Dartmoor Railway

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Coordinates: 50°43′55″N 3°59′46″W / 50.732°N 3.996°W / 50.732; -3.996

Dartmoor Railway
Okehampton Station 1.jpg
Okehampton railway station, on the Dartmoor Railway
Locale Devon, England
Commercial operations
Name British Rail
Built by London and South Western Railway
Original gauge 4 ft 8 12 in (1,435 mm)
Preserved operations
Owned by Aggregate Industries Ltd
Operated by Dartmoor Railway CIC [1]
Length 15 12 miles (24.9 km)
Preserved gauge 4 ft 8 12 in (1,435 mm)
Commercial history
Opened 1865/1879
Closed 1968 (West of Meldon to all traffic) 1972 (to regular passenger services from Okehampton to Exeter)
Preservation history
1997 Regular passenger services restarted by Dartmoor Railway
Headquarters Okehampton
Dartmoor Railway
Tarka Line to Exeter
through services on summer Sundays
Salmon Pool Level Crossing
served by Tarka Line trains only
Coleford Junction
Tarka Line to Barnstaple
8½  Bow
11¾  North Tawton
14½  Sampford Courtenay
18¼  Okehampton
20¼  Meldon Quarry
Meldon Viaduct
London & South Western Rly
to Padstow and Bude
to Plymouth via Bere Alston

The Dartmoor Railway is a 15 12-mile (24.9 km) long railway line in Devon, England. From Crediton the line parallels the Tarka Line to the site of the former Coleford Junction. Heading west it then serves Sampford Courtenay, Okehampton and Meldon Quarry. The route is owned from Coleford to Meldon by Aggregate Industries whilst the Coleford to Crediton section is owned by Network Rail. In the past freight trains served the ballast quarry at Meldon. The line is leased to and maintained by the Dartmoor Railway CIC,[1] who operate services and facilitate access to the line by other operators.

A public service between Exeter and Okehampton is run on summer Sundays operated by First Great Western. Ballast and stone trains were formerly operated by one of the national freight operating companies. In 2011 the quarry was mothballed leading to the suspension of ballast and stone trains. The line is also used occasionally by other operators for training purposes. The railway is also visited from time to time by main line charter services. These can be easily facilitated via the connection to the national network at Crediton.

The route was originally part of the London and South Western Railway West of England Main Line from Exeter to Plymouth, which opened between 1865 and 1879. In 1968, British Rail closed the line beyond Meldon as part of the Beeching cuts. The Exeter to Okehampton passenger service was withdrawn by British Rail in 1972.

Between 1972 and 1997 the line was used for railway ballast traffic from Meldon Quarry and occasional freight traffic to the remaining goods yard at Okehampton before its closure. Occasional charter and special trains were operated to Okehampton and Meldon Quarry during the passenger closure period. The railway reopened to regular passenger services in 1997 with the formation of Dartmoor Railway. A summer Sunday passenger service was introduced from Exeter to Okehampton as part of the Dartmoor Rover network.

British American Railway Services Ltd, a company created by Iowa Pacific Holdings of Chicago, became the new owner of the Dartmoor Railway CIC on 4 September 2008. The company announced its intention to develop freight, passenger and tourist services on the railway.[2]

Volunteer support for the railway is provided by the Dartmoor Railway Supporters Association (DRSA). They currently operate heritage services on the line via their related company - Granite Line Ltd. Volunteers assist the railway operation in many of its activities.[3]

The Dartmoor Railway currently runs at a total of 15 12 miles (24.9 km) in length making the line the eighth longest preserved Standard Gauge railway in Great Britain.

A proposal was made some years ago to restore and reopen the disused down platform at Yeoford. It was not possible to agree arrangements with Network Rail who own Yeoford Station and the section of line from near the site of the former Coleford Junction towards Yeoford and Crediton.[4] Were this eventually achieved it could allow the extension of Dartmoor Railway passenger services and provide the possibility of interchange with the Exeter - Barnstaple "Tarka line".

Passenger Volume[edit]

Heritage Activities[edit]

Heritage services are operated between Meldon Quarry and Okehampton with extension to Sampford Courtenay, Bow or the DR/Network Railway boundary on special event days. The former stations at North Tawton and Bow remain closed to passengers. Both stations are in private ownership and do not have public access. In April 2013 the heritage service was curtailed by the Dartmoor Railway CIC but a limited service has recently resumed. This is now operated by Dartmoor Railway Supporters Association and Granite Line Ltd under a charter arrangement.

The heritage services use a variety of rolling stock which includes a Class 205 "Thumper" unit restored to its original livery and number. Services are also operated using restored diesel locomotives in push-pull trains and top and tail mode with a variety of coaching and ex-EMU stock. Steam hauled services have also operated from time to time.

Public Train Services[edit]

Devon County Council continue to sponsor the Sunday Rover trains between Exeter and Okehampton. These have run since the 1997 reopening and have operated again from 2013 with services running from late May to mid-September.
The service consists of five return trips between St James Park station in Exeter and Okehampton. These trains connect with bus services and heritage railway services at Okehampton, and Tarka line rail services at Crediton.

Devon & Cornwall Railways Ltd (a subsidiary of British American Railway Services Ltd) announced its intention to operate through services from Okehampton to Exeter in 2010, having made a track access application to Network Rail on 18 March 2010[5] to operate four return services each weekday between Okehampton and St James Park and a further two (plus one on Sundays) as far as Exeter St Davids. This service would run under an "open access" licence. It was initially hoped that services could start as early as May 2010. In the event, this date was not realised and the project is currently not being pursued.

At Christmas 2012 the railway ran the "Polar Express" based on the Warner Brothers film and book by Chris Van Allsburg of the same name. It has recently announced a further Polar Express for 2013 and a programme of "Themed Entertainment Trains" for 2014.


  • Diesel Locomotives
    • BR 0-6-0 Class 08 no. 08937. Operational.
    • BR Class 47 no. 47701 "Waverley". Not operational, up for relocation or scrap.
  • Diesel Multiple Units
    • BR Class 205 units 205028 (1128) and 205032 (1132). Unit 1132 (205032) operational. Unit 1128 (205028) awaiting restoration.
  • Electrical Multiple Unit Vehicles
    • BR Class 411 DMSOs 61742 and 61743 (ex unit 1589). 61743 operational in BR blue and grey. Built in 1961. 61742 awaiting restoration.
    • BR Class 422 buffet coaches 69310 (ex-unit 2255) and 69332 (ex-unit 2203). 69310 static buffet at Meldon. 69332 awaiting restoration.

External links[edit]


  1. ^ a b "About the railway". Friends of Dartmoor Railway. Retrieved 26 September 2009. 
  2. ^ Heritage Railway, Pub. Heritage Railway Magazine. Issue 116, 2 October 2008 - 29 October 2008. P. 18.
  3. ^ "Volunteers". Dartmoor Railway Supporters Association. Retrieved 25 March 2013.  Dartmoor Railway Supporters Association website Volunteers page
  4. ^ "News". Dartmoor Railway. Retrieved 2 October 2009.  Dartmoor Railway website Newspage
  5. ^ "Dartmoor Railway Applies to Run to Exeter" - Broadbent, S; RAIL Magazine news article, Issue 641, 7–20 April 2010, p.18