Bicton Woodland Railway 14.5.1977 (Copyright Jeremy Tilston)
Back in 1970 I'd just turned 14 and was staying on holiday down at Teignmouth with my parents. But I was allowed to buy a rover ticket for the week and spent that whole week travelling around the network down there. I didn't have a camera (that was the next year!) so despite visiting a lot of branches and the soon to be closed Okehampton line, I've no record except memories.
One of my more adventurous trips was to the Bicton Woodland Railway. This involved a trip down the Exmouth branch then a bus along to Bicton. Just 3 years earlier I could have done the whole trip by train, but the line from Exmouth, through Budleigh up to Sidmouth Junction had - incredibly - been closed in 1967!
Bicton was an odd sort of railway. A new build of course, and to the unusual gauge of 18". There was real steam there, and a big impressive diesel. Everything was painted in a pleasing deep blue livery, and the line was a pleasant one through gardens and woods. It was my first introduction to 18" gauge, and to an estate style railway.
The line is still there and hopefully I'll get to revisit it this September when we're spending a week down at Dawlish Warren.
My big regret (apart from not taking photos!) is that I didn't think of walking back from East Budleigh to Exmouth along the closed branch line!
Loco no 1.
I bought these top two postcards from the site way back in 1970!
Further info (from Wikipedia)
The line was built in 1962 as a tourist attraction for visitors to the house. Most of the rolling stock was acquired from the Royal Arsenal Railway, Woolwich, with two locomotives, Woolwich and Carnegie coming from that source, as well as seven goods wagons which were reduced to their frames and converted to passenger carriages. It opened to passengers in 1963. Originally locomotives and carriages had royal blue livery.
Additional rolling stock was acquired from the RAF Fauld railway and the internal railway of the LNWR Wolverton works.
In 1998 the Bicton Gardens were put up for sale and the railway put into hiatus. The new owners sold the line's existing stock and in 2000 took delivery of a 5.5-tonne diesel-powered replica tank engine. The line's original equipment was purchased by the Waltham Abbey Royal Gunpowder Mills museum at Waltham Abbey.