South Devon Railway (heritage railway)

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Not to be confused with South Devon Railway Company.
South Devon Railway
South Devon Railway, Buckfastleigh - - 195967.jpg
"Rural Idyll" – GWR pannier tank 5786 awaiting departure from Buckfastleigh station for Totnes
Terminus Buckfastleigh
50°28′57″N 3°46′07″W / 50.4824°N 3.7685°W / 50.4824; -3.7685 (Buckfastleigh railway station)
50°26′24″N 3°41′09″W / 50.4400°N 3.6858°W / 50.4400; -3.6858 (Totnes (Littlehempston) railway station)
Commercial operations
Name British Rail
Built by Buckfastleigh, Totnes and South Devon Railway
Original gauge 7 ft 14 in (2,140 mm) Brunel gauge
Preserved operations
Operated by South Devon Railway Trust
Stations 3
Length 6.64 miles (10.7 km)
Preserved gauge 4 ft 8 12 in (1,435 mm) standard gauge
Commercial history
Opened 1872
1892 Gauge conversion to
4 ft 8 12 in (1,435 mm) standard gauge
Closed 1962
Preservation history
1969 Re-opened as Dart Valley Railway
1991 Became the South Devon Railway
Headquarters Buckfastleigh
South Devon Railway
0¾ Buckfastleigh
River Dart
Nappers Halt
Exeter to Plymouth line
Totnes (Riverside)
River Dart
Exeter to Plymouth line

The South Devon Railway is a 6.64 miles (10.69 km) heritage railway from Totnes to Buckfastleigh in Devon. Mostly running alongside the River Dart, it was initially known as the Dart Valley Railway. The railway is now operated by the South Devon Railway Trust, a registered charity.[1]

The Railway's headquarters and museum are located at Buckfastleigh railway station.


  • The line was built by the Buckfastleigh, Totnes and South Devon Railway and first opened on 1 May 1872. It was worked by the larger South Devon Railway Company until 1 February 1876 when this was amalgamated into the Great Western Railway.[2]
  • The Buckfastleigh line was taken over by the Great Western Railway in 1897.
  • The railway was nationalised on 1 January 1948.
  • The line closed to all traffic on 7 September 1962 and was re-opened as the Dart Valley Railway, a preserved steam line, on 5 April 1969.
  • The South Devon Railway Trust took over the running of the line on 1 January 1991.
  • The South Devon Railway was named the Heritage Railway of the Year in 2007. A plaque on the station wall commemorates the event.[citation needed]
  • The South Devon Railway Trust bought the freehold of the line from Dart Valley Railway plc on 8 February 2010.[citation needed]


The line is 6 miles and 51 chains long (10.7 km)[3] It stretches from Totnes (Riverside) to Buckfastleigh. Staverton is the only intermediate station on the line. Just north of Staverton is a signal box known as Bishops Bridge where there is the only passing loop on the line. For most of its route, the line runs along the left bank of the River Dart. This means that the river, and the best views, can be seen to the left of the train when facing Buckfastleigh, and the right of the train when facing Totnes.[4][5]


Trains on the South Devon Railway operate daily from late March to the end of October. On most days a single train set operates, providing four journeys a day in each direction. On busy days (most of the school holidays) two train sets operate, providing more journeys.[6] Other services include evening Dining trains, fish 'n' chip trains and Santa by Steam trains. Also the railway runs both full day steam and diesel footplate experience courses throughout the year.

Filming location[edit]

The railway is sometimes used as a filming location for period films and television programmes. It featured in early scenes of the BBC's 2015 miniseries And Then There Were None.[7]

Rolling stock[edit]

The rolling stock preserved on line include many examples of steam locomotives typical of the Great Western Railway types that would have once worked on it, such as GWR 1400 Class number 1420. There are also other types of steam locomotives and a number of diesel locomotives. As well as those used in service there are a number that are undergoing overhaul or restoration, or are displayed in non-working condition. The most significant one of these is Tiny a South Devon Railway 0-4-0vb shunting locomotive on display in the museum at Buckfastleigh station. This is the only original 7 ft (2,134 mm) broad gauge locomotive still in existence in the United Kingdom.[8]

There are a number of historic coaches in use including two Great Western Railway "Super Saloons", some coaches once used in the Royal Train, and three auto coaches that were used on small branch lines such as this.


  1. ^ Charity Commission. South Devon Railway Trust, registered charity no. 800299. 
  2. ^ Maggs, Colin G (1991). Taunton Steam. Bath: Millstream Books. ISBN 0-948975-26-1. 
  3. ^ Jacobs, Gerald (2005). Railway Track Diagrams Book 3: Western. Bradford-on-Avon: Trackmaps. p. 7. ISBN 0-9549866-1-X. 
  4. ^ Butcher, Alan C. (2006). Railways Restored 2007. Ian Allan Publishing. p. 150. ISBN 0-7110-3216-5. 
  5. ^ Taylor, Alan; Treglown, Peter (May 1999). South Devon Railway - A Visitors Guide. South Devon Railway Trust. 
  6. ^ "Timetables". South Devon Railway Trust. Retrieved 2011-01-18. 
  7. ^
  8. ^ Sheppard, Geof (2008). Broad Gauge Locomotives. Southampton: Noodle Books. ISBN 978-1-906419-09-7. 

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 50°27′35″N 3°43′04″W / 50.4597°N 3.7178°W / 50.4597; -3.7178