have 1132 in service soon. We wish the Caledonian Railway well of them.
Tavistock to Bere Alston
16/06/2021Devon County Council has submitted a business case bid for the Bere Alston to Tavistock line to the Ideas Fund of the Restoring Your Railway programme. The line was closed in May 1968. Devon Daily has the story here.
Good news for Bideford Railway Heritage Centre
Okehampton Station opening
20/05/2021DRA volunteers are planning to open platform 2 (only) to the public between Saturday 29th May to Sunday 6th June, from 1100 to 1600 each day. The new track can be seen. The Arthur Westlake Museum, and the railway bookshop, will be open. We will be serving light refreshments.
Oral History Project
30/04/2021Richard Westlake is undertaking an oral history project to coincide with the reinstatement of the Exeter service. If you worked or remember riding on the railway from Okehampton before closure, and are willing to take part, could you please get in touch with us on firstname.lastname@example.org? It is hoped that interviews will take place in late June.
Competition to design Dartmoor Line logo
19/03/2021Today it was officially announced that regular Exeter to Okehampton passenger services will be operating by the end of 2021. (The last scheduled passenger train ran on June 5th 1972, although there has been a summer Sunday service since 1997). The route will be operated by Great Western Railway and branded as The Dartmoor Line. Initially the service will be two hourly (eight trains a day), upgrading to hourly in 2022. It's tremendous news for Okehampton, and the communities of West Devon and North Cornwall.
Here's the government's announcement, which makes the point that it will be the first Restoring Your Railway scheme to be delivered.
The line's website, dartmoorline.com produced by the Devon and Cornwall Rail Partnership, was launched this morning.
There's much media coverage, for example on the BBC.
It's too early to tell what the ramifications are for possible heritage operations between Okehampton and Meldon.
06/03/2021We are saddened to learn of the death of Don Bent in late February. Don was a popular guard on the Dartmoor Railway for many years, as well as being a hard-working servant of the Okehampton community, notably as Town Clerk. We extend our sympathy to his family.
We will publish a fuller appreciation in a future Pony magazine.
03/03/2021From today's budget:
"2.132 Investments in local railways and stations – The government will invest £59 million towards the construction of five new stations in the West Midlands, cutting journey times from Willenhall, Darlaston and south-west Birmingham into the city centre. This Budget will also unlock more than £40 million of funding to reinstate passenger services on the Okehampton Exeter line, subject to final approval of costs and contracts. These investments will provide good quality transport links between communities, and improve employment opportunities across these areas."
The full document is at https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/budget-2021-documents.
Today's budget announcement has prompted plenty of coverage in the local press, for example in the Crediton Courier.
Latest news on local rail projects in Moorlander
23/02/2021The current Moorlander newspaper contains a progress report on three local railway projects: Bude Connect's application to the Restoring Your Railway Ideas Fund, Devon County Council's application to the same fund with the respect to the Tavistock-Bere Alston line, and Okehampton-Exeter services. Buy a paper, or read it at https://themoorlander.co.uk/devon-cornwall-railways-beeching-fund-latest/.
New Bernard Mills book
18/02/2021DRSA members will be interested in the latest book in the 'Backtracking ...' series from renowned local author, photographer and former railwayman Bernard Mills. Entitled 'Backtracking around Plymouth, Callington, Tavistock North and the SR main line to Okehampton' (ISBN 9781916019041), it is published by Plymouth-based local history specialist Pen & Ink Publishing. Copies can be bought online from Pen & Ink's partner website www.chrisrobinson.co.uk/shop/books.
Photographs (Updated 23/01/2021)
18/01/2021David Bell has come across an interesting album of photos and document images relating to our railway, taken over the last 3 decades or so. It can be found here. Page 2 is interesting, showing an unusual Wickham trolley, and the Flying Falcon looking in good order.
David also found the same pair of locomotives on page 2 of this Industrial Locomotives
album by Alistair Ness.
Exeter service in the press
28/12/2020The December issue of Modern Railways magazine contains an article in which the Network Rail chief executive Andrew Haines states that the Okehampton - Exeter service could be introduced in 2021. The article describes how this accelerated delivery schedule can be achieved, along with much background to the reinstatement initiative. Although there are no revelations, it's heartening to see that what is common knowledge around the railway is now firmly in the public domain.
Northern Route proposal published
10/12/2020Today a number of news media carried details of the Northern Route Working Group's plans for reopening the ‘Northern Route’ throughout from Exeter to Plymouth via Okehampton and Tavistock, known formally as the Tavistock Okehampton Reopening Scheme (TORS). Details of the proposal have been published on the group's website here.
Moorlander special rail supplement
08/12/2020The current edition of the Moorlander newspaper includes a special rail supplement commemorating the government's commitment to reinstating an Okehampton - Exeter rail service, as reported in the previous news item. Entitled 'The Railway's Coming Home', it contains lots of excellent coverage, including contributions from several DRSA members. If you can't get hold of a copy to keep as a souvenir, you can read it here.
Go-ahead for reinstatement of passenger services.
25/11/2020Today, alongside the Comprehensive Spending Review, the government published its National Infrastructure Strategy. There, in black and white, on page 41 it says "The government will also deliver on its manifesto commitment to spend £500 million to restore transport services previously lost in the Beeching cuts of the 1960s, including reopening the Ashington-Blyth line in Northumberland to passenger services, and restoring rail links to Okehampton in Devon".
There are no details, and there is no timescale, but at last there is a commitment. This announcement, in conjunction with all the encouraging activity we have seen on the railway this year, surely means we can now be optimistic about the railway's future?
2020 DRSA Annual General Meeting
28/10/2020Our thanks to everyone who took part in the recent Annual General Meeting. By a combination of email and post, 40 members voted, which is a reasonable increase on previous years (20 in 2019, 25 in 2018), and suggests that in future years there could be merit in some sort of postal voting option even after we return to ‘normal’.
Thus the DRSA committee is now: Sue Baxter, Geoff Horner, Chris Horner, Dave Clegg, Tony Hill, Tom Baxter, John Coxon, Paul Vodden, Ron Kirby and Jon Kelsey. Specific offices will be assigned in due course, and announced in the next Pony or Pony Express; they are unlikely to differ much from those of 2019/20.
The competition to choose a livery for Lab11 resulted in a tie between BR green and its current BR experimental blue/orange, with BR maroon one vote behind. Some suggested painting it in primer for protection (as is currently happening anyway), and then hanging on to see what happens to the railway, which may be the prudent course.
Members were invited to provide feedback, and it’s pleasant to report that it was largely an expression of confidence in the work of the committee, with some optimism for the future.
One member asked for details of rolling stock owned by DRSA, and we would point him or her to this website’s Stocklist page, which is largely up to date.
GDS Railway Photography
23/10/2020We have been enjoying the work of Gary Smith of GDS Railway Photography; in particular the page of pictures taken at Okehampton Station in 1969.
After looking at the pictures, Tony Hill commented "the signalman shown is Charlie Mellet (or Mellett) a one time GWR Relief Signalman who worked all over the GW/WR in Devon and Cornwall. After Okehampton signalbox closed he transferred to Exeter Central A box (where I used to visit him in the early 70s) and then lived in Exeter. He lived to a great age - he must have died about 20 yrs or more ago. One picture includes the Scribona cakes delivery van based at Okehampton Station, which delivered to a large area. One or two BD Containers on Conflats arrived each week from, I think, Ashford."
The rest of Gary's website is well worth further exploration. Local members will be particularly interested in the page of photos of Meldon Junction taken in 1969 and 1970.
17/10/2020There's excellent coverage of the railway and the association in the current Moorlander, and published on their website here.
14/10/2020As if there wasn't anything else to do, we have had another graffiti attack. It probably took place on Sunday October 11th. The worst of the damage was to the FK. Damage to Lab 11 was confined to the windows. Geoff Horner has submitted an online police report, and we await the outcome. The C&W team will make a start on cleaning it up in their next Thursday session.
Some pictures below:
The FK at Meldon
Another view of the FK. It doesn't look as if it was Banksy.
Exeter service reinstatement in the Moorlander
12/10/2020The Okehampton based Moorlander newspaper is an enthusiastic supporter of the initiative to reinstate a regular rail service to Exeter. With their permission, we publish 4 recent articles on the subject:
Jan 22nd 2020 (326Kb)
Feb 7th 2020 (1.3Mb)
Apr 15th 2020 (397Kb)
May 27th 2020 (371Kb)
Tors Road Bridge inspection
07/10/2020The first tangible signs of the line's refurbishment - Network Rail's clearance of the ivy cladding on Tors Road Bridge, to enable it to be inspected. Thanks to Dave Ellis and Tony Hill for the before and after photographs, seen below. Other closures and inspections are planned for Fatherford and Klondyke Road shortly.
Photographer: Dave Ellis
Photographer: Tony Hill
01/10/2020Very interesting piece on the Okehampton Line on the Railfuture website here.
26/09/2020The current Okehampton Times has front page coverage of progress on the Exeter service, under the headline "On the brink of city rail link".
DRSA Annual General Meeting (members please note)
23/09/2020The AGM is now under way. This shouldn't be news to DRSA members, as by now all should have received either a postal or an electronic mailing containing the AGM paperwork. If you haven't received either, please get in touch with us. The cut-off date for receipt of your replies is October 20th.
Holding the AGM by post and email is a compromise forced upon us by circumstances. The early signs are that it is enabling greater member engagement than we achieve at the usual physical meetings, suggesting that when we return to 'normal', we should consider making the option of a proxy vote available in future AGMs.
Please note that joint members can submit 2 voting papers. Also that, although we're not interested in knowing who has voted for what, it's handy if you can identify yourself on the voting paper. A number of useful comments and queries have been received already, and we will be replying when the process is complete.
Borders line reopening success
17/09/2020There is much to encourage us in this BBC coverage of the Borders line reopening; the Edinburgh to Tweedbank section of the former Waverley route. Is Exeter to Okehampton going to be the next one?
DRSA Annual General Meeting
22/08/2020The pandemic restrictions forced the postponement of the Annual General Meeting from its usual April or May slot. We are going to attempt to run the 2020 AGM shortly, using post and email. We believe this format gives the best opportunity for members to engage with the process. Notice will be issued soon, with the next newsletter. In the meantime, if any member wishes to be considered for committee membership, please contact us as soon as possible. (Nominations received after the AGM notice is issued, but more than 14 days before the nominal AGM date, will be honoured, but if we don't receive any it will save us an extra round of postage).
Latest on Okehampton rail service
05/08/2020An article in the Okehampton Times for July 30th carries an encouraging status report on the work to reinstate the Exeter to Okehampton rail service, and some clues about the timescale. Read the full report on the Okehampton Times website here.
Our volunteers can confirm that there has been a lot of activity by Network Rail and Great Western Railway staff on the railway recently. It's all very encouraging, albeit slightly marred by the rolling stock of the former DRCIC, which continues to lurk, pending disposal.
South west rail news
20/07/2020More local news on the Railnews website.
Salisbury - Exeter improvements
19/07/2020For those interested in the fortunes of the Salisbury to Exeter line, Network Rail's study for future improvements to the line have now been published. The documents can be viewed and downloaded on the Salisbury to Exeter Rail User Group website here.
Dartmoor Railway on YouTube
16/07/2020Not really news at all, but a quick search reveals a number of YouTube videos showing what our railway was like once:
Clan Line on Cathedrals Explorer 2013
Okehampton visit 2005
US ATC S100 tank 2010
Okehampton Station 2015
Dartmoor Railway 2013
Diesel gala 2006
Sulzer weekend 2017
Class 33s on stone trains
Okehampton to Meldon 2017
Okehampton on CRS website
25/05/2020There's some nice coverage of the present state of Okehampton Station on the excellent Cornwall Railway Society website, by Andrew and Diane Jones. Click here and scroll down to the second item.
Connected Cities seminar
20/05/2020The Devon Live website is currently carrying interesting coverage of the Devon contribution to the Connected Cities seminar here.
Great Scenic Railways website
04/05/2020The Great Scenic Railways website, run by the Devon and Cornwall Rail Partnership and describing Devon and Cornwall's picturesque branchlines, has been revamped. It's at greatscenicrailways.co.uk. Do have look. Perhaps our branch will be featured in the not too distant future.
Northern Route Working Group
01/05/2020Far be it from us to advertise magazines - apart from our own of course - but there's a good piece in the May 2020 issue of Modern Railways about the Northern Route Working Group, outlining the case for the Tavistock Okehampton Reopening scheme (TORs).
The group also has an account on Twitter (whatever that is) at https://stweetly.com/NorthernRouteWG/.
Okehampton Station Easter slumber
13/04/2020Some of our local members include the dormant Okehampton Station in their regular exercise routines. As you can see from the photos below, it looks in fine condition in the spring sunshine, and there are no signs of security issues.
Date taken: 11/04/2020
Date taken: 11/04/2020
Date taken: 11/04/2020
Date taken: 11/04/2020
Devon's transport infrastructure plan
08/04/2020Recently Devonlive carried an item introducing 'The Devon Transport Infrastructure plan - Delivering growth to 2030', in which 110 Devon transport infrastructure initiatives to be completed by 2030 were announced. Some rail schemes are listed, including provision of a regular service from Okehampton to Exeter and increasing the frequency of trains at Crediton to half hourly; the latter will of course be achievable in whole or part by the Okehampton trains. Whilst Okehampton to Exeter Central is 27.5 miles, it is worth remembering that 14.25 miles are shared with the infrastructure of other already running services; principally the North Devon trains.
You can read the full list in the Devonlive news item here.
Of the 110 initiatives listed, 7 of them are rail related, as long as you include station access projects. Gosh. The Tavistock - Bere Alston rail link, once seemingly imminent, isn't on the list, although see the item for 24/02/2020 below.
It will be interesting to look back in 10 years' time and see how they got on.
Direct award to GWR
30/03/2020First Group and the Department for Transport have signed a Direct Award for Great Western Railway to continue operating for 3 years, with an option on a 4th, from April 2st 2020. You can read the government press release here.
We look forward to hearing news of Okehampton - Exeter services, and understanding the ramifications of this development for DRSA.
16/03/2020Once a member of the BARS group of companies like the Dartmoor Railway, the Weardale Railway has been purchased, and appears to have an assured future. Details here.
Railtour (includes DRSA members' special offer)
05/03/2020Update: We're grateful to David Ellis, Tony Hill and Paul Martin for a few pictures of the railtour in the Crediton and Yeoford area, seen in a little gallery here.
The Branchline Society's 'The Devonian Crompton' railtour, powered by a pair of class 33s, is visiting Devon from London on Sunday March 8th 2020. It is due to pay a brief visit to the end of our line, leaving Exeter St David's at 1535 to travel to Coleford Junction, before reversing. Full details on the BLS website here.
The Branch Line Society has specially agreed a £30 (cash only) return 'Pay On the Day' fare from Exeter St. David's to Coleford Junction and return for DRSA members. As you will see from the timings below, this includes Exeter Riverside Yard on the way to Coleford.
Any DRSA member wishing to travel on this train from Exeter St. David's, departing at 1535 for Coleford Junction, and arriving back at St. David's at 1704, should arrive at St. David's in good time (in case of early running) and go to Coach 'X', the BSK, to make payment either at Exeter St Davids or on departure. Don't forget your 2020 DRSA membership card.
London Victoria dep 0938
Exeter Central 1529
Exeter St David's arr 1532 dep 1535
Exeter Riverside Yard arr 1539 dep 1546
Crediton arr 1558 dep 1600
Coleford Junction (Network Rail/DR boundary) arr 1610 dep 1640
Crediton arr 1650 dep 1652
Exeter St David's arr 1704 dep 1711
Exeter Riverside Yard arr 1715 dep 1747
Bristol Temple Meads
Waterloo arr 2220
Beeching Reversal Fund
24/02/2020The Government has given more details of the process for bidding for the £500 million 'Beeching Reversal Fund', intended to fund studies to investigate which lines are worth reopening.
Full details are here. As you’ll see, the process is to be initiated by Members of Parliament, and the deadlines are pretty tight. The first call is for expressions of interest for the 'Ideas Fund' by this Friday, February 28th, with at least one more round to follow.
Devon County Council has already announced that they will bid for money to help finish the plans to reopen Bere Alston – Tavistock. That’s a different part of the fund; the 'Accelerating Existing Proposals' bit.
A group has recently been set up by rail journalist Andrew Roden with the aim of putting the whole Northern Route forward for consideration; Bere Alston to Meldon Quarry inclusive.
Torridge and West Devon MP Geoffrey Cox is the key to getting a bid in. He has to at least submit the expression of interest. DRSA members in the area this reinstated through route (closed 6/5/68) would serve, particularly those in West Devon, are encouraged to e-mail Geoffrey Cox about the fund and hope that he will make sure that not just Bere Alston – Tavistock but the whole Northern Route is fully considered. His e-mail is email@example.com .
22/02/2020There's a photo report on Meldon Quarry on the 28 Days Later website. It can be seen here. Clearly securing a large site like Meldon Quarry is a significant issue for Aggregate Industries.
Dartmoor Railway in the press [Updated 23/02/2020]
14/02/2020The Okehampton Times website is currently running a piece by Sarah Pitt on the administration. You can see it here. (We don't know how long these articles remain available).
The current Moorlander also has extensive coverage of the wider situation.
Update: Sarah Pitt continues to provide good coverage of this issue in the Okehampton Times. See also here.
07/02/2020Dartmoor Railway Community Interest Company has today (February 7th) gone into administration. As yet we don't know what happens next. We extend our sympathies to the DR employees affected.
Restored crane at Meldon
Graham Hicks with Aggregate Industries' restored crane at Meldon.
Aggregate Industries created a lot of interest amongst DRSA volunteers the other day by delivering this refurbished crane to the Meldon Quarry site. We hope this heralds more heritage activity from AI, and that DRSA can be involved in it.
Dartmoor Railway for sale (Updated 13/01/20)
05/01/2020The Dartmoor Railway is being offered for sale. The advert can be seen here.
We have no concrete information about how the AI and DCC leases - for the line and Okehampton Station respectively - are affected.
Update 13/01/2020DRSA's press release on this issue, published on January 8th, can be downloaded (File '148' not found)
We will publish further news as the situation develops.
04/12/2019Station maintenance stalwart Geoff Brooks has been very much missed at the railway this year. It transpires he has been having a pretty rough time with his health, and we wish him all the very best for a full and speedy recovery. Via fellow Hatherleigh resident David Bell he sends everyone his regards.
5 days later, on an equally filthy night, we were at the Rising Sun, Umberleigh with the full squad (Horner G, Baxter, Baxter, Hill, Kelsey) for the Tarka Rail Association's annual railway anorak quiz. There were teams from TRA, Lynton and Barnstaple and Bideford Railway Heritage Centre. For the second year in succession, modesty precludes mentioning the result. Our grateful thanks to TRA - in particular Philip Shelton who set the verbal questions, and Andy Hedges who set the picture questions - for organising this highly enjoyable event.
Ed Ellis on Youtube
Tarka Line engineering
GBRf Class 47 47739 at Crediton
GBRailfreight class 47 loco 47739 (built in 1964 and originally numbered D1615), was seen at Crediton on October 7th, undertaking driver route learning trips between Exeter and the Network Rail boundary with the Dartmoor Railway near the site of the former Coleford Junction.
The purpose of the trips was to prepare non-local GBRf staff for working engineers' trains in connection with the relaying of just over two miles of track on the Barnstaple line between Crediton and Yeoford between Saturday October 26th and Friday November 8th inclusive.
During the blockade replacement buses will operate between Crediton and Barnstaple.
The loco had come down from Leicester to Taunton on Sunday October 6th.
Time was when such engineers' trains would have been worked by the local traincrew depot, in this case Exeter.
Our thanks to Dave Tozer for the photograph.
More recently, GBRf class 50 50049 'Defiance' has also been seen on route learning trips for the same reason.
Dr Michael Ireland
18/09/2019We're pleased to announce that, following his recent stroke, Mike Ireland left the Royal Devon & Exeter Hospital, Wonford in early September, and by the 14th was well enough to travel on the Okehampton Castle special train which he was instrumental in organising. We send our best wishes for a continuing and full recovery.
'Okehampton Castle' special train to Weymouth
30/08/2019OkeRail Forum in partnership with Great Western Railway and Dartmoor Railway is running an express passenger train (formed of a 5 coach former Inter-City 125 HST) from Okehampton, Crediton and Exeter St Davids to Weymouth on Saturday 14th September.
The train will depart from Okehampton at 0815, Crediton 0850 and Exeter St Davids 0910, arriving at Weymouth at 1145. Arrival back at Exeter St Davids at 1831, Crediton at 1842 and Okehampton at 1920, giving almost 5 hours in Weymouth.
The fares are £37.00 return standard class with children at half price (£18.50) and First Class fares £52.50 adult / £26.25 child.
Please note the outbound train will arrive at Dorchester West at 1125 and drop off passengers, but will not pick up on the return journey. Passengers visiting Dorchester must make their own way from Dorchester South to Weymouth to board the return train to Okehampton which leaves at 1626. There is a frequent train service on this route.
First class tickets are sold out, but standard class are available at https://www.ticketsource.co.uk/booking/t-rdjaop.
Okehampton station on Youtube
03/08/2019There's some coverage of Okehampton station at www.youtube.com/watch?v=mQp9GHMzXX4. It's mostly 2016 video, but right at the end are some 1969 stills with interesting infrastructure detail.
Dartmoor round trip
19/07/2019Whilst the Exeter-Okehampton GWR rail service, and the Gunnislake-Okehampton bus service, are operating this summer (see Sunday Rover page) it is possible to circumnavigate Dartmoor relatively inexpensively by public transport. There's an excellent review of the journey here.
DR on Youtube
13/07/2019There's some coverage of the Dartmoor Railway available on YouTube at www.youtube.com/watch?v=12CfKWk6BX8.
Colas Rail permanent way training
11/07/2019A Colas Rail permanent way training session has been taking place on the Dartmoor Railway this week in the Bow area. Our thanks to Dick Henrywood for the following images.
Colas Rail tamper DR75406 'Eric Machel' at Bow station, to run rail alignment equipment tests.
Colas Rail ballast regulator DR77901 at Bow station.
English Electric weekend
12/06/2019Our thanks to Tony Hill for a few pics of last weekend's English Electric event.
Loco 31452 and its train at Sampford Courtenay
The leading vehicle (DTSO DB977335 aka 'The Rocket') of five being propelled from Coleford to Meldon Viaduct Stn by loco 31452 near Sampford Courtenay
A very rare picture of a complete train in the geographical centre of Devon with high Dartmoor in the background
Okehampton signal box telephone
12/06/2019Thanks to a tip-off from DR volunteer guard Dennis Leworthy, we have acquired the former Okehampton signalbox telephone, used for communicating with other signalboxes. It was made by Ericsson, part number N1182C4, SR diagram number E509-44. We're not sure of its age - anything from the late 1940s to the early 1960s. After a bit of a cleanup we'll put it on display in the Okehampton station museum. If anyone has more information or comments about it we'd be delighted to hear from you.
Photographer: Jon Kelsey
Photographer: Jon Kelsey
Sunday service to Okehampton
Plymouth Citybus service 279 arriving at Okehampton Station with the 0945 departure from Callington New Road. We think the bus is an ADL (Dennis) Dart SLF.
On May 19th the 2019 Exeter - Okehampton summer Sunday service restarted. For this year the service is enhanced by a bus service between Okehampton and Gunnislake, making it feasible to circumnavigate Dartmoor by train and bus, at very reasonable cost.
Over 100 passengers embarked on the first Okehampton to Exeter departure.
Our grateful thanks to DRSA's good friend David Hunt for the high quality photographs of the service, shown above and on the home page.
Details of the train and bus services are on our Sunday Rover page.
Unusual movement on the Dartmoor Railway
12/05/2019The Sturgeon wagon had a rare outing at Meldon in early May, being used on an engineers' train worked by class 08 D4167 to transport flat bottom rails from Bow to Meldon for onward transport by lorry for scrap.
A rare image of the Sturgeon bogie rail wagon.
Rails from Bow awaiting departure for scrap.
Crediton Museum 2019 exhibition
05/05/2019For 2019, the volunteer-run Crediton Museum is presenting a railway-themed exhibition entitled 'Crediton Station: A Brief Encounter'. Its aim is to show how the coming of the railway affected the town and its people. Crediton Area History and Museum Society’s exhibition team has depicted the social impact of the railway, constructing a number of tableaux illustrating local men going off to war, wounded soldiers coming to the VAD hospitals, local trades which utilised the railway, holidaymakers, commuters etc.
Part of the exhibition, and to an extent the inspiration for it, is the Scale Seven Group’s excellent model of Crediton’s historic station in Edwardian times, previously on display at the station tearoom. When the Turning Tides Project took over the tearoom, CAHMS became custodian of the model, thanks to the good offices of the Devon and Cornwall Rail Partnership.
The exhibition opened on April 10th and will be open until October 26th Wednesdays to Fridays from 1000 to 1600 and Saturdays from 1000 to 1300. The Museum is at The Old Town Hall, High Street, Crediton, EX17 3LF (the junction with Searle St.)
Greengauge 21 seminar report
28/04/2019Interesting seminar report on reopening Okehampton - Tavistock here.
08/03/2019Sadly we have to report the death of Martin Stephens-Hodge. Martin was a supporter of Dartmoor Railway since the days of the Friends. He held a real enthusiasm for railways and he would often tell stories of the railways that he visited with the North Yorkshire Moors line often making an appearance.
Martin had a deep love of Dartmoor and knew much about its story, its people and its landscape. He would often lead walks on the moor, sharing his knowledge with others. He offered insights into the topography of the Moor in a quiet yet authoritative way and he walked miles with many different groups of walkers through the years.
He was sometimes to be found combining both of his interests as he led local groups of walkers taking them on the train to Meldon and making sure that they all got back to Meldon station before the last train left!
We will miss his insights into the story of the Moor and the story of Dartmoor Railway and we offer our condolences to Martin’s family and friends at this time.
14/02/2019GWR was at Okehampton today with class 150 unit 150263, testing new wheelslip software. Thanks to Paul for a couple of pictures.
Photographer: Paul Martin
Photographer: Paul Martin
Exeter Transport Strategy consultation
08/02/2019Devon County Council has launched a public consultation on its draft Exeter Transport Strategy which, amongst other objectives, seeks to encourage and provide a sustainable transport system for the City. Clearly the provision of a regular train service between Okehampton and Exeter could play a useful and significant part.
Details at new.devon.gov.uk/haveyoursay/consultations/the-exeter-transport-strategy where there is an online questionnaire for you to have your say. The closing date for submissions is February 28th.
Crediton up line track renewal
02/02/2019Not quite Dartmoor Railway, but of interest to a lot of our members is work currently taking place on the Tarka Line at Crediton. This weekend the up line is being renewed, and rail replacement buses are in service. Our thanks to Tony Hill for a couple of photos showing a spoil train in Crediton station, with a Colas class 70 on the Plymouth end and a DBS class 66 on the Waterloo end. Next weekend (9th/10th) the down line is being renewed.
Photographer: Tony Hill
Photographer: Tony Hill
The funeral of Peter Ritchie
19/01/2019The arrangements for the funeral of Peter Ritchie are as follows:
Cremation 9.30 Friday 25th January at Exeter (family and close friends only), after which the Royal Navy will be taking Peter's ashes for burial at sea.
Same day - 1 pm memorial service at Cheriton Bishop Church.
After that a wake at Old Thatch pub, Cheriton Bishop. If anyone is thinking of going to the wake, please let Chris Horner know as numbers are needed for the caterers.
16/01/2019There is yet more sad news, as we announce the passing of Peter Ritchie. A 'Southern' man to the core, Peter was involved with the Dartmoor Railway since its early days, and was a committee member of DRSA since its inception. Until a few years ago he ran the Okehampton station ticket office, always raising a smile with his distinctive station announcements. He also edited the DRSA Pony magazine until 2015. Peter had been unwell for some time, but his death still comes as a shock. He will be greatly missed.
14/01/2009Sadly we heard today that DRSA member Cyril Pawley has passed away. A Devon man living in Woking, Cyril was member number 34, so clearly had been with us a long time. We offer our condolences to his wife and family.
We'd be very grateful if anyone has memories of Cyril that they would like to share.
Rail Grinder visit (updated 19/01/2019)
08/01/2019Another rail grinder arrived on the DR on January 9th. It's an older one, replaced by one of the more recent ones which have visited us before, and subsequently acquired by Loram. It's been reduced from 7 to 5 cars. We think it's here to resolve some braking issues, and will stay for a week or two.
During its stay, one of the cars picked up a wheel flat, and was removed on a low loader to the wheel lathe at Laira.
Our thanks to Dave, Geoff, Tony, Andrew and Paul for the following:
One car of the rail grinder, having been dragged to Meldon to await a low loader to take it to the Laira wheel lathe.
The rail grinder at Sampford Courtenay
The rail grinder at Okehampton
Class 08 D4167 and the rail grinder at Okehampton
The 0529 Derby Railway Technical Centre to Okehampton 6Z01 worked by locos 20189 and 20142 from Exeter, conveying a five vehicle Loram Railgrinder. Seen here cautiously approaching Buttisland farm level crossing just west of Bow. The train had been worked by 56113 to Exeter with the two class 20 locos dead on the rear.
The train on arrival at Okehampton
Both class 20s appeared to be in excellent condition. 20142 'Sir John Betjeman' was especially striking in London Transport livery.
Class 20 20142 'Sir John Betjeman' at Okehampton station after delivering the railgrinder.
Class 20s 20142 and 20189 at Okehampton station, with the railgrinder in the background.
04/01/2019We were sorry to learn of the recent death of Trevor Knight, steam driver on Dartmoor Railway during the ECT period of ownership. Trevor was a fireman based at Bude shed until the end of steam there, after which it is believed he moved away to another Southern Railway shed. He was also a volunteer driver on the Bodmin & Wenford Railway and occasionally on the Swanage Railway. A Service of Thanksgiving will be held at Bude Methodist Church on Tuesday 8th January at 14.30. Any former railwaymen who knew Trevor are welcome to attend.
The Train to Christmas Town
Thanks also to David Hunt for the extra photo.
The 'Train to Christmas Town', headed by 31452 with D4167 on the rear, at Meldon Quarry road 12
Class 08 D4167 assisting on the rear of the train as it heads to Meldon
Crowds waiting to board the train in Okehampton station
View of Okehampton station looking in the Plymouth direction, showing the train's rather motley collection of carriages, including several air-conditioned Mk 2s.
Class 31 31452 leading the train on the 2 mile 1 in 77 climb to Meldon
Peter Craske memorial seat
Photographer: Jon Kelsey
The Tarka Rail Association has installed a seat on Morchard Road station in memory of the late Peter Craske, lost to us earlier this year. Peter was best known locally as the author of the successful Tarka Line Walks books, as well as serving TRA as their Press and Publicity Officer. John Phillips' tribute to Peter can be found on the TRA website at tarkarail.org/page7.html. The inscription on the bench reads "Fondly remembering Peter Craske whose warmth, humour and kindness was valued by all his friends."
TRA Railway Quiz Evening
28/11/2018Following the success of last year's event, the Tarka Rail Association held another quiz evening at the Rising Sun, Umberleigh on November 28th. Once again it was a highly enjoyable event requiring pretty eclectic railway knowledge. It punctuates a quiet period in the year, and we hope it becomes a regular fixture in the calendar. Teams from the Lynton and Barnstaple Railway, the Umberleigh History and Railway Society, Bideford Railway Heritage Centre and TRA were ranged against a crack DRSA team comprising Sue and Tom Baxter, Tony Hill and Jon Kelsey.
Our thanks to the Tarka Railway Association for running the event, and in particular to Philip Shelton for the verbal questions, Andy Hedges for the picture questions and Tony Hill for organisation. Modesty precludes mentioning the result.
24/11/2018We've received a copy of the report presented to a recent meeting by the chairman of Okerail CIC, DRSA member Mike Ireland. As a statement of Okerail's ambitions and activities it's of sufficient interest to our members to publish herewith in full:
In the past year my aim has been to represent the shared goal of members and directors to re-establish the rail link between Okehampton and Exeter at the earliest possible opportunity. To do this I have availed myself of opportunities to present to a wider audience at regional and national events.
This has required me to work closely with colleagues in GWR, DCC and Parliamentary representatives and the press. I have learnt that it is vital to build a consensus and ‘speak with one voice’, a position that does require a degree of compromise at times.
Key Events – National and Regional
- 21st April 2018 Royal Oke Special Train to Oxford and Stratford upon Avon in cooperation with GWR.
- 14th – 15th June 2018 Community Rail Conference at the Steam Centre Swindon - Presentation
- 6th October 2018 Travel Watch South West - Taunton
- 3rd October 2018 Devon Assn of Local Councils – conference presentation
- 16th October 2018 GWR Stakeholders Conference – London Paddington
- 6th November 2018 GWR Customer Panel – Exeter
At a regional level, attending the GWR customer panel in Exeter gave the chance to raise the question of station provision for Okehampton. In the Q&A session I asked, “What provision was being made for station facilities at Okehampton in 2019/20?” Making the point that Okehampton has the potential to be a multi modal hub; to do this there has to be investment in a Parkway Station.
At every opportunity I put the case for the Okehampton line and this year have spoken to local Rotary clubs, Heritage Rail group [Bideford] and the AGM of Connect Bude.
Community engagement is important and to this end I have helped organise and run a coffee morning in Hatherleigh, with two planned for 2019. Funds raised at these events are intended to be used to support the local community access the rail events. For example, enabling a coach to be chartered with reduce fare for passenger to join the Royal Oke in April.
I am regularly attending the monthly meetings of Connect Bude and serve on their committee.
In a move to help members to become more involved in the CIC I organised a members evening at the Junction Inn, Halwill. The evening was on the whole a positive experience with members. Among the key points raised were:
- The need for better communication to the membership.
- Offer family membership for £30 per household.
- Introduce regular members meetings in November & May.
- Actively support the building of a Parkway station [A letter was sent to Mark Hopwood, GWR offering support for this scheme].
- Raise awareness of train services in the local area – summer Sundays and Specials.
- A very positive outcome of the members meeting was Alan Thompson taking on the role of membership secretary.
I would like to thank the Directors and members for their support and constructive criticism over the last year. In the coming year we need to improve communication with the CIC to members, share some of the task, for example secretarial duties.
I hope to continue to represent the interests of the CIC at national and local level working in partnership with GWR.
Dr Michael Ireland - Friday, 23 November 2018
Seen at Okehampton
02/11/2018This survey vehicle was spotted at Okehampton. It did a couple of trips to Meldon, and one to the Network Rail boundary near Coleford. The purpose of the visit was to test Fugro's RILA rail infrastructure survey equipment attached to a road/rail vehicle - normally it is attached to a locomotive.
Some details of the RILA equipment can be found here.
Photographer: David Bell
Dartmoor Railway on television
One episode of Channel 5's 'Walking Britain's Lost Railway' series is about the DR, and is being broadcast on Friday October 5th at 2100. The full schedule is:
Episode 1 –Scotland – Friday 21st September
Episode 2 – Sheffield – Friday 28th September
Episode 3 - Dartmoor – Friday 5th October
Episode 4 – Lake District – Friday 12th October
Episode 5 - Somerset & Dorset – Friday 19th October
Episode 6 – Wales – Friday 26th October
Update 06/10/2018If you missed it, you should be able to watch it at https://www.my5.tv/walking-britains-lost-railways/season-1/episode-3.
17/08/2018On Sunday August 12th a group of much valued Lynton & Barnstaple Railway Devon group volunteers had a very successful day trip by rail from mainly Barnstaple via Crediton to Okehampton.
After lunch in the town, they did a trip to Meldon and back in some of the DRSA owned and maintained rolling stock currently in use on the shuttle service worked by Lafarge Holcim's Aggregate Industries former Meldon Quarry based class 08 loco D4167.
Some of the group are seen below at Meldon with local volunteer guard Sue Baxter in appropriate smart uniform.
The Lynton and Barnstaple group at Meldon in front of DRSA's 1942 LMS brakevan 731411
Plym Valley Heritage Association visit
02/08/2018Recently the railway was visited by a group of members of the Plym Valley Heritage Association. They seem to have enjoyed their day, and subsequently we received a letter from their organiser Andrew Cullen, and a copy of their magazine. They were very complimentary about the Dartmoor Railway and its volunteers in general, and Sue Baxter in particular (see below). Well done everyone who made the visit a success.
They have an excellent website at www.plymvalleyheritage.org
Mike's funeral will take place on Wednesday July 11th at 1100, at Exeter Crematorium, Topsham Rd, Exeter EX2 6EU.
Swanage by rail
30/06/2018South Western Railway (SWR) is running summer Saturday services into Corfe Castle, opening up the possibility of an excursion to the Swanage Railway by rail from our area. Tom Baxter has used the GWR, SWR, Swanage Railway and Realtime Trains websites to provide the following timings for a visit from a Tarka Line station:
GWR Tarka Line service:
Morchard Road dep 0745
Copplestone dep 0748
Crediton dep 0801
Exeter St Davids arr 0813
SWR Exeter - Waterloo service:
Exeter St. Davids dep 0824
Yeovil Junction arr 0927
SWR special service via Yeovil Pen Mill, Weymouth & Wareham with 3 reversals:
Yeovil Junction dep 0940
Corfe Castle arr 1137
Swanage Railway heritage service (steam and diesel alternate on Saturdays. These are steam):
Corfe Castle dep 1202
Swanage arr 1224
Swanage dep 1520
Corfe Castle arr 1540
SWR special service via Wareham, Weymouth & Yeovil Pen Mill with 3 reversals:
Corfe Castle dep 1545
Yeovil Junction arr 1744
SWR Waterloo - Exeter service:
Yeovil Junction dep 1839 or 1941
Exeter St Davids arr 1942 or 2045
GWR Tarka Line service:
Exeter St. Davids dep 2100
Crediton arr 2114
Copplestone arr 2126
Morchard Road arr 2129
There is likely to be a small DRSA group doing this on Sat July 7th
Bude Museum exhibition
15/06/2018Bude Castle museum has opened an exhibition of railway artefacts to commemorate the cessation of rail services to the town in 1966. (Connect Bude is currently trying to rectify the latter situation). DRSA has contributed some items from the Arthur Westlake Museum at Okehampton. The exhibition runs for 18 months. Read what the local press had to say about it here, or visit the museum website for more details.
Exeter - Crediton blockade
A special hourly rail replacement bus service will operate between Exeter St. Davids, Crediton and Barnstaple. Full details from posters at stations, from manned station booking offices, the National Rail website or tel. 08457484950.
Note also that the A377 will be closed for repair work on the Lapford side of Eggesford (where the traffic lights have been for several months). This is due to start on June 19th, and is predicted to last 10 weeks.
Tickets for Royal Oke to Oxford and Stratford (updated 10/04/18)
10/04/2018Tickets for the Royal Oke on Saturday April 21st can be purchased through the following links:
First Class - www.ticketsource.co.uk/event/239687.
Standard class - www.ticketsource.co.uk/event/239689.
The train from Okehampton to Oxford and Stratford upon Avon (you choose your preferred destination), will also call at Crediton and Exeter St. Davids. Stock will be an HST with Pullman dining and buffet facilities. Ticket prices are £47.50 and £27.50 standard class or £85 and £55 1st class. This train is being run for the local community in the Okehampton area and other towns and villages which would benefit from the reopening of the line.
|Okehampton Town||0710||Stratford upon Avon||1613|
|Exeter St. Davids||0812||Exeter St. Davids||1947|
|Stratford upon Avon||1132||Okehampton Town||2045|
Royal Oke – Special Train to Oxford and Stratford upon Avon (Updated 08/03/18)
10/02/2018We have now heard from OkeRail that a date has been agreed for the Royal Oke special train from Okehampton to Oxford and Stratford upon Avon via Crediton and Exeter St David’s. It will run on April 21st. This train is being run for the local community in the Okehampton area and other towns and villages which would benefit from the reopening of the line.
The train will leave at approximately 7.00 am giving between 5 to 6 hours in the respective destinations, arriving back in Okehampton about 9.00pm.
Stock will be an HST with Pullman dining and buffet facilities. Online 'airline' style booking will be available nearer the time. Expressions of interest from local residents can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com.
Great Western franchise public consultation
Update 10/02/2018: the closing date for responding to this consultation is Feb 21st and approaching fast. Don't miss this rare opportunity to have your say about present and potential future local rail services.
A further important and welcome step in the process to restore regular passenger trains between Okehampton and Exeter was taken when the Department for Transport issued the Great Western rail franchise public consultation document 'Moving Britain Ahead'.
The Secretary of State for Transport Chris Grayling MP, in his foreword, includes the requirement for the (current) franchisee to develop plans to trial regular services between Okehampton and Exeter. Fuller details of this requirement can be found in the document in Chapter 4 'Key priorities for the Franchise Specification'; specifically on page 34.
Responses to the DfT on this consultation document are required by February 21st 2018.
Also released at the same time was the DfT's policy paper A Strategic Vision for Rail.
04/02/2018The latest progress on the initiative to reinstate a regular Exeter-Okehampton service has been widely reported in the local press, for instance here. Facebook users might also like to keep an eye on the Okerail Fb page.
Class 31 Weekend, Jan 20th/21st
24/01/2018With only one locomotive available, expectations for the Class 31 Weekend weren't high, but it went without a hitch and was surprisingly successful. Attendee numbers were about half of last year's altogether more ambitious event. We didn't deserve to have such bad weather on both days. Apart from the discomfort for those standing around getting cold and wet, it made the railhead conditions awful, calling for a cautious approach to driving. The ticket price was low enough to interest a number of locals as well as the usual dedicated enthusiasts, and perhaps this is an area we can develop in future years.
The feedback has been positive, and as ever the efforts of the DRSA volunteers were singled out for particular praise. Our gratitude to everyone who helped.
09/01/2018We are saddened to report the recent death of the Tarka Rail Association's Press and Publicity Officer Peter Craske, best known to DRSA members for the various Tarka Line Walks books. We extend our sympathies to his family.
TRA's John Phillips has written a fine tribute to Peter, which is published on the TRA website.
07/01/2018Another rail grinder arrived on the DR on Jan 5th, towed by class 50 50008. It's here for about a week.
As you can see from Sue Baxter's photos, they've made a commendable effort to break up the solid walls of yellow with cartoons of British railway themes.
It's a 7-car unit this time; the one which visited in July was a 4-car unit. DRSA's good friend Dave Hunt explained to me that the 4-car ones comprise 2 driving cars and 2 grinding cars. The latter are one-directional, so the unit has to do two passes, one in each direction, to grind a stretch of track. The 7-car unit comprises 2 driving cars and 2 pairs of one-directional grinder cars facing opposite ways (I know this adds up to 6; I've forgotten what Dave said the centre car does. Perhaps it's the buffet), so it can process a stretch of track in one pass.
Photographer: Sue Baxter
Photographer: Sue Baxter
Photographer: Sue Baxter
06/01/2018Not really a news item, but in case you were wondering what Christmas Town looked like, here it is:
Christmas Town 2017
Train to Christmas Town
21/12/2017Our thanks to some of our regular contributors for a few images of the Train to Christmas Town in action
Graham Isom in the cab of D4167 at Meldon with the Train to Christmas Town
31452 banking the Train to Christmas Town to Meldon
08937/D4167 leading the Train to Christmas Town to Meldon
Photographer: Tom Baxter
Photographer: Tom Baxter
Photographer: Tom Baxter
Photographer: Tom Baxter
Photographer: Tom Baxter
Photographer: Tom Baxter
Meldon Quarry picture
03/01/2018There's a nice Meldon Quarry snippet on the excellent Cornwall Railway Society website today at http://www.cornwallrailwaysociety.org.uk/news---latest-reports-and-photographs. (But note that this is a continuous news page, so the longer time goes on, the further down the page you have to scroll to find it).
05/12/2017We had an interesting contact from Julian Nott from the USA, whose family has links to Devon railways. Details on the Nott Family page.
03/12/2017The Office of Road and Rail publishes statistics for station footfall. Below are the figures for key Tarka and Okehampton line stations, for the last two 12-month periods starting April 1st.
|Newton St Cyres||2082||2940||41.2|
Busy week at Okehampton
02/12/2017The Department for Transport's publication of its GWR consultation paper (see earlier news item) and the consequent renewal of interest in the reinstatement of a regular Exeter to Okehampton service resulted in much press activity at Okehampton station this week. You can read the Guardian's take on the situation here.
Most of the extra hassle fell on the shoulders of Duty Manager Paul Martin, already heavily immersed in trying to get the Train to Christmas Town initiative off the ground. A contribution to the huge effort to get it ready came from DRSA's C&W team, who were clearing up their tools even as the crew embarked on Thursday for the dress rehearsal runs. Following the success of the rehearsals, the service is now running, with 31452 on the Crediton end and 08937 on the Meldon end.
The Train to Christmas Town at Okehampton. 31452 is just visible in the distance. D4167/08937 is at the other end.
TRA quiz evening
30/11/2017On Wednesday (29th) evening, a DRSA team took part in a railway quiz organised by the Tarka Rail Association, at the Rising Sun, Umberleigh, along with teams from the Lynton & Barnstaple Railway (2), the Umberleigh History & Railway Society and TRA. Despite a leaning towards London-centred questions, the DRSA team of Baxter (Somerset), Baxter (Midlands), Caesar (East Anglia) and Kelsey (Yorkshire) managed not to disgrace itself, finishing just outside the top 2. Our thanks to Philip Shelton for the verbal questions, Andy Hedges for the picture questions and Tony Hill for organising the event, not to mention Julian Zealey of the Rising Sun. An enjoyable evening which we hope will be repeated.
28/11/2017DCR Class 31 31452 arrived at Okehampton on Monday 27th. It's the traction for the Christmas trains.
16/10/2017Several of our excellent regular photographic contributors have sent in pictures of Thumper 1132, which gained a centre car at the end of the season. Originally it would have been a 3 car unit, though the extra carriage is actually 60673, the centre car from 1128.
The photos flatter its condition after several years in the Meldon undergrowth. It's stabled at Okehampton so that the gardening ladies can work on it.
Can you spot Percy?
Photographer: Paul Martin
Photographer: Geoff Horner
Photographer: Geoff Horner
Photographer: Tony Hill
Photos of Dartmoor Railway
05/10/2017Recent Dartmoor Railway visitor Dianne Jayne Giles got in touch with Paul Martin to say how much she had enjoyed the railway, and has made available to us an excellent set of photos of the visit. See Dianne's pictures for yourself here.
Heathfield line revival
24/09/2017DRSA members and other visitors to this website may be interested to know that the Newton Abbot and Heathfield Revival Group has started a petition to reopen the Heathfield line. A tall order as we know, but we wish them well. The petition can be found here.
Departure of old friends
14/09/2017A couple of long term residents of Meldon were removed today, presumably for scrap.
Photographer: Geoff Horner
Photographer: Geoff Horner
Last Sunday Rover of 2017
14/09/2017Last Sunday, September 10th, saw the final Sunday Rover service of the year. GWR put on 150002, which was very welcome and unusual for having 3 cars. It is one of the 2 class 150 prototypes, and has an interesting technical history (for those who find these things interesting).
150002 at Okehampton with the last Sunday Rover of 2017
DR's 1132 and GWR's 150002 at Okehampton
01/09/2017A recent fitness-to-run inspection of couplings provided the unusual spectacle of the 2 carriages of Thumper 1132 being separated.
Photographer: Paul Martin
Photographer: Paul Martin
31/08/2017This week 08937 / D4167 is in Okehampton platform 2 having 4 of its 6 cylinder heads replaced by reconditioned ones, along with a few other jobs. Engineers from RMS Locotec are doing the work.
Photographer: Paul Martin
D4167 with 2 cylinder heads in the foreground, one reconditioned and one old
Closeup of an 08 cylinder head
It's nice to see the old barrow in use, but let's hope the RMS fitters take care of its new paintwork.
Photographer: Tony Hill
Photographer: Paul Martin
Photographer: Paul Martin
Special bus from Hatherleigh on Sunday August 20th
13/08/2017A minibus will leave Hatherleigh (from outside the Co-Op Shop) at 0900 on Aug 20th, to connect with the 0955 train from Okehampton stn to Exeter, and will arrive back in Hatherleigh by 1800, after connecting with the 1632 train from Exeter Central due at Okehampton at 1719.
The bus fare is £3 Adult and £2 child.
Places on the bus need to be reserved. Full details from Andrea Kimber 01837 810057.
Activity at Meldon
30/07/2017Earlier this month the rag-and-bone man came to take away 70508, the class 411 4-CEP TSOL, now redundant after much cannibalisation. Whilst the truck was at Meldon, the opportunity was taken to turn 60673, the centre car from Thumper 1128, in preparation for possible future use.
60673 and 70508 at Meldon
70508 about to start its final journey.
60673, the centre car from 1128, on the Meldon turntable.
Satisfied customer / Thumpers on Youtube
07/07/2017We've had an email from a satisfied customer, Dave Flavell:
"Hi there, last weekend, Saturday 1/7/17 I visited the Dartmoor Railway to see & travel on 1132 (big fan of the units) & was so impressed with the welcome I received, the guard, driver & gentleman in the shop were so friendly & the cab ride from Meldon to Okehampton just put the cherry on the cake for me perfect, the audio & video I was able to get from that really was great.
Anyway a big thanks to all at Dartmoor Railway SA, I was on Youtube looking at.... yes you guessed it Thumpers and I came across these videos of then 205032 : 1132 with Connex and NSE so I thought they maybe of interest. I couldn't find any of 1128 though.
Well done everyone for making such a good impression on Dave. It's good to have some good news after the previous news item. The 2 videos Dave found are:
Last day of the Thumpers on the Reading - Basingstoke
We'd like to add that Dave has now sent in his membership application and is keen to volunteer as TTI/Guard or Cleaner. His New Membership Pack will be going off to him on Monday and we look forward to him joining the team.
02/07/0017Very sadly there was a break-in at Meldon Quarry on the evening/night of June 29th. Tens of thousands of pounds of damage was caused to the Polar Express stock, mainly in the form of broken glass. Nothing was taken, suggesting it was nothing more organised than mindless vandalism. If anyone has any information about the break-in, please contact the police and the Dartmoor Railway as soon as possible.
Photographer: Tiffany Arthurs
Rail Grinder on the DR (updated 07/07/17)
50008 with the grinder at Okehampton
Another new Network Rail railgrinder has come to the DR for a week of trials. It was brought to the railway on Thursday June 29th by class 50 50008 'Thunderer'. This particular class 50 has been expected on the DR for quite a while.
Subsequently Geoff Horner sent in a couple of pictures of the grinder in Okehampton station on the eve of its departure; seen below:
The grinder in Okehampton platform 2
Grinder 79304 at Okehampton
DR on Youtube
28/06/2017For those who haven't seen it on our Facebook page, there's some enjoyable video of DR here.
16/06/2017On Wednesday (14th) the railway hosted a group touring with Mike Higginbottom's Interesting Times Tours organisation. Based at Dartington Hall for the week, the 11-strong group's first activity on arrival at Okehampton was a refuelling stop at the station buffet, following which Tom Baxter gave a short talk outlining the history of the line and the main features of the station. After time to explore the station and visit the shop and museum, the group headed to Meldon, where, guided by several DRSA members, they examined the viaduct and quarry before heading off to Morwellham Quay.
Details of Interesting Times Tours' activities can be found on their website, on which a feature of particular interest is Mike's Devon Railways blog which (scroll down) contains a number of articles relevant to the Dartmoor Railway.
Tom Baxter briefing the Interesting Times Tours group at Okehampton
07/05/2017Members will be saddened to hear that DRSA's Membership Secretary Peter Flick passed away on May 3rd. One of the founding members, Peter's contribution to DRSA affairs was immense, and we will all miss his humour and spirit.
Peter's cremation service will be on Fri 26 May at 1300 at Exeter Crematorium. There will be a thanksgiving service on Tues 30 May at 1400 in South Tawton Parish Church. The proceeds of the collection will go to the DRSA. No flowers please. Donations to DRSA can also be sent to Drew & Sons, Venton, Drewsteignton.
Polar Express traction
24/04/2017In case you were wondering why it's so quiet, 33035, 47828 and 45060 were hauled away by 20189 and 20205 today, heading for the Severn Valley Railway via St Philip's Marsh maintenance depot in Bristol. Sadly this leaves the DR with no serviceable traction. What next?
The 2 class 20s at Trecott on their way to Okehampton to collect the PE locomotives
The 5 locomotives at Okehampton ready to start out for Bristol
20205 and 20189 passing Crediton with the Polar Express traction, 33035, 47828 and 45060, en route for St Philip's Marsh.
Class 20s are an unusual sight on our railway, and the convoy made an impressive spectacle passing through Crediton.
21/04/2017On April 21st we were pleased to be visited by a party of about 60 from the Railway & Canal Historical Society. It was their AGM weekend, and they were spending a few days touring sites of interest in the south west. They arrived at Meldon slightly late having had coach problems at Torrington, but there was still sufficient time to examine the iconic viaduct. From Meldon they headed back to Okehampton for tea and cake in the buffet, and to explore the station, before returning to their weekend base in an Exeter University hall of residence.
Sadly we weren't able to offer them the train ride which would have rounded off their experience, but they seemed to be interested in what they saw, and they received a friendly welcome from the DR staff and DRSA volunteers who were on hand.
Members of the RCHS group exploring Okehampton Station.
1980s station photos
05/04/2017Recently the railway received a letter from R.K. Bowden of Bowden Engineering of Ottery St Mary. Included with the letter were some photographic negatives, taken by Mr Bowden's father. He thinks they could have been taken in 1986, though some of the locals aren't sure this is quite correct. Whatever the exact date, they show Okehampton station in its 'wilderness' period between the cessation of passenger services in 1972, and the restoration in the late 1990s. It's fascinating to spot the changes between then and now.
Our grateful thanks to Mr Bowden for sending us the negatives (see below), and also to Peter Budd of Crediton Photography Club for scanning them for us.
[Surely this is the same Bowden Engineering which used to produce brake and suspension modifications for Austin 7s, amongst others, in the 1950s and happily still seem to be trading now?]
The goods shed, still surving albeit now as a Youth Hostel, with a siding passing behind it.
Okehampton Station in 1986, pending better times
Okehampton station in 1986(?) showing the unrebuilt Platform 2 buildings, sidings where the cycle hire business now operates, and window frames in the footbridge.
The Royal Oke
18/03/2017Over 500 passengers travelled from Okehampton to Paddington and back on the 'Royal Oke' HST special, the first service to London for 50 years. Organised by Okerail, in conjunction with Great Western Railway and Dartmoor Railway CIC, and with support from Okehampton United Charities, the purpose of the train was to demonstrate the community's interest in the reinstatement of a regular service between Okehampton and Exeter St Davids.
There was a slight hitch when the outbound train had to stop at Bow to investigate a wheelset problem, and then be replaced at Exeter St Davids. A remarkable effort by GWR saw the substitute HST arrive at Paddington only 38 minutes late. The evening journey back to Okehampton was trouble free, as was the subsequent return of the empty stock.
The train received widespread publicity on local news outlets and social media. Feedback from passengers has been 100% positive, with particular praise for the GWR crews. Central Devon MP Mel Stride, a committed supporter of the reinstatement initiative, travelled on the train, and looked forward to giving rail minister Paul Maynard "a good shake" when he met the train at Paddington.
A group of 5 DRSA members braved the cold, damp weather and a 6.30 start to marshal the car park, a bit of a squeeze made much less of a problem than it might have been thanks to the early arrival of all the passengers.
We have started a Picture Gallery of the event, and are grateful for contributions from Philip Wagstaff and John Wills. Others would be welcome. There's also some excellent video on Devon Live here.
21/02/201721st February saw GWR run a test train to Okehampton in preparation for the HST special to London on March 18th. The unit took a staggering 150+ minutes between Crediton and Okehampton due to numerous stops to carry out measuring tasks and more gauging. On arrival a sea of orange vests swarmed around carrying out similar tasks and marking stopping points. The Class 143 unit had ‘Tenby’ as a destination blind on one end and the fictional ‘Newton Abbeywood’ on the other. Before departure ‘Tenby’ was changed to ‘Romsey’ to give a different view for the ever present Dave the photographer.
The test train, 143617, at Okehampton, before departing for Newton Abbeywood
The test train crew checking out Okehampton
2017 Sulzer Weekend
06/02/2017Another successful Sulzer Weekend took place on Feb 4th and 5th. The variable West Devon winter weather - glorious for most of Saturday, miserable on Sunday - didn't detract from a highly enjoyable event, and good numbers of visitors once again went home with a very positive impression of the Dartmoor Railway.
As ever it was a joint effort, organised and hosted by Dartmoor Railway CIC (much of the burden of which was borne by Paul Martin), with quality traction looked after by Pioneer Diesels and D05 Preservation, and a volunteer workforce from DRSA. Our grateful thanks to all.
We have a Gallery of pictures of the weekend. Our thanks to all the contributors.
Tarka Line winter promotion
13/01/2017Introduced in October and running every day until April 17 a half day return fare of only £5 to Barnstaple is available after 0900 from Exeter stations and correspondingly less from (and between) intermediate stations (e.g. £4.10 from Crediton) on the North Devon line.
Note that on Sat and Sun 21 & 22 Jan, due to Engineering works all North Devon line trains will be replaced by a special bus service between Exeter St D and Barnstaple.
Full details available from staffed stations, or National Rail website.
Polar Express on BBC Spotlight
21/12/2016Did you see the Polar Express on BBC Plymouth's Spotlight Southwest programme on Monday Dec 19th? The entire programme was presented from the North Pole, and featured interviews with some of the players, as well as several of the happy families enjoying the event. It was an excellent advert for the Polar Express.
The group of folk singers at the end of the programme had been brought together at a couple of hours notice after the booked performers had dropped out, and featured our very own Peter Ritchie. He reckoned it was a tad cold.
Unfortunately if you missed it it's now too late, as it was only available on iPlayer for 24 hours.
Renowned Devon folk singer Jim Causley (centre, with accordion) and, nearly as famous, DRSA's Peter Ritchie (DR woolly hat), performing at the North Pole
South west station usage
08/12/2016Figures for station usage in Devon and Cornwall have just been published. They include Okehampton and Sampford Courtenay, as well as the Tarka Line, and make interesting reading. Download a copy from here (20Kb).
05/12/2016The Polar Express has been under way for a few days now, and is proving very popular and attracting lots of positive feedback. 45060 'Sherwood Forester' is on the Meldon end, with 47828 on the Crediton end. The latter is also providing train heat. 33035 is available as backup, and has completed one trouble-free trial run in front of 45060.
We're grateful to Paul Martin, Lee Edworthy, Philip Wagstaff and Alistair Gregory for the following:
47828 on the PE stock at Okehampton, with 33035 stabled in P2 as backup
33035, backup Polar Express locomotive
45060 on the PE stock at Okehampton
The driving team of Graham Isom and Keith Netherton with 45060 and 33035
Pioneer Diesels personnel with 33035
47828 on the PE stock in Okehampton platform 3, and 33035 stabled in the new siding extension.
47828 stabled in the new Okehampton platform 2 siding extension
33035 and 47828 at night in Okehampton
Closing The Gap
26/11/2016The Peninsula Rail Task Force has published its report 'Closing The Gap', and its associated appendix. They can be downloaded from here.
Back on the Southern - new arrivals at Okehampton
08/11/2016On Sunday Nov 6th, DRSA took delivery of 4 original LSWR/SR platform benches purchased from the West Somerset Railway. These seats, before going to the WSR in the early 1980s, were in use on the Barnstaple Junction to Ilfracombe line which closed in October 1970. On the WSR they had seen service at Dunster and Stogumber, but have now been replaced by more appropriate GWR seats.
Currently in the dry under the Okehampton platform 2 awning, our new seats will in due course be painted in Southern green by the DSRA Station Maintenance Team. They will probably displace one of our existing ones for re-deployment at Sampford Courtenay.
The DRSA team (from left) John Caesar, Tom Baxter, Tony Hill and Jon Kelsey unloading one of the new benches. Photo copyright Robin White of the West Somerset Railway Asssociation.
Den Brook crossing
Once the gates have been refitted the speed restriction will be lifted and the crossing will be locked out.
Photographer: Paul Martin
Graham Isom 50 years service celebration thanks
As a postscript to the Aug 1st celebrations of Graham Isom's 50 years of railway service, we were delighted to receive this charming card from Graham, and we pass on his thanks to all those DRSA volunteers who helped make the day a success.
Hatherleigh bus trial
05/08/2016OkeRail has organised a trial of a community bus from Hatherleigh to Okehampton on Sunday August 14th. It will connect with the 0955 and 1155 trains to Exeter, and the 1430 and 1632 return departures from Exeter Central which arrive at Okehampton at 1517 and 1719 respectively. The bus will leave Hatherleigh market bus stop at 0925 and 1125 and will cost £2.50 return for adults and £1.50 for children. Bus passes won't be accepted, and parents need to state their child's age due to booster seat requirements.
If there is sufficient interest then there is a possibility that this could become a regular service next summer.
As places are limited, anyone interested must contact Richard Proctor (tel: 01837 811240 or email: firstname.lastname@example.org) beforehand. Prospective passengers need to state which train they wish to catch to ensure the bus has enough seats available.
Graham Isom - 50 years of railway service
02/08/2016On August 1st 2016 a special train was formed at Meldon to celebrate Graham Isom’s 50 years of working/volunteering on the railway. A commemorative headboard was produced and carried on 47828, which hauled Lab 11, 61743 and 70273 on its operational debut. The train conveyed friends and family and work colleagues (ex and current) down to Okehampton to surprise Graham who thought he was running a training course. The train made several trips to Sampford Courtenay and one to the Dartmoor Railway boundary. An excellent spread of food was produced at Okehampton station enjoyed by all, before Graham made a speech and cut the cake. Some people travelled great distances to attend and the vent was a great success. Thanks to all those who attended and/or helped in the organisation of it all and to everyone for keeping it secret! Full report in the autumn issue of the Pony Magazine.
Graham cutting his cake. Note the typical Okehampton sumptuous spread.
The commemorative headboard
The back of the commemorative headboard, signed by those present
The man himself
02/08/2016Over the weekend of July 30th/31st, some variety was provided by replacing the usual air braked consist of 61743 and Lab11 on the service trains, with the vacuum braked pairing of Mk2A FK S13436 and LMS Brakevan 731411. The purpose was to enable Julian Pope's freshly restored 4CEP EMU centre car 70273 to be marshalled into the air braked rake in readiness for its debut on the Aug 1st event celebrating Graham Isom's 50 years of service on the railway, more details of which will be published shortly. Julian's coach, and the entire rake in fact, looked stunning, a credit to Julian and the DRSA C&W team.
The new air braked set in the yard at Meldon with newly overhauled and painted 70273 in between driving trailer 61743 and Lab11.
Vacuum braked rake with D4167/08937 hauling S13436 Mk2A FK and ex LMS GBV 731411 on the 11.00 departure from Meldon Viaduct for Okehampton.
D4167 and the vacuum braked rake of Mk2A FK S13436 and LMS brakevan 731411 at Okehampton
Okehampton Platform 2 Siding Extension
12/07/2016The work on constructing the extended siding beyond the present buffer stops at the east end of platform 2 at Okehampton is due to start on Wednesday 13th July with a team tackling the initial clearance of the vegetation from the trackbed. The team will be meeting at Okehampton Station at 10.00 and any DRSA member who wishes to lend a hand will be welcome. The work is being led by the DR Operations Manager Alistair Gregory. Please come with overalls or other suitable work clothing, stout or safety boots and strong gardening type gloves. As the site is fenced off from the running line there is no need for volunteers to have any Track Safety certification or hi-vis wear.
The project now has its own website page here.
Exeter & Teign Valley Railway visit
03/07/2016Following the recent visit by a group of DRSA members to the fascinating E&TVR (reported on the Miscellany page), proprietor Colin Burges has posted his own report on our visit on the E&TVR site. It can be seen here, and, like all Mr Burges's writing, is well worth a read. His remark "Not one chain of closed line has yet been reopened in the West Country" may be a statement of the obvious but it keeps the feet on the ground (unless of course you're standing on a pile of all the reports which have been written on the subject).
Annual General Meeting
23/05/2016The 2016 DRSA Annual General Meeting took place on Saturday May 21st, at the Ockment Centre, Okehampton. After a review of the previous year, some minor amendments to the Constitution were agreed, and the committee re-elected.
Thus the 2016/7 committee is: Reverend Philip Wagstaff (chairman), Christine Horner (treasurer), Jon Kelsey (secretary), Peter Flick (membership secretary), Geoffrey Horner (volunteer coordinator), Peter Ritchie, Sue Baxter, Dave Clegg and Tony Hill. At the next committee meeting a vice-chairman should be appointed.
Only 20 members attended, which was hugely disappointing, not just because of the AGM, but also because of the excellent presentation afterwards by local railway historian Amyas Crump. 'Around the Southern in North Devon' was a trip around the various SR lines in our region, presented in the form of a slideshow, and interesting not just for the content but also Amyas's use of contemporary (in some cases restored and digitally enhanced) traditional slides.
Western Challenger Railtour
The Western Challenger railtour arriving at Okehampton
May 7th saw the visit of Pathfinder Railtours' Western Challenger excursion. In 1966 D1010 Western Campaigner took 5 hour 15 minutes to reach Penzance, and exactly 50 years later the Challenger tour was planned to run non-stop to Plymouth in commemoration. Unfortunately it didn't quite achieve this, having been brought to a stand on the outskirts of Plymouth, but the passengers nevertheless enjoyed an excellent run behind an iconic locomotive.
After Plymouth it visited the Dartmoor Railway before returning to Waterloo via the LSWR main line. It spent about two and a quarter hours on the DR, some of which was spent at Meldon running round. Back at Okehampton, what is by now a well oiled team leapt into action and watered the stock, refuelled the locomotive, marshalled the crowds and removed the phenomenal amount of rubbish railtour passengers produce, whilst our visitors enjoyed the buffet, museum and shop. Some took a shuttle bus into Okehampton.
The railtour locomotive was D1015 Western Champion, although it masqueraded as D1010 Western Campaigner on one side and D1058 Western Nobleman on the other. The occasion was enhanced by DR's new arrival class 47 47828 which was stabled, idling, near the old Meldon compressor house. In full public view in an area much tidier than hitherto, it attracted a lot of attention. With D4167 operating the regular shuttle in the morning, those of us at Meldon for the day saw an unprecedented 3 different trains in one day.
It was an excellent day with good crowds visiting the railway, decent weather, plenty of interest and generally a good 'buzz'. Once again, railtour visitors left with a very positive impression of the Dartmoor Railway. These things don't just happen by chance, and we would like to express our gratitude to all the DR staff, DRSA volunteers and the D05 Preservation crew who made the day such a success. When's the next one?
Some photos have been posted in the Railtour Gallery. Our grateful thanks to the contributors, Alan Deane, Rob Dark,Rev Philip Wagstaff and Tom Baxter.
06/05/2016At last 47828 is on the railway, arriving yesterday behind 31452. It was covered in grime from its recent Railhead Treatment Train duties, except where the DRS vinyls had been removed.
Today it was dragged to Okehampton by D4167 and then cleaned on one side and put on charge. After lengthy tests it was started up for the 1st time since late 2015 with no problem. It then moved over to Platform 3 for more cleaning. At the end of the day it ran light engine to the DR boundary for a test run, and had no problems.
Alistair Gregory and Paul Martin sent in the following photos of the day's activity. Alistair wishes to thank everyone who helped today.
There is also some coverage of its journey to the DR on the excellent Cornwall Railway Society website.
Photographer: Alistair Gregory
Photographer: Alistair Gregory
Photographer: Paul Martin
Photographer: Paul Martin
Photographer: Alistair Gregory
Photographer: Alistair Gregory
Photographer: Alistair Gregory
New Bow station sign
18/04/2016The station maintenance team's 'homeworker', Simon Jeffery, has rebuilt one of the Bow station running in boards, complete with newly cast finials.
Simon at work on the new sign.
The rebuilt sign at Bow.
Okehampton United Charities grant
Front row l to r: Allenton Fisher (OUC Chairman), Nigel Green. Geoff Horner, Michael Ireland (OUC & DRSA), back row l to r: John Davies, John Coxon, Alan Harris, David Clegg, Karen Percival (OUC)
On April 7th, DRSA's Carriage and Wagon team welcomed representatives of Okehampton United Charities to the Meldon workshop, where a cheque for £950 was presented. This grant was recently awarded to DRSA to purchase equipment enabling safe access to the roofs of railway vehicles. We would like to express our gratitude to OUC for their generous financial assistance.
18/04/2016There will be an official launch of the OkeXRail campaign to reinstate a daily service between Exeter and Okehampton on 15th May. This will be at Exeter St David's, to coincide with the start of the 2016 Sunday Rover service departing at 0908 to Okehampton.
05/04/2016The excellent Cornwall Railway Society website has today posted several photographs of Meldon Quarry taken in 1981. They are on the site's 'Headlines - Latest Reports and Photographs' page, visible here, though as time goes on they will gradually move down the page.
2016 services start
26/03/20162016's programme of scheduled heritage services got under way on Good Friday in glorious sunshine. Motive power was provide by Class 08 D4167 with Lab 11 and driving trailer 61743. Our thanks to Alistair Gregory for the pictures below.
Preparations for the first scheduled train of 2016. D4167 about to propel Lab11 and 61743 from Platform 2
Crew of the first train: (l to r) Graham Parkinson, Marian Isom, Graham Isom and Don Bent.
Graham Isom with an afternoon train at Meldon Viaduct. We really must finish painting those wasp stripes.
Duty manager Paul Martin and guard Don Bent with 4-CEP driving trailer 61743.
Sunset over a successful first day.
Changes at Meldon
26/03/2016The picture below shows the considerable improvements made to the area around Meldon Buffet since the CCT and sleeper were moved away. The view from the grassy bank east of the buffet coach must have been transformed.
Photographer: Alistair Gregory
Big Meldon shunt
18/03/2016Changes afoot at Meldon. In order to clear the old steam shed prior to renovation, our 1948 SR-type brakevan LDS55625 was dragged out, to be parked at the back of the C&W workshop. Then the 1961 CCT (Covered carriage truck) 94691 and Mk3a sleeper 10611 were uncoupled from the buffet for the first time in years and moved into the yard. This removes a bit of an eyesore, and paves the way for improving the environment around the buffet. Alistair Gregory took a few pictures:
Not a lot of people realise that DRSA owns this brakevan. Even less expected the wheels to go round when we tried to move it. Here's D4167 moving it from the engine shed.
The CCT and sleeper about to be dragged away from the buffet.
Photographer: Alistair Gregory
13/03/2016Yesterday we were visited by UK Railtours' 'Tre, Pol and Pen' tour, rearranged to visit the DR following a problem with access to the Parkendillack branch. It was the first through train many of us had ever seen at Okehampton, running straight through to Meldon before returning to Okehampton for a 30 minute leg stretch. The train comprised 12 Mk1 coaches, topped and tailed with class 66s 66109 and 66177.
During the Okehampton stop the buffet team tried manfully to feed 500, whilst DRSA volunteers got as much water into the coach tanks as possible, cleared a trainload of rubbish, marshalled the crowds and manned the shop.
A day of waiting and anticipation ended in a short, frantic burst of chaos. As always seems to be the case, the visitors all seemed to enjoy themselves and take away a positive impression of DRSA and the railway, many expressing their gratitude for the reception they received. We made useful income from the shop sales. Our thanks to everyone who made the day such a success.
Interestingly, the train manager was very complimentary about the state of DR's track, having had a rough ride on plenty of other heritage railways.
Following our appeal for photos of the visit, we are very grateful to the anonymous contributor who provided the next 2 pics (and others which are in the Railtour Gallery) and Alistair Gregory:
66109 at Meldon while the crew changes ends.
Pitstop at Okehampton
During the reversal at Meldon, the tour driver and DR pilotman got a lift from one end to the other in D4167. (About 270 metres).
Dartmoor Railway welcomes D05 Preservation
05/03/2016D05 Preservation is delighted to announce that following discussions with both Dartmoor Railway CIC and the Supporters' Association, we have been offered a great home for 47828.
The facilities and opportunities offered to us by Dartmoor Railway fit in perfectly with our plans to preserve 47828 but not park it. We hope to have it in service on their line as soon as possible.
Tiffany Arthurs, General Manager of Dartmoor Railway CIC says "Following the success of our Sulzer weekend and the similar engines in use on our Polar Express trains, 47828 seems like a perfect candidate to support our operation going forward".
"This is exciting news for the Dartmoor Railway. Our Volunteers and Association members are there to support the railway and to help in any way they we can. The great turnout of our team for the Sulzer Weekend certainly confirmed our support for such exciting projects and we look forward to working with the D05 Preservation Group when 47828 arrives at the railway" said Philip Wagstaff, Chairman of the Dartmoor Railway Supporters' Association"
47828 will be moved from Longtown to Meldon depot by rail where volunteers from all parties will commence their work on preparing it for service on Dartmoor Railway for this upcoming season. D05 Preservation would like to express our gratitude to friends of the group for their support and advice, and to DRS for their professionalism and assistance during the tender process.
D05 Preservation - Alistair Gregory - email@example.com
Dartmoor Railway CIC - Tiffany Arthurs - firstname.lastname@example.org
Dartmoor Railway Supporters' Association - email@example.com
47828 at Colchester
Railtour visiting Okehampton
27/02/2016UK Railtours' Tre, Pol and Pen railtour, on Saturday March 12th, will now be visiting Okehampton and Meldon following problems with track geometry on the Parkendillack branch. It will run straight through to Meldon Viaduct station, where it is scheduled to arrive at 1635. It will return to Okehampton, arriving at 1655, and remaining there for 25 minutes, during which time it will need watering.
Traction is expected to be topped and tailed class 66s.
There are more details of the tour on the UK Railtours website.
Swordfish test train
07/02/2016Polar Express locomotive Class 33 33103 'Swordfish' was pressed into service on a test train on Feb 5th. DM Paul Martin blagged a ride and took us a few photos.
33103 'Swordfish' at the Network Rail / Dartmoor Railway boundary
33103 'Swordfish' at the Network Rail / Dartmoor Railway boundary
33103 'Swordfish' at the Network Rail / Dartmoor Railway boundary
33103 'Swordfish' at the Den Brook windfarm crossing
33103 'Swordfish' at Sampford Courtenay
Accolade for Sulzer Weekend
03/02/2016The successful Sulzer Weekend exposed the potential of the Dartmoor Railway to a wider audience, one member of which, Rob Wosley, felt moved to respond with detailed, positive, feedback to DR's General Manager Tiffany Arthurs. Rob copied his email to DRSA's Volunteer Coordinator, Geoff Horner, who gave the volunteers a much needed morale boost by circulating it to them. Much of it so resonates with the views of many DRSA members that we reproduce it here in full, with Rob's permission:
I wanted to give you some feedback regarding the recent Sulzer Weekend at Okehampton, having spoken to Alistair Gregory during the event.
As an ex-railwayman and an enthusiast active in preservation with diesel groups I have to say that the weekend was probably one of the highlights of the diesel gala calendar for 2016, and that’s before anybody else has done anything. What makes me so confident in that statement? A combination of factors made the event a success;
1.The line itself, (which offers good running speeds and very few station stops),
2.The attitude of the railway staff and volunteers, which was very positive and professional throughout,
3.The ticket price, which was comparable to other events locally,
4.The traction, which had local connections from BR days and a strong following across the country, which drew enthusiasts in,
5.The rolling stock, which was in good condition considering it had just done a full season of Polar Express,
6.The catering, which was varied and reasonably priced,
7.Non-enthusiast passengers also attended, suggesting the line is popular all year round.
I know that such events cost a lot of money to put on and that you are constrained by the infrastructure at both ends of the line, which means two train running isn’t possible, and that top and tail operation is your only option, unless you are able to provide a passing loop at Okehampton – I guess NR would have to be approached about that and the cost may be prohibitive.
I know one of the line’s volunteers (Graham Parkinson) through his work at our local MacMillan centre, and have often said to him that a running day or weekend once Polar Express finished would draw revenue during a quiet period. When 45060 was announced as travelling to the line by its owner, Mike Jacobs (Pioneer Diesel Group), who I’ve been an acquaintance of for over thirty years, I contacted other Class 45 enthusiasts via Facebook groups and tried to whip up some interest. I wasn’t disappointed as I was one of a group of probably 58 people who made the journey solely for the Class 45, just from that FB contact. Had the 45 been allocated work all weekend at the Meldon end of the train, most of the people in my group would have stayed for the weekend and a good number more would have travelled down for the Sunday, probably 15-20, who couldn’t be there on Saturday. I know that a good number of Class 33 enthusiasts travelled too, and there’s cross-over between the two ‘factions’. The Class 47 fraternity were also in attendance, although they were obviously disappointed on the Saturday.
The idea that this could become an annual event has caused some excitement on FB/internet forums, as the Westcountry is in need of something for diesel enthusiasts during the winter months. In the last few years South Devon Railway have started running an event in early November using smaller diesels which has become very popular, but nothing else happens until probably April or May. Very few lines in the country run any diesels during January-March, with the obvious exception of your sister event at Weardale, and the line at Bo’ness in Scotland. The opportunities are there to attract people to the line and get repeat business.
Could I make a suggestion based on the feedback from some of my friends who travelled? With locos being used from Nemesis at Burton-on-Trent, would it be feasible to approach them about the use of their loco 45 112 for the 2016 Polar Express season and a potential repeat of the Sulzer Weekend next year? This machine would be a very big draw once again, and was a serious topic of conversation at the Sulzer Weekend. It should be capable of providing train heat to the stock, which makes it attractive operationally, and the use of another Class 45 and Class 33 (whether from Pioneer Diesel Group or another source) would guarantee you similar loadings to this year’s event. Obviously, other locomotives are available, and the opportunity to run an English Electric event with classes 31, 37 and 50 in the future could be a possibility, and would also guarantee very good numbers. I can’t say whether any would be available for the Polar Express season as I have no involvement with any of their owning groups.
Once again, huge thanks to everyone for a very successful event which was very warmly received. Well done to you all, if it happens again I will be back and I will bring people!
25/01/2016Blessed with fine, dry weather most of the time, the Sulzer Weekend exceeded all expectations, and has attracted much praise for the railway, DRCIC and DRSA.
A small problem with 47701 on the Saturday was sorted on Sunday morning with the help of some of the visiting engineers, while 33103 and 45060 ran faultlessly. The latter also sounded fantastic, and its mechanical condition is a real tribute to its owners and operators, Pioneer Diesels.
An excellent turnout of DRSA volunteers and DR staff ensured that everything went smoothly, and very special thanks are due to organiser Paul Martin.
The event opened the eyes of many of the visitors to the potential of the Dartmoor Railway. Let's hope we can build on this. We look forward to a repeat event in 2017, and better things in the meantime.
We are starting to put together a Gallery of pictures of the weekend, and would be grateful for more contributions as most of the DRSA regulars were too busy to take pictures. There are also some great pictures and video in the Visitor Posts section of our Facebook page.
Western Challenger Railtour to visit Okehampton
11/12/2015DR Duty Manager Paul Martin has informed us of exciting plans to hold a Sulzer weekend on January 23rd and 24th. The plan is to use 4 of the coaching stock from the Polar Express, with 'The Rocket' supplying electricity. Motive power will be the (Sulzer powered) 33103 'Swordfish' and 45060 'Sherwood Forester'. It is hoped to use the full 15 mile length of the line between Coleford Junction and Meldon.
At the moment the plans are provisional. Please put the date in your diary but keep checking this website and our Facebook page for updates. We will publish more details as soon as they become available.
26/12/15 Note - more details have subsequently been published on the Special Events page.
Departure of 1118
01/12/2015Class 205 unit 1118 left Meldon today by road, heading for the Williton workshop on the West Somerset Railway, where the paintwork damage incurred on its delivery journey will be rectified. It won't be returning to the Dartmoor Railway.
Photographer: Peter Chapman
Photographer: Peter Chapman
Photographer: Peter Chapman
Photographer: Peter Chapman
Photographer: Peter Chapman
So much information was imparted during the afternoon that it wasn't practical to reduce it to a concise news report; instead a detailed report can be found here, with apologies for its unavoidable density. Opinions expressed are not necessarily those of DRSA (but they could be!).
More Polar Express traction
33103 leading a PE trial run at Okehampton
PE at Okehampton at night
45060 and 47701 on the PE stock at Okehampton
2015 Polar Express traction
15/11/2015The motive power for the 2015 Polar Express arrived on the evening of November 14th, along with a couple of extra coaches. 45060 'Sherwood Forester', 47701 'Waverley' formerly of this parish and 33103 'Swordfish' were delivered by the ubiquitous 31601 'Devon Diesel Society'. The acting chairman was out with his camera the following day.
Class 45 45060 'Sherwood Forester' at Okehampton
47701 'Waverley' and 33103 'Swordfish' at Okehampton
Health and Safety course
10/11/201510 DRSA volunteers got up at the crack of dawn on Oct 24th to attend a Health & Safety course at Okehampton Station. The trainer was Ian Hughes of Green Dragon, a specialist railway H&S company which has worked with a number of heritage railways. Ian made it about as interesting as it's possible to make an H&S course and everyone seemed to enjoy it and get plenty from it.
Shortly afterwards we learnt that BARS is no longer using Green Dragon's services, preferring to rely on in-house safety expertise.
DRSA's 10 safest volunteers.
Okehampton model railway
08/11/2015We were delighted to hear from Bletchley based DRSA member Russell Burridge who recently wrote to the Membership Secretary with generous praise for the latest edition of the Pony magazine. Russell, a member of the (Princes) Risborough & District Model Railway Club in Buckinghamshire, described how they continue to progress their 'almost to scale length' O-gauge recreation of Okehampton, dubbed 'O'kehampton for obvious reasons.
Russell has promised to provide a Pony write-up when the layout is finished in about 18 months from now and about to appear on the exhibition circuit. In the meantime he has sent in a few pictures showing progress (below). We wish Russell and his colleagues every success with their project, and look forward to seeing the finished layout.
Photographer: Russell Burridge
Photographer: Russell Burridge
Photographer: Russell Burridge
Bow and North Tawton 150th
04/11/2015The railway opened to Bow and North Tawton on November 1st 1865, and services on Nov 1st this year commemorated the anniversary. For a long time it looked as if we weren't going to be able to run anything. First 1118 picked up a wheel flat problem and had to be hurried to Bristol and back for wheel turning. Then the Den Brook wind farm crossing work looked as if it was going to clash, leaving us unable to run to Bow. Even with these obstacles overcome, track conditions on the day made adhesion very difficult.
We ran three round trips. The original intention was to run to the Network Rail boundary at Coleford Junction, but this was inadvisable because of the slippery track, and eventually we ran to Bridge 583 at Nymet Tracy, where the slight downhill gradient assisted the restart. Trains stopped at Bow on the return journey, and passengers were welcomed by the station's owners.
Numbers were a little disappointing, reflecting the short notice available in which to promote the event, but those who attended were full of praise, and it was an enjoyable end to the season. One of the passengers on the last train of the day was a lady who, as a 10 year old girl, had travelled on the last passenger train on the line in 1972.
Our thanks to all the volunteers who made it a success, especially driver and 1118 owner Nigel Remmington. There is a little more information about the historical background of the anniversary here.
Passengers being greeted at Bow Station
The Thumper crew at Bow.
Class 205 Thumper 1118 on arrival at Okehampton at the end of the Bow & North Tawton sesquicentennial festivities. 1132, currently out of service, is alongside in Platform 2.
1118 getting under way very carefully at Bridge 583 (Nymet Tracey) with the last train of the day.
26/10/2015Thumpers 1132 and 1118 returned to Okehampton today, having been to St Philips Marsh for tyre turning. This is excellent news, as it means 1118 can run the regular service trains on Sat Oct 31st, and the Bow / North Tawton 150th commemorative services on November 1st. Philip Wagstaff always just happens to be around when there is an unusual movement at Okehampton, and took us a couple of photographs.
1132 and 1118 on their return from wheel turning.
1132 and 1118 at Okehampton on their return from wheel turning.
Thumpers off to Bristol
19/10/2015Thumper units 1118 and 1132 departed the railway today for tyre turning at St Philip's Marsh depot, Bristol. They were collected by DCR class 31 31601 'Devon Diesel Society'. It is hoped they will be returned on October 30th. Philip Wagstaff took the following pictures.
31601 arriving at Okehampton to collect the 2 Thumper units.
31601 arriving back at Okehampton from Meldon with the 2 Thumpers in tow.
31601 ready to depart Okehampton
1118 on the back of the train.
South Devon Railway visit
17/10/2015We were delighted to welcome a party from the South Devon Railway today. In the absence of a regular train service from Buckfastleigh to Okehampton they were travelling by Routemaster bus. With 1118 sidelined with a wheel flat problem, and even Lab 11 temporarily out of service, they explored the railway in our latest variant on The Titfield Thunderbolt theme. A good time seemed to be had by all, and it was nice to see the FK full.
LMS brake van 731411, FK 13436 and class 08 D4167. High time we finished repainting the wasp stripes.
The South Devon Railway's rather nice Routemaster bus at Okehampton.
13/10/2015Sadly Sunday September 13th was Mary Trant's last day as manageress of Okehampton Station Buffet. She had been doing the job since August 2008, as well as an earlier stint in the ECT days, and had worked hard to build up the buffet's excellent reputation. Mary will be sorely missed by customers and volunteers alike. We wish her every success with her next venture, and hope she keeps in touch with DRSA.
At the barbecue held to say goodbye to Mary Trant on her penultimate day.
Mary Trant, still hard at work on her last day.
Peninsular Rail Task Force report
14/10/2015The Peninsular Rail Task Force has published its interim report. It can be downloaded via this link but brace yourself - it's a tad heavy going.
11/10/2015First Great Western have been carrying out skidpan training recently at Okehampton, as seen in Philip Wagstaff's photo below.
First Great Western Pacer 143617 taking part in skidpan training.
New Bow running in boards
01/10/2015The Station Maintenance Team's secret weapon, Simon Jeffery, has built new running in boards for Bow station. He installed them on Sept 26th, in advance of the 150th anniversary of the railway reaching Bow and North Tawton which occurs on Nov 1st. Our thanks to Melanie Henrywood for the following pictures.
Simon at work on the Bow running in board
Looking pleased with the finished product
1118 arriving at Bow with the 1025 from Meldon Viaduct
Museum Reopening ceremony
15/08/2015The station museum was formally reopened as the Arthur Westlake Museum at a ceremony on Saturday August 15th. The highly enjoyable event was an opportunity to bring together former local railwaymen, community representatives and DRSA volunteers. It reinforced yet again how much the Okehampton community values its railway.
The event was the brainchild of Museum Adminstrator John Caesar, and was planned and executed by a group of DRSA volunteers too numerous to mention, to all of whom we extend our gratitude. Our grateful thanks are also due to Granite Line Ltd for providing a free return trip to Meldon for the guests, to Mary Trant for the tremendous cakes, and to the BARS crew who pulled out all the stops to ensure Lab 11 was back at Okehampton in time for the event.
A full report is published here.
Former local railwaymen (l to r) Richard Westlake, Gerald Smallacombe, Les Glidden, Terry Midgley and Leonard Phare
Model Railway Exhibition
02/08/2015The annual 'N' gauge model railway exhibition took place today, including a hand crafted tin mine model. Exhibitors came from as far away as Falmouth. Sadly the model shop is no longer in existence to complement the exhibition. Paul Martin took a couple of pictures.
'N' gauge model railway exhibition on the platform at Okehampton
Former DRSA model railway volunteer Stan Agar explains things to enthusiastic youngsters
16/07/2015The Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE) recently commissioned Greengauge 21 to examine the wider impacts of reopening the Plymouth - Tavistock – Okehampton – Exeter railway, as a second main line for Devon and Cornwall. Their report considers the local economic and social impacts of doing so, and is very interesting reading. It can be downloaded from the link below.
More information: http://www.cpre.org.uk/resources/transport/rail/item/3986-rural-reconnections
New General Manager
04/07/2015BARS Executive Vice President Howard William Clark III has announced the appointment of Tiffany Arthurs as General Manager of Dartmoor Railway CIC, with immediate effect.
New Meldon running in board
04/07/2015Meldon has finally got its new running in board, after several months under construction, and a long day to put it up by the Station Maintenance team.
Sue Baxter, the Dartmoor Railway's newest guard, stands alongside the new Meldon running in board.
New running in board at Meldon, constructed and erected by the Station Maintenance Team.
11/05/2015As of Friday April 8th, DRSA is a full corporate member of the Heritage Railway Association, the primary trade association for UK heritage and tourist railways, and preservation groups. We look forward to enjoying the benefits of membership.