and the Barnstaple branch
In an effort to find a way of explaining the Norton Fitzwarren triangle situation, I have done a little more "digging" and can offer the following. I am a little more confident that the information is now largely accurate.
The most complete and detailed map and photos can be found at the following web address: http://www.wsr.org.uk/nortonmap.htm This confirms that the triangle land belongs to the West Somerset Railway. The photos I sent of Royal Scot were taken from Allerford Lane. Clicking on the various coloured symbols on the map brings up photos of the marked sites. Since moving to this part of Somerset in September 2020 - and when not prohibited from doing so by Covid lock-downs - I have been a frequent user of the road which crosses Norton Bridge at the northern apex of the triangle. The narrow, busy road and high hedges restrict opportunities for clear views (and prevented me from taking photos) but I have seen glimpses of yellow-painted Network Rail ballast wagons being hauled around the west side of the triangle towards the spent ballast plant which is located close to Norton Bridge and has road access from Allerford lane. Also, from time to time, grey-painted ballast wagons belonging to the WSR have also been seen on the extra triangle chord just behind the platform. I have not seen either of these for quite a few weeks now. The nearby Fairwater Yard where NR handles its high-output ballast train workings seems to be the source of occasional deliveries of spent ballast and I believe that this, when cleaned, is sold on either for further railway use on the West Somerset or as hardcore to local hauliers.
The triangle site has been used by the WSR for its steam rallies, sadly cancelled again this year. The passenger platform has provided access to the site via a shuttle train service from Bishops Lydeard. There is normally no public access to the triangle land - and with spent ballast trains using the triangle lines, this is understandable. A video (link below) was taken from the front of a dmu between Bishops Lydeard and the new exchange platform beside the Norton Fitzwarren triangle and was filmed when the WSR was running shuttles in connection with one of its steam rallies held on the land behind the platform within the triangle.
The usefulness of the triangle is also shown in a video (link below) of a pair of locos using the Norton Fitzwarren triangle to turn. Note that the site of the spent ballast plant appears at about 1 minute 30 seconds but the second chord along the east to north side of the triangle has yet to appear.
Taunton to Barnstaple explored from the air.
You might like to have maps handy during this session.
Moving away from the Norton Fitzwarren triangle, I came across a remarkable video (link below) compiled from Google Earth, "flying" over complete Taunton-Barnstaple route. The roundabout on the site of Milverton Station (at which I photographed the Royal Blue coach) appears at 3 mins 34 secs into the video. Note that, between Milverton and Wiveliscombe the video briefly takes a wrong route (from 4 mins 22 secs to 4 mins 40 secs) following the road rather than the course of the railway. What is very noticeable throughout the video is that it would be well-nigh impossible to reinstate this railway due to the large number of locations where it has been built over. The line's remoteness from population centres is also very clear and explains why, even though it would have benefited Barnstaple in providing a more direct route to the GW main line than the present route to Exeter, the passenger traffic potential between Barnstaple and Taunton must have been very small.
I hope the above information and links might be of some use to you - and perhaps to users of the CRS web site. Any factual errors are mine - and not those of the CRS!
Viewers will have a fascinating 40 minutes watching the various clips.
Reduced Track from Laira
I'll see if I can visit the area this coming weekend and take some photographs.
Retired S&T Engineer
GW628 LAIRA JN/LIPSON JN TO CATTEWATER TURNCHAPEL JN WITH IMMEDIATE EFFECT
In connection with Network Change, ref STNC/G1/2020/WEST/700, the line beyond Laira Depot servicing platform Stop Board at 245m 18ch, close to Turnchapel Jn has been taken out of use. A new stop block has been provided at 245m 20ch and 623 handpoints have been plain lined.
Retired S&T Engineer
More pictures of the L & B can be found in our section on Military and Industrial Railways.