London & South Western Railway
BR Southern Region
BR Western Region
THE BUDE BRANCH
For those of you who are thinking 'Hang on a minute, Bude is in Cornwall'. Correct my friend, but this was originally a Devon only line, later being extended to Bude.
Built by the LSWR and opened in 1879, the Bude branch as it is usually known was a line built to serve Holsworthy, and only in 1898 extended to Bude, in Cornwall. Increasing prosperity for the town for a while as the new concept of a holiday by the sea took off.
It branched from their main Exeter to Plymouth route at Meldon Junction, a little to the west Meldon Viaduct outside Okehampton, on the northern edge of Dartmoor. In fact these days the Granite Way Cycle Path which runs on the old track bed to Tavistock is but 100 meters or so from the almost motorway standard upgrade to the A30 which severed the old line route approximately 200 meters north of the junction site.
In the following 19 years, the importance of Bude rose as a regional centre, and combined with people generally having more free time and the notion of seaside holidays had gained in importance. On 10 August 1898 the line was finally extended to Bude. The neighbouring inland town of Stratton was still considered by its residents to be more important, and it is said that the station at Bude was short of the town centre to appease Stratton. However there was a wharf siding line extending from near the station to a tidal harbour.
The area was a major producer of meat, and a heavy traffic was carried on in meat to London and the Midlands cities. However, the low population density in the district and the lengthy and difficult railway connection via Okehampton and Crediton, meant that when car ownership and road lorry usage became popular in the 1950s, the line's traffic went into decline.
In 1925 the North Devon and Cornwall Junction Light Railway was opened, connecting Halwill and Torrington. From that date, Halwill signal box may have been the most complex all-single-line junction in the country, with single line operation from the Okehampton direction, onwards towards Wadebridge and Bude, and northwards towards Torrington.