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Spring Steam Gala 2014 - Special offer on Rover Tickets

(18/11/2013 @ 15:42:00)

The Special Events Planning Team has decided that the theme for the 2014 Spring Steam Gala (March 27th to 30th) will be "The Withered Arm”.

This was the long-used name for the network of lines in North Devon and Cornwall built up by the London and South Western Railway and later operated by the Southern Railway and the Southern Region of British Railways. The name was derived from the shape of the network of lines as it appeared on the railway map of South West England, resembling the withered arm of a tree.

The routes varied in atmosphere. There was the main line from Exeter to Plymouth via Okehampton and Tavistock, crossing Dartmoor en route and contrasting with the rival GWR route along the seafront through Dawlish and Teignmouth.  At the other end of the scale from the Bulleid Light Pacifics on that main line the tank engine passing through Hatherleigh on its way from Torrington to Halwill Junction would be pulling one coach which more that sufficed for the one or two passengers a week that were using that line at the end (the big surprise is that the line lasted until the mid-1960’s)

A hub of the system was the aforesaid Halwill Junction, a remote spot but one from which trains left for the routes to Bude, Torrington, Okehampton and Padstow. Trains on the final section from Barnstaple Junction to Ilfracombe had severe gradients to contend with in both direction and the 1 in 36 descent into Ilfracombe station ended just as the train reached the platform ends (the platforms were on a more modest 1 in 71 gradient. From 1923 to 1935 there was even a narrow gauge section, the posthumously-famous Lynton and Barnstaple line which met the mainline trains at Barnstaple Town station and which is now being revived at Woody Bay station near Lynton.

The most famous train to feature was the "Atlantic Coast Express” from Waterloo. At Exeter Central the "King Arthur”/ "Lord Nelson”/ "Merchant Navy” came off and the dividing of the train into various portions began (and continued at other junctions until one or two coaches reached the coastal destinations). On the way back the process was reversed with the formation growing as it made its way towards Central. The locomotives heading the various portions were part of the appeal for the enthusiast. In the 1960’s you could see a Bulleid "Light Pacific” trundling a single coach from Padstow or a half century old T9 4-4-0 heading into Exeter. The N class moguls were regulars as were the M7 and 02 0-4-4 tanks engines mixing in with British Railways "Standards”.

The Great Western came into Barnstaple with trains running into that town’s Victoria station from Taunton (coaches for Ilfracombe were worked round to the Junction afterwards) and further west they meet up with the neighbours at Wadebridge. Most visibly of all was the arrangement where the Southern passed through the Great Western station at Exeter St Davids giving a situation where trains heading from Paddington to Plymouth and those from Waterloo to Plymouth left in opposite directions (or vice versa).

Now for the good news: Until close of business on December 31st 2013 One Day Gala Rover Tickets are on sale at the following extra discounted rates:

One Day Rovers:

£17.00 Adult

£15.40 (60+),

£8.50 ( 5 to 15)

£45.00 (family of 2 adults and up to 4 children).


Two Day Rovers:

£30.00 (adult/senior)

£15.00 (5 to 15)


Three and Four Day

£40.00 (adult/senior)

£20.00 (5 to 15)

These can be ordered by telephone from 01643 704996 and online shortly. From January 1st onwards the normal discounts on Rovers purchased in advance will apply.


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