First ever visit to Devon of a Class 69
69003 leading 69004
3Q00 1158 Woking Up Yard Reception. to Exeter Riverside N.Y.
Meeth Halt and Chelfham Viaduct
The story of a day trip from Plymouth to Lynton was related in Part 20 on 18 May 2023; and how such trips were usually accompanied by stops enroute to photograph a train or two, if the timing was right, and if not some railway infrastructure. On this particular day, Bank Holiday Monday 11 June 1962 there were two railway stops on the outward trip to Lynton and one on the return leg several hours later. The first stop was at a bridge over the Barnstaple to Taunton line between Barnstaple and the first station at Swimbridge. The line passed north of and within half a mile of the village of Landkey, but a station or halt was never provided which seems quite remiss of the GWR in view of the number of platforms and halts they did provide in the 1920s and 1930s to much smaller settlements. A minor road headed north from Landkey and passed over the line on an overbridge. I think we probably stopped here to eat our sandwiches while the next train was awaited. I walked along the top of the cutting a short distance west of the bridge to photograph the 1.17pm Barnstaple Junction to Taunton train some six minutes into its 100 minute journey to Taunton. The train consisted of a bogie parcels van and three passenger coaches hauled by Churchward Mogul 6372. The engine was a regular on the line and a long-term resident of Taunton Shed continuously from before nationalisation until withdrawal in December 1963. The railway line closed completely in October 1966 and the bridge has been replaced by a much longer one which now spans the North Devon Link Road, constructed along the alignment of the railway in parts. The road is numbered the A361 which is an interesting road as it wends its way from Ilfracombe across Devon and then across the full width of the Counties of Somerset, Wiltshire and Oxfordshire before entering Nothamptonshire and terminating at Kilsby where it joins the A5 – the Holyhead Road. The A361 is the longest three-digit A road in the whole of the United Kingdom running for about 210 miles in total. Apart from 15-20 miles at each end the road runs wholly through GWR and Western Region territory.
The next stop was just two miles further north but would probably have taken in excess of ten minutes to reach because of the very narrow roads. I did not realise before that the two railways were just so close but here we were only three miles out of Barnstaple and from here the two lines would diverge rapidly. The second line was the narrow gauge Lynton & Barnstaple and I had come to see the wonderful Chelfham Viaduct for the first, and only, time. The viaduct was constructed in 1896-7 to carry the line across a valley at a height of 21 metres and is 121 metres long consisting of eight arches. It was built of cream bricks from the works at Peters Marland which began their near 30 mile journey from the brickworks to the site on the 3-foot gauge Torrington & Marland Railway of 1881. Although the L&B closed in 1935 the viaduct survived to be extensively restored in the year 2000 and has been listed Grade II since 1965. Chelfham Viaduct was the largest structure on any English narrow gauge railway system. Both from ground level and from photographs it is hard to realise that it is not carrying a single line of standard gauge track. A magnificent structure. I took a couple of photographs and we moved on to Lynton and the top end of the cliff railway.
We arrived at Lynton parked up and took a trip down the cliff railway to see Lynmouth and its harbour. In 1962 it was just ten years since the disastrous floods of Friday 15 August 1952 which was still very fresh in everyone's minds. After 70 years the Lynmouth flood disaster of 1952 remains the worst river flood experienced in the UK. More than 100 buildings were detroyed and 34 people lost their lives. We stayed a couple of hours and then set out for the journey home via the centre of Barnstaple this time. First stop was just outside the village of Meeth on the A376 and roughly half way home. We had travelled this way in the morning but not stopped. A quarter of a mile south of this small village a railway line crossed the A376 on an ungated level crossing. Trains were required to stop and whistle before carefully crossing if the traffic had stopped, because this was a Light Railway constructed in accordance with the 1896 Act of Parliament. The speed limit on the whole of the line was 25mph, although it was not part of the 1896 Act but dated back much further to an Act of 1868. There is just one line left on the national network still operated as a light railway and that is the Heart of Wales line. The line that passed through Meeth was the North Devon and Cornwall Junction Light Railway opened on 27 July 1925 and closed on 1 March 1965, although freight continued to be carried at the northern end for a few years. An unstaffed halt was provided adjacent to the level crossing and was photographed as the 6.30pm from Halwill Junction to Torrington train passed consisting of just one passenger coach hauled by an Ivatt 2-6-2 tank. The photograph was used as a mystery photo in Part 19 and there were a couple of clues. There were few one-coach corridor coach steam trains in the west country in the 1960s and most of them were a single autocoach. The other was the ballast, as with lower speeds and lower axle loads light railways often used poor quality ballast, as here, that would not be considered for a normal standard-gauge railway. However a point worth noting in the second photo is that, although the ballast is poor, the sleepers appear to be closer together than normal. Meeth was the final stop at the end of a great day out with railway photos taken at four different locations, including the cliff railway.
MLR / 27 May 2023
CRS trip to the Gartell Railway.
Bits and pieces
I first caught the 33’s at Hollicombe Beach, then took a quick drive over to Goodrington to see them arrive and run around.
I watched 37275 do a few trips over the P&DSR at Goodrington sidings, Goodrington bank and at Waterside, also saw their tank engine at Waterside on a Kingswear to Paignton service.
Then up to Kingkerswell to see the 33’s heading back up the branch again at the end of the day.
A nice day with the sea air, sunshine and diesel fumes!
All the Best
1. WCR 33029 and 33025 with 1Z25 07.00 Burton On Trent-Paignton Rail Tour passing Langstone Rock, Dawlish Warren 29.5.2023
2. 33025 now leading 33029 as they pass Cockwood Harbour with the return 1Z29 16.30 Paignton-Burton On Trent 29.5.2023
3. In between the Tour, celebrity 43184 'Laira Diesel Depot' leading 1S53 13.27 Plymouth-Edinburgh (with 43239) passing Dawlish 29.5.2023
(2) A welcome return of class 33s to the Devon mainline as they are very infrequent visitors. Pretty much all BR blue and white aircons. Just a shame West Coast Railways persist with this drab dull maroon livery rather than do the Cromptons up in blue with full yellow ends or even lined green. This is Pathfinders' Crompton Torbay Venturer 1Z25 07.00 Burton-On-Trent to Paignton railtour with 33025 and 33029.
(3) Now to Paignton as 37275 arrives with the 14.15 from Kingswear. The 37 did a number of trips in conjunction with the arrival of the railtour.
(4) West Coast 33029 & 33025 thrash out of Paignton with the Pathfinders' Crompton Torbay Adventurer 1Z29 16.30 Paignton to Burton-On-Trent.
2. Running around in Goodrington Sidings shortly after arrival at Paignton.
3. After run around in Goodrington Sidings.
4. 37275 passes the 33s at Goodrington working 14.05 Kingswear to Paignton.
5. 37275 climbs Goodrington Bank working 14.50 Paignton to Kingswear.
6. 37275 on the return journey at Waterside working 15.20 Kingswear to Paignton.
7. 33025 + 33029 at Kingskerswell working 1Z29 1630 Paignton to Burton-on-Trent.