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Representing Users Of The Barnstaple - Exeter Line 1

Contents Topic

Author(s) Page

Editorial From the Chairman Barnstaple Station House The Vanishing Army Great Western RUS Exploring the Line and its Surroundings Keeping up Appearances Pullman Car Restoration at Portsmouth Arms The Future of the Tarka Line? Tarka Line Shows Further Growth Looking after Barnstaple

Andy Hedges John Phillips Mike Day John Phillips Peter Craske Patrick O’Connor Mike Day Steve Mason

Design: NDRUG Articles, information, and letters for the next edition should be sent to: Andy Hedges, 20 Barton Meadow Road, High Bickington, Umberleigh, EX37 9AN or e-mailed to

Opinions expressed in this publication are not necessarily those of the editors nor of the North Devon Rail Users Group

Front Cover: Current state of Barnstaple Station House Photo : Mike Day 2

3 4 6 9 10 16 17 18 22 24 25

Editorial I would not be at all surprised if readers were thinking that perhaps we had stopped producing this magazine, but here it is eventually. There have been some problems in production of this issue, firstly because we were waiting until we were able to report on certain things, but more to the point has been the inability to fill the pages of the magazine in the normal timescale. When I took over as editor in 2004 I was able to produce a 36 page magazine, and even had to hold some item over. This reduced to 32, 30, then 28 pages where it remained for some time until last year we hit a low of 20 pages. This issue, had it been produced on time at the end of March, would have only run to 12 pages, hence the delay and the consequent production running to just 24 pages. Due to this lack of content there will not be another issue until the Autumn unless there is a sudden inundation of items for inclusion – which seems unlikely. It may be expedient to produce a simple newsletter at other times, but this may only serve to reduce the magazine content further, why not let us know your feelings about this point. My thanks go out to those members who have taken the trouble to submit items for inclusion, their effort is much appreciated. It is pleasing to see that we are still attracting new members, and it is vitally important to keep them informed about what is happening on and around the North Devon line, and for the Group to maintain a high profile with the organisations and people that matter; this magazine is one channel for this, let’s not lose it. No doubt everyone is starting to feel the effects of the spiralling cost of fuel, so now is the time for us to reinforce the message of how cheap it is to travel by train in comparison with the car, for both short and long distances. Let’s hope that the end result of this, more people travelling, is not lost on the train operating companies and the Department for Tarmac (DfT) and that capacity will be increased over and above the figure already been announced, and will include provision for the West of England, so far excluded. Please note that there has been a change of Membership Secretary, or rather we do not have one as such, the function being covered by the undersigned, to whom all remittances should be sent, the address is inside the back cover as usual. Andy Hedges


Chairman's Report I am sorry that you have had to wait so long for this edition of the magazine. However, when you read its content I hope that you will think the delay was worthwhile because your Committee has been extremely busy and, I believe, very successful on a number of fronts. TIMETABLE Firstly and most important it looks as though we have reached our goal of an hourly service for much of the day from December. It is proposed that there will be 14 trains per day – the best ever - with a standard Monday to Saturday timetable. We are delighted that our campaigning appears to have paid off and our sincerest thanks go to First Great Western and Devon County Council for working so hard to bring this transformation about. There are a number of other improvements such as the first morning train from Barnstaple reverting to its 0708 departure time but still arriving into Exeter Central at 0815. The 0658 from Exeter will no longer have a 23 minute wait at Eggesford – just a five minute wait and a 0810 arrival into Barnstaple will hopefully be an acceptable compromise. Morchard Road will get its best ever service with all trains calling there. This is because all trains will pass at both Eggesford and Crediton and so the intermediate stations can be served without time penalty for the overall journey. We had hoped to achieve three fast trains each way. However, the infrastructure constraints mean that this is not presently possible whilst also maintaining clockface departure times from Exeter St Davids and Barnstaple. An acceleration of four or five minutes is needed between Eggesford and Cowley Bridge junction so that trains can pass between the junction and St Davids. As it happens, Network Rail has just embarked on a new Route Utilisation Strategy for Great Western and we are being involved and consulted as work progresses. We have made a submission (see page 8) and you will see that we have very much taken on board the need for some faster trains. We and our colleagues at ALRUG are also signatories to a submission being made by Devon County Council.


In the meantime, we now have the new 0933 departure from Barnstaple which should do much to help relieve the overcrowding that has been experienced on the 0840 and 1029 services hitherto. Your Committee have warmly welcomed this additional service. ENVIRONMENTAL REPORT NDRUG is the first user group to have commissioned a report giving factual information about the environmental benefits of rail over car and air transport modes. The report has been funded by the Devon & Cornwall Rail Partnership and is currently being considered by the committee Full details will be published in the next magazine and we will be giving it widespread publicity in due course. With the ever increasing cost of fuel, plus increasing awareness of green issues (especially carbon emissions), the railway has much to gain and this is especially true of our line where, thanks to FGW, fares are very reasonable. Indeed with large companies such as supermarkets keen to show their green credentials, who knows, our line might also attract rail freight given the existing and potential superstore development in North Devon. If an opportunity were to present itself, NDRUG would certainly applaud such an initiative and we would hope that our members would too. STATION WALKS Committee members Alan Clark and Peter Craske have been beavering away at producing a walks brochure. More details are given on page 14, and our thanks go them for all their hard work. Once walks for the whole line have been published, I will offer a small prize of ÂŁ10.00 and a certificate to the first person to complete them all! STATION FLOWERS Once again, our Competition has support from all stations except Lapford and, thanks to increased sponsorship from FGW, each platform has up to ÂŁ100.00 to spend on flowers, containers, compost etc. Janet Day is very pleased with the response this year and judging will take place at the beginning of July. Good luck and thanks to all those taking part. Once again, apologies for the lateness of this edition and hopefully we can get back on track (pardon the pun) with the next one! John Phillips 5

Barnstaple Station House at last the full report! As many of you are aware, I have been working for nearly three years on turning the derelict station house at Barnstaple into an asset the station and line can be proud of. I will start by giving a brief history of the house and then move on to our plans for the building and garden. Barnstaple station house was originally designed by Sir William Tite (1798 – 1873) famous for designing the famous Royal Exchange, Cornhill in London, along with many railway buildings including the Southampton Terminus. The last station master to live in the building was Station Master Boundy, who had a keen passion for his garden and is believed to have passed away in the house, which may explain the immensely warm and contented feel the house has which is experienced by a high percentage of those I have shown around. The house has over the years been virtually criminally neglected by BRB, Railtrack and several TOC’s and is now in a very poor state, the roof thankfully is in very good condition as it was rebuilt following a major fire in the 50’s. A lot of damage was done by drug addicts who used the house to sleep in several years ago, and one of our first jobs was to safely remove the paraphernalia that they had left behind. We had originally thought that within six months of getting the agreement in principle for the project we would be starting work, but that was 2 years ago! Working as a single person along side multi billion pound companies is an interesting experience and the level of bureaucracy that can exist in some of these is truly staggering. To verify my projections for the business, (and as I didn’t want to employ a consultant!) and with no historical data to work with, we placed the catering trailer on the platform, this would also allow us to have a good customer base up on opening the café within the station house. We quickly learnt the travel patterns and eating habits of our clientele and I am very pleased we took this approach, as it was a good 6 months before we came to be embedded within the regular rail users pattern of travel. We had originally planned to build an extension to the station house architecturally complimenting the existing building, which would have provided a commercial kitchen, toilets and indoor seating for 30 or so. This has been put back and will be stage two, with the house refurbishment being stage one.


The first people I met connected with the railway were the infamous pair of John Philips and Andy Hedges, who have been from the start true and vocal supporters of the project, my heart felt thanks go to them as they have endured many months of the emotional roller coaster that this project has become. I then had great and fruitful conversations with Andrew Griffiths of Wessex (now regional manager central area FGW) and Richard Burningham of the Devon and Cornwall Rail Partnership. Andrew and Richard put me into contact with Jim Cornell from the railway Heritage Trust who is based at Network Rail’s Headquarters next to Euston Station. I have to admit that I was some what nervous of meeting a Director of Network Rail in their HQ, but this soon disappeared after meeting Jim, a man of many years practical experience of the railway for which he has a great passion. Jim has been an amazing supporter and with out him we would have fallen foul of paperwork on more than one occasion. Later in the year Jim came down for a site visit, I had a truly entertaining round trip from Exeter listening to Jim’s thoughts and experience - a true no nonsense gentleman. From the start of the project I had made it clear to all concerned that I was interested in the railway and that I would not be just another café slotting into a station, I would work with the various agencies to improve the passenger experience, and this I hope I have achieved so far and am regularly in contact with FGW management and NDRUG on a variety of issues to help improve the Tarka Line. From this I have seen the utter dedication of NDRUG in its aims, the amount of time that some of its committee members give up each week is truly humbling, most of which is behind the scenes achieving long term goals whilst attempting to fix any short term issues. Rodney Wheaton Site Agent for Pearce Construction, Mike Day, and Don Reid on the first day of construction works on the 6th May 2008


Others who have been of

great support are, Julian Crow (FGW), Kevin Olgive-White (FGW) a rather noisy Don Reid (FGW), Heidi Barton (FGW), David Harrison (deserves an MBE for his assistance with the mountain of paperwork this has generated), Mike Franklin (NR), Jerry Swift (NR), Janet, Jo, Tony Rushbridge (business link), Hilary Rhodes (Devon Renaissance), and to my late dad who died unexpected and suddenly before this project started but who introduced me to trains and, via his job, construction. (The main contractors by tender are actually my dad’s old firm !). The house itself consists of three floors and a ¾ height cellar which was used by the home guard in World War II as a bomb shelter (their benches are still there intact). The ground floor will consist of the café area with a small seating area and hopefully a fully operational wood burner. The second floor will consist of museum space dedicated to the railway in North Devon and we have already received many contributions towards this, either in original or copied form. The top floor will consist of office space and a manufacturing area for the mugs, t- shirts and other paraphernalia that I make mainly for the railway and tourism markets. So you will be able to drop in and have your photo archived onto CD from a negative or slide and/or printed onto a mug, mousemat or t-shirt! I hope to provide other facilities for the rail passenger such as, working with FGW to provide customer information on train times both for here and Exeter, working with BT to provide very fast wireless and wired broadband access and some other things still under wraps! We are hampered by only being able to achieve stage one, so some of the other things we would like to offer will have to wait for now, this includes a lot of the work to reduce our impact on the environment. We do hope to install solar heating and hot water, use the woodburner’s excess heat to help generate hot water, FSC wooden double glazed windows, and hope to use waterless urinals, under floor heating, and the new ultra efficient Dyson blade hand dryer as used at the Eden project. Wherever possible we will continue to use locally sourced products as we presently do, some may even start to arrive by train! We have worked closely with Jim to ensure the building retains as much of a heritage and original feel as possible, modern regulations complicate matters though. And in adhering to those regulations, the lovely stair case will be boxed in by a fire barrier on each level; without this the project wouldn’t get the regulatory approval. The paintwork inside will be in Southern colours, but for those strong Southern fans it will be a “as close to original” and isn’t intended to be an exact replica of a Southern Station interior. We are looking at adding an exciting dimension to the paint work which will again remain un8

der wraps until the building is open, so if we can make it happen you can see it on your visit. Anyway back to the building work, and we look forward to welcoming you in the summer to our new premises. Mike Day

The Vanishing Army As a child prior to D-Day, I lived with my parents at Salmon Pool Railway Crossing, the village of Uton, Crediton, Devon. I was twelve years old. Obviously I didn’t know then that the invasion of the continent was imminent, but the area where we lived was frequently overrun by American troops. One event concerning troop exercises and the war was the arrival of an American convoy at our remote little country lane railway crossing. There were a great many and various armoured vehicles. There must have been hundreds of them. Dad, having received telephone permission to open the gates, and their transition been allowed to commence, there was no way of stopping them. For nearly two hours, vehicle after vehicle just kept trundling across the line. No trains could run, and dad was besieged with telephone call after telephone call, “ Stop the traffic, and close the gates.” It was an impossibility, and I remember Dad’s final comment to the railway authorities, “ If Hitler can’t stop the bloody American Army, how the hell do you expect me to”. As children, we were definitely exited, especially as all these benevolent soldiers were only too eager to throw us chewing gum and sweets, or candy, as they called them. Having had only a very few sweets in the latter years, we soon learnt to shout, “Got any Gum Chum?” to every available American soldier, and that day at the crossing was a real bonanza. Throughout the previous months everyone, including us children, had all become familiar with so many young American soldiers in the area, and then one day they were all gone. They simply vanished to we knew not where. As children who had lost so many newly made friends, we just could not understand it. One day they were there, the next they were gone. It seemed so impossible that our young minds just couldn’t get our heads around it As told by Brian Cox to the BBC ‘Peoples War’ project in 2004


Great Western Route Utilisation Strategy Route Utilisation Strategies (RUSs) seek to balance capacity, passenger & freight demand, operational performance and cost, to address the requirements of funders and stakeholders. Network Rail is developing Route Utilisation Strategies to cover the rail network, in conjunction with rail industry partners and wider stakeholders. Work started on the Great Western RUS in February 2008. The following is a copy of our submission to Network Rail at this initial stage of the Route Utilisation Process: MATTERS FOR CONSIDERATION IN RESPECT OF THE EXETER BARNSTAPLE LINE IN THE GREAT WESTERN ROUTE UTILISATION STRATEGY The North Devon Rail Users Group welcomes the opportunity to contribute to the RUS and wishes to offer the following issues for consideration by Network Rail. The potential introduction of an hourly service will mean that there would be no spare capacity on the North Devon line and that any delay to services will mean that there is little opportunity to recover lost time. To this must be added the fact that even a one hour end to end journey time would still mean an average speed of just 40mph. Although most of the line as far as Copplestone is passed for 70mph running, and nearly all of the rest has a 55mph speed limit there are a number of infrastructure and other operating constraints which mitigate against achieving these speeds. These are: A

Crediton: Here the delay in token work means that down trains have to start from the platform and then come to a stand beyond the level crossing in order for the driver to obtain the token for the section to Eggesford. Similarly, in the opposite direction trains have to stop for the token to be handed in before starting again for the movement into the station.



Salmon Pool: Here at this ungated crossing, passenger trains have to reduce speed to 25mph along an otherwise 70mph stretch of railway.


Copplestone: The platform here is very low (as is Newton St Cyres) and poorly surfaced. This can lead to protracted station dwell times.


Lapford: The existing station is poorly located in relation to the village it serves and, worse still, both vehicular and pedestrian access is extremely dangerous.


Eggesford: Down trains have to draw to a stand in advance of the level crossing for the driver to pull a cord and, when the barriers are down, pull forward into the station in order to carry out the token exchange, all costing valuable time of 1-2 minutes. In the up direction, when trains cross here, the token for the section to Crediton cannot be released until the driver of the down train has obtained the Barnstaple token. The platforms at this station are also too short to accommodate four car trains.


Umberleigh: Again there is an ungated crossing, although in this case there is less of a problem in view of the proximity of the nearby station at which all trains stop.


Barnstaple: Very much with an eye to the future, but also having regard to possible future freight and excursion trains, there is no scope to “lock in� a train at the northern terminus. Whilst this may not be important at the present time, the prospect of major redevelopment in the environs of the station presents the tempting prospect of the railway being able to attract freight, e.g in the form of supermarket goods. Indeed with supermarket operators keen to show their green credentials by reducing their carbon footprint, there is every prospect of this traffic growing in the future and with three superstores, there would be much to be gained, especially if the freight multiple unit concept develops. 11


Generally looking to the future, the huge amount of development proposed in North Devon, for which the railway line is main public transport link to the county town and national rail network may mean that a more frequent service may be needed in the future.

Consequently, we would ask for the RUS to make the following provisions based on the present infrastructure: 1

2 3 4




Crediton: For trains in the down direction, consideration be given to the signaller taking the token to the down platform. The time taken to return to the box should be no greater than the present arrangement whereby he/she has to wait for the train to pass before crossing the line. For trains in the up direction, a container be provided into which the token may be deposited at low speed to avoid the train having to stop and then move forward into the station. Salmon Pool: In conjunction with the highway authority, consideration be given to closing this crossing or providing barriers to enable trains to pass at line speed. Raise the platform height at this increasCopplestone: ingly busy station to facilitate access for people with mobility problems, buggies etc and to reduce dwell times. Lapford: Relocate the station to the south with a platform on the west side (on the formation of the now disused loop), with pedestrian and vehicular access from the adjoining industrial estate, where there is adequate open land for a forecourt and car parking. Eggesford: Modernise the operation of the level crossing (eg by the use of treadles) so as to reduce the time taken for this operation in the down direction. Lengthen the platforms to accommodate four car trains. Umberleigh: It is suggested that consideration be given to raising the line speed from here to Barnstaple to 70mph. This was of course previously double track and so should present few problems. Barnstaple: Retain the switch into the erstwhile platform 2 to provide future flexibility. Investigate the possibility of providing a “lock in� facility.


The Exeter area resignalling gives the opportunity for more flexibility. For example it would remove the current constraint on operating a late evening service caused by the limited opening hours of Crediton Signal Box. Indeed it may be that if the Cambrian experiment is successful, ERTMS could be introduced on the line, perhaps even in advance of the wider area resignalling. Given the existing track layout, resignalling on its own would not create additional capacity and so we would ask that it be accompanied by the “lock in” facility at Barnstaple and passive provision for additional passing loops not only to accommodate possible freight traffic, but also an even more frequent passenger service taking account of the considerable growth in housing and employment provision to be made in North Devon. We hope that these comments are helpful and NDRUG would like to participate in future stages of the development of the RUS.

Subsequent to our making the above submission, it became clear that the present infrastructure cannot support faster train services whilst maintaining the clockface departure times from Barnstaple and Exeter St Davids. Consequently an addendum was sent to Network Rail asking them to take this into account and seek to modify the infrastructure to achieve a saving of at least four minutes in journey time between Eggesford and Cowley Bridge. This would then permit these trains to pass between Cowley Bridge Junction and St Davids rather than at Crediton. John Phillips

The End for Carnets The books of ten £1 single tickets for travel between Umberleigh and Barnstaple that have been available since 2005 are being discontinued after the end of June. Despite strenuous efforts the sales have been dropping steadily since the middle of 2007, and it is no longer considered financially viable for the Devon & Cornwall Rail Partnership to run the scheme. Currently a standard day return between the two stations is only £2.10, and with a railcard £1.65, so there is really no need for the facility any longer.




Exploring the Line and its Surroundings Committee members Alan Clark and Peter Craske have spent long hours over the winter and spring exploring and recording a series of walks and cycle rides based on the stations on the Tarka Line—here is a sample for you to try! Copplestone Station to Morchard Road Station. 5.5 miles. This walk starts out with a visit to the remote hamlet of Newbuildings, before heading across even less travelled country to connect with the next station along the line. Facilities: Pub and Village stores in Copplestone. Pub at Morchard Road. Turn left outside the station and walk up to the main road. Turn left again and follow the Exeter-bound traffic over the bridge and towards the centre of the village. After 0.35 miles, just before the end of the one-way system and immediately beyond the Cross Hotel, turn left up Bewsley Hill and past the primary school. After 1.7 miles, you enter the sleepy old hamlet of Newbuildings. 200 years ago it was rather less sleepy, for the tiny main street lay on the old high road connecting Exeter and Crediton with Barnstaple, a busy goods and stagecoach route. Nowadays border collies lethargically soak up the summer sun in the middle of the road. The building of the turnpike road in the valley in the early 19th Century, and the railway that was later constructed alongside it, put paid to the dreams, not only of Newbuildings, but of many another village along the old highway. At the Newbuildings Cross intersection, turn left [SP Morchard Bishop] and ignoring the first fork to the right after 0.4 miles, proceed along the old coaching road for a further 0.3 miles to a distinctive cedar tree marking Gays Cross. Here take the left-hand fork [SP Gays & Knathorne]. This quiet country lane is a delight. Over the right hedge the tower of Morchard Bishop church stands out against the sky, while to the left lie the distant hills of Dartmoor: the distinctive rounded shape of Cawsand Beacon -- Cosdon to the Dartmoor locals -- and further to the right, the sharper outline of Yestor. The little lane passes Gays Farm, a square Georgian house with a fine old stone barn and, a little further along on the opposite side of the road, a track leads up to Bagborough, a magnificent thatched Devon longhouse. Note the tall chimneys to minimize the risk of fire. At Ash Bullayne the lane veers hard right and then left, later crossing Knathorne Brook to reach a muddy crossroads where a footpath crosses the road by a large barn.


Turn left here and walk past the barn to a point just beyond where the footpath divides. Turn sharp right and follow the edge of a large field, with the hedge first on your right and later on your left to reach a stile. Climb this and strike out diagonally across the hilltop to reach another stile in the opposite corner leading to steps down to a plantation. Turn left to reach Slade Farm, an undistinguished modern structure whose ancient outbuildings (the original farm) may be glimpsed through a gateway. At the farm your route intersects with the Two Moors Way which runs due north/south at this point. Go through the small gate ahead of you and descend a few metres towards the pond to reach a way post. Bear right here for about 50 metres to cross the stream at a gated footbridge. Head directly up the field on the far bank passing through concrete gateposts, then diagonally across the next field to a gate just by the Victorian front of Southcott. Follow the further field edge to reach a road immediately opposite the entrance to Sharland Farm. Turn left down the hill. The road levels out shortly before crossing Knighty Brook and then passes on the right an area where the County Council have for more than half a century kept their equipment. (Steam traction engines where a common sight here in the 1940s and 1950s.) As you cross the bridge, note Morchard Road station a few hundred metres to your right. The similarity of the station’s architecture with the buildings you left behind at Copplestone is striking. At the busy main road, turn right and make your way to the station approach road, on your right immediately opposite the road forks to Winkleigh.

Keeping up Appearances Hi my name is Frasier, and I have been working for ISS, cleaning railway stations for FGW for the last eighteen months. Some of you may have seen me around various stations in the Devon/Somerset area I as cover from Barnstaple to Dawlish and as far "north!" as Bridgwater. I clean all of the stations on the Tarka Line, and take great pride in my work, it gives me great satisfaction when customers come up to me and praise me on my work and how good the stations look. So if you are at a station and see me, please feel free to come up and say hi! (especially if you like darts or pool!)


Pullman Car Restoration at Portsmouth Arms Following on the previous magazine articles on the ‘Devon Belle’ and renovation work on the Pullman car MAID OF KENT at Portsmouth Arms, this article describes the other Pullman at this station, ARIES, which awaits restoration. ARIES is one of a batch of ten Pullman cars completed during 1951 and 1952. But these carriages had a long gestation period, having been planned by the Pullman Car Company in 1938 for the East Coast route. The London and North Eastern Railway (LNER) had achieved a lot of publicity and success with the ‘The Silver Jubilee’ of 1935 and the ‘Coronation’ and ‘West Riding Limited’ of 1937. These were streamlined trains offering shorter journey times between London and the North East and Scotland. From Kings Cross, Newcastle could be reached in 4 hours and Edinburgh in 6 hours. They had pressure ventilation (a limited form of air-conditioning) and a full catering service with meals served at every seat on the ‘Coronation and ‘West Riding Limited’. In response, Pullman needed to improve its complementary but rival ‘Yorkshire Pullman’ service with a fleet of new cars. Materials were ordered and some work was begun but, as with other aspects of Pullman operations, the war intervened and all construction was suspended in 1940. Post war, the company was eager to re-establish services and create new business opportunities where possible. The London to Paris ‘Golden Arrow’ service was amongst the first to be revived in 1946. As Britain slowly recovered from the war and trudged its way through the food and fuel shortages of late 1940s austerity, the government decided to commemorate the centenary of the 1851 Great Exhibition with a Festival of Britain. This was in the spirit of ’Britain can make it’ and was to be a morale booster. With increasing numbers of tourists expected, Pullman decided to use materials from the 1938 order, stored during the war, and re-equip the ’Golden Arrow’ with new rolling stock. These were the last traditionally styled Pullmans and were based on the 1938 design. Seven cars were built by the Birmingham Railway Carriage and Wagon Company in 1951 and named AQUILA, CARINA, CYGNUS, HERCULES, ORION, PERSEUS and a bar car called PEGASUS. Three were built by Pullman at its own works in Brighton in 1952 and named ARIES, PHOENIX and Car No 303. All cars were first class except Car No 303. Waring & Gillow had designed each individual interior in a ‘Moderne’


style and the wood panels had been made before the order was suspended. Woods such as satin birch, quilted maple and walnut were used. ARIES was panelled in burr ash and black walnut. On entering service, all cars were used on the ‘Golden Arrow’ service, except for Car No 303 which was used on the ‘Devon Belle’.

Interior of ARIES - courtesy of Doug Lindsay

As built, ARIES had individual seating for twenty including four seats in a coupe compartment, a lavatory, plus a large pantry and kitchen. The vehicle weighed 39 tons and measured 63’ 10” over the vestibules and a width of 8’6” This batch of Pullmans were also used for royal train work, including Derby specials to Epsom and for visiting heads of state arriving at Dover and Gatwick Airport. Victoria was convenient for taking foreign dignitaries from the station to Buckingham Palace and Platform 2 was used for the official state reception. ARIES was frequently used by HM the Queen for race specials and journeys on the Southern Region such as the Coronation pageant at RAF Odiham in 1953 and the return to Windsor of the Queen from the state visit to the


Netherlands in 1958. ARIES was also in the train bringing President Kruschev and Marshal Bulganin from Portsmouth to London in 1956. In 1964, with use of Pullmans declining, ARIES was transferred to the Eastern Region and used for a time on ‘The Talisman’ between London and Edinburgh pending introduction of new BR air-conditioned stock. Pullman had by now been wholly bought out by the British Railways Board and services were being drastically pruned. By 1967, on the demise of the ‘Bournemouth Belle’, only the ‘Brighton Belle’ and ‘Golden Arrow’ remained formed of traditional cars, the latter reduced to four Pullmans. All the other 1951 and 1952 cars were disposed of but only HERCULES and Car No 303 were scrapped. These carriages were barely 16 years old but BR was not interested in ‘special’ stock with low seating ratios and non standard features. ARIES was sold and its employment went from the sublime to the ridiculous. After former glories on royal train work, ARIES became a café for workers building the M62 around Manchester and then part of a pub, the Yew Tree Inn at Rochdale. Unfortunately, most of the interior was gutted with removal of tables, chairs, doors and light fittings for its new role as a pub diner. In 1997, reluctant to maintain the vehicle any further, the pub owners sold ARIES to the East Lancashire Railway at Bury. The carriage interior was again stripped to allow for removal of concealed asbestos lagging with the intention of full restoration in a ‘dine and wine’ train. Unfortunately, this did not happen and the vehicle was left to deteriorate at the hands of vandals and the elements. With no prospect of repair in sight, ARIES was again sold and arrived at Portsmouth Arms in 2007, hopefully for a more secure future. Initial work has consisted of making (all 19) roof vents watertight, painting the roof and acquiring replacement external doors. Currently, ARIES has been sheeted over for the Winter. ARIES and seven of her sister vehicles have now been preserved with CYGNUS, PERSEUS and PHOENIX being the most opulently restored by the Venice Simplon Orient Express (VSOE). And we have ORION in Devon at ‘Pecorama’ near Seaton, restored to something like its original form. It is now over 50 years since the ‘Devon Belle’ made its final run from Waterloo to Ilfracombe. Admittedly a de luxe Pullman service, we can


ARIES at Victoria Station, photo courtesy of Lens of Sutton Association

contrast the period interiors and armchair comfort with meals and drinks served at every seat with the current ‘Pacer’ stock : a rough riding box on four wheels with bus seats. We can ponder half-a-century of progress on the North Devon line. Patrick O’Connor

Dates for the Diary There will be an open evening at Instow signal box on Friday 27th June from 7 p.m until 9 p.m. Torrington Station Railway Gala wil be held this year on the 27th and 28th of July at the Puffing Billy from 10 a.m until 6 p.m each day.


The Future of the Tarka Line? I feel that as one of the committee representatives based in the Barnstaple/ Bideford area, I should take on the inspirational, thought provoking, and normally controversial columns that my good friend Hugh Butterworth used to pen before his retirement from the committee. So brace yourselves………. I read with great interest many column inches in rail and national press of the reinstatement of the line to Tavistock due to the hard work of Devon County Council and the Kilbride property group, whose plan will see 750 new houses and 5.5 miles of railway built at a cost of around £18 million. It is of also of great significance to the Tarka Line that recently the Association of Train Operating Companies (ATOC) produced its vision for the railway up to 2057. This includes the relaying of track from Okehampton back down to Tavistock, recreating the diversionary route axed under Beeching, as the Dawlish seawall route is not sustainable with the projected rise in sea levels. (Important to note : Google tells me that Tavistock’s population is around 11,000 whilst Bideford alone is around 32,000). So lets look into the future and see what is possible if the powers that be are brave and take a trail blazing approach instead of safe and steady. Starting off at the Exeter end, we find that Cowley Bridge to Crediton is fully reinstated as double track, (if I really push my luck I might suggest a chord from North of Cowley bridge to swing right and join the Tarka line, allowing Trains from Tiverton to go to Barnstaple or around Okehampton without entering Exeter St. Davids, I would see this for the inevitable huge increase in freight predominately due to supermarkets wishing to lower their CO2 footprint.), From Crediton we approach Yeoford with its new station enhancement allowing Heritage excursions from Okehampton to use a bay platform on the current disused island platform, Tarka Line trains now use the adjacent platform following relocation of the junction allowing this to occur. As we venture further north to Coleford Junction we could swing off left onto double track all the way to Okehampton or carry on up to Barnstaple, by rejoining the current single track. Once we approach Eggesford, automatic barriers ensure a speedy station stop saving many valuable minutes, from here it is double track all the way to Barnstaple. As we approach Barnstaple and can see the old GWR bridge to Taunton we now see new sidings replacing the current ones, which lead in to a new freight yard for North Devon. (this is currently in the NDDC plan as part of the new Barnstaple bridge scheme from what I understand), many hundreds of lorry journeys per week have gone from the link


road to this new yard, mainly supermarket but also from the board factory at South Molton. As we pass the new freight yard we arrive into Barnstaple station with its 3 platforms, we use platform 2, platform 1 has a direct train to London and Platform 3 has just received a direct Manchester service, here we can get off and walk a few yards to a new public transport interchange on the current B&Q and Maplin sites, with a spacious new modern bus station. Or we can simply stay on the train and travel along the scenic line to Bideford, once a town with little prospect and in the shadow of Barnstaple, now it is a thriving town with thousands of mainly retired high disposable income day tourists arriving by steam train spending hundreds of thousands of pounds per annum in Bideford. A new parkway is built just on the Westleigh straight with easy access from the Westleigh junction of the link road, all buses call here from all over Torridge with one arriving or departing every few minutes. Whilst thousands still enjoy (as planned at Tavistock) the use of the Tarka cycle trail, others can jump aboard a heritage train to Torrington and view the amazing birthplace of Tarka the Otter. The economic and environmental benefits of this to Torridge and North Devon are truly astronomical, if council leaders and the rail industry meet and grasp the nettle, what may be seen as fanciful thinking could be reality. But what about the cost? while I don’t proclaim to be able to accurately cost any of this, if we use Tavistock’s example of £3.4m per mile we can see that roughly Bideford to Barnstaple would be around £30m. So where does the money come from? Mainly for this part it would come from the many, many thousands of new houses that TDC and NDDC are being made to approve as part of the overall Government plan for 3 million houses. Recent press reports I recall speculate a new town between Bideford and Barnstaple consisting say of 6,000 plus houses. Under a recent new government levy each house can have a surcharge for local transport improvements. Thus a mere £5,000 per house would pay for this extension, if this is doubled and more houses are built than this, this development alone could pay for a substantial proportion of the other improvements along the line. Does the idea seem so unachievable now? Take a look at the environmental study commissioned by NDRUG and undertaken by Envision covered elsewhere in this magazine if you need more convincing of the benefits of removing many thousands of car journeys a day between Bideford and Barnstaple. I must stress these are my personal views and not that of NDRUG, they are meant to provoke thought and the trail blazing LETS DO IT APPROACH.. Or are we just afraid that we could achieve our dreams……. Mike Day


Tarka Line Shows Further Growth The chart below, supplied by the Devon & Cornwall Rail Partnership, and derived from ticket sales data from First Great Western, shows a further increase in passenger numbers for the first three months of this year, an average increase so far on 2007 of 24%. This is encouraging, considering the problems that have been experienced with stock, and the type of stock currently in use, but in order to capitalise on this increase and build on it further, consideration must be given to increasing the capacity available, either by longer trains or a more frequent service.

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13

Period (9 Jan - 5 Feb) (6 Feb - 5 Mar) (6 Mar - 31 Mar) (1 Apr - 30 Apr) (1May - 28 May) (29 May - 25 Jun) (26 Jun - 23 Jul) (24 Jul - 20 Aug) (21 Aug - 17 Sep) (18 Sep - 15 Oct) (16 Oct - 12 Nov) (13 Nov - 10 Dec) (11 Dec - 7 Jan) Total

2004 14,389 14,768 16,618 20,273 17,800 19,396 21,915 25,405 21,538 16,890 16,797 18,689 15,519 239,997

2005 14,613 14,329 16,635 18,942 18,376 21,932 22,239 26,014 23,900 21,000 16,619 18,765 16,737 250,102


2006 18,036 22,050 16,088 22,545 21,982 23,560 26,198 31,064 29,615 26,841 23,849 24,872 19,469 306,169

2007 17,952 18,924 18,207 22,564 22,741 26,004 25,320 29,400 27,633 24,481 26,658 20,218 21,028 301,131

2008 21,340 26,461 20,931

Looking after Barnstaple Since I started working at Barnstaple Railway Station about 18 months ago I really look forward to going to work. I am part of a small team working for First Great Western and we each have our part to play in the smooth running of the station. My job is to ensure that trains are dispatched safely and on time. I am also there to provide customer service and assistance to those that require extra help. I enjoy helping our customers and I have met some lovely people in my time at the station. My first job of the day is to check if anybody has booked assistance. My next duty is to check the platform and the line to ensure the safe arrival of the train and the passengers. We are all proud of our station and like to keep all areas litter free and clean for our customers at all times. From the moment the train arrives until the time of it's departure I am kept busy with customer enquiries. These could range from giving directions to taxis and buses, to advising on the location of the local amenities. We get a large variety of people through the station every day, from shoppers to Exeter, to people on business, families on holiday, parties of school children on days out and even the odd celebrity, so you never know who you will meet during the course of the day. We even get the occasional train spotter! It is always interesting to meet customers who have a knowledge of the history of Barnstaple Railway Station as there is still a lot of nostalgia and affection for the days of steam. By the end of my shift I feel I have helped a lot of passengers have a trouble free journey and I have been able to achieve this because I am part of a very efficient and happy team. Steve Mason



Membership Matters If you know someone who you think might like to join NDRUG, please contact the Membership Secretary whose address is shown opposite. New Members We welcome: Mr J Gayton Mr D Roulston Mr Lock & Ms Hayns Mr & Mrs H Oxenham Mr A Rayner Mr & Mrs A Stewart Mr R Turner Miss A Puffett

Portsmouth Arms Barnstaple Leyton Fremington Bideford Crediton Eggesford Exeter

Committee Meetings (Members Welcome) Wednesday, 16th July ; 19.00 Gables Tea Rooms, Umberleigh Wednesday 20th August ; 19.15 Barnstaple Station House Wednesday, 17th September ; 19.00 Fox & Hounds, Eggesford Tuesday, 14th October AGM ; Details to be advised Wednesday 19th November ; 19.00 Fox & Hounds, Eggesford If attending a meeting please check with a member of the committee to confirm details of date, time, and location. 26

Committee Members Chairman: John Phillips Higher Living Farmhouse, Down St Mary, Crediton, Devon, EX17 6EA.

Secretary & Vice Chairman: Tony Hill Langridge, Ingleigh Green, Winkleigh. Devon, EX19 8AT

Treasurer: Andy Hedges 20 Barton Meadow Road, High Bickington, Umberleigh Devon, EX37 9AN.

Membership Secretary: Andy Hedges 20 Barton Meadow Road, High Bickington, Umberleigh, Devon EX37 9AN

Press And Publicity Officer:

Magazine Editor: Andy Hedges 20 Barton Meadow Road, High Bickington, Umberleigh, Devon EX37 9AN

Position vacant

Webmaster: Neil Sunderland Wishbone Exeter Road Braunton, Devon, EX33 2JL

Stations Officer: Janet Day Toye Farm, Durrant Lane, Northam, Bideford, Devon EX39 2RL Committee Members: Alan Clark Mike Day Phil Simkin George Harris Peter Craske

Benslee, Morchard Road, Crediton, Devon EX17 5L Toye Farm, Durrant Lane, Northam, Bideford, Devon EX39 2RL Puffing Billy, Railway Station, Torrington, Devon EX38 8JD 5 Chichester Road, Barnstaple, Devon EX32 9EH Blackhall Cottage, South Tawton, Devon EX20 2LP

Other Useful Addresses: Richard Burningham Devon & Cornwall Rail Partnership, Faculty of Science, University of Plymouth, Plymouth, Devon, PL4 8AA.

Membership Details:


Membership forms are obtainable from the Membership Secretary at the address shown above. Rates are: ÂŁ5.00 Ordinary and ÂŁ3.00 Seniors.

Š Authors And Publishers, North Devon Rail Users Group, 2008 28

ndrailusers - Mag28  

Issue 28 Spring / Summer 2008 Representing Users Of The Barnstaple - Exeter Line 1

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