South Devon & Moretonhampstead Railway
Great Western Railway
BR Western Region
Originally built in Brunel's 'Broad Gauge - 7' 1/2" (2,140 mm) and opened to the public on 26 June 1866. A public holiday was observed, with people turning out to witness the first journey from Newton Abbot to Moretonhampstead.
In 1861 the Moretonhampstead and South Devon Railway company was formed at the Globe Hotel in Exeter, and in 1862 the bill for making the railway was given Royal Assent. Work on the line commenced in 1863, and the major earthworks (with cuttings and embankments, many still visible today) were complete. All the granite used for construction of the bridges was cut from Lustleigh Cleave. The line was 12 miles, 28 chains (20 km) long.
In 1892, the broad gauge line was replaced by a 4 ft 8 1⁄2 in (1,435 mm) standard gauge format, taking only 32 hours and 60 men to complete - part of the wider conversion of the whole network.
The railway brought tourists to the area. Other users of the service were local industries: farmers' produce, nursery plants and blacksmiths' products were sent by train.
Traffic grew from 1866 to the 1930s and then went into decline. Despite a significant summer tourist trade, featuring in many contemporary guide books, traffic on the branch over the year was not enough to cover rising costs.
In 1957, the possibility of closure was reported in the Mid Devon Advertiser and on 28 February 1959 the last passenger service ran down the line, although a freight operation still ran. The line closed on 6 April 1964.
The last special passenger train ran as far as Bovey Tracey on 5 July 1970; by 8 September the lifting of the track north of Heathfield had been completed. The section of line around the town was converted to use as a road bypass on the A382 road, opening in 1987. The former Bovey railway station was retained at the side of the road and is now a heritage centre.
Oil and china clay trains continued to operate occasionally on the south section of the line below Heathfield for several years, but the remaining section of the branch was taken out of use in 2009 when 'temporary stop blocks' were placed on the line 53 chains (1.1 km) from the junction at Newton Abbot.
However, in December 2011 it was announced that this section of the line would be re-opened to facilitate the transport of timber from Heathfield to North Wales. In the same month a timber siding was opened at Teigngrace, just before the level crossing at Exeter Road, to allow the timber to be loaded onto the freight trains. Due to the lack of a passing loop at Teigngrace, the train and its empty wagons continues up the line to Heathfield where the engine can run around the carriages using the loop in the disused station. The empty freight train then drives back to the timber sidings at Teigngrace to be loaded. Loading of the timber is carried out by the lorries that bring the timber to the sidings.
Several miles of the line between Bovey and Lustleigh, some of which is now a path open to the public, are being developed by the council to become a cycle track known as the Wray Valley Trail. As part of this the previously demolished bridge deck over the A382 road was replaced in March 2011 by a new lattice girder structure. The old Lustleigh station house is visible from the old railway bridge at Brookfield, as are the Brookfield, Caseley and Knowle bridges.
Of Note: Lustleigh station was used in 1931 for the film 'Hound of the Baskervilles', its name being temporarily changed (Ewans 1964).
BOVEY TRACEY STATION