THE NORTH DEVON RAILWAY LINE inc the L.S.W.R. (S.R.) line to Okehampton in the 1970s & 1980s

David Vinsen, who used to work for British Rail, now of Network Rail spent many years down here by the "withered arm." Ranging all along the Exeter to Barnstaple line, the Exeter/Crediton to Okehampton and Meldon Quarry line and the Barnstaple to Torrington/Meeth/Instow line, he recorded a way of life, a way of work, the way of a railway intimate among the country and communities it served.


Most of what you will see here is now gone, if not gone, well on the way. Communities are now fractured, life and friendships along the line now memories. David has done an amazing job that he would like to share with the world.

I had hoped to index and narrate all these images, bur pressure of my work commitments have prevented this - I realised that to have them up here for all to see, even if un-narrated, was better than not having them up here and just sitting on my hard drive.

So here are his notes about his images...they make fascinating reading of a window into a railway vanished. The photos are at the bottom of the page.

148 Passing over GF with special.JPG; 149 Same train returning along Anchor Woods - Barnstaple.JPG; 150 Pair of 31s at Barnstaple.JPG; 151 31 on boat train leaving Barnstaple.JPG; 152 31 on boat train.JPG; 153 Along Anchor woods.JPG; 154 Along Anchor woods.JPG; 155 Along Anchor woods.JPG; 156 Inspection saloon Anchor woods.JPG; 157 Inspection saloon Anchor woods.JPG; 158 25 at Anchor woods..JPG; 159 25 along Anchor woods.JPG; 160 25 by Anchor woods.BMP; 161 25 at Anchor woods.JPG

After telling you that the 0713 mails conveyed six four wheeled vans (which is what I definitely remember) I noticed in the shot of the 08 what is obviously a LMR bogie van!

Anchor woods is behind the Sticklepath area of Barnstaple  and the ground drops away sharply to a field and the railway embankment as the line leaves Barnstaple heading towards Bideford and this set of shots are between here and Barnstaple station. I am afraid the quality ranges from mediocre to very poor. I am afraid the few times I tried to take a photo of the freight along here it was always cold and miserable, hence the blurred photographs.

The person stood by the ground frame with the two 31s passing is Tony Wren. The first job on starting work at 0415 was to light the gas rings on the cooker and put two large cast iron kettles on to boil. This was for the benefit of the train crews as we did not get to sit down until about 0600. Being big old kettles they took some time to come to the boil. Tony had the bright idea of leaving them on a low heat overnight when leaving duty at 2215. On opening the door in the morning the early turn man was greeted by the outline of the two kettles glowing red hot in the darkness! Tony did not do that again.

The train hauled by a 31 that I have labelled as a boat train is not of course such a train in the conventional sense. The train was provided for the naming ceremony of a boat at Appledore shipbuilders. I believe it was an Ellermans Line ship. The train was composed of first class stock and had catering facilities. I presume it conveyed its patrons to Bideford and they where taken on by road transport

89 between K Nymton and P Arms 1710 arr.JPG; 90 Class 25 between K Nymton and P Arms.JPG

Date unrecorded but I would imagine 1979 or 80.

89 A class 25 shortly after leaving Kings Nympton with the 1710 arrival into Barnstaple .

90 Coming the other way, another class 25 with the freight for Riverside , a little bit further back towards Portsmouth Arms. Of interest is that the rear steel empty (bright red) is airbraked and thus not compatible with the breaking on the rest of the train which is vacuum braked, hence the brakevan. In those days it would have been a class 9 train because of this belled as 1-4. Nowadays, a class 9 is a Eurostar!


85 25 ready to dep with evening freight for Riverside.JPG; 86 as 85.JPG; 87 as 86 and 85.JPG

Probably taken around 1978.In its last years of running the Barnstaple freight was invariably, lightly loaded. Thought you might like to see some photos of the more respectable loads that where common only a few years before. Behind the engine are china clay wagons. The next wagon is a ferryvan, possibly going back empty to the continent after transporting moulds for Torrington Glass. Behind that are empty plate wagons which would have come down with steel plate for Appledore Shipbuilders.Bringing up the rear are Vanfits and Vanwides going back empty.These would have conveyed ‘Nitram’,  most probably, for farmers use. We used to have to clean these wagons before return. The cardboard lining had to be stripped out and burnt along with any of the granules from split bags. Being Nitrogen based it gave out a thick white smoke, most satisfying! Course, worrying about holes in the Ozone layer was all in the future.


142 25 at Barnstaple with special.JPG; 143 25 depart Barnstaple on special.JPG; 144 25 departing Barnstaple with special.JPG; 145 0713 ex Barnstaple - Exeter St Davids.JPG; 146 Engine off of 0713 Barnstaple - Exeter St Davids.JPG; 147 08 drawing vans off rear 0713 Barnstaple - St Davids.JPG

Three photos of a pair of 25s at Barnstaple on a special heading away towards Torrington . I cannot remember anything about it or whether it went all the way to Meeth.

Second set of three is at Exeter St Davids after arrival with the 0713 from Barnstaple . This was the return working of the 0300 mails from Exeter . Possibly it was a Saturday in the winter timetable and the second engine is the freight engine. From this distance in time I cannot remember what the workings where and of course they changed from time to time. The formation of the train was (from the Barnstaple end – 6 four wheel vans and two coaches, one being a BCK and the other a second though I cannot recall if it was open or corridor). The 0713 was also shown in the timetable as being mixed. I cannot recall it conveying wagons though I believe it may have conveyed Presflos on occasions. I do not know if the 08 was just drawing off the vans or if it was hauling the whole train out of the platform.


117 Cowley Bridge Jct box Michael Hayman on balcony.JPG; 118 Cowley Bridge Jct box.JPG; 119 Cowley Bridge Jct box.JPG; 120 Cowley Bridge Jct Michael Hayman in box.JPG; 121 Class 47 Up stone train Cowley Bridge Jct.JPG; 122 Class33 Approaches Cowley bridge on up Barnstaple.JPG

Now for some of the other end of the line at Cowley Bridge . This was a really nice box. Possibly the nicest of all the boxes I have visited over the years. Obviously, taste is something subjective, but it had a really nice feel to it. I did apply for a vacancy there after not hearing about the vacancy  I had applied for at Abergavenny. I was then informed that I had got the job at Abergavenny though it was a long time before I was released from Crediton owing to staff shortages. Cowley closed in 1985. For a short time, after the panel in Crediton was commissioned and Cowley was closed; the newly singled line between the two boxes was worked by Electric Key Token. The photographs where taken at different dates. If you look at the photos of the box diagram you can see one where the double track to Crediton is still in operation. The other photograph shows one of the lines ’Tippexed’ out


8 Instow 27.1.83 EMP Lord OHagan.JPG; 79 as 78.JPG; 80 Instow box 27.1.83.JPG; 81 Return trip Instow 27.1.83.JPG

I never did get down to Torrington . It is always something I regretted as a ride down there was just for the asking. I took a few photos around Anchor woods (just outside Barnstaple ) of specials. If I find the negatives I will send them on but none are very good photos. The one time I walked out to Fremington to take a photo of the freight on the way to Torrington it was sunny. Normally this would have been great but at that location it meant you where facing directly into the sun in the morning. I did take some photographs at Fremington and Torrington after trains stopped running but before the track was lifted if they are of any interest. One time I did get down to Instow was the last train which was a single unit conveying the Euro MP Lord O Hagan. I hitched a lift with the local S&T from Crediton as they had to be present when the train passed over the crossing. The crossing at Instow was an AOCL (Automatic Open Crossing Locally Monitored). The train would approach the crossing slowly and its presence on track circuits would start the road traffic light sequence (no barriers). Once the red road signals where flashing a flashing white light would start on the rail approach to tell the train driver it was OK to proceed across the crossing.

Instow is in an estuarial setting so obviously there is a lot of salt in the atmosphere. Towards the end of the freight service when the train might only run once or twice a week the crossing regularly failed to operate. The call would go out to Frank Mills, the local S&T linesman. There was nothing he could do about it and he invariably advised the train crew to stop short on the return trip and pin down some wagon brakes and pull the train across the crossing to clean the rust off the rails. Of course there was no hope of the single power car operating the crossing controls so Frank had to go down there and start the crossing from the location cabinet. In addition there was a flagman on either side of the crossing that dropped off the train. Despite this, with the red road lights flashing, the warble alarms going off and two men with red flags stood either side of the crossing a woman still managed to walk onto the crossing to be surprised by the presence of a train! Anyway, here are a few photos of the unit on 27.01.1983 with Lord O Hagan visible sat on the left of the cab.

56 33 Approaching Meldon.JPG; 57 33 Approaching Meldon.JPG; 58 33 at Meldon quarry.JPG; 59 33 at Meldon quarry.JPG; 60 Waiting for assistance Meldon.JPG; 61 Meldon quarry.JPG; 62 33 and Peak at Meldon.JPG; 63 33 and Peak at Meldon.JPG

Well I never did get a trip to Meeth but I did have a ride to Meldon. When I was working at Abergavenny I often came down to Devon . This was invariably before I started a week of nights back at Abergavenny. I was in the habit of starting off early and stopping to seeing my mate at Crediton, Neil Geeson. On one occasion I blagged a trip to Meldon on a 33/1. This turned out to be a bit of a disaster as approaching Meldon we just managed to crawl into the sidings with the empties. It was obvious there was no way we would make it back with a loaded train so we had to wait for assistance. The quarry manager was dispatched to Crediton with the train staff and we waited for assistance which turned up in the shape of a Peak. My mate at Crediton was disgusted when we arrived back and he found out that I had not ridden on the Peak. Somehow it just seemed to be disloyal to my mates on the 33 to abandon them to ride on it! I never did get a ride on a Peak. I do not know the names of the traincrew but here is a photo of them sunning themselves at Meldon. On the left is the guard who I believe left to become a resident caretaker in a National Trust house. The driver, centre, started at Oswestry and his daughter was born on the same day as me, he would always be offering you snuff. Of the secondman I no little, he looks young but the most of us did that long ago!

168 120 DMU Barnstaple.JPG; 169 Departing Barnstaple.JPG; 170 Barnstaple yard stored wagons.JPG; 171 Barnstaple yard stored wagons.JPG; 172 Barnstaple yard stored wagons.JPG; 173 Down DMU approaching Barnstaple down inner homes.JPG

 The class 120 DMUs where my favourite units. I think the fact they where lagged with blue asbestos contributed to their relatively early demise. I can remember one such unit catching fire at Barnstaple . It was a relatively minor incident. Possibly it was caused by a lighted cigarette being pushed down behind a seat. Anyway, the unit was shunted into the middle road in case the smoke presaged anything more serious and the fire brigade was called. They duly arrived, placed ladders up against the unit and started cutting away at the roof from whence the smoke emanated. They soon put down their circular saw when they realised that they where cutting into blue asbestos lagging. The best of it was that Cyril Knott on the platform ended up having to sweep it all up and bin it.  


31 Barnstaple.JPG; 49 Derailed at Barnstaple.JPG; 50 Derailed at Barnstaple.JPG; 51 Derailed at Barnstaple.JPG; 52 But theres always time for tea.JPG; 53 Derailed at Barnstaple.JPG

31 196 was derailed in the yard at Barnstaple on Friday 17.10.1980 and the break down train arrived on Monday 20.10.1980 to rerail it using jacks. The photo of the driver was taken at the same time in the old mess room at the end of the station building which was being used by a cycle hire firm last time I looked.


181 First visit of HST to Barnstaple.JPG; 182 First visit of HST to Barnstaple.JPG; 183 First visit of HST to Barnstaple.JPG; 184 First visit of HST to Barnstaple.JPG; 185 'Bimbo' Burridge on steps of Barnstaple box.JPG; 186 First visit of HST to Barnstaple.JPG; 187 First visit of HST to Barnstaple.JPG; 188 First visit of HST to Barnstaple.JPG; 189 First visit of HST to Barnstaple.JPG

Here are some photographs of the first HST to run to Barnstaple . I presume they where checking clearances, hence it shunting from one platform to another. It was considered newsworthy enough for a photograph to appear in the ‘North Devon Journal Herald’. In amongst the photos is a shot of ‘Bimbo’ Burridge, an Exeter driver. There where two brothers, both drivers. I cannot remember the others name. Bimbo was a madcap character, they reckon he came back on the coaches so hard one day they jumped an inch off the rails! I think it was Bimbo driving the freight when a clay wagon partially derailed and ripped up some of the track. Popular suspicion was that he was going faster than he should though I do not think anything was proven. His brother was a much more serious character. I think he was the one that was killed when a Meldon train entered Riverside yard without authority and crushed the cab of the 08 pilot.

Eggesford1.JPG; Eggesford.JPG

From Spring 1979. The signalman is Jimmy Hughes who was my shift mate when I was working at Crediton. The driver is Bob Passmore. When I was on the platform at Barnstaple Bob would often get me to go up to the front of the unit and pull the blinds down in the cab. This was much to the disappointment of any passengers who had grabbed the leading seats and where looking forward to enjoying a drivers eye view of the journey. It was not that Bob was miserable and a spoilsport. Oh no, it was just that he could not get on with his false teeth! Once in the messroom the teeth would come out. He put them in to walk along the platform but once safely ensconced and out of sight in the cab, back out they would come! you can tell from the shot of Rodney, he obviously wished he had started in steam days. He used to take a pride in his job always borrowing the broom to sweep out the engine cab as part of his cleaning.  As you say, it is a pity we did not have the technology then and you always wish you had taken more photos of what was commonplace then but is now only memories.

I do not know if you have read any of Adrian Vaughn’s  books on his days as a signalman at Uffington and Challow in the sixties. As he put it when he was asked ‘I would go back there tomorrow if I could, if it was the way it was.’

1 120 running round parcel van.JPG; 2 Class 25 on freight.JPG; Class 25 departs for Meeth.JPG; DMU shunting 'out over'.JPG

These are pretty poor as taken off old 110 film mainly for curiosity value. The reference to the DMUs shunting are a reference to a working we used to have. On Tues to Friday (do not think it applied on Mondays) a DMU used to convey a four wheeled van loaded with parcels. On arrival at Barnstaple the van was uncoupled. Someone used to walk down and open the ground frame on the Torrington line and pull off the signal (the Western pattern lower quadrant between the platform and the road bridge). Once the train was ready to depart it would pull out clear of the point on the Torrington line and then run back through the other platform to depart to Exeter . Passengers stayed on the train for this move. The driver drove from the Exeter end cab for the whole of the move. One of us would ride in the north end cab for the move, giving the driver three on the buzzer (set back) when the train was ready to start this move. You used to get some comments from people when they saw you leaning out of the cab from what they perceived as the ‘wrong end’. I just used to smile politely at them and then watched the look of surprise on their faces as the train sailed off in the direction of Torrington ! This would have been the 1010 departure. The van that was left in the platform was later removed by the freight engine and placed in the middle siding between the platforms and was picked up by the unit that formed the 2050 departure, loaded with mail traffic. The newspaper van which arrived on the 0405 departure from Exeter was also placed in the middle road on top of the other van as it was taken back by the 1535 DMU departure. Times varied a little over the years. If the freight did not get back in time to remove the ‘1010 van’ it was ‘all hands to the pump’ as with the aid of a pinch bar we shoved the van back up the platform clear of the points into the middle siding and then with a push to start it, it would roll back into the middle siding by gravity with someone controlling the move with the handbrake. Try replicating that on a model railway!  

              As alluded to, the western pattern signal off the end of the platform at the north end was controlled from the ground frame and not from the signal box (although, obviously, the box released the ground frame in the first place). When running round engines on their trains we used to be lazy. After uncoupling the engine, instead of walking down to the ground frame we just used to hop onto the engine. With a cheery ‘right to pass the board the points are against you’ off we set. It was a mark of honour amongst the drivers that they would set off at a reasonable speed and stop as near to the switch blades as they dared, certainly passing over the nose of the crossing (the normal lie of the points was towards the line that passed along the former island platform). Misjudging and running through the points was extremely rare!


252 Full Loads office and Freightlifter Barnstaple.JPG; 254 Cement silo Barnstaple.JPG; 261 25 at Barnstaple.JPG; 262 Ray Palmer Parcels bay Barnstaple.jpg; 264 Charle Daniels and Anon Barnstaple.jpg; 265 Ken Ley Barnstaple.JPG; 268 Hut at Barnstaple.JPG; 269 Hut at Barnstaple.JPG

Just some odd shots around Barnstaple , none of them of great quality.

The full loads office is where I first met George Facey. The left hand end was a mess room for, what in old terms, would be the goods porters. The right hand side was for the clerks. When I first knew the place there was three men unloading the wagons and three clerks though they also dealt with some paperwork from the station as well.

Ray Palmer was on a permanent 0500-1300 turn sorting and sheeting parcels. He was a mad old bird. You would be sat one side of a pile of parcels, entering the addresses onto a delivery sheet and loading them in a BRUTE. From the other side of the parcels would emanate a series of farmyard impressions and mumbles about ‘his Maisie’! His brother, Alec, was one of the delivery drivers, fortunately, a much saner character.

Charlie Daniels, on the left, was George Faceys opposite number in the parcels office. He had been an evacuee in the war but to listen to him you would have thought he had just stepped out of the East End yesterday. Sadly, like George, he died before his time; of throat cancer. I cannot remember the person on the right. Behind them is a pile of steel plate as the yard was used to stockpile material for Appledore shipbuilders.

Ken Ley had been an engine driver before. When he came back on the railway he started on the platform before going into the box. I should think the photo was taken on a summer Saturday.As a boy he had ridden on some of the Lynton and Barnstaple engines.


354 31299 Barnstaple-Riverside Barnstaple Thur 8.8.85.JPG; 355 Pat and Kenny clearing out office Fri 3.5.85.JPG; 356 Fred Mitchell Barnstaple Sat 28.6.86.JPG; 357 Barnstaple down distant Mon 26.8.85.JPG; 358 Barnstaple down inner homes Fri 3.5.85.JPG; 359 Remains of Torrington line Barnstaple Wed 29.1.86.JPG

Various shots around Barnstaple . Fred Mitchell looking like he is about to appear in a Tango advert. Pat Crook and Kenny Gould clearing out the Full Loads office which is a bit sad for me as I spent a lot of time around there as a kid.


 27 101 DMU Chapelton.JPG; 28 DMU Newbridge.JPG; 29 DMU Bishops Tawton.JPG; 30 31 approaching Barnstaple.JPG; 31 DMU Umberleigh.JPG

27     Class101 DMU at Chapelton 1253 Barnstaple – Exeter Central Wed 15.06.1985

28     DMU at Newbridge 1030 Exmouth – Barnstaple Wed 15.06.1985

29     DMU river Taw bridge Bishops Tawton 1522 Exeter – Barnstaple Bank Holiday Monday 26.08.1985

30     31 298 approaching Barnstaple 1500 Exeter St Davids – Barnstaple Fri 03.05.1985

31     DMU near Umberleigh

32      ....

33     DMU near Umberleigh 1040 Exeter Central – Barnstaple Thur 22.10.1987

88 Crediton.JPG; 94 33 departing Crediton for Meldon.JPG

A couple more shots of Crediton that I meant to put in with the last lot. The class 33 is heading away towards Meldon. The other shot I thought might interest you since I doubt people would think crowds on the platform where commonplace. The traffic on the branch tended to be tidal, i.e. the trains leaving Barnstaple in the morning where relatively busy whilst the same applied to trains arriving at Barnstaple in the afternoon. The Travel Centre manager at Barnstaple had the bright idea, since the converse workings of those above where lightly loaded, why not offer cheap tickets to Barnstaple , from branch stations, in the morning. I think they where just valid on market days. I cannot recall how much they cost but they where really cheap. Talk about being a victim of your own success! It got to the stage where engine and stock had to be substituted for a DMU which, economically, defeated the object of the exercise. I believe the scheme lasted for a while but with the ticket price going up.


71 25 departs Barnstaple.JPG; 76 Summer Saturday in 70s.JPG; 77 Summer Saturday Owen Gregory in photo.JPG

Some photos of the other platform in use on a summer Saturday. 77 shows Owen Gregory stepping off of the platform. He was the last supervisor at Barnstaple and lived in the station house at Umberleigh. He never walked but always strode everywhere which made him liable to slips. One tale was when they took an engine up the long siding at Barnstaple (remains of former up line). Everyone else got off on the running line side. Owen, as befitting a supervisor, and setting a good example; got off the other side. Promptly slid all the way down the embankment and ended up in the drainage ditch! It used to be our job on a Friday late turn to clean, dust, mop and polish his office. Wanting to do a good job of it I used to take the mats out when I did it. I never polished under the mat but each time I must have polished just inside the outline. I think it was after the second time he went a purler and managed to spill tea all over his betting slips that he asked me to be a little less conscientious with my polishing! You can also see Ray Harding stood on the engine, after uncoupling it, waiting for the passengers to clear the crossing. Ray had been a fireman at Okehampton years back and possessed a really evil temper. For a while he was medically restricted owing to an eyesight defect. The first day back on full duties he was late turn which involved running round the 1710 arrival, I was 1000 to 1800. Round the corner came a 33/1 and I burst out laughing, These where the engines fitted for push pull working for use between Bournemouth and Weymouth with 4TC sets. Because of this they had buckeye couplings. When uncoupling from the train you had to pull a chain after the engine had pushed back against its coaches to open the jaws. Once the engine had pulled forward from the train the coupling  had to be pushed up slightly to release the weight on a pin which you pulled out and the coupling would swing down and the pin would be pushed back in again to hold the coupling in its lowered position. The buffers would also have to be pulled out to their long position. The real fun was doing the opposite at the other end of the engine. The coupling seemed to weigh a ton and you could only use one arm as the other arm had to be used to push the pin in to lock the buckeye in the up position. Much harder than just using the shackle on other engines. Of course, this was in addition to doing the vacuum pipe and ETH connections.

Ray looked at me in a rage and chased me down the platform. Fortunately, he had to see to the engine. You never saw anyone load and unload parcels from a train quicker and once I had done that, away I went home. The next day I was told it was a good job that I had made myself scarce as Ray had appeared back with his forehead streaked in grease and would have probably killed me!


45 Crediton box interior.JPG; 46 Crediton box interior.JPG; 47 Token and staff Crediton.JPG; 48 snow plough at Crediton.JPG; 74 character.JPG

Few more around Crediton, bit disorganised about what I have and have not sent you so apologies if they are sent twice. A couple of shots inside Crediton box, much more interesting than the present panel and also a shot of the token to Eggesford and the One Train Working staff for Meldon. It is a little known fact that when the studio cancelled Magnum PI, Tom Selleck spent a short time working as a guard for BR!

A view from the box window of an Exeter guard. A couple of short tails from Crediton box. Shortly after I started there, being young and keen, I decided to paint the levers, I think I did a good job with best quality Japlac lacquer paint. A week after, the chief S&T engineer paid a visit (not when I was present) and had a bit of a fit, wanting to know where I had got the paint as he assumed that I had got it off someone on the S&T as the shades where just right! What I did not know was that there was going to be a visit from people even higher up a week after that. I think that visit went off without a word being said about our pristine levers! The box used to open up at 0300 for the 0300 mails from Exeter . One morning there was a phone call as the early turn relief signalman could not get into the box. I borrowed the landladies sons pushbike and cycled to the box to see the mail train just passing the box. There used to be a spare key kept in the outside toilet which the reliefmen used to use, the residents having there own box keys. The reliefmen, invariably, never used to bother to put the key back in the toilet, just leaving it beside the desk. The previous day there had been lots of people in the box and I can only presume that it had been knocked on the floor and then someone had hung it up on the back wall along with a load of other keys. Course, I had thought nothing of it when I closed the box up at 2300 the previous night using my own key. The funniest thing about it though is how the reliefman gained access to the box. He was always smartly dressed, always said the right thing, someone who was earmarked for a management position. He told me with great pride how he had used an old for sale sign left behind the box in the yard, propped it up against the front of the box and managed to clamber up it and pushed open one of the front windows. He was so proud of it in fact that I did not have the heart to ask him why he did not use the ladder that was propped up against the rear of the box which we used to clean the windows. Especially since he walked right past it everytime he changed the staff or token!

Some more info on some of the photos:-

18 The engine is 33 106 on the 1725 Exeter Riverside – Meldon on 28/06/1983 between Crediton and Salmon Pool crossing.

23 The engine is 33 030 again on the 1725 Exeter Riverside – Meldon on 30/06/1983

26 33 010 on our old favourite the 1725……      14/06/1983

58 The 08 lurking in the shed is 08 954 on Tuesday 07/08/1984

60 The driver, middle, is Albert Ellis and the drivers assistant, right is Richard Diggle, nothing entered on the back of the print for the guards name

68/69 The engine is 25 223 and I recorded it as being on a milk train in the afternoon of 10/09/1978

94 33 206 on 7B28 Exeter Riverside – Meldon on Thursday 19/07/1984 137 47 303 on the 1500 ex Meldon about to cross the river Exe bridges on the approach to/ Cowley Bridge Junction on Thursday 14/03/1985

148 31 124 leading and 31 135 passing the ground frame at Barnstaple on 16/07/1978. Tony Wren is working the ground frame

158/159 25 052 approaching Barnstaple along Anchor Woods on 05/01/1979

392/393/394/395 33 017 on 05/08/1984 at Barnstaple

455 DMU, changing tokens at Crediton, 1228 Barnstaple – Exeter St Davids on Monday 31/12/1984

463 DMU Exmouth – Barnstaple , Crediton Thursday 19/07/1984

490 DMU sets P473 and L574 on 1650 departure on Sunday 27/01/1980

498 47 157 on train 6B54 1500 ex Meldon heading away from Crediton on Friday 15/03/1985

503 33 037 2C21 1607 Barnstaple – Paignton at Crediton Thursday 19/07/1984

EGGESFORD STAFF: 246 Bill Butt Eggesford box Fri 3.5.85.JPG; 247 Kenny Gould Eggesford Thur 9.10.86.JPG; 248 Bill But and Jimmy Hughes Eggesford Sat 11.10.86.JPG; 249 Jimmy Hughes Eggesford Sat 28.6.86.JPG; 250 Bill Woolridge Eggesford Sat 11.10.86.JPG

Some shots of the staff. Bill Butt and Jimmy Hughes where resident signalmen at Eggesford and Bill Woolridge was the relief signalman who covered Eggesford and Barnstaple and also Crediton if there was no cover there. We where offered our rest days first at Crediton before Bill Woolridge would work Crediton, even if it meant us being paid overtime and him sitting at home being paid I cannot see such an agreement remaining in place nowadays! Kenny Gould was based at Barnstaple and would sweep and tidy the intermediate stations and carry out lamping duties. The last I heard, he was working as part of the Umberleigh per way gang. He is the last of the people I started working with who is still employed on the railway.


558 Dereliction Barnstaple 29.03.1989.JPG; 559 Dereliction Barnstaple 29.03.1989.JPG; 560 Dereliction Barnstaple 29.03.1989.JPG; 561 Dereliction Barnstaple 29.03.1989.JPG; 562 31 301 Nth Portsmouth Arms down freight Fri 30.5.85.JPG; 563 33 038 0823 Bple-St Davids Nth Port Arms Sat 7.9.85.JPG; 564 DMU 1010 Barnstaple- Exe Ctl Nth Port Arms Fri 30.5.85.JPG

Some rather sad shots at Barnstaple and a few similar shots to some I have already sent you. And that is just about your lot, phew! I have started looking through some of the old prints. Many have nothing written on the back but a few have. The ones I have managed to dig out at the moment give the following information allied to the file No.

4, 5, 6, 162  Set P319 on 02/01/1979

13     31 228 on 1645 departure 16/07/1978  

56 – 63   The train engine was 33 117 and the assisting engine was 45 041 Royal Tank Regiment. The train was 7B28 1730 Exeter Riverside – Meldon and the date was Tuesday 07/08/1984

93     33 037 1500 Exeter St Davids – Barnstaple on Thursday 19/07/1984. Shot 92 is of the DMU waiting to cross this train

165    31 321 on the 1517 arrival at Barnstaple on 24/01/1980 at Bishops Tawton deputising for a DMU

166    31 321 on return 1610 departure from Barnstaple also conveying a Siphon G which was the newspaper van being returned empty to London .

167    Set P319 on 1610 ex Barnstaple on 02/02/1979

456/457  Monday 31/12/1984

466    DMU Bishops Tawton 1745 Barnstaple – Exeter Friday 13/04/1979

467    1710 arrival into Barnstaple Friday 13/04/1979

468    DMU 1002 arrival into Barnstaple leaving Chapelton Friday 13/04/1979

529 31 210 0948 Paddington – Barnstaple at Yeoford Saturday 04/10/1980. 1 would imagine that this was the last day of the summer timetable. I am virtually certain that shot 207 is the return working.

 It is of some interest to me at least that in a couple of shots I would have expected the DMU to be hauling a van. Two workings each weekday where booked to haul a van yet the only shot I have of a van being hauled on one of these trains is when an engine and stock is deputising for a DMU. In those days you would have been happier to take a photo of an engine deputising for a DMU but now I wish I had captured a DMU hauling a van for posterity! 

574 DMU departing Eggesford 1237 Barnstaple-Exe Mon 16.4.79.JPG; 575 DMU departing Eggesford 1237 Barnstaple-Exe Mon 16.4.79.JPG; 576 31 117 1450 Lapford-Riverside Crediton 27.6.83.JPG; 577 31 117 1450 Lapford-Riverside Crediton 27.6.83.JPG

First two of a refurbished DMU just south of Eggesford. The first shot shows train coming past a yellow sign with tree on it warning of an area with increased fire risk. The second shot has come out particularly grainy owing to looking directly into the sun. Since it was next on the film I assumed that the train in shot 577 was the same as in shot 576 as it is the same engine and is coming from the Eggesford direction. A closer look shows that in shot 577 there is a plough van behind the engine and probably Sealions or Seacows behind that. I presume it is a train returning from dropping ballast somewhere between Barnstaple and Crediton. Shot 576 shows the empty Pallet vans coming back from Lapford. These where conveyed on the Sundays only UKF Fertilisers train from Ince and Elton to Truro and where detached at Exeter . They where then tripped to Lapford on the Monday morning, the engine would then return light from Lapford and would also serve the oil sidings at Tiverton Junction if required. Any engine could turn up on this train, I can remember a Peak on one occasion. The freight did not run to Barnstaple on a Monday in those days. The loaded Pallet vans had too high an RA to run to Barnstaple but I did see a rake of empty ones down there once. A light engine would go down to Lapford on the Monday afternoon to pick up the empties. I remember once the engine turned up with just a margin to run to Lapford and lock itself away in the sidings. I shouted up to the traincrew to come on the phone as soon as they got to Lapford. Did they hell! They went to Lapford, pulled the wagons out of the sidings, ran round them and then came back to Crediton. All this time the up passenger was stood at Eggesford. I believe the guard got a form 1 over it.

  .......Bill Gregory, the shunter, was known as ‘Puffer Bill’; though not to his face. This was due to his habit of puffing out his cheeks. He lived in the cottage on the approach road to the station with his wife and daughter. If he thought no one was looking, he also had the habit of running along the top of the rail with his arms outstretched.


72 Characters.JPG; 73 Chacters.JPG; 75 Fred Mitchell, Banbury shunter.JPG; 98 Rodney secondman.JPG; 99 Stan Grigg teaching George Facey the parcels office.JPG; 100 George Facey Barnstaple.JPG

72 Unknown driver, Barnstaple

73 This young lady used to live with her family in one of the crossing cottages at Doomsford. She used to catch the train from Kings Nympton and bring the laundry into Barnstaple to do. With a two hourly service    

 She often waited in the parcels office for some time,I do not know if I ever did know her name. Of more general interest is the ‘Freightlifter’ in the background which was used to unload steel plate. This was also stockpiled in the yard as well as being delivered directly to Appledore Shipbuilders. Pat Crooks Marina and Charlie Daniels (no, not the Devil went down to Georgia one) 1300 can be seen in the background..

75 Fred Mitchell was one of the shunters at Barnstaple . When I worked there this was his normal attire. It did not matter if it was a balmy summer afternoon or 0430 on a Freezing January morning.

98-100 You can see if it was George Facey you remember from your visits. George had previously been a guard and always wore his old guards uniforms in preference to the Senior Railmans uniform.

15,16,70 The date of 25 058 on the milk is 16/09/1978

19 50 040 Leviathan on 0954 Salisbury yard – Meldon passing the golf course on the approach to Crediton on 30/06/1983

20 45 023 Royal Pioneer Corp on the 1500 Meldon – Bristol East Depot at Crediton on 04/07/1983

21 DMU P467 on the 1515 Exeter Barnstaple at Crediton on 04/07/1983. Neil Geeson is the signalman

22 33 011 on, almost inevitably, the 1725 Exeter Riverside – Meldon at Crediton on 04/ 07/1983

24 45 057 on 0954 Salisbury yard – Meldon passing the golf course on the approach to Crediton on 14/06/1983

25 45 057 on 1500 Meldon – Bristol East Depot between Salmon Pool crossing and Crediton on 14/06/1983

71 25 048 on the 1645 departure to Exeter on Sunday 20/05/1979

95 1710 Exeter – Barnstaple crossing the 1610 Barnstaple – Exeter at Eggesford on Monday 16/04/1979

148, 149, 150 31 135 ( Exeter end) and 31 124 on ‘Heart of Devon ’ railtour on 16/07/1978

169 Unidentified class 25 leaving Barnstaple on the 1552 departure on 12/08/1978

577 31 117 on 9Z10 ballast empties at Crediton on 28/06/1983 






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When I was about 12 or 13 I went down to the station at Barnstaple and I was hooked! You could hardly call it train spotting but there was something about the atmosphere of the place. I became a virtual fixture there and got to know everyone spending much of my time around the Full Loads depot and the platform. I went to college for a couple of years doing an OND in Business Studies but that just made me realise I did not want to spend my life in an office. A vacancy came up on the platform shortly before leaving college and I was in. It was a bit funny filling in the vacancy application at college. My contemporaries had to fill in details of their academic achievements; I filled in that I had neither a hernia nor a criminal record! George Facey told me that Owen Gregory, the supervisor, had told him that I was to be treated like any other new entrant. George told him not to be silly as I had spent the previous week helping him to book up parcels on the late turn. Why the railway should have held such an attraction for me I do not know. My father was in the RAF and ended up working at Shapland and Petter in a managerial position and my mother was a nurse. The only relative on the railway was a great, great grandfather who worked on the GNR. I have a framed photograph of the Kings Cross Goods clerical staff in 1922 and he is there somewhere. Years ago my dad pointed him out, I commented that he looked a bit like Hitler; dad said he got a clipped ear when he had said that. Memories where fresher then. I do not know which one he is now, toothbrush moustaches being all the rage in 1922.

I loved my time at Barnstaple . The early turn started at 0415 and I used to walk down the hill with a spring in my step. I applied for the vacancy in Crediton box only because the security of the job on the platform looked dodgy when the railway dropped out of the collection and delivery business. Barnstaple being a Parcels Centralisation Depot and much of our work involved sorting and sheeting (entering names and addresses on delivery sheets) parcels. I spent two years at Crediton, applying for a job at Abergavenny when I had to find fresh lodgings (itself a tale to tell). Starting at 0300 in the morning was starting to wear and having been kicked unconscious on the way to work one morning by a pair of aggressive drunks did not help.

Off I went to Abergavenny and spent six years in the box there. It is in a pleasant location looking up at the mountains. I also renewed my acquaintance with my favourite engines, the class 25. The LMR still had them and they used to struggle up the 1 in 86 to Llhanvihangel. I finally moved to Hereford which was the ‘big box’ in the area. I enjoyed the job and it could be very challenging. You could end up running around the box like an idiot for two or three hours and then look at the train register and wonder how you could have been so busy. For various reasons at the time I thought that living and working on my own was not doing me any favours and I went to work at Gloucester panel after spending a year at Hereford . Big mistake! I absolutely hated the job. I was not in the best frame of mind and it would be wrong to blame it on any one or thing else but I really did not get on well there. There was some good railwaymen there though and I think I learnt a lot.

Finally I have ended up at Banbury. I only got this job by default as one of the previous applicants turned out to be colour blind. I got a phone call at Gloucester half way through the early turn asking me if I was still interested in the job at Banbury and I was here the next day. I have been here for 18 years now. Tales of this job would fill a book with derailments, suicides, Transvestites and lunatic signalwomen! You would think I was spinning you a tall tale with much of it. Mind you I spent ten years here followed round everywhere by a Jack Russell in its own HV vest. I cannot see me moving now unless I am forced to. I have settled down with a ready made family and the days of just moving on a whim are gone, not that I wish that they where still here.