Regards, Clive Smith. Many thanks Clive.
1. A new deviation on the seaward side in the Dawlish area. This has been seriously discussed by some authorities. My first reaction is to think of the Tay Bridge, 1879. Can they be serious? This would probably be the cheapest option and therefore the most appealing to the Treasury; the arguments against scream so loud that I will insult no-one’s intelligence by enumerating them.
2 . An inland route avoiding Dawlish altogether.
Most would agree that option 2 is the only starter, but which route?
(a) The Teign Valley line. This quiet branch line was opened in 1882 as a standard gauge affair, running from Heathfield to a spot known as Teign House, near Christow (Teign House is a pub –still open today).
The line was built to serve local mines and quarries and the company owned and operated a single passenger train. Unfortunately, the TV was standard gauge and its only outlet to the world –the Moretonhampstead branch –was broad gauge. An extension to Exeter (City Basin Junction) was opened by the GWR in 1903. The line closed to all traffic in stages from 1958 till 1967.
The 1903 section contained two tunnels –Perridge and Culver, on either side of Longdown station. It is often said that the poor state of at least one of the tunnels would prevent a reopening of the line. Not so. Both tunnels were bored at the behest of the owner of the Culver estate, who did not want to see passing trains (or perhaps for the passengers to see him) and they could be opened out without difficulty.
The Teign Valley line became a low-grade diversion route during World War Two: a double junction was installed at Heathfield, crossing loops were extended at Trusham and Christow and an emergency crossing loop (unused under normal circumstances) provided at Longdown.
Following closure (n.b. Trusham to Christow closed because of floods, in 1961) two miles or so near Chudleigh are buried under the A38. The trackbed through the Culver estate (Longdown station was entirely within the estate) was re-acquired by the estate per the original act of parliament, after the line closed. Any re-opening would require several stretches of new formation, particularly around Chudleigh and around Heathfield, where the old junction between the two lines was on a sharp curve and not suitable for trains at speed.
The disadvantages are that the old route was single, prone to flooding in places and any reopening would need the purchase of a lot of land.
The GWR was well aware of the Dawlish coastal problem and had developed a plan in the 1930s.
The plan evolved in three stages, based on two acts of parliament passed in 1936.
The first draft of the plan comprised a new inland line diverging just south of Exminster at the eastern end, tunneling under Holcombe down (a long tunnel of 2624 yards and 3 shorter ones) and regaining the existing main line near Bishopsteignton, on the banks of the Teign just east of Newton Abbot. 16 miles. The existing coastal line would remain as a secondary local route.
A shorter version of this had the new line diverging inland at Cockwood and rejoining at Hackney sidings, Newton Abbot. This version would be 8 miles long.
The final version was closer to the first option (Exminster to NA) and land purchases began. Surveyors were still at work when war came in 1939.
The Western Region sold off the land that they had in the 1950s and the acts of parliament lapsed at the end of the 20th century.
Any revival of this plan would provide a clean, fast route to the west, but costs would surely be very high.
(c) The former Southern Railway main line Cowley Bridge-Okehampton-Tavistock-Plymouth.
The LSWR completed this route in 1891, double track all the way. The route was severed in 1968, leaving
1. A single line stub from St Budeaux to Bere Alston, also serving the Gunnislake branch.
2. A 5.5 mile stretch from Bere Alston to Tavistock, likely to be rebuilt in coming years.
3. 14 miles of former trackbed, some having reverted to farming,plus a few building developments, running from Tavistock through Lydford, to Meldon.
4. Extant railway (the Dartmoor Railway and Network Rail), all in good order.
Being a former double-track main line, the revival of the route as a main line diversionary route is made somewhat easier. Ideas so far published envisage a single line route throughout, with long loops (i.e. intermittent stretches of double track).
Devon County Council enthusiastically supports the Bere Alston to Tavistock revival, which is going ahead separately from the grander scheme. DCC intigated a survey of public opinion about the Tavistock scheme in 2013. It explained to people that the scheme involved the construction of 750 new homes and a school at Tavistock, constructed by Bovis, the developer which would finance much of the railway revival. 1250 people, all living within 500 metres of the railway route and all landowners were asked what they thought: 62% of the total either ‘strongly supported’ or ‘supported’ the railway. Of the remaining 38% (neutral, against, very opposed) no less than 68% of the ‘opposed’ and ‘very opposed’ were because of the large housing development and its feared effects, not because of the railway per se.
I am being selective here, of course. Those interested should consult ‘The Tavistock to Bere Alston railway and trail project’ published by DCC.
The popularity of the Dartmoor Railway project and the responses of the denizens of Tavistock paint an encouraging picture.
The greatest obstacle in the rebuilding of this route (other than political inertia) is, of course, the ‘missing link’. Fortunately, this is mostly farmland (not of the highest quality) and open moor. Some stations have been converted into charming dwellings. Some trackbed has been re-absorbed into the farmland from which it came, yet other stretches are simply returning to the wild.
Both Meldon viaducts (for Meldon is in fact two trestles interlaced) are considered beyond any future use, so a new viaduct at Meldon would probably form the most expensive part of this particular route revival.
Conclusion: The ‘seaward’ scheme would still fail or have to close in storm conditions. Best forgotten. The Teign valley is, despite the ghastliness of the ‘Devon Expressway’ still a very pretty part of the world. One envisions heavy NIMBYISM on the scale of what has happened (and is still happening) as the HS2 comes closer to crossing the’Midsomer Murders’ area of Buckinghamshire.
The GW inter-war scheme, with its heavy tunneling, will be very expensive indeed.
Which leaves us with the Southern main line via Okehampton. If the Tavistock plan succeeds in coming years, then a further revival stands a chance. The economic benefits for mid- and north Devon will be considerable, for a diversionary route for Dawlish would only be a small part of the benefits of putting Okehampton , Lydford and Tavistock back on the railway map and the putting of Bude, Holsworthy and the north devon coast within easy reach of a railway.
President Trump comments that the bitingly cold weather at present afflicting the USA contradicts the whole concept of global warming: let him come to Dawlish!
Please note that this item from Roy Hart was received hours before an announcement on the 4th February 2019 concerning the strengthening of the walls at Dawlish to keep this route open. Many thanks to Roy Hart.
Postscript - From a letter received from Roy Hart this morning (6th February 2019) concerning the Dawlish problem 'I looked at the NR plan: 300 metres of new sea wall and a bit of tinkering at Parsons Tunnel. This will not stop line closures from crumbling cliffs and violent storms. It will make some Dawlish residents happy but make little difference to the big picture, which remains the same: the need for a decent diversionary route. Roy'
Well worth Clicking
In the column just right of centre are the destination station numbers (STANOX), many of which are still in use today. Cornwall numbers began with "85," centred on St. Blazey, "85220." The list begins with five loaded milk tanks for "85615," which must be Dolcoath.
Cheers, Colin Many thanks Colin - much of interest on your site