Sunday, 26 February 2017

Exeter to Exmouth branch

(Pics sourced from internet and acknowledged at end of article)

The Exmouth branch (now branded the Avocet Line) connects Exeter to Exmouth in Devon. It offers a very useful commuter service to the city. The line follows the edge of the Exe Estuary from just south of Topsham right into Exmouth, the keen eyed traveller can spot the main Great Western route through Starcross and on to Dawlish across the estuary along the opposite bank.

The line opened in 1861. The route included a branch to Topsham Quay (freight only), a 700 yard long route which closed in 1957. Another line connected to a dock was constructed at Exmouth, just 40 chains long, freight only. The line to the dock closed in 1967.

The line has a good number of stations for a short line - Polsloe Bridge, Digby and Sowton, Newcourt, Topsham, Exton, Lympstone Commando, Lympstone Village and Exmouth. Exmouth is currently the fifth busiest station in Devon. Three of these stations have opened since 1976, the latest (Newcourt) in 2015. The line is an excellent example of a branch line expanding in step with increases in traffic.

There is a group which supports the development of this line -
Trip along the line (video)

Wednesday, 8 February 2017

Betchworth 1977


(All 20.5.1977 copyright Steve Sainsbury/Rail Thing)

When I lived in Littlehampton we made regular trips to relatives in Battersea, by car of course. The route was reasonably scenic with a little rail interest - the closed station at Fittleworth (my dad for some reason always went via Fittleworth rather than the main A29), under the bridge at Deepdene with glimpses of the station at Dorking North and the line up to Boxhill on the left, and of course a good few lines as we approached London.

On one trip we were diverted around Dorking as the main road was shut for some reason. I have a very strong image of reaching an old style level crossing and seeing a quaint station on a non-electric line through the darkness. I was hoping the gates would close and a steam train would come through! I also clearly remember Gilbert O'Sullivan's 'Nothing Rhymed' as we crossed it, which dates this to October 1970 or just after, so the steam train was a forlorn hope, five years too late.

A few years later, well into railways and armed with a camera I sought out the mystery station. It was clearly Betchworth on the Reading to Tonbridge cross country line. Little had changed since my previous encounter. I managed to get the above three shots but sadly no trains came through whilst I was there. The line was diesel worked and had a slight air of dereliction. Of course now it's a major route but back then lines were still closing!

Saturday, 4 February 2017

East Sussex rural idyll


(All pics 18.4.1976 copyright Steve Sainsbury/Rail Thing)

The Kent and East Sussex Railway had quite a struggle to survive. The original line closed to passengers in 1954, with the section north from Tenterden to Headcorn closing completely, the rest of the line followed in 1961. Track remained in situ though and the line was eventually opened in stages from Tenterden westwards, but only after an epic struggle with the Minister of Transport, who refused the line permission to cross the main A22 with a level crossing just short of its junction with the main Tonbridge-Hastings line at Robertsbridge. This section is now being restored by the Rother Valley Railway which plans to make an end-on junction with the KESR in the future.

This was all in the air when I visited in 1976. What I found was a rather ramshackle station at Bodiam which hasn't seen any public trains since 1961. It had a real air of Colonel Stephens (which I imagine is lost now) and was set in pleasant countryside. It's currently the terminus for trains from Tenterden, the nearby castle being a big draw for passengers.