John Speller's Web Pages Culm Valley Light Railway

John Speller's Web Pages - GWR Narrow Gauge

Culm Valley Light Railway
I sometimes wonder why the Culm Valley Light Railway was ever built as there was never much prospect of traffic. The Culm Valley Railway was incorporated by an Act of 15 May 1873 to built a 7-mile line from Tiverton Junction on the Bristol & Exeter Railway's main line to Hemyock. The authorized capital was 25,000 in 10 shares with power to borrow an additional 8,000. The Bristol & Exeter Railway, which subscribed 4,000 to the project, agreed to work the line in perpetuity. A further Act of 1875 authorized the purchase of the Culm Valley line by the Bristol & Exeter Railway. While still under construction the line passed to the Great Western Railway with the rest of the Bristol & Exeter Railway on 1 January 1876. At the time the 4 ft. 8 in. gauge line opened on 29 May 1876, the Tiverton Branch and the Bristol & Exeter main line between Taunton and Exeter were still exclusively broad gauge, so for the first few months of operation the Culm Valley branch was isolated from the rest of the British railway system. The topography of the route made only very low speeds possible, and these were insufficient to charge the batteries in order to use electrically lit carriages. The curves were also sufficiently sharp to require shorter than standard wheelbase coaches. Two old gas-lit ex-Barry Railway coaches were thus still in use on the line at the time of its closure to passenger traffic on 7 September 1963. Goods traffic continued on the line for another dozen years to service the United Dairies facility at Hemyock, but the milk factory closed in 1975 with the result that goods traffic on the Culm Valley line ceased on 31 October 1975. I never rode on the Culm Valley line, but my great aunt lived in Culmstock and I have fond memories of seeing the branch train at the level crossing near her cottage.
Map of the Culm Valley Light Railway
The South Devon Railway had three 4 ft. 8 in. gauge 2-4-0 saddle tanks under construction at the time the Great Western took over. The GWR completed these at Swindon as 2-4-0 side tanks in 1878. No. 1300 spent the whole of its working life, December 1878 May 1934, on the Culm Valley branch. A minor rebuild in February 1905 included a new boiler and the provision of vacuum brakes. No. 1300 is shown here at Hemyock in 1929. After 1934 the branch trains were hauled by Collett "14xx" Class 0-4-2 tanks
Hemyock station in a postcard view of around 1905. Note the old 3-compartment 4-wheel carriage at the left of the picture
An early view of the Culm Valley branch train behind 2-4-0 tank No. 1300 at Uffculme station in 1882
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