Some Early Lines – North Devon and Cornwall Junction Light Railway

Some Early Lines

North Devon and Cornwall Junction Light Railway

Map of the Line

North Devon and Cornwall Junction Light Railway

North Devon Railway

Torrington –  River Torridge – Watergate Halt –  Yarde Halt – Dunsbear Halt

Marland Works – Petrockstow –  Meeth Works –  Wooladon Clay Pits

Meeth Halt – Hatherleigh –  Hole –   Okehampton to Bude Line to Bude

 North Cornwall Railway

Halwill Junction –   Okehampton to Bude Line to Okehampton

Highampton: Course of the Railway

The line was the North Devon & Cornwall Junction Light Railway, the last significant railway to be constructed in the south west, opened in July 1925. It linked Great Torrington with Halwill Junction where there were trains to Exeter, Bude and Padstow. Looking east  © Copyright Martin Bodman and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence.

 The North Devon and Cornwall Junction Light Railway was a railway built to serve numerous ball clay pits that lay in the space between the London and South Western Railway’s Torrington branch, an extension of the North Devon Railway group, and Halwill, an important rural junction on the North Cornwall Railway and its Okehampton to Bude Line.

Ball clay was an important mineral but its weight and bulk required efficient transportation; the material had been brought to main line railways by a 3 ft (914 mm) gauge tramway. Expanding volumes prompted conversion to a light railway — requiring less complex engineering and operational procedures than a full railway — and it was opened on 27 July 1925.

Hatherleigh – images.mitrasites.com

Passengers were carried in addition to the mineral traffic, but the business largely consisted of workers at the ball clay pits themselves. (Thomas says, “The largest place on the railway is Hatherleigh … a market town in the centre of a barren countryside, it is badly decayed”.)

The conversion from a tramway was overseen by Colonel Stephens, the famous owner and operator of marginal English and Welsh railways. Although in construction details typically Stephens this was visually a Southern Railway branch line . It survived in independent status until nationalisation of the railways in 1948, and continued in operation until 1 March 1965. The northern part from Meeth and Marland, which was reconstructed from the narrow gauge railway, continued to carry ball clay, but not passengers, until August 1982.

Meeth Halt (disused)

The North Devon and Cornwall Junction Light Railway closed in 1965. This must always have been a tiny station. It now serves as a starting point for a cyclepath along the former line as a branch of the Tarka Trail.  © Copyright Derek Harper and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence.

 Route

Built as cheaply as possible, and partly following the alignment of the former tramway, the railway had continuous sharp curves and ruling gradients in the range of 1 in 45 to 1 in 50.

The line was single throughout, worked by Electric Train Token, and with a maximum speed of 20 mph from Torrington to Dunsbear Halt, and 25 mph from there to Halwill.

The 1964/65 working timetable shows two throughout trains each way daily, taking about 80 minutes by diesel multiple unit for the 20 mile journey. There were three freight trains Mondays to Fridays serving the clay sidings from the Torrington end. There were no trains on Sundays.

Halwill Junction – images.mitrasite.com

 

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