June 2022. Making the best of four weeks off, after the Mediterranean cruise for Danny and Mexico for Timothy, we organised a train trip in England. On the menu: Bletchley Park, the night train to Penzance, the Dartmouth Steam Railway and the Isle of Wight. On the last day, we roamed around London to sample the Elizabeth Line.
The Dartmouth Steam Railway, formerly known as the Paignton and Dartmouth Steam Railway, is a 6.7-mile or 10.8 km heritage railway on the former Great Western Railway branch line between Paignton and Kingswear in Devon.
Much of the railway’s business is from summer tourists from the resorts of Torbay, who travel to Kingswear, where the Dartmouth Passenger Ferry takes them across the River Dart to Dartmouth.
The line is owned and operated by Dart Valley Railway Limited. This company also owns Dart Pleasure Craft Limited, which operates the Dartmouth Passenger Ferry as well as river and coastal cruises.
The railway and connecting boat and bus services are jointly promoted as the Dartmouth Steam Railway and River Boat Company.
Unusually amongst heritage railways, it is a commercial operation which does not rely on volunteer labour or charitable donations, although a few volunteers help at Churston railway station.
The building of railways in South Devon was first under discussion in the late 1830’s and early 1840’s.
The first section of the Torquay line was opened in 1848, which ran to Torre station. It was another 11 years before the railway was extended from Torre to Paignton and a further five years before the line was completed to Kingswear, passing through Churston. The line finally opened to traffic on 16th August 1864, under the South Devon Railway management. At this time there was a branch line to Brixham from Churston station. In 1876 the South Devon Railway was absorbed into the Great Western Railway.
The Dartmouth Steam Railway & River Boat Company (formerly Paignton & Dartmouth Steam Railway was founded in the 1960’s to acquire and run the Totnes to Buckfastleigh branch railway, which had been closed for some years.
It opened under the Dart Valley Railway control in 1969. Within a few years the Paignton to Kingswear line was threatened with closure by British Railways. It was then that the Dart Valley Railway acquired this section of line as well and started train services in 1973. The Paignton to Kingswear line is fully up to main line standards and is able to carry the largest and heaviest locomotives in Britain.
Dartmouth Railway Station
Datmouth has its own railway station, now champagne bar Platform 1, but no rail. Famous engineer Isambard Kingdom Brunel was too quick with his enavours. Local opposition blocked the building of a railway bridge over the Dart. In fact, a an actual law blocks railway bridges over certain river parts. At least according to the cruise tour guide.
The Dartmouth Steam Railway has a large connection of steam locomotives and coaches. Our train was hauled by 75014 Braveheart. Built December 1951 in Swindon, withdrawn by the British Railways in 1966.
The British Railway 4-6-0 standard class 4 was built for use on the Western, Midland and Southern regions of the recently nationalised rail network. They were extremely versatile mixed traffic locos, frequently used on passenger duties.
75014 was allocated to a number of Midland region sheds during its short life and 1964 saw it allocated to Shrewsbury from where it was withdrawn and sent to Barry scrap yard in December 1966.
In Barry scrap yard for fourteen years, it rotted and donated parts to other locos, until it was bought as a wreck in 1981. A four man syndicate based on the North Yorkshire Moors Railway brought it back to steam in 1994.
The syndicate decided to sell the loco in 2002 and the Dartmouth Steam Railway & River Boat Company were fortunate to become the new owners.
Although only arriving in 2002, the locomotive’s boiler certificate expired in 2004 and the loco received a major overhaul, especially to the boiler, requiring many new parts, including a complete new boiler barrel. The overhaul took many years eventually seeing a return to service in December 2016. Braveheart is now a mainstay to the services on the Dartmouth Steam Railway.
The railway has a fleet of 21 coaches with 19 available for service and a further two coaches have been refurbished for special purposes detailed below.
Eleven of the coach fleet are British Railways Mark 1 corridor coaches, 8 TSOs, 2 BSKs and a BSO. The livery of the carriages is a version of the former GWR ‘chocolate and cream’ livery and most carry an attractive sounding name, with a few carrying the name of either a female member of staff, or the name of a member of staff’s child or grandchild.
The brake carriages have had their former luggage vans converted to wheelchair accommodation, and are run adjacent to standard coaches which have also been modified for this purpose. A few coaches have toilets, but most toilets have been removed to make way for accommodation for pushchairs and other luggage.
A Pullman observation saloon, originally built for the Devon Belle service (No.13), is used regularly on passenger services. It provides a unique view of the railway, although an additional charge is made to ride in it. It was refurbished in 2012 and put back into original Pullman livery. It was out of service in 2017 while it was given a heavy overhaul.
The rest of the coaches are former British Rail DMU class 116 and 117 trailer cars with open saloons. Seven of these are used on the trains.
We took the train from Kingswear to Paignton.
You have plenty of time to see the train arriving, and witness the shunting of the locomotive. It is all done very swiftly. You have allocated seats. and you’re almost guaranteed a decent view. The ride smooth and the visas are pretty.