In late 1967/early 1968 some (18 if I remember correctly) withdrawn/condemned mainly GWR design Hawksworth Brake Thirds/Composites (built at Swindon up until 1953/4) were moved from Plymouth to Lydford Up sdgs for storage with the intention they should be modified at Swindon, or possibly Cathays, to become Civil Engineers Department Mess Coaches for use on the WR by Operators of the new Plasser & Matissa Ballast Cleaning and Track Relaying machines...a mess coach being allocated to each machine.
I remember accompanying the Lydford Signalman one Saturday afternoon to seek out some good seat cushions from these old coaches to send down on a train for Tavistock North staff!
Within a few days of the closure of Bere Alston to Meldon Jn to all traffic on Sun 5 May 1968 these coaches were moved to Crediton Down sdgs for further storage.
A loco (Warship, Western or D63xx ) was sent light (or with a BV) to Lydford from either Laira or Exeter/Okehampton to haul them to Crediton.
After the Bere Alston to Meldon line was closed on 5 May 1968 besides the move of these coaches from Lydford to Crediton the line was used by a fully fitted freight of about 35 wagons, mostly Vanfits and open Clay wagons, hauled by Warship D827 Kelly from Tavistock Jn to Exeter Riverside (preceeded by a loco with snow plough that got stuck near Sourton) on the afternoon of 21 Feb 1969.. that was the only train since closure ever diverted via Tavistock.
The line was temporarily and specially re-opened as the GW Plymouth /N.Abbot line was shut on 21 February 1969 due heavy snow in the Hemerdon area and by chance the Exeter driver of this freight, who was in Tavistock Jnt Yard knew the SR Tavistock route and was prepared to run that way.
Prior to recovery by Engineers trains of the line from Meldon Viaduct back to Bere Alston between September 1969 and March 1970 using Laira traincrews and Warships, but at the end often Westerns, a large quantity of concrete drainage channels etc were recovered (for re-use elsewhere) from the long cutting just south of Tavistock ..these were ferried by Wickham Trolley and trailers then still kept at Tavistock North Down sdg to Tavistock North Up platform for sorting and re-loading into Grampus wagons which were worked up from Tavistock Jn Yard either specially or in the Ernesettle trip specially extended to Tavistock from Bere Aston where it had normally to run round & cross to the Down line to gain access to Ernesettle.
I also had some trips in Autumn 1969 between Tav North & Lydford on the recovery trains which came up in the mornings from Tav Jn with ety Hyfits (opens) for slprs for re-use - mainly concrete ones, chairs & fish plates and bogie bolsters & ganes for re-useable and scrap rails in 60' & 45' lengths, the loco after positioning wgns as req'd then rtnd LD to Laira then loco came up LD in afternoon to collect the loaded wagons.....only the Up line was used...trains hauling from Tav Jn or Lipson sdgs to Lydford, run round, then propel to site..once Lydford was recovered trains ran round at Bere Alston and propelled to site and hauled back to Tav Jn/Lipson sdgs...probably as Tav North run round in plats was restricted to about 20 wgns is the reason trains did not run round there.
I once cycled on a Sat afternoon from Tavi to Lydford to hitch a ride back in the Brake Van..the Guard even borrowed a spanner from my cycle tool kit to take off a vac pipe from a bogie bolster and fit onto a hyfit wagon (which was missing a vac pipe) at the front of the train so as to provide a vac head/ brake force to save a complicated shunt at Lydford which would have entailed barring over the previously signal box worked main line crossover points..I and my cycle alighted at Tavi North after the loco crew had stopped the train near Brentor to pick mushrooms..those were the days!.
In response to a request to Tony to tell us more of his railway life he responded with the section below - again very interesting.
I worked for BR from 1970 to 2000 (incl Railtrack from 1994) based at Bristol in the former W of E Divisional Operations Managers Office until 1983 then Exeter St D Area Manager's Office and held a wide variety of mainly Operational posts including planning & internally publishing notices of Engineering Possessions & all associated Engineers Dept.trains and all non possession Engineers trains including those with ballast from quarries including Meldon, for the area stretching from Barnt Green to Penzance bounded by the Severn Tunnel, Shelwick Jn, Hartlebury, Barnt Green, Stratford on Avon, Wolvercot Jn, Challow, Lavington, Warminster, Wilton South & Dorchester West.
It is, regrettably, no longer possible for someone to work in so many different and varied posts on the now completely fragmented Railway without working for several different Companies!
I am now semi retired but railwaywise active as Vice Chairman of Tarka Rail Assoc. with special responsibility for Timetable matters incl meetings with FGW, DRSA member, L&BR member/volunteer; having been L&BR Operations Director for the first years of the revived Railway and until appointment of a resident paid General Manager.
I do some occasional part time on train survey work for DCC/D&CRP
I was a schoolboy at Tavistock when by train I visited Lyford S'Box etc one Saturday afternoon in early 1968 !
I just wonder if anyone has any photos/information of the last train workings on the Bere Alston/Meldon line after its shortsighted closure and savage dismantling?
Can you help, if so please contact us.