Dartmouth Steam Railway

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Dartmouth Steam Railway
Goodrington - 5239 climbing above the sands.JPG
Locale Paignton, Devon, England
Terminus Kingswear
Commercial operations
Name Kingswear branch
Built by Dartmouth and Torbay Railway
Original gauge 7 ft 14 in (2,140 mm) Brunel gauge
until 1892
Preserved operations
Operated by Dart Valley Railway PLC
Stations 5
Length 6.7 miles (10.8 km)
Preserved gauge 4 ft 8 12 in (1,435 mm) standard gauge
Commercial history
Opened 1859
1864 Line completed
1892 Converted to 4 ft 8 12 in (1,435 mm) standard gauge
Closed 1972
Preservation history
1972 Sold to Dart Valley Railway
1981 Turntable moved to Churston
2011 Heritage Festival marking 150 years of the line reaching Churston
2012 Greenway Halt opens to the Public
2012 New station building at Paignton opens
Headquarters Paignton

The Dartmouth Steam Railway, formerly known as the Paignton and Dartmouth Steam Railway, is a 6.7-mile (10.8 km) heritage railway on the former Great Western Railway branch line between Paignton and Kingswear in Devon, England. Much of the railway's business is summer tourists from the resorts of Torbay who are transported to Kingswear from where the Dartmouth Passenger Ferry takes them across the River Dart to Dartmouth.

The line is owned and operated by Dart Valley Railway plc. This also owns Dart Pleasure Craft Limited which operates the Dartmouth Passenger Ferry as well as river and coastal cruises.[1][2] The railway and connecting boat and bus services are jointly promoted as the Dartmouth Steam Railway and River Boat Company.

It is unusual amongst heritage railways in that it is a commercial operation so does not rely on volunteer labour or charitable donations, although a few volunteers help at Churston railway station.


Kingswear branch[edit]

A British Rail Class 103 at Kingswear in 1972

The line was built by the Dartmouth and Torbay Railway, opening to Brixham Road station on 14 March 1861 and on to Kingswear on 10 August 1864.[3] The Dartmouth and Torbay Railway was always operated by the South Devon Railway and was amalgamated with it on 1 January 1872. This was only short-lived as the South Devon Railway was in turn amalgamated into the Great Western Railway on 1 February 1876. Brixham Road became a junction and was renamed "Churston" on 1 January 1868 when the independent Torbay and Brixham Railway opened its short line.[4]

The line was single-track except for a crossing loop at Churston. It had been built using the 7 ft (2,134 mm) broad gauge, but on 21 May 1892 was converted to 4 ft 8 12 in (1,435 mm) standard gauge.

West of Greenway Tunnel the railway was originally carried across two creeks on low timber viaducts, that at Longwood being 200 yards (183 m) long and Noss being 170 yards (155 m). These were demolished after the line was moved inland around the creeks on 20 May 1923.

A station was opened at Goodrington Sands, south of Paignton, on 9 July 1928. A second new halt was constructed at Broadsands Halt at the same time but was never opened for timetabled trains.[5] Park Sidings opened alongside Paignton Station in 1930 to give more room to stable carriages. A goods depot opened south of the station the following year, and the running line was doubled as far as Goodrington Sands.[3]

The Great Western Railway was nationalised into British Railways on 1 January 1948. Further carriage sidings to handle the heavy traffic on summer Saturdays were opened at Goodrington in 1956 and a turntable installed there in the following year.

Except for peak season trains, most services from 18 April 1966 operated as a shuttle service from Paignton; Sunday trains were withdrawn from 24 September 1967, although some were run during the summer of the following year. The Brixham branch closed on 13 May 1963 and the crossing loop at Churston was closed on 20 October 1968.[5]

Heritage railway[edit]

In 1968 it was formally proposed to the Ministry of Transport that the line from Paignton should be closed entirely but instead, on 30 December 1972, the line was sold to the Dart Valley Railway Company Ltd, which at that time operated the nearby heritage railway that subsequently became the South Devon Railway. A winter service was operated from 1 January 1973 but from the end of that summer it became a purely seasonal operation. The purchase price of the railway was £250,000 and a further £25,000 was paid for signalling alterations at Paignton. Most of this was recouped from the sale of The Royal Dart Hotel at Kingswear and other surplus land.

An independent station alongside the main station at Paignton, known as "Queens Park", was opened to serve the Kingswear trains on the site of the old Park Sidings. The line was initially marketed at the time as the "Torbay Steam Railway",[3] but this has since been changed to the "Dartmouth Steam Railway". It remains the property of The Dart Valley Light Railway Company plc.

A loop was reinstated at Churston in 1979 using colour-light signals, and in 1981 the turntable from the British Rail sidings at Goodrington was moved there, to the north of the station aligned on the old Brixham branch. In 1991 the control of all signalling was moved to a new panel at Britannia Crossing near Kingswear. A locomotive workshop was opened at Churston in 1993 and a carriage shop opened there three years later.

In 2007 the passing loop at Goodrington Sands was reinstated, along with the carriage sidings to give more space for storing rolling stock. In 2011 new offices for the railway and boats were opened at Kingswear in the style of a large GWR-style signal box. The following year saw the Dartmouth Steam Railway's station at Paignton rebuilt in GWR style, and a new unstaffed station opened at Greenway Halt to serve Agatha Christie's Greenway Estate.


The Dart Valley Railway Company Ltd was formed initially to purchase the trackbed and station sites of the Totnes to Ashburton line, which is now known as the South Devon Railway. On 30 December 1972, the Paignton to Dartmouth line was also sold to the Dart Valley Railway Company Ltd by the Ministry of Transport.

In 2010, the South Devon Railway Trust bought the freehold of the Totnes to Ashburton line from what was the Dart Valley Railway plc, on 8 February 2010. Until 2016, a Channel Islands-based businessman was the major shareholder in the plc company, until he sold his entire one third share holding to businessman and steam railway enthusiast, Jeremy Hosking.[6]


The operational base is at Paignton, where an engine shed is part of the station buildings. Heavy overhauls are undertaken at Churston where there is a locomotive workshop on the west side of the line, and a carriage shop and turntable on the east side.

Signalling is by electric multiple-aspect signals controlled from a panel at Britannia Crossing. The level crossing at that site is supervised by the signalman at the panel, but that at Sands Road, just outside Paignton station, is operated locally by the train crew.

All stations have booking offices but those at Goodrington Sands and Churston are only open at busy times and tickets are issued on the train most of the time.

The steam railway also operates the No.100 bus service between Paignton and Totnes, some of the buses are open-top and used regularly in the Summer, this offers a connection with the railway and boat services on the river Dart and out to sea. This also includes the Paddle Steamer Kingswear Castle which operates on the river Dart in conjunction with the steam railway along with the rest of the company's river boats and ferries.

The railway run steam trains every day of their main operating season which is normally between April and November with additional low season running in February, March and November. There are also santa trains in December.


Dartmouth Steam Railway
mi-ch Riviera Line
222-07 Paignton (Queens Park)
Network Rail
222-23 Sands Road
Goodrington Carriage Sidings
Network Rail
222-66 Goodrington Sands
224-08 Broadsands Viaduct
Broadsands Halt
224-41 Hookhill Viaduct
Torbay and Brixham Railway
225-04 Churston
Greenway Halt
226-31 Greenway Tunnel (495 yards)
Greenway Viaduct
over River Dart
Britannia Halt
227-77 Britannia Crossing
228-64 Kingswear
Dartmouth Passenger Ferry
across River Dart

The route is described facing forwards from Paignton to Kingswear, which puts the sea on the left and the River Dart on the right.

Greenway Tunnel

The line is 6 miles and 57 chains long (10.8 km)[7] starts from its own platform at Paignton (also known as Paignton Queens Park). The shed for operational locomotives is built into the south end of the station building, although coaling is done at the north end alongside the entrance used by passengers. Immediately beyond the station the line crosses Sands Road on a level crossing. The second track, on the right, is used by Great Western Railway (train operating company) to access their carriage sidings. There is a crossover between the two lines that allows trains from Network Rail infrastructure to run through onto the steam railway. This is normally used by mainline railtours which run on the steam railway to Kingswear. Opposite the Network Rail carriage sidings on the right is a siding used by the steam railway to store engineering equipment. The train now calls at Goodrington Sands Halt, behind the platform to the right are more sidings which were transferred to the steam railway in 2007. There are two platforms at Goodrington Sands, which can also act as a cross over.

Beyond the Halt the line starts its climb up a steep gradient (initially 1 in 71, easing slightly to 1 in 93 and then rising to 1 in 60 before levelling out just before Churston[8]) behind the beach huts that line Goodrington Beach. The 630 miles (1,014 km) South West Coast Path follows alongside the line on the right. After a small headland the train passes the secluded Saltern Cove and Armchair Rock, then swings right to pass over first the 72 yards (66 m) Broadsands Viaduct and then swings inland over the 148 yards (135 m) Hookhills Viaduct before reaching the line's summit at Churston. On the approach to the station the turntable is seen on the left; this is where the Brixham branch line used to join the Kingswear branch.

From here the line drops down passing Greenway Halt on the right hand side, immediately after the Halt the train will pass through the 495-yard long Greenway Tunnel beyond which the River Dart appears on the right after passing over Greenway Viaduct. Once down to nearly river level it passes over Britannia Crossing, a level crossing over the A379 road as it approaches the Dartmouth Higher Ferry. It is from the signal box here that the signalling for the whole line is controlled. Shortly after Britannia Crossing, the line arrives at Kingswear station. The far end of the platform is covered by a wooden train shed in the style favoured by Isambard Kingdom Brunel, although he died more than four years before the station was built. The boat- and car-park alongside the station was once a busy rail-served quayside goods yard.

The ferry across the Dart to Dartmouth leaves from the slipway which is behind the hotel next to the station. Dartmouth railway station is unique in that it has never seen a train as passengers have always arrived at the station by means of the ferry from Kingswear.

Rolling stock[edit]

Steam locomotives[edit]

Locomotive Type Photograph Status Livery Notes
4277 Hercules GWR 4200 Class 2-8-0T Train at Churston - geograph.org.uk - 1508576.jpg Operational GWR lined green, 'Great Western' lettering Built in 1920 at Swindon Works, Works No. 2857. She spent most of her working life in South Wales on freight trains and was withdrawn in 1964 from Aberbeeg Shed (BR shed code 86H). It was moved to Woodham Brothers scrapyard in Barry, Glamorgan shortly after withdrawal and remained there for 20 years until 1986 when it was privately purchased. In 2008 it was sold to the Paignton and Dartmouth Steam Railway following the completion of an overhaul. (Boiler ticket expires in 2018).
4555 Warrior GWR 4500 Class 2-6-2T Dartmouth Harbour - geograph.org.uk - 23659.jpg Under overhaul N/A Built in 1924 at Swindon Works, She arrived at Dartmouth in 1973 where it has remained ever since. It was withdrawn from service in 2007, requiring a major overhaul. This overhaul began in 2014 with the locomotive now dismantled in the workshop. A new boiler is being constructed at Tyseley.
5239 Goliath GWR 5205 Class 2-8-0T 5239 Paignton.jpg Awaiting overhaul GWR lined green, 'Great Western' lettering Built in 1923 at Swindon Works, the 5205 class was designed for pulling heavy coal trains in the Welsh Valleys. 5239 was based at Neath for all of its working life until being withdrawn from British Rail service in 1963. It arrived at Dartmouth in 1976 and was restored to operating condition in 1978. A further overhaul was completed in 2007 and the locomotive remained in service until 2015, when it was withdrawn for another overhaul, which it awaits.
7752/L94 GWR 5700 Class 0-6-0PT LT94 Tyseley (1).jpg Operational, Mainline Certified LT Maroon Built in 1930 at North British Locomotive Company, Glasgow. Based at Tyseley Locomotive Works in Birmingham but on hire to the line to aid in the locomotive shortage and expected to remain there for the summer and possibly late 2017.
7827 Lydham Manor GWR 7800 Class 4-6-0 Kingswear 7827 by signal box.jpg Operational BR lined black, early BR totem Built in 1950 at Swindon Works, 7827 was first allocated to Chester. During February 1954 tests to improved draughting were conducted. By March 1959 it was at Oswestry but in October 1965 it was withdrawn from Shrewsbury. Acquired by Woodham's in May 1966 and was the fifth locomotive to be rescued from Barry Scrapyard, which it left in June 1970. It was restored by the Dart Valley Railway in 1973. (Boiler ticket expires in 2021).
75014 Braveheart BR Standard Class 4 4-6-0 75014 back in service 2017.JPG Operational BR lined black, early BR totem Built in 1951 at Swindon Works, 75014 was allocated to a number of Midland region sheds during its short life and 1964 saw it allocated to Shrewsbury from where it was withdrawn and sent to Barry scrap yard in December 1966. It was bought for preservation in 1981 and a four-man syndicate based on the North Yorkshire Moors Railway brought it back to steam in 1994. It was sold by then owner Bert Hitchen to the Dartmouth line in 2002 and was named Braveheart.

She returned to traffic in December 2016 for the railways Santa special trains. (Boiler ticket expires in 2026).

Diesel locomotives[edit]

Locomotive Type Photograph Status Livery Notes
D2192 Titan BR Class 03 0-6-0 Paignton 2192.jpg Operational BR black, Dart Rail logo Based at Churston for shunting work between Churston and Kingswear. It can be seen else where along the line if it is required. It sometimes hauls brake van rides during special events at Churston.
D2371 BR Class 03 0-6-0 Churston - D2371 with engineering stock.JPG Operational BR green, late BR totem Privately owned but is now based on the Dartmouth line as of February 2015. It's based at Kingswear to help assist in shunting charter stock.
D3014 Samson BR Class 08 0-6-0 Paignton D3014.jpg Operational BR green, Dart Rail logo It is used for shunting coaching stock or engineering stock at Paignton. It sometimes hauls brake van rides during special events at Churston.
D7535 Mercury BR Class 25 Bo-Bo Paignton Station, No. D7535 "Mercury" - geograph.org.uk - 225014.jpg Operational BR Blue Mainly used in the winter months for engineering trains but does operate passenger services on selected days during the season. It can also sometimes be found assisting charters from the mainline for either support with the gradients or to help shunt the coaching stock once at Kingswear. In later years with British Rail its number was changed from D7535 to 25185.

Formerly on the line[edit]

Locomotive Type Photograph Status Livery Notes
4588 Trojan GWR 4575 Class 2-6-2T Churston 4588 outside workshop.jpg Awaiting overhaul GWR lined green, 'Great Western' Lettering Built in 1927 at Swindon Works, 4588 operated the first services on the railway after BR days on New Year's Eve 1972 and was later named 'Trojan', she was sold in 2015 after being out of service for over a decade. The engine is currently at Tyseley Locomotive Works and is destined for Peak Rail when back in operational condition.
6435 Ajax GWR 6400 Class 0-6-0PT Minehead - 6435 going to shed.JPG Operational BR lined green, late BR totem Built in 1937 at Swindon Works, After arriving on the line in the early 1970s GWR 6400 Class number 6435 was sold to the Bodmin and Wenford Railway in 2008. Despite her small size, the engine regularly hauled the usual 7 coach trains on this very steeply graded line. The engine is currently operational but no-longer carries the name Ajax.

Visiting locomotives[edit]

71000 Duke of Gloucester beside the River Dart

Other locomotives visit the railway, either to supplement the railway's own fleet or to bring in special trains from the national rail network. However, the most frequent source of visiting locomotives is the Torbay Express, which runs from Bristol Temple Meads on selected Sundays from June through to September, and other one-off railtours which run to Kingswear. Locomotives that have made a visit to Kingswear include 5029 Nunney Castle, 5051 Earl Bathurst, 6024 King Edward I, 7802 Bradley Manor, 34046 Braunton, 46100 Royal Scot, 60007 Sir Nigel Gresley, 60019 Bittern, 60163 Tornado, 70000 Britannia and 71000 Duke of Gloucester.


Devon Belle Pullman Observation Car

The railway has a fleet of 20 coaches with 19 available for service and a further coach has been refurbished to become a Brunel exhibit at Kingswear Station.

Eleven of the coach fleet are British Railways Mark 1 corridor coaches, 8 TSOs, 2 BSKs and a BSO. The livery of the carriages is a version of the former GWR "chocolate and cream" livery and most carry the name of either a female member of staff, or the name of a member of staff's child or grandchild. The brake carriages have had their former luggage vans converted to wheelchair accommodation.

A Pullman observation saloon, originally built for the Devon Belle service (No.13), is used regularly on passenger services. It provides a unique view of the railway, although an additional charge is made to ride in it. It was refurbished in 2012 and put back into original Pullman livery.

The rest of the coaches are former British Rail DMU class 116 and 117 trailer cars with open saloons. Seven of these are used on the trains. The eighth DMU trailer is fitted out as an exhibition coach at Kingswear telling the story of the line, its building by Isambard Kingdom Brunel, and a brief history of the local area.


The railway runs a selection of freight wagons. Although not used on any service train, they do sometimes get used for special events. Some of the wagons are used to help keep the railway in working order on engineering trains. Others are more for show and stored in sidings along the line.


  1. ^ "Paignton & Dartmouth Steam Railway". Dart Valley Railway plc. Retrieved 18 September 2008. 
  2. ^ "River Link - Devon's River Dart Cruises". Dart Pleasure Craft Limited. Retrieved 18 September 2008. 
  3. ^ a b c Potts, C R (1998). The Newton Abbot to Kingswear Railway (1844–1988). Oxford: Oakwood Press. ISBN 0-85361-387-7. 
  4. ^ Potts, CR (2000). The Brixham Branch. Usk: Oakwood Press. ISBN 0-85361-556-X. 
  5. ^ a b Oakley, Mike (2007). Devon Railway Stations. Wimbourne: The Dovecote Press. ISBN 978-1-904349-55-6. 
  6. ^ Steam Railway, page 10, September 2016
  7. ^ Jacobs, Gerald (2005). Railway Track Diagrams Book 3: Western. Bradford-on-Avon: Trackmaps. p. 7. ISBN 0-9549866-1-X. 
  8. ^ British Rail - Main Line Gradient Profiles. London: Ian Allan. p. W3. ISBN 0711008752. 

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 50°22′30″N 3°34′52″W / 50.375°N 3.581°W / 50.375; -3.581