Moretonhampstead and South Devon


Moretonhampstead and South Devon Railway

The company was formed in 1861 at the Globe Hotel in Exeter, with royal assent given in 1862 and work commencing in 1863, opening to the public on 26 June 1866 with a public holiday observed allowing local people to turn out in their droves to witness the first journey from Newton Abbot to Moretonhampstead.


It is unclear if this was infact the still extant, beautifully renovated 16th century coaching inn seen right, at Fore Street Topsham on the Exe estuary just outside Exeter, or a long lost establishment. Irrespective of that, it is well worth a visit if in the area



Originally built to Isombard Kingdom Brunel's 7 ft 1⁄4 in (2,140 mm) broad gauge, being converted as part of the wider standardising of gauge throughout the UK in 1892. The line was 12 miles, 28 chains (20 km) long. It linked the South Devon Railway at Newton Abbot railway station with Moretonhampstead via Heathfield, Bovey Tracey and Lustleigh.


Many of the major earthworks such as cuttings and embankments can still be seen today as most of the line has been converted to a footpath/cycleway by Devon County Council, with the remainder believed to be in Council hands and earmarked for completion of the cycle-route when funds permit.


All the granite used for construction of the bridges was cut from Lustleigh Cleave. Cleave - old English meaning Cliff. The whole area being largely common land today with many walks around the area

In 1892, the 7 ft 1⁄4 in (2,140 mm) broad gauge line was replaced by a 4 ft 8 1⁄2 in (1,435 mm) standard gauge format, taking only 32 hours and 60 men to complete - part of the wider conversion of the whole network.


The railway brought tourists to the area. Other users of the service were local industries: farmers' produce, nursery plants and blacksmiths' products were sent by train.


Traffic grew from 1866 to the 1930s and then went into decline. Despite a significant summer tourist trade, featuring in many contemporary guide books, traffic on the branch over the year was not enough to cover rising costs.


The Lustleigh station was used in 1931 for the film 'Hound of the Baskervilles', its name being temporarily changed (Ewans 1964).

Passenger services ceased pre-Beeching, despite good passenger numbers in the summer months from tourist traffic on 28 February 1959, although remaining for freight services until the finally closed on 6 April 1964.


The last passenger train to Bovey Tracey was an enthusiast's special on 5 July 1970, many pictures of which can be found on various web sites linked below, but by 8 September the lifting of the track north of Heathfield had been completed. The alignment of line around Bovey Tracey was used for a A382 road bypass opening in 1987. The former Bovey railway station was retained at the side of the road and is now a Community Ccentre.


Oil and china clay trains continued to operate occasionally on the south section of the line that remained as far as the Heathfield Industrial Estate for several years, but even the section beyond Heathfield Station was lifted. Leaving both tracks as a passing loop and the buffers, now becoming lost in encroaching undergrowth just beyond, almost exactly 4 miles from Newton Abbot Platform 10 which is fenced off and disused. Although during the Logging contract that temporarily reopened the line between 2011 and 2015 locomotives were sometimes to be see parked up here whilst loading took place at Teignbridge Yard, just south the level crossing at Exeter Road, to allow the timber to be loaded onto the freight trains. Due to the lack of a passing loop at Teigngrace, the train and its empty wagons continues up the line to Heathfield where the engine could run around the wagons using the loop in the disused station. The empty freight train then drives back to the timber sidings at Teigngrace to be loaded. The timber having been delivered to the yard by lorry from local plantations.


The contract only ceasing due to the short trains necesitated by the short run around at Heathfield, the operators now forming longer trains at Exeter to go to North Wales.


Several miles of the line between Bovey and Lustleigh, some of which is now a path open to the public, are being developed by the council to become a cycle track known as the Wray Valley Trail. As part of this the previously demolished bridge deck over the A382 road was replaced in March 2011 by a new lattice girder structure.The old Lustleigh station house is now a private home and just visible through the foliage from the old railway bridge.




2015 plans by a consortium of light rail companys, railcar owners Lightweight Community Transport and Parry People Movers, proposed operator, Pre Metro Operations Ltd and Promotors, Ecorail Ltd, also this sites sponsors, to open a demonstration park and ride service were thwarted in early 2016 by the state of some parts of the track after the Deputy Chief Inspector of Railways David Keays walked the line and declared that he could not sanction the running of a light railcar on the line because twisting in the track meant a high probability of derailment.





Originally known as just "Newton" the station was opened by the South Devon Railway Company 30 December 1846 when its line was extended from Teignmouth, and through to Totnes on 20 June 1847. A branch to Torquay was added on 18 December 1848.


The Moretonhampstead branch line duely opened 26 June 1866. Newton Abbot remaining the junction to the remnants of this line in 2016, although currently mothballed. All were originally built to the 7 ft (2,134 mm) broad gauge.


South Devon Railway supported the Mortenhampstead company agreeing a fee to operate the trains, but due to money difficulties it amalgamated with the SDR 1 February 1876, the South Devon Railway was later amalgamated into the Great Western Railway.


The last broad gauge train ran on 20 May 1892, after which all the lines in the area were converted to the current standard gauge over the space of a weekend. The workshops at Newton Abbot played a part in converting broad gauge locomotives, carriages and wagons to standard gauge over the following months.

For many years, it was also home to large locomotive workshop which was an important maintenance depot until its closure in 1981.













The last trains used the former Platform 4 on 24 April 1987, which allowed a level entrance to be opened from the road and an extended car park. Also to go were the loop lines that allowed fast trains to pass the station without passing a platform. Resignalling was completed over the following week and bank holiday weekend. Full operation was restored from 5 May 1987, now controlled from the panel signal box at Exeter. A new Aller junction was installed for the Paignton branch and the signals now allow trains to run either way on each track.


The remaining section of the Moretonhampstead line was taken out of use in 2009 when 'temporary stop blocks' were placed on the line 53 chains (1.1 km) from the junction at Newton Abbot. The line to Heathfield has since been re-opened, seeing daily timber trains in 2012 to Chirk in Wales.


Newton Abbot has proved to be an accident prone station

On 22 August 1851 the locomotive Brigand was derailed and Switchman Bidgood had to pay one pound towards its repairs.


The investigation into a collision in August 1875 revealed that it was normal practice at Newton to ignore the signal controlling movements from the siding to the main line, as a result of which it was decided to interlock the signals and points here, one of the first such installations to be authorised on the South Devon Railway.


On 21 October 1892 an engine shunting the siding at Aller Junction (Torbay Brach) derailed and fell on its side.


In more recent times, a collision occurred on 25 March 1994, when a Class 158 DMU working a Paignton to Cardiff service ran into the back of a Class 43 standing in the platform with a Penzance to Edinburgh train. Then in June 1997 a similar train from London was derailed by a broken axle as it was slowing down on its approach to the station.


a little to the north of the station. Beyond this was established Hackney marshalling yard, where goods trains were – and indeed still are from time to time – reformed for the journey over the hills towards Plymouth.


A new marshalling yard was opened at Hackney, just north of the station, on 17 December 1911. It is a useful staging point for freight trains travelling over the steep inclines of Dartmoor on the way to Plymouth as these trains either have to be shorter or use additional locomotives compared with the flat route from Exeter.


The sidings were closed to scheduled traffic on 10 January 1971. They have now been refurbished, although the number of sidings is greatly reduced. They were temporarily used for off-loading stone traffic during the 1990s but now see regular cement trains to Moorswater on the Looe branch in Cornwall. These are split into two portions, one being left here while the Freightliner locomotive takes the first section forward before returning later in the day for the remaining wagons. The sidings are also used for stabling railway engineers' vehicles. In 2012 a new Network Rail Recycling Depot was opened. This has resulted in regular engineers trains bringing sections of rail to the yard for cutting before being sold to local scrap merchants.


The original engine shed was closed in 1893, and a new eight-road standard GWR pattern shed along the lines of those at Salisbury and Exeter, with northlight pattern roof, constructed under the initial code NA. The coaling stage was a non-standard wooden trussed lean-to affair, with the coaling ramp level with the yard, while the approach roads where the locomotives were refueled some 14 feet (4.3 m) below yard level. This made adding an ash shelter later during World War II especially easy. The single 65 feet (20 m) standard over-girder pattern turntable was installed in 1926.


Designated and designed as the major shed for the region, it was constructed as a heavy maintenance repair shop. The associated locomotive Factory had access to heavy lifting equipment, and engineering facilities to maintain, repair and overaul all types of GWR locomotive. Locomotives could be put into the Factory roads by means of a traversing table at the East (Exeter and London) end. The last British Rail steam engine to be overhauled in the workshops was ex-GWR 4500 Class number 4566, outshopped on 15 July 1966. Although some steam engines belonging to the private Dart Valley Railway company were overhauled in the factory after it had to closed, and the old steam shed was also used to do some work on these privately owned engines.


To the west, the site also had a six-road carriage and wagon works, suitable for maintenance and repair of all types of rolling stock. Cleaning was carried out on tracks between the station and the locomotive sheds.


After the decision to switch to diesel traction, in 1962 the site was completely rebuilt to accommodate diesels, including the Warship Class that were used on the Exeter to Waterloo services. The Factory was reformed to provide four roads with servicing pits and cab level platforms, providing facilities to repair eight locomotives at the same time. Access was via the existing traversing table. A daily servicing and fuelling point was built beside the old steam shed and it was this which provided the main facility after the factory closed in 1970.


Diesel multiple units were serviced in another open ended shed next to the carriage cleaning tracks. This shed was subsequently used to repair the electric train heating and air conditioning on the new Mark 3 and Mark 4 coaching stock.


The diesel repair sheds were closed in 1970, although a locomotive and coach servicing/fuel facility remained until 1981 when servicing was transferred to Laira Traction Maintenance Depot where the new High Speed Trains were maintained. An industrial estate now occupies the site but some original buildings are still standing.

Of note is the fact that an old broad gauge 0-4-0 locomotive, Tiny, was used to power the maintenace sheds for many years after the end of Broad Guage, thenwhen electricity was installed it was put on display on the station platform to provide a link with the past.


Some of the signalling equipment was taken to the Newton Abbot Town and GWR Museum where it forms part of an interactive display that shows how the

railway shaped the town. It was also at about this time that Tiny was removed from its position on the platform and moved to nearby Buckfastleigh railway station where it is displayed in the museum of the South Devon Railway Trust.

The main entrance is through South Devon House, the building opened in 1927. This involves a couple of steps up to the platform, but a step-free route leads from the taxi rank on the south side of the building.


The car park is beyond this on the site of the former up through line.


At the north end of this platform are the now disused and terminal platforms that were used to serve the Moretonhampstead branch.


English Electric loco pulling a southbound stopper our of the station with maintenance sidings and sheds seen behind right and up through track to the left seen in picture right

Disused bay platform at northern end of station that served the Moretonhampstead and Teign Valley lines. Both the other platform and centre tracks lifted some years ago

Disused bay platform



Western class loco pulling an express on the up through line before this was closed in 1987 to allow a level walkway between the station house and the current platform 3

Class 150 Branch Line Society charter special loading at the otherwise disused platform 5

Taken in 2013 from the end of the current platform 3 the junction onto the unsignaled Heathfield branch. There can be seen a stop sign denoting: do not enter there is a train on the section.

Class 37 hauling a passenger charter past the clay loading siding just north of the Newton Road bridge

The date of this picture is unknown but the points and track into the sidings are still extant at this point despite the sidings themslves being overgrown.

The same piece of track photographed from a slightly more central position on the bridge in 2013, the points having been removed during track relaying



The sidings and loading dock lie on the south side of the level crossing and were used for many years for ball clay traffic, having once had a passing loop which today is no longer the case. Traffic having ceased in 2009 when the line was mothballed. Then in December 2011 freight carriers Colas Rail announced that the section of the line to Heathfield would re-opened to facilitate a contract to transport timber from there to Chirk in North Wales.


Timber was transported by road to this site from local plantations be loaded onto the freight trains. Due to the lack of passing loop empty trains continue up the line to Heathfield to permit locomotives to run around the waggons using the loop in the disused station. The empty freight train then drives back to the timber sidings to be loaded.


Whilst this went on you could often see the locomotive sat in Newton Abbot station to allow drivers shift breaks.


Due to the short length of run around, once the contract got established Colas moved the operation to Exeter where they could form up longer trains. Once again mothballing the line.

Logs stacked up in the yard at Exeter Road. Once a week there would be enough to fill a train for delivery to South Wales

Looking noth over the other gate towards Teigngrace Halt in 2013

As with the picture left, taken over the top of the crossing gate in 2015 the yard at Exeter Road cleaned after the end of the contract

Again looking noth over the other gate towards Teigngrace Halt noting the removal of the hedgerow to put in a new fence in 2015



Renamed Teigngrace Halt by the Great Western Railway (GWR) in 1939. It had a single platform. A special train to Bovey Tracey visited Brimley Halt on 5 July 1970, its last known use by a passenger train. It had a single platform, with a ticket office and waiting room, with sidings and a passing loop - now lifted. In around 1961 the South Devon Railway Society leased Teigngrace Halt as their headquarters and carried out some repairs and renovation works.


The platform was still in situ, as was the ruined station building in 1975. The old Stover Canal runs parallel to the line at this point and locks were located nearby and in the recent past has cused some flooding issues. To date Devon County Council have told us that they have carried some remedial work.


In 1960 the South Devon Railway Society ran a special six coach train The Heart of Devon Rambler from Paignton to Moretonhampstead and repeated the exercise the following year with a special via Teigngrace to the Teign Valley Line. In 1962 a final special excursion train was run by the society to Moretonhampstead.


Historic 1950's picture of the station presumably taken from the garden seen in the picture right

2015 this picture


2013 this picture taken from a little further back, on the foot crossing, the end of the overgron platfoem just abot visible

2015 this picture



Originally named Chudleigh Road the station opened on 26 June 1866 on the Moretonhampstead and South Devon Railway, nearly 4 miles from Newton Abbot and before the Teign Valley Line opened. Being renamed on 1 October 1882.


The large pottery of Candy and Company was situated alongside the station and was served by its own siding from the outset, now British Ceramic Tiles, the siding closed many years ago. The station became a junction when the Teign Valley Railway opened to Ashton, in 1874. Until 23 May 1892 all traffic between the two lines had to be transferred at Heathfield as the Moretonhampstead line was built to the broad gauge, but the Teign Valley was in standard gauge.


The original station only had one platform serving the Moretonhampstead branch. In 1927 this platform was extended and a new passing loop and platform was provided for down trains came into use on 24 May 1927. Both platforms were signalled for reversible running until 1943 when the crossover was removed.


The last regular passenger trains ran on 28 February 1959. Since 6 July 1970 Heathfield has been the terminus of the branch line, the few trains running this far serving an oil terminal that opened in 1965. Today the track is lifted beyond the passing loop, some 400 metres shy of the terminal. However the trackbed remains until close to the northern edge of the local industrial estate, and is in Network Rail's ownership, so could be relayed.


Following the damage in 2014 to the sea wall at Dawlish one of the suggested alternative routes was via the re-statement of the Heathfield to Alphington rail link.