Tag Archives: Colonel Stephens

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.


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


Steam Locomotives of a more Leisurely Era 1873 – Ilfracombe Goods – London & South Western Railway

Steam Locomotives of a more Leisurely Era

1873 – Ilfracombe Goods – London & South Western Railway

Shropshire & Montgomery No.6 Thisbe in 1926.  H.C.Casserley

Eight engines constructed by Beyer Peacock & Co. between 1873 and 1880 to the order of W.G.Beattie for working the steeply graded Barnstaple – Ilfracombe line, then newly opened.  They were of Beyer Peacock’s standard design of the period, a distinctive feature being that the dome, with Salter spring balance safety valves, was placed over the firebox.  The semi-open splashers were embellished with the makers’ handsome brass plates.Shropshire & Montgomeryshire Railway0-6-0 Ilfracombe Goods loco, Thisbe.  J.H.L.Adams

The numbers were 282-4, 300, 301, 324, 393 and 394, eventually placed on the duplicate list as 0282, etc.  The first six were rebuilt by Adams between 1888 and 1890 with normal domed boilers and increased working pressure.  Nos. 0301 and 0393 were broken up in 1905, but all the others were bought by Colonel Stephens between 1910 and 1918 for use on some of his light railways, No. 282 (latterly the engine had been renumbered 0349) and 0284 going to the Kent and East Sussex as Nos. 7Rother and 9 Juno.  Nos. 0283, 0300 and 0324 became Shropshire & Montgomery Nos. 6 Thisbe, 5 Pyramus and 3 Hesperus, whilst the unrebuilt engine, No.0394, which remained in its original condition to the end, went to the East Kent Railway, on which line it became known as No.3.  All of these engines disappeared during the 1930s except S & M Thisbe, which lasted until 1941.

 Driving wheels – 4’ 6”,  Cylinders – 16”x 20”, Pressure: As built – 130 lb., As rebuilt – 160 lb.,  Weight: As built – 25 tons 16 cwt, As rebuilt – 26 tons 12 cwt.

  The late Colonel Stephens showed a marked inclination towards the London & South Western Railway’s ‘Ilfracombe Goods’ 0-6-0s when he was seeking a further locomotive for his light railway empire.  At least three, Pyramus, Thisbe and Hesperus, went to the Shropshire & Montgomeryshire, and the Kent & East Sussex found a home for yet another, No.3 Juno, here ambling through the Rother meadows close to the castle towers of Bodiam on 14th March, 1931.  H.C.Casserley.

Steam Locomotives of a more Leisurely Era 1872 – ‘Terriers’ 0-6-0T – London, Brighton & South Coast Railway

Steam Locomotives of a more Leisurely Era

1872 – ‘Terriers’ 0-6-0T – London, Brighton & South Coast Railway

British Railways Southern Region 0-6-0 ‘Terrier’ tank No.32670 leaves Tenterden Town station for Robertsbridge on 27th September, 1952.  This engine, once London, Brighton & South Coast Railway No.70 Poplar, was built in December, 1872; it was later sold to Colonel Stephens, in May, 1901, who put it to work on the Kent & East Sussex Railway, giving it the number 3 and the name Bodiam.  As late as the summer of 1948 it was still resplendent in apple green with the letters ‘K & ESR’ on its side tanks.  J.G.Dewing

The first of these remarkable little engines, No.71 Wapping, came out in October, 1872, followed by No.70 Poplar and 72 Fenchurch in November.  The class eventually totalled fifty, numbered 35 – 84, the last appearing in 1880.  The design was a direct development of the type which William Stroudley had introduced on the Highland Railway during his short term of office on that line.  (See previous post – Stroudley 0-6-0T, Highland Railway).  They were designed originally for suburban work in the London area, but of later years their uses have been many and varied.There are few of Stroudley’s ‘Terriers’ left in service today, (1969) though they still work on the Hayling Island Branch and shunt the quay at Newhaven.  Two have been preserved by British Railways, one at Brighton Works and another at the Clapham Museum of the BTC.  There is also another working on the Bluebell Line.  During their lives, engines of this class have gone far afield – even the mighty Great Western had two of them from the late Weston, Clevedon & Portishead Railway.  They were favourites of Colonel Stephens.  Their great assets were their high axle loading and their short wheelbase, which made them ideal engines for cheaply laid branches and light railways.  No. 32661 leaves Havant for Hayling Island with the 12.35 pm train on 4th March, 1950.  P.M.Alexander.

From 1901 onwards a number of them were disposed of, some were scrapped, but very many of them were sold out of service, details of which are to numerous to go into fully.  It may be mentioned however that two of them went to the LSWR, one to the SECR, several to various light railways, others to collieries, whilst a few went on Government service during the first world war, and were subsequently disposed of to sundry undertakings.  Of those that remained on the Brighton, a number were fitted with pull-and-push apparatus for motor train working, and most of the later survivors of the class had been rebuilt with extended smokeboxes.  About a dozen still remained on the LBSCR books at grouping in 1923, but this total was increased under the Southern Railway regime, as several which had been sold previously now came back to the fold under the combined ownership.  These included some which had gone to the Isle of Wight railways.The summer of 1949 saw the end of the Isle of Wight 0-6-0 ‘Terrier’ tanks.  This class had worked the Merstone to Ventnor West branch from its inception in the days of the Isle of Wight Central Railway.  ‘A1X’ class No.W8 Freshwater enters Ventnor West station on the early morning train on 18th April.  P.M.Alexander

In later Brighton days the remaining engines had and their numbers increase by 600, the Southern Railway in turn put 2000 on to this, whilst those that have survived Nationalisation have again received an addition of 30000.

Those in the Isle of Wight were numbered in a special series as W9, etc., but on return to the mainland were either scrapped or given their original numbers plus the 326xx addition.  A particularly interesting example of this perpetuation of identity occurs with No.70, which when sold to the Kent & East Sussex Railway in 1930 became their No.3 This line remained independent until 1948, when the engines became BR stock, and it duly received its rightful number 32670, having skipped the intervening 670 and 2670 phase during the many years it had been in independent hands.  This engine, together with No. 32636 (old 72 – in this case the original number was not perpetuated) are in 1959 the oldest engines in service on British Railways.Travellers over the one-time Stratford-on-Avon & Midland Junction Railway, had they alighted at Burton-Dassett station under Edge Hill, would have found the remains of the moribund Edge Hill Light Railway, an unsuccessful Ironstone speculation where two Brighton ‘Terriers’ slumbered on grass-grown tracks.  Both engines somehow survived the wartime scrap drives but were cut up on the site by 1946.  J.H.L.Adams

Driving wheels – 4’ 0”,  Cylinders – 12”x 20”,  Pressure – 150lb.,  Tractive effort – 7650lb.,  Weight – Unrebuilt – 27½ tons, Rebuilt – 28¼ tons,  LBSCR & SR Classification – Unrebuilt – A1, Rebuilt – A1x,  BR Classification – OP

Tractive effort  – Engine 32636 had cylinders 14.3/16”x 20” with 10695lb  tractive effort.

No.70 as running in 1933 on the Kent & East Sussex Railway.  It subsequently became BR No. 32670 and was rebuilt to Class ‘A1x’ with extended smokebox.  H.C.Casserley.