Picture from Wikipedia Commons


Picture from Wikipedia Commons



Picture from Wikipedia Commons

Picture from Wikipedia Commons

Bideford Extension Railway

Ifracombe Branch

London & South Western Railway

Southern Railway

BR Southern Region

Devon & Somerset Railway

Great Western Railway

Lines Closed

North Devon Railway

London & South Western Railway

Southern Railway

BR Southern Region

Tarka Line



Barnstaple Junction

between 1874 to 1970


At its zenith Barnstaple was a junction between four different lines creating a nexus for travel in North Devon. These being the lines to Halwill via Bideford (North Devon & Cornwall Junction Railway (ND&CJR)) (a.k.a. The Bideford Extension Railway), Taunton (Devon & Somerset Railway, (DSR)), Exeter and Ilfracombe, (The North Devon Railway (NDR)). The Devon and Somerset remained GWR after absorbsion, then Western Region, the rest merging into the London & South Western Railway 1 January 1865 and then the Southern Region as part of the 1923 grouping and British Rail at Nationalisation in 1948.


It all began from humble beginnings with a horse drawn railway for goods traffic operated from Fremington Quay. In the early 1840's, when as a combination of the quayside at Barnstaple beginning to silt up and technology advancements allowing the creation of bigger ships with a draft greater that the depth of the river ships a deep water quay was built closer to the mouth of the river Taw, opening in August 1848. On 1 August 1854 the North Devon Railway opened from Barnstaple to Crediton where it connected to the Exeter & Crediton Railway. Trains were extended to Fremington using the former horse drawn railway and an extension to Bideford on 2 November 1855. Hence its coloquial name (Bideford Extension Railway). This route was eventually extended to loop back to Okehampton via Torrington and Halwill Junction via the formation of the ND&CJR.


The station became known as Barnstaple Junction on 20 July 1874 when the NDR opened the Ilfracombe branch line.


On 1 June 1887 a loop line was laid to connect the station with the Devon and Somerset Railway, later taken over by the Great Western Railway, which had opened its own Barnstaple station at Victoria Road as the terminus of the line from Taunton on 1 November 1873.


The station was extended in 1874 for the Ilfracombe services and again in 1924. The first services to be withdrawn were the passenger trains to Bideford on 2 October 1965. Passenger services had been transferred from Victoria Road in January 1960 and the line to Taunton closed on 3 October 1966. Victoria Road remained open for goods traffic, accessed via the loop line from Barnstaple Junction, until 5 March 1970, when it closed entirely. The line to Ilfracombe was closed later that year, on 5 October, and so returning to plain Barnstaple once more.


On 21 May 1971 the track was simplified and the line to Umberleigh was reduced to just one track. A new booking office was opened on 10 November 1981 but goods trains beyond on the Fremington line were withdrawn on 31 August 1982 leaving the station as a terminus.


In 2006 the bridge that carried Sticklepath Hill (the A3125) across the former Bideford and Ilfracombe lines was demolished to make way for a road junction for the Barnstaple Western Bypass, which opened in May 2007. The roundabout here has been built on a raised platform in order to allow for the reopening of the line to Bideford should this be proved viable in the future. Work from the bypass has also included a larger station car park and better bus access – a large number of Barnstaple town services, as well as services to Bideford, Ilfracombe and South Molton now call at the station.


In 2009 the Association of Train Operating Companies included the Barnstaple to Bideford route in its Connecting Communities: Expanding Access to the Rail Network. This recommended some closed lines ought to be rebuilt to restore a railway service to large communities.


The North Devon Railway opened a motive power depot at the station in 1854. A larger building was erected alongside in 1864 by the London and South Western Railway. This building was re-roofed by the Southern Railway in the 1940s, but closed by British Railways in 1964 and demolished.


The cafe at Barnstaple station was opened in 2008 by Mike Day in one of the 'closed' areas of the station building, and it appeared in a list of the ten best station cafes published in The Guardian just one year later.


A footpath from the station leads onto the cycleway along the abandoned railway line to Bideford which forms part of the South West Coast Path.

Barnstaple Junction station in 1964, looking towards Exeter from the road bridge. The tracks entering from the left are from Ilfracombe; those in the foreground lead to Bideford.


Picture from Wikipedia Commons

View of former Platforms 2 & 3 from 1 clearly showing the space where the tracks once laid. It has also been cleared to look nice once again by the Tarka Rail Association, a passenger group in conjunction with Network Rail.


Picture curtesy of Jane Taylor Photography

Taken from roughly where the former road bridge was, you can see in 2014 all the tracks in the foregroundhave become the station car park, the line from Exeter terminating here. The foot Bbridge no longer necessary.


Picture curtesy of Jane Taylor Photography

The station building and forecourt in August 2014. We have not been able to find an historic picture to see what changes have occured, but as you now get to it at the back end of a trading estate it is pretty sure there are many.


Picture curtesy of Jane Taylor Photography



The station was opened in 1874, with the line, and served the villages of Mortehoe and Woolacombe. It was known as Morthoe until 13 May 1902. The station was the location of eminent railway photographer Ivo Peters's first steam train photograph in 1925;[1] and was immortalised in 1964 in the song Slow Train by Flanders and Swann. It was closed to passengers in October 1970 when the branch closed.



The station in 1991Mortehoe station building, during its 'Once Upon a Time' era (2003)

For a number of years the station was the site of a young children's theme park called Once Upon a Time, which was operated by the owners of Watermouth Castle.

"Once Upon a Time"

After lying semi-derelict for many years, in the early 1990s the station was used as the basis for a children's theme park called Once Upon a Time. Four redundant British Railways Mark 1 coaches were craned into position between the platforms, and a number of ex-BR 4-wheel vans (mostly 12-ton "Vanwide" type) were located around the grounds. The former rolling stock was used to contain fairytale animations, while the rest of the station and area around it were used to hold small children's rides. Although opened independently, the attraction was latterly owned by the operators of nearby Watermouth Castle. In 2004, the attraction was sold when the owner was approached by a housing developer. Although the first offer of £500,000 was refused, the developer put in a later offer of £800,000 which was accepted, and the attraction closed at the end of the 2005 season.


Later development

In December 2006, a planning application was lodged for the redevelopment of the site.The plan covered the building of seven units of affordable housing, located in the area currently occupied by the platforms, and 37 units of ("temporary") holiday accommodation, the latter to be known as the Atlantic Lodge Holiday Park, and due to be available from 1 May 2009.[4] The surviving station buildings, including the signal box, would be retained, converted to form a reception area, offices and shop for the holiday accommodation. The design of the houses was intended to be sympathetic to the station building, following the same roofline and using similar building materials. The Tarka Trail would continue to skirt the eastern edge of the site. The planning application consultation period was expected to be completed in April 2007.


By August 2007, all of the external amusement rides and constructions had been auctioned off or demolished, leaving just the main buildings and platforms intact.


By May 2013 the site had been largely completed, with a mixture of permanent and holiday homes. The builder's website showing the completed homes and plans for a third phase.

Picture from Wikipedia Commons