DEVON & SOMERSET RAILWAY

Licence. Excellent picture showing the single coach push pull train of the T&NDR in the bay platform. Being the terminus of that line.

 

© Copyright Richard Green and licensed for reuse under Creative Commons

 

 

 

© Copyright Richard Green and licensed for reuse under Creative Commons

THE DEVON & SOMERSET RAILWAY

GREAT WESTERN RAILWAY

BR WESTERN REGION

 

Opened in stages between 1871 and 1873, the D&SR connected Barnstaple to Taunton. A single track through rural Devon it never achieved great importance, although it carried through services to the seaside resort of Ilfracombe for a period, closeing in 1966.

 

The first 7¼ mile (12 km) section of the line was opened on 8 June 1871, from Watchet Junction (later Norton Fitzwarren) to Wiveliscombe on the edge of Exmoor. The remaining 35¾ miles (58 km) to Barnstaple opened on 1 November 1873. The line used its own station at Barnstaple (later to be named Victoria Road).

 

The line was built as 7 ft (2,134 mm) broad gauge and operated by the B&ER. The last broad gauge train ran on 14 May 1881, after which the line was converted to 4 ft 8 1⁄2 in (1,435 mm) standard gauge and reopened on 18 May.

 

In 1884 the Tiverton and North Devon Railway opened from a junction on the D&SR to Tiverton. The Tiverton services started from Dulverton and ran over the D&SR as far as Morebath Junction where they diverged southwards, and that line was later extended to Exeter.

 

In 1890 the GWR appointed a Mrs Towns as signalwoman at Morebath Junction. She is the only recorded example of a signalwoman on any railway in Britain in the 19th century. In October 1913 the Railway Magazine quoted her as "very proud" of her job after 23 years service and hoped to continue indefinitely.

 

Conversion to standard gauge enabled a connection to the London and South Western Railway at Barnstaple. This was opened on 1 June 1887, after which GWR trains ran through to Ilfracombe via Barnstaple and the LSWR.

 

The GWR acquired the Devon and Somerset Railway in 1901. On 1 July 1905 an avoiding line was opened at Barnstaple which allowed through trains to Ilfracombe to run directly to the LSWR station without having to reverse in the D&SR terminus.[6] During the 1930s the line carried heavy traffic on summer weekends and automatic token equipment was installed to allow trains to pass token exchange points at higher speeds.

 

In 1937 the junction at Norton Fitwarren was modified to allow an easier route from the main line, and the single track as far as Milverton was doubled.

 

On 1 January 1948 the GWR was nationalised to become partof British Railways. The D&SR station was named Barnstaple Victoria Road from 26 September 1949 to distinguish it from Barnstaple Junction and Barnstaple Town railway stations, the former Southern Railway stations. Victoria Road station closed to passengers on 12 June 1960, after which all through trains ran directly to Barnstaple Junction. On 1 October 1966 the last train ran on the line; Victoria Road remained open for freight traffic, served from Barnstaple Junction, until 30 May 1970.

 

The pillars of Castle Hill Viaduct have been reused for the North Devon Link road (A361)

The line featured steep gradients; 16.75 miles (26.96 km) were at 1 in 60 (1.7%) or steeper, and much of the rest was steeper than 1 in 140 (0.7%). The principal engineering works on the railway were:

 

The first section of the line from a junction west of Taunton to Wiveliscombe opened on 8 June 1871; there was one intermediate station, at Milverton. A station was opened at the junction on the main line on 1 June 1873; it was named at Norton Fitzwarren. The section from Wiveliscombe to Barnstaple opened on 1 November 1873 with nine new stations, but two more were added later, one in 1928 and the other in 1932.

 

The stations are described here from east to west. Unless otherwise stated, each opened with its respective section of line; goods services were withdrawn from 6 July 1964, and the stations closed after the passage of the last passenger train on 1 October 1966.

 

Norton Fitzwarren

2 miles (3 km) west of Taunton, in 1843. The West Somerset Railway (WSR) was opened from Norton Junction to Watchet in 1862, and when the D&SR opened in 1871 it made a connection to the WSR just west of the original Norton Junction. A station was opened on the main line on the east side of the junction on 1 June 1873 to serve all three routes. On 7 February 1937 the connection to the D&SR was moved from the WSR to its own junction direct to the main line, and the line was doubled as far as Milverton.

 

The station was closed for passenger traffic on 30 October 1961, and public goods traffic on 6 July 1964.

 

opened through Norton Fitzwarren on 1 May 1843, but the nearest station was 2 miles (3 km) east at Taunton. On 31 March 1862 the original West Somerset Railway was opened to Watchet, leaving the Exeter line at Norton Junction, but still no station was provided. The first section of the Devon and Somerset Railway to Wiveliscombe opened on 8 June 1871, making a connection into the West Somerset line just west of the junction with the Exeter line.[1][2]

 

The first two-platform station was finally opened at the junction on 1 June 1873, located immediately east of the junction (at 51°01′24″N 3°08′57″W). On the northern platform side closest to the village was a small station building, a hotel and the goods yard.[3] Both the branch lines were operated by the B&ER until 1 January 1876 when it was amalgamated with the Great Western Railway.[1][2]

 

In 1931 the GWR started a project to quadruple the track between Cogload Junction (where the mainline from Bristol Temple Meads and the north met the Castle Cary cut-off line from Yeovil, Reading and London Paddington), for the 7 miles (11 km) south through Taunton to Norton Fitzwarren. The existing station buildings were demolished, to allow a new up-relief line to be built north of the existing northern platform, followed by the creation of a down relief road south of the southern platform. A new metal passenger bridge was erected, connecting the new station buildings to the north with both island platforms. The completion of the project also allowed the GWR to create the large regional goods facility at Fairwater Yard, located just east of the station. The whole project was brought into operation on 2 December 1931.[2][3]

 

World War 2: US Army Depot G-50[edit]

Main article: Norton Manor Camp

At the start of World War II, the Royal Army Service Corps choose the relatively large scale station serving the small community as the ideal location for a new logistics depot. Finished at the end of 1941, it was immediately taken over by the United States Army as part of Operation Bolero in early 1942, one of their 18 supplies depots within the United Kingdom. Redesignated Quartermaster General Depot G-50, they equipped it with extensive railway sidings to the northeast of the railway station.[4]

 

Part of the reasoning behind the choice of the depot, was that it was one of five within the 18 designated as a US Army Medical Corps supplies depot. Medical supplies were allocated 110,680 square feet (10,283 m2) of under cover storage, and a further 25,000 square feet (2,300 m2) outside.[5] The US Army also locally developed the 67th General Hospital at Musgrove Park. Both facilities under the control of the US Army Medical Corps came into operation on 1 September 1942.[6][7]

 

Closure[edit]

On 1 January 1948 the railways were nationalised and Norton Fitzwarren became a part of the Western Region of British Railways. Passenger traffic was withdrawn on 30 October 1961,[2] after which passengers for the two branches had to once again change trains at Taunton until these routes were closed on 3 October 1966 (the Devon and Somerset line) and 4 January 1971 (West Somerset line).[3] The goods yard continued to operate until 6 July 1964, when the logistics facilities of Norton Manor Camp closed.[2]

 

The goods facilities had always handled a large volume of locally grown cider apples, and on 1 March 1983 a private siding utilising much of the former up-relief road connection to the WSR was opened into the Taunton Cider Company’s factory on the northwest side of the former station site.[2][8] Although this factory has since closed,[3] it was this private siding that allowed the West Somerset Railway, in its new heritage railway guise, to be connected to the national railway network.[2][9]

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Milverton

initially just a single platform on the south side of the line with a brick building. A passing loop and second platform were installed in 1880; the line east to Norton Fitzwarren was doubled on 7 February 1937. The station had a signal box on the westbound platform and a small goods yard to the west of the station on the same side of the line. Goods traffic was withdrawn from 30 September 1963. No trace now remains of the station; the route of the line to the west is now part of the B3227 road.

 

Wiveliscombe station was in Somerset and acted as the temporary terminus of the line from 8 June 1871 until1 November 1873. During this time it had a turntable for turning the locomotives, but this was moved to Barnstaple when the line was extended there. Trains could pass at Wiveliscombe and two platforms were provided. The main stone-built offices and signal box were on the eastbound platform and a waiting shelter was provided for people heading towards Barnstaple. The goods yard and brick goods shed were behind the station buildings and accessed from the line to the east of the station. Goods traffic ceased from 6 July 1964. The main station building and goods shed remain as part of an industrial estate that has built up on the site

 

A single platform was provided on the south side of the line two miles south-west of the village of Molland in Devon. A passing loop and second platform were added in 1876. From March 1876 the name was changed from 'Molland' to 'Bishops Nympton and Molland'; the village of Bishops Nympton was three miles south-west of the station.

 

A small goods yard with a goods shed was provided on the south side of the station, with rail access from the west end. The signal box was on the south side of the line, initially towards the east end of the platform. In 1902 the loop and platforms were lengthened westwards and a new signal box was provided in the goods yard. The loop was again extended in 1937, this time eastwards, and a larger signal box was built at the east end of the platform

 

Goods traffic was retained until 3 August 1964. Since being closed both the station building and the goods shed have been converted into houses and the eastbound platform remains within the station house's garden.

 

The passing loop at South Molton in Devon was the most westerly passing place on the D&SR line when it opened. Being close to the town centre it was much more convenient than South Molton Road which had opened on the North Devon Railway in 1854 but was 8 miles (13 km) away. The station had a large building on the westbound platform comprising a station master's house and waiting rooms, a booking hall and offices. The up platform had only a small wooden shelter and there was no footbridge. There was also a goods yard to the west of the station, with a 60-foot (18 m) goods shed and cranes. The passing loop was lengthened eastwards in 1907 and westward in 1937. The signal box was on the westbound platform, initially at the west end but this was replaced by one at the east end.

 

Goods traffic was withdrawn on 3 August 1964; the former goods shed is in industrial use. The station building survived until about 2003 but was then demolished. The railway route now forms part of the North Devon Link Road.

 

This station was opened as "Castle Hill", being named after a local mansion owned by Earl Fortescue. A single platform was provided on the north side of the line with passenger facilities in a stone building. A small goods yard and goods shed were at the west end of the station. It was renamed 'Filleigh' on 1 January 1881 after the nearby village so as to avoid confusion with Castle Hill station in London (which itself has since been renamed West Ealing).

 

It remained a single-platform station through 1876 and 1902 capacity improvements along the line, but on 20 June 1937 was given a passing loop and second platform, although no shelter was provided for this. The original signal box at the east end of the original platform was replaced at the same time by one in the goods yard. The goods yard was closed from 3 August 1964 and the signal box and loop likewise on 6 September 1964. After closure to passengers the station building was used as a house until it was demolished when the North Devon Link Road was built through the site.

 

This station served the village of Swimbridge in Devon. It had just a single platform on the south side of the line until a second platform and passing loop were provided from 19 February 1904. The goods shed was on a loop line opposite the original platform, and so from 1904 was behind the westbound platform. The original small signal box was at the east end of the original platform, but was replaced by one in the middle of that platform when the loop was lengthened. Goods traffic was withdrawn from 3 August 1964. The site is now been taken over by the North Devon Link Road.

 

The D&SR terminus was on the eastern side of Barnstaple in Devon. The long single platform was on the north side of the line; the track on the south side of this was mainly used for the arrivals while a shorter track on the north side used for departures. The passenger building was wooden. An extensive goods yard with a large stone goods shed was on the south side of the station, while at the eastern end of this was the small locomotive shed and turntable.

 

The station was known simply as 'Barnstaple' by the GWR but from 26 September 1949 became 'Barnstaple Victoria Road' to differentiate it from the other stations in the town: Barnstaple Junction and Barnstaple Town. All passenger services were diverted to Barnstaple Junction from 13 June 1960, but Victoria Road remained open for freight traffic until 30 May 1970. The station buildings have now been demolished and the site is part of an industrial estate, however, the goods shed survives and is used as a church.

 

Services[edit]

Five passenger and two goods trains were scheduled to operate daily in the October 1880 timetable, as they still were immediately before World War I. By 1898 through coaches were detached from trains from London Paddington and the North of England at Taunton then conveyed over the line to Barnstaple Junction and Ilfracombe attached to local trains. Through trains from Paddington to Ilfracombe were running in the summer by 1905. Before World War II the passenger service had increased to seven trains.

 

The line started at Taunton, then branched off a few miles down the track where later they builts Norton Fitzwarren station. It then continued north and west to Milverton and Wiveliscombe in Somerset before reaching Venn cross stradling the Devon Somerset boarder so being the point at which this artice picks up the story.

 

VENN CROSS

 

A single platform and siding were provided on the southern side of the line at the western end of the Venn Cross tunnel. The station's location, in a cutting 666 feet (203 m) above sea level, meant that it was prone to being blocked by snow.[16] One of the signals was of an special design with a central pivot to allow it to be seen through Venn Cross tunnel.[17] A crossing loop was installed with a second platform in February 1905. The station had a signal box on the westbound platform. The goods shed and the western end of the platforms were in Devon, while the main station buildings were in Somerset. Goods traffic was withdrawn from 30 September 1963. The station building and the station master's house are still in residential use and the goods shed has also been converted into a house. Some GWR railings and signals remain nearby.

 

Today the whole station and goods yard site has become Venn Cross Railway Gardens run by volunteers and opened for charity. Web site www.ngs.org.uk/gardens/find-a-garden/garden.aspx?id=25589

Morebath Junction HALT

 

The next station was two miles east of the village of Morebath in Devon. When opened it was known as 'Morebath and Bampton', but from 1 August 1884 Bampton was served by its own station on the new Tiverton and North Devon Railway and the D&SR station became just 'Morebath'. The station originally had a single platform on the south side of the line, but a second track and platform were added in 1876. The loop was lengthened westwards from 6 June 1937 and the platforms were extended in wood. The goods yard was to the south of the original platform and accessed from the eastern end. The 1876 signal box was on the north side of the line at the west end of the station, but a new box was provided as part of the 1937 alterations and situated at the west end of the main station building on the south side of the line. The goods yard was closed from 3 June 1963 and the passing loop and signal box were taken out of use at the same time. The station building and goods shed are both now used as houses.

The Tiverton line joined the D&SR at Morebath Junction but its trains continued to Dulverton, the next station towards Barnstaple. A small, unstaffed station was opened at the junction on 1 December 1928. Trains on both lines called there, so it had a more frequent service than at Morebath station, and the halt was much nearer the village, but could be reached only by an often muddy footpath across fields.

Dulverton

 

This the largest intermediate station on the Devon and Somerset line was situated about two miles south of the town it served, to which it was connected by bus for many years. It was also close to the small village of Brushford. Although it was in Somerset, the stations on either side were in Devon.[19][20] From 1 August 1884 it was also the terminus of trains to Tiverton which, from 1 May 1885 ran through to Exeter St Davids.

 

Dulverton was a passing place for trains from the outset. The main buildings, including a house for the station master, were on the eastbound platform. This was connected by a covered footbridge to the westbound platform. A second track was added on the south side for the Tiverton service in 1902; initially a terminal track, it became a loop line in 1910. The goods shed was in a small yard on the north side of the line, but further sidings were added on the south side of the station, where there was also a small turntable. The first signal box was at the west end of the south-side sidings; it was replaced in 1908 by one on the eastbound platform next to the goods shed. Goods traffic ceased from 6 July 1964. The signal box was closed on 31July 1966 and the old eastbound platform was then used for trains in both direction for the remaining two months before the line closed. The station buildings survived as part of the Caernarvon Arms Hotel.

East Anstey

 

The station at East Anstey in Devon was built with just a single platform on the south side of the line. A passing loop and second platform were brought into use in 1876 and extended in 1910 and again in 1937. It is the highest point of the D&SR line, nearly 800 feet (240 m) above sea level. The goods shed and small goods yard were at the west end of the platform. A crossing loop was installed with a second platform in 1876, the signal box being built on the original platform.

 

The station was used as a location setting for the Ealing Studios 1944 film The Halfway House.[22]

 

Goods traffic ceased from 30 September 1963. Both the station building and the goods shed have been converted into houses.

Yeo Mill Halt

 

Yeo Mill Halt the last station to be built on the D&SR route, opening on 27 June 1932. It had a single wooden platform and waiting shelter on the north side of the single track. It was unstaffed and managed from East Anstey station, 1.5 miles (2.4 km) to the east. It was demolished after the line was closed.