A grand day out in glorious weather on which everything went to plan many thanks to the timetable skills of our outdoor events secretary Roger Winnen.
As usual on these events the party of ten gradually gathered together as the 06.50 from Penzance made its way from Cornwall into Devon. At Exeter we changed on to the 10.30 service to Barnstaple where we arrived on time to catch the service 21 Stagecoach bus to Instow. It must be said that Stagecoach have a grand set of buses, much better than those used to provide First services in Cornwall.
At Instow leaving the bus perhaps a stop too early, we had a pleasant walk along the back of the beach to the signalbox at Instow. Nice to see a permanent reminder of the railways presence in the area. We had ample time to explore the rail route back to Instow tunnel, walk the stations remaining down platform, complete with sign, and see the original up platform building which were easily recognisable when compared with old photographs. It was just possible to see into the interior of the preserved signalbox by climbing to steps towards the foot of which there was a platform from which the signalman would have taken and received the tokens.
To find out more about the Tarka Valley Railway Project use this link - http://www.tarkavalleyrailway.co.uk
We arrived at Torrington station right on time at 14.12 and here we were met by the Chairman of the Tarka Valley Railway Rodney Garner and within minutes he was joined by the former chairman of the Tarka Valley Railway Phil Simpkin. Together these very well informed and genial gentlemen gave us a conducted tour of the site which is based on the grand building on the up platform of Torrington station. This building has until very recently been used as a Public House ‘The Puffing Billy’ of which Phil Simpkin was ‘mine host’.
At the Halwill Junction end of the platform lie a brakevan and clay hood. Access to the remaining stock on our visit was around the station buildings via the gardens. Here we came across the gleaming B.R. Mark one coach and the diminutive diesel locomotive appropriately named ‘Progress’ . From alongside ‘Progress’ we looked along the track which today ends in a buffer stop but soon, it is hoped will, in phase 2 be extended sufficiently to form a headshunt to a point to provide access to a reconstruction of the goods yard on the up side. The eventual plan is to extend to Bideford, and then in ‘due course’ to Waterloo though perhaps the latter is a ‘pipe dream’.
Having seen everything available outside we were then taken on a very privileged view of the extensive collection of railwayanna inside now closed Public House. The current owner of the Pub, but for not much longer Phil Simpkin explained that although he will be taking some of the extensive collection with him the building has been sold to Torrington Trust. Although he could have obtained a better price for the building on the open market he has chosen to sell it to the Trust to ensure that the station remains always in good hands and that the Tarka Valley Railway will be able to continue to grow towards Bideford an extremely generous gift towards the furtherance of railways in the area.
Before leaving we took a stroll across the former railway viaduct, now part of the ‘Traka Trail’, high above the river, we could see the line ahead starting to make a steady climb up towards the former halt at Watergate.