Tarka Line

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Tarka Line
Cowley Bridge 142009.jpg
Crossing the Exe at Cowley Bridge
Type Community rail
System National Rail
Status Open
Locale Devon, England
Termini Exeter St Davids
50°43′45″N 3°32′38″W / 50.7291°N 3.5438°W / 50.7291; -3.5438 (Exeter St Davids station)
51°04′26″N 4°03′49″W / 51.0740°N 4.0635°W / 51.0740; -4.0635 (Barnstaple station)
Stations 13
Opened 1851-1854
Owner Network Rail
Operator(s) Great Western Railway
Depot(s) Exeter TMD
Rolling stock Class 143, 150 or 153 DMUs
Line length 39 mi (62.76 km)
No. of tracks 1
Track gauge 1,435 mm (4 ft 8 12 in) standard gauge

The Tarka Line (named after the animal hero in Henry Williamson's book Tarka the Otter) is a railway line from Exeter to Barnstaple in Devon, England. The line follows the River Creedy, River Yeo and River Taw for some of its route. At Coleford Junction there is a branch to Okehampton, which has recently reopened to passenger trains as the Dartmoor Railway.


Communities served: ExeterNewton St. CyresCreditonYeofordCopplestoneMorchard BishopLapfordEggesfordKing's NymptonUmberleighTawstockBarnstaple

Parts of the line are single track, meaning that trains travelling in opposite directions must sometimes wait for each other. The full journey from Barnstaple to Exeter takes just over 1 hour, on-par with the journey time in a car.

Beyond Barnstaple, the railway used to continue to Ilfracombe or Instow and Bideford. Part of the latter route is preserved as the Bideford & Instow Railway, while sections of both routes have been reopened as cycleways on the Tarka Trail.


Passenger services on the line are operated by Great Western Railway using Class 143, Class 150 or Class 153 diesel multiple units. During the summer months a Sunday-only service operates (on behalf of Devon County Council) between Exeter Central and Okehampton.

Passenger volume[edit]

The majority of passengers travel to or from Barnstaple – about three times the number of all the other stations north of Exeter. Chapelton is the quietest station in Devon. Some of the smaller stations have seen a decline in passenger numbers during the last few years, although there have been significant increases at Umberleigh, Eggesford, and Copplestone and on the line overall. Comparing the year from April 2009 to that which started in April 2002, passenger numbers at Barnstaple have increased by 71%.[1]

Community rail[edit]

Tarka Line
Great Western Main Line
to Penzance
Riviera Line
to Paignton
River Exe
West of England Main Line
to London
Avocet Line
to Exmouth
0 Exeter St Davids
Red Cow Crossing
Riverside Yard
Cowley Bridge Junction
Great Western Main Line
to Taunton
River Exe
Newton St Cyres
10½ Yeoford
11½ Coleford Junction
Sampford Courtenay
(summer Sundays only)
(summer Sundays only)
to Plymouth
13½ Copplestone
15 Morchard Road
17½ Lapford
21¼ Eggesford
25¼ King's Nympton
28¼ Portsmouth Arms
River Taw
32¼ Umberleigh
River Taw
34¾ Chapelton
Langham Lake
River Taw
Pill Bridge
Devon & Somerset Rly
to Taunton
GW Line Junction
39 Barnstaple
Ilfracombe Line Junction
Ilfracombe Branch Line
to Ilfracombe
North Devon Railway
to Bideford
to Halwill Junction enlarge…
Advertising on 150241 "The Tarka Belle"

The Tarka Line is one of the railway lines supported by the Devon and Cornwall Rail Partnership, an organisation formed in 1991 to promote railway services in the area. The line is promoted by many means such as regular timetable and scenic line guides, as well as leaflets highlighting leisure opportunities such as walking or visiting country pubs.

The Tarka Line Rail Ale Trail was launched in 2002, the first of several such schemes which encourages rail travellers to visit pubs near the line. The trail originally covered 16 pubs, increasing to 19[when?], but now 18 pubs. There are five pubs each in Exeter and four in Barnstaple, with one each at Newton St Cyres, Crediton, Yeoford, Copplestone, Morchard Road, Lapford, Eggesford, Portsmouth Arms, and Umberleigh. 5, 10 or 18 stamps collected in the Rail Ale Trail leaflet entitle the participant to claim special Tarka Line Rail Trail souvenir merchandise.

Wessex Trains covered Class 150 2-car DMU number 150241 in coloured pictures promoting the line and named The Tarka Belle. It is still in service with Great Western Railway (Formerly First Great Western) but is currently in dynamic lines livery.

The line was designated by the Department for Transport as a community rail line in September 2006. This aims to increase revenue and reduce costs. Among possible options are increasing the car parking at stations, looking at ways to increase the train frequency, and assisting the Dartmoor Railway to operate a connecting service between Yeoford and Okehampton.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Station Usage". Rail Statistics. Office of Rail Regulation. Retrieved 2009-03-13. 
  • Nicholas, John (1992). The North Devon Line. Sparkford: Oxford Publishing Company. ISBN 0-86093-461-6. 
  • Department for Transport, Rail Group (2006), Route prospectus for the … Tarka Line'

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 50°53′38″N 3°52′42″W / 50.8939°N 3.8783°W / 50.8939; -3.8783