2nd October 2019.
The Lynton & Barnstaple Railway - Christopher Duffell.
Rebuilding the Lynton & Barnstaple Railway.
Christopher Duffell gave members a very informative talk and excellent slide presentation on the rebuilding of the Lynton & Barnstaple Railway. He prefaced his talk by outlining the history of the railway, its construction and sudden closure in 1935. Christopher being a Civil Engineer is part of the Construction Design Team and is in an excellent position to talk about the challenges facing the Lynton & Barnstaple Railway Trust in their plans to reopen more of the 19 mile line from Barnstaple to Lynton.
Construction of the line began in 1895 to the narrow gauge of one foot and eleven half inches and was designed to follow the contours of the land via many bridges and embankments including the superb Chelfham Viaduct. Three Manning Wardle 2-6-2 Tank locomotives (Yeo, Exe and Taw) were used to operate the line, later being supplemented by a Baldwin loco (Lyn) from the USA. Coaching stock of a high standard was provided by the Bristol Wagon & Carriage Works. After some initial success there were insufficient passengers and freight, producing little by way of financial return for shareholders especially during the First World War Years.
In 1923 the Southern Railway purchased the railway and carried out major improvements including track relaying and providing another locomotive from Manning Wardle named Lew. Despite these measures the line continued to lose money and the Southern Railway closed the line in 1935 with rolling stock and track being sold at auction. For over 70 years the trackbed remained largely untouched including some of the bridges and the superb Chelfham Viaduct.
Christopher then moved on to the rebuilding and reopening phase. In 1979 a group of volunteers started the long haul of bringing the railway back to life. So far a mile of track from Woody Bay Station to Killington Lane has been reopened and provides a railway service. Woody Bay and Chelfham Stations have been purchased and brought into use. Five heritage coaches have also been rebuilt. Details of the rolling stock were shown on Christopher’s excellent slides including the newly built locomotive Lyn being a very advanced steam engine working with a gas pressurised combustion system and roller bearings.
He gave details of a major achievement to date which was obtaining planning permissions from Exmoor National Park and North Devon District Council for the reopening of parts of the line. Many of the conditions under those permissions are arduous and will be costly to implement but at least the route of the line is now protected. Funding is now being sought to enable the Trust to apply for a Transport & Works Order which will give the necessary powers to construct and operate the line.
Christopher explained in detail the next planned phases of work to reopen sections of the line from Killington Lane to Blackmoor , Woody Bay to Lynton and Wistlandpound and finally to Barnstaple. Greater detail on these proposals and much more information about the railway can be found on their website which is worth a visit at www.lynton-rail.co.uk
He illustrated quite graphically the extent of some of the problems in reclaiming the trackbed with blocked culverts and 80 years of vegetation where nature has taken over.
This was a first class presentation of a very daunting project to bring this wonderful line back to life. In recognition the ASRM has made a donation of £50.00 to the Trust’s bridge appeal to complete work on the restoration of bridge numbers 54 and 55.