MEMORIES - ALONG THE BARNSTAPLE BRANCH


The beginning of October 1966 marked the closure of the Taunton - Barnstaple route which diverged at Norton Fitzwarren Junction. Over 45 years have passed since communities such as Wiveliscombe, Dulverton, Milverton and South Molten have been cut off from the mainline network. The line was built to Brunel's broad gauge by the Devon and Somerset Railway and was opened through to Wiveliscombe on the 1st of November 1871. Heavy engineering further west slowed the progress of construction to Barnstaple delaying the completion of the route until June 1873.The line was later converted to standard gauge between 15th & 17th May 1881 and then, twenty years later, the Devon and Somerset Railway was bought by the Great Western Railway in whose ownership the line remained until nationalization in 1948.

We are indebted to those who took the time to record the line before it closed, and during it's most busy time of operation, recording the operational scenes of the time.

The Somerset County Gazette covered the final train, it was published on the 7th October 1966, an extract from the article can be seen below:

Taunton - Barnstaple Rail Link Ends: but there was no sign of mourning, it was more like an all night party rather than the closing of an old established railway line when the last Taunton-Barnstaple train specially chartered left from Taunton main platform on Saturday night. Hunting horns were blown, and detonators exploded as the train pulled out of the station with its 300 passengers. A crowd of more than 300 also watched the train drawing away from the station bringing 95yrs of history to an end. Four extra coaches had been added to the special train to accommodate all who wanted to join in this sentimental journey, and the guards van had been turned into a mobile bar. There were certainly no signs of mourning with the passing of this rail link. Aboard the train was a party of 150 organised by the Barnstaple Round Table who had arranged the special train. As well as reserving 3 carriages, and producing a beautiful printed souvenir program, the Round table arranged for Barnstaple British Legion Band to travel on the train, and play at stations on the way. Mr Tim Jones a member of Barnstaple Round Table said he thought the rail closure was a sad occasion as it would mean that railway passengers going to London or the North would now have to go via Exeter a longer journey. The drivers of the last train were Mr Lionel Cox of Taunton ( Barnstaple – Taunton ) and Mr Rex Lock of Barnstaple (Return Journey).

The Taunton to Barnstaple line must rank as one of the prettiest in the West Country. It runs through picturesque, thickly wooded scenery, and there are many impressive sights on the line. The most memorable being Filleigh Viaduct from which a magnificent view is obtained. The Taunton-Wiveliscombe section of the line was opened in 1871 and the Barnstaple section 2 years later. The reason for the closure is that, despite the change over 3 years ago, from the old steam engines to the modern diesels, the line has steadily lost passengers.

On the 3rd October 1966 the final DMU trip is seen at Taunton. (Photo: Guy Vincent Collection) - Original photographer unknown, image purchased from Nevis Books in Marlborough.

Before departure from Barnstaple the final train is pictured with crew and crowds waving goodbye (Photo: Steve Cox)

The large station sign at Taunton advertised the station was a junction for Minehead and Barnstaple. Passengers would arrive from all over the country to change trains for seaside and country destinations. (Photo: Bernard Mills)


Milverton:

The scene at Milverton on the 30th October 1966 as a two car DMU departs the small country station heading for Taunton. (Photo: Bernard Mills)

The last day of passenger services on the Barnstaple Branch bought out people in their hundreds to see the final Diesel Multiple Units pass through. The scene looking towards Barnstaple was recorded at Milverton. (Photo: Bernard Mills)

The quaint station scene at Milverton was a typical Great Western design, and not dissimilar to the building types also found at other stations on the line, particularly Wiveliscombe. (Photo: Bernard Mills)

An extended Diesel Multiple Unit was formed up for the final passenger working along the branch to help cope with the additional numbers who had turned out to ride the line for one final time. The DMU is captured at Milverton having arrived from Taunton. (Photo: Bernard Mills)


Wiveliscombe:

The scene at Wiveliscombe also in 1966 shortly before closed of the line, with the final passenger train to traverse the router. The station already looked as if it had been un cared for with undergrowth already advancing around the station borders. (Photo: Bernard Mills)

A never before seen image, taken out of a Window of an approaching DMU into Wiveliscombe Station on the 3rd October 1966, Clearly a well cared for station and landscape, with freshly ballasted tracks! (Photo: Bernard Mills)

This very rare image shows a BR Collet Class Locomotive (No. 2251) shunting at Wiveliscombe in 1952. The photo was taken by Stanley Smith featuring his son Adrian Smith, who was kind enough to send us this image to use on Taunton Trains.

Here a British Railways 'Mogul' hauls a Southern Railways service to Barnstaple passing the busy A361 at Wiveliscombe on the 25th July 1964. It's worth noting that at this time the A361 would have been the main road to Barnstaple and the North Coast and it was a busy holiday route for the trains and cars! (Photo: Lewis Goosey)

The view of Wiveliscombe Station from the front of the Diesel Multiple Unit on the farewell special arriving from Taunton on the 3rd October 1966. (Photo: Bernard Mills)

GWR Mougal No.7337 departs from Wiveliscombe on the 30th June 1962 heading for Taunton. This view also gives a good view of the yard area at the station. (Photo Copyright: Bernard Mills)

BR 0-6-0 Collet No.2266 departs from Wiveliscombe on the 13th September 1962 heading for Taunton. We would like to thank the National Railway Museum for their help in allowing us to host this image from their extensive rail archive.

(Photo: National Railway Museum Science -Society Picture Library)


Venn Cross :

A view of Venn Cross taken from a window of a passing DMU service during October 1966. (Photo: Bernard Mills)

. Venn Cross from the cab looking towards Barnstaple with the specially placed centre balance signal for driver's vision in the Tunnel.Note the Station at the summit gradient, on the right the station is in Somerset, but the Signal Box on the left is in Devon. (Photo: Bernard Mills)

A view from the cab of a DMU passing over Venn Cross Viaduct. (Photo: Bernard Mills)


Dulverton :

This superb image was found on sale as a print on Ebay. The location is Dulverton and appears in the book ‘West Country branch lines' by Peter Gray 43XX Mogul No.6372 is featured in the station adjacent to 14XX No.1421 with another Mogal No.7304 departing towards Taunton in the background taken on the 15th june 1963. (Photo: Peter Gray)

BR Mogal No.6372 waits to depart from Dulverton with a service from Barnstaple to Taunton during August 1953. We would like to thank the National Railway Museum for their help in allowing us to host this image from their extensive rail archive.

(Photo: National Railway Museum Science -Society Picture Library)


East Anstey :

This image is from Strathwood Publishers (who have very kindly allowed us to feature several of their slides which have recently been released for sale). BR Mogul 2-6-0 43xx No.7304 is pictured paused at East Antstey.

(Photo: Strathwood Publishing)

On the 7th April 1953 BR Mogal No.6394 arrives into East Anstey heading for Taunton. We would like to thank the National Railway Museum for their help in allowing us to host this image from their extensive rail archive.

(Photo: National Railway Museum Science -Society Picture Library)


South Molton :

The final DMU (displaying the headcode 2C84) reaches South Molton and nears the end of the special charter to Barnstaple. (Photo: Bernard Mills)

This image is from Strathwood Publishers (who have very kindly allowed us to feature several of their slides which have recently been released for sale). BR Mogul 2-6-0 43xx No.7304 is pictured paused at East Antstey.

(Photo: Strathwood Publishing)


Filleigh:

BR Mogal No.7326 arrives into Filleigh Station near Barnstaple.

(Photo: Colour Rai)