Okehampton railway station
|Local authority||West Devon, Devon|
|Number of platforms||2|
|Live arrivals/departures, station information and onward connections
from National Rail Enquiries
|Annual rail passenger usage*|
|Original company||London and South Western Railway|
|National Rail – UK railway stations|
|* Annual estimated passenger usage based on sales of tickets in stated financial year(s) which end or originate at Okehampton from Office of Rail and Road statistics. Methodology may vary year on year.|
|UK Railways portal|
Okehampton railway station is a railway station serving the town of Okehampton in Devon, England. Heritage train services currently operate on certain weekdays, weekends and bank holidays. A service from Exeter operates on Summer Sundays as part of the Dartmoor Sunday Rover network.
The station was opened in 1871 when the London and South Western Railway (LSWR) extended its line from Sampford Courtenay. Services were extended further west to Lydford railway station with the inauguration of Meldon Viaduct in 1874. Constructed to rival the South Devon Railway route to Plymouth, the completion of the LSWR's own route to Plymouth saw Okehampton become an important junction with lines to Padstow and Bude as well as Plymouth. Boat trains carrying passengers from ocean liners calling at Stonehouse Pool, Plymouth and prestige services such as the Atlantic Coast Express and Devon Belle all used the route.
With the publication of the Beeching Report in 1963, the line to Bude was put forward for closure as was part of the Exeter to Plymouth Line which was to be cut back to Okehampton. This was regarded as somewhat of a miraculous survival for Okehampton by the local press; as The Western Times & Gazette of April 11, 1963 put it: "[n]ot many small Devon towns can congratulate themselves on the way they have fared in the Beeching Plan, but Okehampton, with a falling population well under 4,000, is one of them." Its survival prompted questions as to why the line should remain open when others, such as the Avocet Line which saw far more traffic, were proposed for closure. It was said that at the time Okehampton had about 50 regular users per day and a handful of season ticket holders.
The Avocet Line was, in the event, saved from closure, but Okehampton lost its passenger services from 1972. The line survived, however, for the purposes of freight thanks to the activities of the British Rail ballast quarry at Meldon, three miles from Okehampton, which had an output of 300,000 tons per year. The quarry survives to this day, although it is now operated by Aggregate Industries.
As part of a local partnership scheme initiated and led by Devon County Council, Okehampton station was restored in 1997 and a Youth Hostel opened in the old goods shed, providing an activity centre as well. The Devon Coast to Coast Cycleway Route 27 created by Sustrans passes the station. This runs alongside the railway to Meldon and along parts of the disused railway trackbed to Lydford. The Dartmoor Railway operate heritage passenger services from the station, running to Sampford Courtenay and Meldon. A summer Sunday service from Exeter to Okehampton operates as part of the Dartmoor Sunday Rover network. The station building, which was used by Devon Training for Skills after 1972, was restored and reopened incorporating a model shop and café. After temporary closure during a change in railway ownership in 2008, the cafe was reopened by the Friends of Dartmoor Railway. It is currently open from 10am to 4pm on Fridays and 9am to 5pm on Saturdays and Sundays. A craft centre previously operated on one of the platforms. This now houses a small exhibition and museum showing the history of the railway and station. The Model Shop is now independently operated and open throughout the week.
|Preceding station||Heritage railways||Following station|
|Sampford Courtenay||Dartmoor Railway||Meldon|
|Sampford Courtenay||Great Western Railway
Summer Sundays only
|Terminus||British Rail Western Region
|Maddaford Moor Halt|
|Sampford Courtenay||British Rail Western Region
Exeter to Plymouth Line
Both Railfuture and the former MP for Totnes, Anthony Steen, have in the past proposed the reinstatement of the line between Okehampton and Bere Alston, thereby reconnecting the station with Plymouth. The reopening of the link would restore the continuous circuit of railway linking the towns around Dartmoor. On 18 March 2008 Devon County Council backed a separate proposal by developers Kilbride Community Rail to construct 750 houses in Tavistock that includes reopening part of this route from Bere Alston to a new railway station in Tavistock.
It is argued that the line's reopening would provide an alternative route to Plymouth and the Cornish Main Line in the event of engineering work or storms on the sea wall near Dawlish, although this would entail a reversal at Plymouth for trains continuing to Cornwall. Reopening the line would also maintain rail links in the long-term should the line around Dawlish succumb to the sea, as it did on 5 February 2014. 
The Dartmoor Railway is proposing to restore the interchange at Yeoford where its line meets the Barnstaple to Exeter Tarka Line. The company is also looking to create a railhead at Okehampton which would serve the timber industry and thereby save 50,000 lorry journeys per year.
British American Railway Services Ltd, a new company created by Iowa Pacific Holdings of Chicago, became the new owner of the Dartmoor Railway on 4 September 2008. The company will develop freight, passenger and tourist services on the railway.
Views of Okehampton station
Class 47 and Trailer Control (TC) Set
- Exeter Express and Echo, "Small railway station that survived axe now flourishes", 15 October 2006, p. 4.
- "YHA Okehampton". Matlock, Derbyshire: YHA. Retrieved 20 August 2009.
- Dartmoor Railway, News & Events
- Western Morning News, "Rail line will be lost to the sea", 3 May 2006, p. 6.
- Harris, Nigel (2008). "Taking trains back to Tavistock". Rail (Bauer) (590): 40–45.
- Western Morning News, "Alternative to coast rail line lacks support", 4 January 2006, p. 2.
- "Devon and Cornwall storm causes 'devastation'". BBC News. 5 February 2014. Retrieved 6 February 2014.
- Western Morning News, "£1.5m plan to expand moor railway", 8 June 2007, p. 34.
- Heritage Railway, Pub. Heritage Railway Magazine. Issue 116, 2 October 2008 - 29 October 2008. P. 18.
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