The first weekend of September 1964 proved to be a momentous one for the railways of North Cornwall, Devon and West Somerset. The summer dated trains and timetables ended on the weekend of 5/6 September. In 2014 the summer timetable of FGW finished on the weekend of 6/7 September.
On this weekend 50 years ago most of the through trains from places like Padstow, Ilfracombe and Plymouth to Waterloo were withdrawn leaving the trains to start at Exeter. At the same time the Exeter to Waterloo part of the service was dieselised using Warships in the D800 series. One result of this was that the last Atlantic Coast Express (ACE) ran from Waterloo to multiple destinations in Devon and Cornwall on Saturday 5 September 1964. It was steam hauled throughout. The following Monday there was only one through train from Waterloo to any destination beyond Exeter St. Davids, and that was at 1.10am. Many years later the ACE name was revived by First Great Western for a summer only through train from Paddington to Newquay and back. Being a Great Western enthusiast I travelled to Worcestershire for the last day of passenger services on the Bromyard Branch on 5 September 1964. I arrived back in Plymouth at 5.26am on Sunday morning, 6 September. Later that day I travelled from Plymouth to St. Budeaux on the 6.45pm train, hauled by a North British type 2 loco. This was the last train in this direction to travel via Devonport Kings Road and Ford Stations. From the next day trains to Tavistock and Okehampton would travel via the former Great Western route to St. Budeaux.
07.02 Okehampton to Plymouth
09.50 Plymouth to Okehampton
14.15 Okehampton to Plymouth
16.48 Plymouth to Okehampton
Between turns the steam loco, generally an 80xxx 2-6-4T remained at Plymouth Station and did not proceed to Laira Shed. A picture of such a train can be seen passing Dockyard Halt in the Cornwall Galleries. According to a post on the website rmweb.co.uk the last scheduled steam-hauled train out of Plymouth was hauled by 80041 on the 16.48 Plymouth to Okehampton on Saturday 2 January 1965. BR switched to 24-hour clock times in 1964.
Also on 5 September 1964 the last steam trains ran from Taunton to Barnstaple and the line was dieselised from the following Monday. The line from Tiverton Junction to Tiverton was still steam-hauled or propelled for another 4 weeks until Saturday 3 October 1964 when the line closed. These were the last two ex-Great Western lines south-west of Bristol to be 100% steam hauled. Taunton to Barnstaple was the preserve of the Churchward Moguls for the last few years, with occasional workings by ex-Southern Railway locos from Barnstaple shed. In August 1964 numbers 6326, 6345, 6363, 7303, 7320 and 7337 were at Taunton Shed to work the line to Barnstaple. Five of the six locos at Taunton were condemned with the dieselisation of the line, but one (7320) was moved to Gloucester shed, where it might have worked on the line to Hereford via Ross-on-Wye, until that line closed at the end of October. By the end of November 1964 there were no Churchward Moguls left in service anywhere. Out of the 342 Moguls built just two survived into preservation.
With no steam locomotives to service Taunton Shed closed the same weekend 5/6 September 1964. However the turntable would play host to loco number 3205 on 27 March 1965 whilst on The Exmoor Ranger Railtour. Any comments or additional information please write to the webmaster in the first instance.