John Speller's Web Pages North Devon Railway

John Speller's Web Pages - L&SWR

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The Taw Vale Railway & Docks Act of 23 June 1832 authorized the construction of a line from Barnstaple to Fremington. These powers were extended by the Taw Vale Amendment Act of 11 June 1838. On 7 August 1846 the Taw Vale Railway Extension & Docks Act authorized the construction of a railway from the Exeter & Crediton line at Crediton to Barnstaple. The gauge was not specified but the line was to be worked by the Bristol & Exeter Railway. In August 1848 the original Barnstaple to Fremington line opened as a horse drawn narrow gauge railway, but construction of the rest of the line halted through lack of cash. Meanwhile on 8 February 1848 the Railway Commissioners of the Board of Trade determined that the broad gauge would be adopted for the rest of the line. The line reorganized as the North Devon Railway & Dock Company under an Act of 24 July 1851 and construction finally proceeded. At this point he line was to be leased on completion to Thomas Brassey, the contractor, though at first the Bristol & Exeter Railway would be responsible for providing the carriages. The ceremonial first train arrived at Barnstaple on 12 July 1854, but owing to the incomplete state of the works it did not open for public service until 1 August 1854. Brassey obtained a number of secondhand broad gauge 2-2-2 locomotives from the Midland Railway built by the Stothert & Slaughter that had formerly operated on the Bristol & Gloucester Railway, and from 28 July 1855 also provided his own coaches and obtained a number of new locomotives. Engines were changed on through trains at Crediton. Brassey’s lease ran out in June 1862, but was extended to 31 July 1862, after which the line was leased to the London & South Western Railway, who laid in the mixed gauge. Nevertheless through carriages still operated from Paddington and Bristol via the broad gauge to Barnstaple and Bideford. Since the L&SWR had no broad gauge rolling stock of their own, they contracted with Thomas Brassey to make use of his rolling stock for the first year and subsequently bought it. Under an Act of Act of 25 July 1864 the North Devon Railway and the Bideford Extension Railway amalgamated with the L&SWR as of 1 January 1865. The last broad gauge train beyond Crediton ran on 16 May 1877, after which the broad gauge rail was removed. The whole of the line was double tracked in stages between 1883 and 1891; it has subsequently been singled again. First Great Western currently runs a service of 14 trains each way daily between Exeter St Davids and Barnstaple.
North Devon Railway broad gauge 2-4-0 Locomotive "Creedy," built 1855, on the turntable at Barnstaple in 1863. Image © Geof Sheppard and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported License
North Devon Railway Broad Gauge 2-2-2 "Star.", built 1855
Arrival of the first train at Barnstaple, 12 July 1854
Eggesford Station in Mixed Gauge Days
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