Friday, 3 June 2016

The South Devon Railway...

Evening all. Today, on the way home from Torquay, we decided to pop over to the South Devon Railway at Buckfastleigh. The railway was mentioned on the blog in 2012 but we didn't travel during that visit. With good weather in prospect and my HRA pass burning a hole in my pocket, we decided to have a ride. We arrived at just before Midday, in time to watch Pannier Tank No6412 roll in from Staverton...
Having collected our tickets from the booking office, I watched 6412 run round having taken water at the column...
Having got the shunt signal, 6412 began to reverse back towards the waiting stock...
We boarded the Mk1 coaches in readiness for the 12:15pm departure for Totnes via Staverton. Loadings were strong today but we did manage to get a seat OK. You may wonder what a HRA pass is. Well, this pass is available to active heritage railway volunteers and offers free or discounted travel on most heritage lines, with some restrictions. I would never use it without buying a souvenir or a cup of tea as you need to put something in but its nice to have a free ride now and again...
6412 departed from Buckfastleigh on time with a well-filled train and was soon ticking happily along the gently curving route of the SDR...
"A Country Branch Line"
The South Devon Railway is 6.6-miles long and was a Great Western route. It closed in 1962 but happily a reprieve wasn't far away and the line reopened as a preserved concern in 1969 as the Dart Valley Railway. The route became the South Devon Railway in 1991. Now for some 6412 history! 6412 is an 0-6-0 Pannier Tank, built at Swindon in 1934 as one of 40 examples of the 64XX class. The main addition in terms of design was the fitment of 'Auto' gear, allowing the 6400s to work push-pull services without the need for running round. They have linkages to allow the whistle and regulator to be worked from an Autocoach whilst the vacuum braking is also operated via a dropper in the train pipe. 6412 arrived on the line in the mid-1960s after being purchased for preservation. She actually hauled the reopening train from Buckfastleigh in 1969. Back then the Dart Valley team were trying to preserve the Paignton - Kingswear line too and 6412 was transferred over there before being sold to the West Somerset in 1976. She also hauled opening services on the WSR before eventually being deemed too small for use on the line in 2008. In 2009, the SDR bought 6412 back and she was now 'home' again.

Today, 6412 certainly looked lovely and was immaculate in her appearance. Once at the SDR terminus of Totnes, just alongside the main line, the engine was uncoupled ready to run round the train...
6412 runs round at Totnes...
The engine opened up once the dolly was pulled off...
Totnes station and its quaint signalbox sit opposite a very popular Rare Breeds Centre and a lot of passengers seemed to be combining a visit to both today...
Once the Pannier was coupled back onto the train again, I took the opportunity to take a quick cab shot through the door. Notice the hole in the regulator and the linkage coming up from the cab floor as part of the 'Auto' gear. I was surprised at the size of the Western wedge in the firebox as 6412 was barely murmuring when pulling the train...
"Cab Shot of Pannier 6412"
Soon enough we were rattling back along the banks of the River Dart once again. The line hugs the edge of the river for most of its length whilst looking out over open fields on the other side. Its a very pleasant little run indeed...
Having arrived back at Buckfastleigh, we decided to have a look in the shop before stopping off for a Cream Tea in the Tea Room...
"Cream Tea for Two"
Cream Tea scoffed, we could see the Pannier and her crew taking a break at the head of the next departure...
The SDR has quite a collection of locomotives and currently has 4 steamers operational: 6412, Dock Pannier 1369 and Collett Goods 3205, with Pannier 5786 on a loan spell at Chinnor. In the yard stood three engines waiting their turn. These were 4920 "Dumbleton Hall", an Austerity 0-6-0 and an old friend: 3803. The poor old 38' is now out of ticket having ended her days at Shackerstone in July last year. I believe her tender is now behind 3205, hence the mismatch in liveries. I passed both my firing and driving exams on 3803 in both 2011 and 2014 respectively and I'll always have a fondness for the old 2-8-0...
"4920, 3803 and an Austerity Trade Stories"
Having walked past 6412 a final time, we climbed the steps of the footbridge on our way back to the car. I'll admit that my steps were slower than Maisie's due to the thought of the 200-mile journey home in no doubt horrific holiday traffic...
A final view of the immaculately kept Pannier Tank No6412...
Todays visit to the SDR has been most pleasant and I'll happily recommend a visit to this pretty little line. 6412 is a lovely machine and we enjoyed our train ride. Their website is here. Thanks for reading folks, now to join the other several thousand hopefuls for a car parking competition on the M5. Cheers, Sam...

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