North Devon Railway
|North Devon Railway|
Map of the North Devon group of railways, with opening dates
|Track gauge||4 ft 8 1⁄2 in (1,435 mm) (standard gauge),
7 ft 1⁄4 in (2,140 mm) until 1892
The North Devon Railway was a British railway company which operated a line from Cowley Bridge Junction, near Exeter, to Bideford in Devon, later becoming part of the London and South Western Railway's system. Originally planned as a 7 ft 1⁄4 in (2,140 mm) broad gauge feeder to the Bristol & Exeter Railway, it became part of a battle between the broad gauge Great Western Railway group and the 4 ft 8 1⁄2 in (1,435 mm) (standard gauge) railway interests.
The term "North Devon Railway" is often extended to include a number of other railways connected with that company, including the Exeter and Crediton Railway which it leased, the Bideford Extension Railway which it operated, and the London & South Western Railway's later extension to Torrington.
The original construction in the middle of the nineteenth century was significant in giving rail connection to the important, but remote towns of North Devon that had hitherto relied on the packhorse and coastal shipping. The Exeter to Barnstaple section followed the rivers Yeo and Taw, passing through pleasing countryside, and meandered with the valleys, but passing only very small settlements. It remains open and passenger trains on the route are branded the Tarka Line for marketing purposes.
Taw Vale Railway 
In the early nineteenth century, Barnstaple was an important commercial town. Its position on the River Taw gave it a strategic advantage for coastal shipping, but the upper reaches of the river were difficult and hampered navigation. In 1838 a group of Barnstaple merchants obtained an Act of Parliament authorising them to construct a railway from Penhill, at Fremington, to Barnstaple, a distance of less than three miles. The company was called the "Taw Vale Railway and Dock Company". However they did not proceed with construction for some years, and the Taw Vale Extension Railway Company was authorised to purchase it and construct the line.
Exeter & Crediton Railway 
In 1845, a company called the Exeter and Crediton Railway got its parliamentary Act to build a 5¾ mile broad gauge line from the Bristol & Exeter Railway main line at Cowley Bridge (a short distance north of Exeter) to Crediton. By 1847 the line was substantially complete, excepting only the actual junction at Cowley Bridge. However, opening to traffic did not take place for some time.
Taw Vale Extension Railway 
Meanwhile on 7 August 1846 the Taw Vale Extension Railway obtained an Act of Parliament to build a 31 mile line from Crediton to Barnstaple, and a branch from Fremington to Bideford. The promoters were friendly to the broad gauge Bristol & Exeter Railway, but critically, the Extension line's Act left the question of the track gauge to be determined by the Board of Trade. At this time the issue of a national rail network was still vague, and there was no assumption that purely local railways ought to be built to any particular standard. However as railway empires became larger, the issue of gauge polarised allegiances: a broad gauge railway was in the Great Western Railway camp; a narrow gauge railway was against it. The London & South Western Railway was still no closer than 90 miles away at Salisbury, but it wished to build a network in the West Country, and the track gauge was to become a key issue.
During the preparations for getting these parliamentary powers for other railways, the original Taw Vale Railway and Dock Company proprietors now realised that they might be able to sell their (unconstructed) line to the Taw Vale Extension, and this was authorised by parliamentary acts. The line was opened to goods traffic in August 1848.
London & South Western Railway 
The L&SWR saw that these local railways in Devon were useful to their own aspirations to penetrate into, and through, the district.
The company bought up a majority shareholding in the Exeter & Crediton, which was not yet opened, and had the track gauge changed to the L&SWR's narrow gauge. They also gained considerable support among the Taw Vale Extension proprietors, and on 26 February 1847 they got agreement to lease the Taw Vale Extension line. The Exeter & Crediton line's act permitted its lease to any contiguous railway; the L&SWR was still no closer than Salisbury, but the Taw Vale Extension connected, so the L&SWR arranged for the TVE to conclude a lease of the Exeter & Crediton, finalised on 12 April 1847.
The LS&WR had assumed that operating these lines on their own gauge would be permitted, but on 8 February 1848 the Board of Trade's nominees announced that the Taw Vale Extension must be built as a broad-gauge line. With their plans to reach Barnstaple apparently frustrated, the L&SWR refused to allow the Exeter & Crediton to open at all for some time, but failing to get their way they eventually opened as a single line reconverted to the broad gauge; the other track was left narrow, and for the time being disused. The opening day was 12 May 1851 and the line was rented to and worked by the Bristol & Exeter.
North Devon Railway 
The Taw Vale Extension Railway completed construction of its line on the broad gauge and on 1 August 1854 it opened its line from Crediton to Fremington, on the broad gauge. It also changed its name to the North Devon Railway and completed the take over of the original Taw Vale company.
Bideford Extension Railway 
The L&SWR was now reluctant to complete the line to Bideford that had been authorised in the TVE's act, and commercial interests at Bideford formed the Bideford Extension Railway themselves, getting powers on 4 August 1853 and opening on the broad gauge on 2 November 1855, worked by the North Devon company.
The Bideford station was at East the Water, somewhat north of the town bridge and on the opposite side of the River Torridge from the town.
Narrow gauge running 
In 1860 the L&SWR reached Exeter with its main line from Yeovil, terminating at its own Queen Street station. That station was much more convenient for the city than the Bristol & Exter company's St Davids station, but the LS&WR saw itself now as the owner of the Exeter & Crediton and North Devon lines, it obtained parliamentary powers to extend its line from Queen Street to St Davids, and to provide mixed gauge track along the B&ER from there to Cowley Bridge Junction. Brassey's lease of the Exeter & Crediton expired in July 1862; the L&SWR had taken over the E&C and laid mixed gauge on it. It ran narrow gauge passenger trains from Exeter to Crediton, from 1 February 1862, using the Bristol & Exeter line for the first part of the journey. The B&E continued to run broad gauge goods trains to Crediton until 20 May 1892.
Next the L&SWR took a lease of the North Devon Railway and from 1 March 1863 it started to run narrow gauge trains from Crediton to Bideford on mixed gauge track – in 1876 it was converted to narrow gauge only.
Clarification note 
In the context of this article "narrow gauge" refers to 4 ft 8 1⁄2 in (1,435 mm), standard gauge.
As part of the tactics of gaining control of parts of the West Country, the L&SWR had given a parliamentary undertaking to extend the line from Bideford to Torrington. It tried to evade this responsibility, calculating that the declining importance of the town of Great Torrington – the "Great" was never acknowledged by railway usage – did not justify the expense of the line, but it was forced to comply with its obligations and opened the Torrington extension on 18 July 1872.
A new passenger station was built at Bideford, immediately east of the town bridge, and more convenient for the town. The goods handling area of the former terminus was retained, as Bideford Goods station.
Connecting lines 
Having acquired the North Devon lines, the L&SWR did not use its energy to develop the lines much. It seemed to have its attention on further westward developments and battles with the broad gauge interests in South Devon. The south-eastern stem of the line provided the launching point for a move towards the hugely important city of Plymouth, and on 1 November 1865 the first phase of this was launched, from a junction at Coleford, a little to the west of Crediton, as far as North Tawton. The constructing company was the Devon and Cornwall Railway, supported by the L&SWR and taken over but it in 1872. Plymouth was reached, by a circuitous route skirting the northern margins of Dartmoor, in 1876, and that destination effectively became the main line.
More closely integrated with the North Devon core route was an extension to Ilfracombe, crossing the River Taw by a serpentine bridge there and providing a "Town" station – the original station was on the south side of Barnstaple Bridge. The Ilfracombe line was opened on 20 July 1874.
In 1873 the broad gauge interest had reached Barnstaple by the Devon and Somerset Railway, (D&SR) from a junction near Taunton to a separate station at Barnstaple, and for some years connecting road coaches conveyed passengers between the D&SR station and Ilfracombe, but on 1 June 1887 the GWR built a spur to connect their station with the original North Devon station, and ran through trains to Ilfracombe.
At Torrington the line met the Torrington and Marland Railway, a narrow gauge line opened in 1880 to carry ball clay. In 1925 part of this line was converted to standard gauge and extended to Halwill Junction station as the North Devon and Cornwall Junction Light Railway.
Twentieth century train service 
As a rural railway, the North Devon group originally had the light train service that was normal. Development of the North Devon seaside towns as holiday resorts took place towards the end of the nineteenth century, although they remained far less important than their southern counterparts.
As the rural manufacturing and shipping importance of the area declined, the significance of Crediton, Fremington and Bideford waned also; ball clay however gained importance at Torrington. Barnstaple became the most significant market town in the region, and Ilfracombe became the dominant holiday destination on the North Devon network
The train service in 1938 was eight trains each way daily, calling at all or most stations. In addition there were two through trains from London Waterloo, the Atlantic Coast Express and an unnamed train. The local trains took 80 minutes or so for the journey from Exeter to Barnstaple. The expresses were in truth portions of multiple portion trains; the front portion was detached at Exeter Central and ran non-stop from Exeter St Davids to Barnstaple Junction, dividing there with portions for Ilfracombe and Torrington. Journey time from Waterloo to Barnstaple was typically 4hrs 20 mins, for 211 miles (340 km). The best time from Exeter St Davids to Barnstaple Junction in 1938 was 57 minutes for the 39 miles (63 km). On Sundays there were two local trains and the two expresses.
Barnstaple to Torrington had 13 daily trains calling at both intermediate stations, and 7 each way on Sundays.
In addition, the original Exeter & Crediton section and the short length to Coleford Junction, carried all the Plymouth traffic.
Economic stagnation in North Devon meant that the train service failed to develop, and the North Devon lines remained single track. The through London services disappeared with the rationalisation of West Country operations, and in 1964 there were ten stopping trains each way daily from Exeter to Ilfracombe. Barnstaple Junction to Bideford kept nine trains daily, and both routes retained a Sunday service. The Beeching Axe started to impose its cuts, and in 1965 the Torrington branch closed to passengers, in 1970 the Ilfracombe line was closed, and the freight-only Barnstaple to Torrington and Meeth section in 1982.
Currently (2012) there are 14 daily trains each way between Exeter St Davids and Barnstaple, calling at all or most stations and taking between 65 and 76 minutes. There are seven trains on Sundays.
Stations and route 
Exeter & Crediton Railway 
- Cowley Bridge Junction (with the Bristol & Exeter Railway)
- St Cyres; renamed Newton St Cyres 1913
North Devon Railway 
- from E&CR Crediton station
- Coleford Junction; Okehampton line diverges
- Morchard Road
- South Molton Road (Renamed Kings Nympton in 1951; South Molton was 9 miles (14.5 km) away and had a Devon & Somerset Railway station)
- Portsmouth Arms
- Chapeltown (Renamed Chapelton 1875)
Note: Barnstaple station was named Barnstaple Junction between 1874 and 1970, but Cobb dates the addition of "Junction" at 1855.
Barnstaple station was built by the Taw Vale Railway & Dock company for its Fremington line.
Taw Vale Railway & Dock 
- Barnstaple (see above)
Bideford Extension Railway 
- starting from the TVR&D Fremington station
- Bideford; The original terminus was north of the town, and it became "Bideford Goods" when the Torrington extension was opened
L&SWR Torrington extension 
- Bideford A new passenger station was provided half a mile nearer the town.
- Torrington; the terminus was awkwardly placed about a mile west of the town.
North Devon Railway locomotives 
During the line's independent existence, Thomas Brassey worked the line. Most of the locomotives were bought from the Bristol and Gloucester Railway (B&GR), but a few were also built by him at his Canada Works in Birkenhead. Brassey's locomotives continued to operate on the line after the London and South Western Railway bought the line, until it was converted to narrow gauge.
Bristol and Gloucester 2-2-2 
- Barum (1855 - 1870) Previously B&GR Berkeley, named after the medieval Latin for Barnstaple - Barumensis.
- Exe (1856 - 1870) Previously B&GR Bristol, named after the River Exe which follows the railway into Exeter.
- Mole (1855 - 1870) Previously B&GR Stroud, named after the local River Mole.
- Star (1855 - 1877) Previously B&GR Cheltenham.
- Tite (1856 - 1870) Previously B&GR Gloucester, named after the local River Tite.
Bristol and Gloucester 2-4-0 
Another Stothert & Slaughter locomotive from the B&GR, where it was named Industry, this one was a 2-4-0 with 5 ft. 0 in. driving wheels and cylinders of 15 in. dia. × 18 in. stroke.
- Venus (1856 - 1870)
Bristol and Gloucester 0-6-0 
The final two locomotives obtained from the B&GR were two 0-6-0 goods locomotives built by the Vulcan Foundry. They had 5 ft 0 in. wheels and cyliders 16 in. dia. × 21 in. stroke. Dreadnought was sold to Robert Sharp in 1863, it was moved to Cornwall where he was building the Falmouth extension of the Cornwall Railway.
- Defiance (1857 - 1867)
- Dreadnought (1856 - 1863)
Built at the Thomas Brassey's Canada Works, this 2-4-0 featured 5 ft. 0 in. and 3 ft. 0 in. wheels with 20 in. dia. × 15¼ in. cylinders. It worked the first train to Bideford on 2 November 1855. It was a 2-4-0 locomotive, built by Thomas Brassey in his workshops at Birkenhead. It was named after the local River Creedy.
- Creedy (1855 - 1877)
Dart and Yeo 
Two express locomotives were provided from the Canada Works with 6 ft. 0 in. driving wheels and 3 ft. 6 in. carrying wheels. with a total wheelbase of 14 ft. 2 in. They had cylinders of 20 in. dia. × 15¼ in. stroke.
- Dart (1855 - 1877) Built in 1855 as a 2-2-2 but rebuilt in 1868 as a 2-4-0. It was named after the River Dart which gives its name to Dartmoor.
- Yeo (1857 - 1877) A 2-2-2 locomotive. There are three River Yeos in the area served by the railway, two flowing into the River Taw, the other into the River Creedy.
This locomotive was built by Robert Stephenson and Company before 1840 as a standard gauge 2-2-2 and rebuilt for the broad gauge in 1855 by Stothert and Slaughter. It was still running in 1859 but was not part of the stock listed for the London and South Western Railway in 1862. It was named after the River Taw that flows to the sea through Barnstaple.
- Taw (1855 - c.1860)
See also 
- History of the Great Western Railway volume 2, McDermott E T, Great Western Railway Company, London, 1927
- St John Thomas, David (editor), Regional History of the Railways of Great Britain: Volume 1 - the West Country; David & Charles, Newton Abbot, 3rd edition 1966
- Williams, R A; The London & South Western Railway: Volume 1: The Formative Years; David & Charles, Newton Abbot; 1968; ISBN 7153 4188 X
- "Broad Gauge at Barnstaple Junction". The Railway Magazine (London: Transport (1910) Ltd) 9 (586): 74. February 1950.
- Bradshaws Railway Guide for July 1938, Reprint Edition 1968, David and Charles, Newton Abbot
- Working Time Table, Section P, Winter 1964/65, British Railways Western Region
- Cobb, Col M. H., 2003; The Railways of Great Britain: A Historical Atlas; Ian Allan Publishing Ltd; ISBN 0-7110-3002-2
- Nicholas, John (1992). The North Devon Line. Sparkford: Oxford Publishing Company. ISBN 0-86093-461-6.
- Maggs, Colin (1992). The Bristol and Gloucester Railway. Headington: Oakwood Press. ISBN 0-85361-435-0.
- Garnsworthy, Paul (1993). "News from Canada". Broadsheet (Broad Gauge Society) 30: 3–6.
- Garnsworthy, Paul (1999). "Bristol and Gloucester Railway Stothert & Slaughter Singles". Broadsheet (Broad Gauge Society) 42: 7–17.
- Garnsworthy, Paul (1992). "Creedy". Broadsheet (Broad Gauge Society ) 27: 4–12.
- Garnsworthy, Paul (1992). "Dart and Yeo". Broadsheet (Broad Gauge Society) 28: 8–13.