The Bideford Extension Railway
North Devon Railway
Plymouth Devonport & South Western Junction Railway
BR Southern Region
The North Devon Railway allowed the powers for its Bideford extension to lapse Seeing that this put their town at a disadvantage commercial interests in the town formed the Bideford Extension Railway themselves. Powers were obtained on 4 August 1853 and the line opened with matching broad gauge on 2 November 1855, worked from the outset by the North Devon Railway. As a result, the Barnstaple to Fremington section of the original Taw Vale Railway now got its passenger service for the first time. The Bideford station was at East the Water, on the opposite side of the River Torridge from the town and somewhat north of the town's only bridge.
Opened 2 November 1855 aS the Bideford Extension Railway began running passenger services. The line was further extended to Torrington in 1872. Passenger services ceased on 2 October 1965 although ball clay traffic continued until 1982. The track was finally removed in 1985.
Now over 130 years old and was the UK's first Grade 2 Listed signal box. It used to control the signals at Instow Station and also the operation of the level crossing. You can see the wheel that operated the gates, pull the signal levers, one of which still operates a signal, and generally learn how the box worked. In 2003 the box was nationally recognised for its restoration and educational value by receiving the Carillion Rail Award at the National Railway Heritage Awards. The signal box is now managed and run by volunteers of the Bideford Railway Heritage Centre and is open to the public on occasional Sundays and Bank Holidays.
Admission is free but donations to help with the upkeep of the box are gladly accepted. Follow the Tarka Trail to Bideford and visit Bideford Station as well.
The first station in Bideford opened on 2 November 1855 as the terminus. The line being taken over by the London and South Western Railway (LSWR) some ten years afterwards. It was resited in 1872 when the (LSWR) extended the line to Torrington.
Regular passenger trains from Barnstaple were withdrawn on Sat. 2 October 1965 although special trains occasionally used the station until the line was closed in 1982.
After closure a railway preservation society was formed to reopen the station and part of the line. They laid over 200 yards of track in the station and collected some rolling stock and a small diesel locomotive. A train service was operated but they were then forced to close temporarily due to vandalism and a threat to build houses on the trackbed. The site is open to the public and is currently being prepared for service again. See Bideford Railway Heritage Centre.