John Speller's Web Pages Yeovil to Exeter Line

John Speller's Web Pages - L&SWR
Yeovil to Exeter Line LSWR Horizontal Menu Untitled
Following a long debate over the route and authorization of the L&SWR's Salisbury & Exeter Railway between Salisbury and Yeovil, when the route was finally approved the extension from Yeovil to Exeter became inevitable and its Act passed easily on 21 July 1856. The Salisbury to Yeovil line was completed on 1 June 1860, and the Yeovil to Exeter extension opened only seven weeks later on 19 July 1861. Nevertheless, it was not an easy railway to construct. There were three tunnels, at Gillingham (Dorset), Crewkerne and Honiton, and the third of these, Honiton Tunnel, at nearly a mile in length, was the longest tunnel on the London & South Western Railway. Much of the fifty miles between Yeovil Junction and Exeter Queen Street (later Exeter Central) was heavily graded, grades 1 in 80 being fairly typical. A branch from Seaton Junction to the seaside resort of Seaton opened on the same day as the main line, and other branches from Chard Junction to Chard Central (and hence via the GWR to Taunton), Axminster to Lyme Regis and Sidmouth Junction to Sidmouth were added later. The Exmouth branch joined the main line at Exmouth Junction, just short of Exeter, and a major locomotive depot was situated there. Apart from the busy Exmouth branch none of the branches survived the Beeching Axe, and apart from passing loops the main line was singled on 7 May 1967. The intermediate stops between Yeovil Junction and Exeter Central were originally St James Park, Pinhoe, Broadclyst, Whimple, Sidmouth Junction, Honiton, Seaton Junction, Axminster, Chard Junction, Crewkerne (actually located at Misterton) and Sutton Bingham. Sidmouth Junction is now known as Feniton, and the stations at Broadclyst, Seaton Junction, Chard Junction and Sutton Bingham were closed under the Beeching Axe. South West Trains currently runs an hourly service from Exeter St Davids via Exeter Central and Yeovil Junction to Waterloo. There is talk of doubling the line once more, but I have to say that I think the current traffic is far from sufficient to justify this. I do, however, think that a case might be made for reopening Broadclyst station, which has a population comparable with that of Crewkerne and greater that that of the other intermediate stations on the line. I also think there is no good reason why the service should not be sped up considerably even without any changes to the existing infrastructure. The maximum track speed is 85 mph, but speeds are rarely much above 60 mph.
Map of the Yeovil to Exeter line and associated branch lines
Broadclyst station, circa 1900
Crewkerne (Misterton) station in 2009. Image copyright Geof Sheppard and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons License
Bulleid Light Pacific No. 34066 "Spitfire" at Exeter Central on 12 April 1953. Image copyright Ben Brooksbank and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons License
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