The Devon and Somerset Railway was a 44- mile branch line that ran from Taunton to Barnstaple. Plans for a North Devon Railway were first mooted in 1845. However, these proposals were withdrawn from parliament and it was not until 1864 that the Devon & Somerset Railway Act was passed.
The line took almost ten years to build, due to a number of financial setbacks and construction delays. It opened from Watchet Junction (Norton Fitzwarren) to Wiveliscombe on 8 June 1871. The section to Barnstaple opened on 1 November 1873.
Beeching listed the line for closure in his 1963 "Reshaping" report and that was the beginning of the end, with closure coming following the departure of the last train on 1 October 1966.
The line passed through a beautiful and varied countryside, from pasture to rolling hills to the edge of moorland. It was notorious for its gradients; a number at 1 in 58. The railway served the main towns of Wiveliscombe, Dulverton and South Molton. Local traffic was limited (regular daily services were 5/6 trains each way per day). However, the line was an essential holiday route on summer Saturdays with up to 12 trains each way, many starting or terminating at Ilfracombe and serving destinations like Cardiff, London, Manchester and Wolverhampton. Freight traffic was buoyant with Barnstaple served by a train from Bristol and at least one from Taunton. In addition Dulverton and South Molton were the destinations for the pick- up goods.
The story of this line has not been comprehensively and definitively recorded; that is until now.The Devon & Somerset Railway-the Taunton to Barnstaple Line is due to be published this year. The planned publication date is the 1 October which is an appropriate way to recognise the 50th anniversary of the last train and subsequent closure.
The book is being produced in 3 volumes:
Volume 1 covers the detailed history of the line, the early days and projects and the trials and tribulations of it's construction. It will trace the decline and closure and look at what has happened to the trackbed and the station buildings since closure. There is also an historical review of major towns on the line and of other railways proposed, built and not built in the area.
Volume 2 has now been published (7th December 2017) and covers a description of the line, its stations, buildings and structures in three chapters. The final chapter is on signalling.
Volume 3 will cover locomotives and rolling stock, train services over the 93 years along with special trains and special events, accidents/mishaps and personal recollections from those who worked on the railway and knew it. The material is written and will go to the publisher in 2018, so all being well that or early 2019 will be the year of publication.
DEVON & SOMERSET RAILWAY
"HARD WORK CONQUERS ALL"
The Devon and Somerset Railway was a 44 mile branch line that ran from Taunton to Barnstaple. The story of this line has not been comprehensively and definitively recorded; that is until now.