Lyn­ton & Barn­sta­ple Rail­way

The de­sire to recre­ate the L&B is as strong in miniature as it is in real life. Richard Fos­ter and Ge­orge Dent show you how.

Model Rail (UK) - - Masterclass -

ust think about what has hap­pened in the world over the last 83 years. Yet the sense of loss over a 19 mile 1 fur­long and 5 chain nar­row gauge rail­way in a cor­ner of north Devon re­mains as strong to­day in 2018 as it was in 1935, when it closed. Our love af­fair with the Lyn­ton & Barn­sta­ple Rail­way has sur­vived world wars, seis­mic shifts in so­ci­ety and the rise of tech­nol­ogy no one in the 1930s could have pos­si­bly imag­ined. Chris Leigh once got into trou­ble for sug­gest­ing that a small part could only be recre­ated at colos­sal cost, so pro­hibitively high that the only way you’d get to ride on the L&B would be be­hind a “splut­ter­ing petrol trac­tor”. But the work of the Lyn­ton & Barn­sta­ple Rail­way Trust, its af­fil­i­ated or­gan­i­sa­tions and one or two de­ter­mined in­di­vid­u­als cul­mi­nated on Septem­ber 29/30 2018, when the beau­ti­fully re­stored Woody Bay sta­tion played host to full-size repli­cas of the L&B’S clas­sic Man­ning War­dle 2-6-2T and Bald­win 2-4-2T haul­ing four su­perbly re­con­structed L&B

Jcoaches. Trains may have only run on one mile of track but it’s one of the pret­ti­est stretches of rail­way in the coun­try, over 900ft above sea level, with views stretch­ing across to the Bris­tol Chan­nel. That de­sire to recre­ate the Lyn­ton & Barn­sta­ple has now per­me­ated into the rail­way mod­el­ling mar­ket. Af­ter all, for what other rail­way com­pany can you buy (or will you be able to buy, thanks to Heljan’s War­ley an­nounce­ment) mod­els of all the lo­co­mo­tives ready-to-run? In fact, if you fac­tor in kits as well, ‘OO9’ mod­ellers can buy all but two ver­sions of coach and one type of wagon. Not even the GWR can boast that! It’s dif­fi­cult to put your finger on ex­actly what makes the Lyn­ton & Barn­sta­ple spe­cial. Is it that it’s a mini main line, with all the at­tributes of a much larger rail­way but scaled down to 1ft 11½in gauge? Is it the scenery through which it runs? Or is it the dis­tinc­tive shape of its lo­co­mo­tives and car­riages? Or is it purely a com­bi­na­tion of all three? What­ever that ‘X’ fac­tor is, the man re­spon­si­ble was Lon­don pub­lisher and MP Sir Ge­orge Newnes.

“Lo­cals saw Barn­sta­ple as their re­gional ‘cap­i­tal’ so that was the right des­ti­na­tion for a rail­way ”

Lyn­ton and its twin, Lyn­mouth, have a be­witch­ing power. The area, and the Val­ley of the Rocks in par­tic­u­lar, was im­mor­talised in R.D. Black­more’s Lorna Doone. Newnes was just one of count­less vis­i­tors over the years who have fallen un­der its spell. He, how­ever, was in a po­si­tion to give some­thing back. Newnes funded var­i­ous civic build­ings, elec­tric street light­ing and the won­der­ful wa­ter-pow­ered fu­nic­u­lar rail­way that still links Lyn­ton and Lyn­mouth to this day. But he’d had his knuck­les wrapped by lo­cal dig­ni­taries, for his am­bi­tious pier scheme failed to get the sup­port it ar­guably de­served as it was be­lieved that hordes of Welsh day-trip­pers would cross the Bris­tol Chan­nel to es­cape Wales’ ‘dry’ Sun­days and thus bring drunken chaos to the streets of Lyn­ton and Lyn­mouth. The pier was a fore­taste of things to come. The the­ory that a rail con­nec­tion can re­ju­ve­nate an area is as true to­day as it was in the 1890s. Lyn­ton and Lyn­mouth held the du­bi­ous hon­our of be­ing the towns in Eng­land fur­thest from a rail­way, and nu­mer­ous schemes ap­peared to rec­tify the sit­u­a­tion. Some were some­what fan­ci­ful, like the net­work of elec­tric rail­ways pro­posed by the Barn­sta­ple & Lyn­ton Elec­tric Tram­road Com­pany. In the end, the choice was whit­tled down to two: the GWR’S pro­posed stan­dard gauge branch from its Taun­ton­barn­sta­ple line and the nar­row gauge Lyn­ton-barn­sta­ple scheme backed by Newnes and his wealthy friends, Thomas He­witt, Evan Je­une and Wil­liam Halliday.


Above: Woody Bay sta­tion is some 900ft above sea level and is Eng­land’s high­est rail­way sta­tion. Named Wooda Bay un­til 1901, it was built at Morte­hoe Cross to serve a junc­tion to Woody Bay proper that never ma­te­ri­alised. The Ffes­tin­iog Rail­way’s replica Man­ning War­dle 2-6-2T Lyd ar­rives at the beau­ti­fully re­stored Woody Bay sta­tion in 2013 with coaches Nos. 7 and 17, both re­built from sec­tions of the orig­i­nal ve­hi­cles.


Left: Man­ning War­dle 2-6-2T No. 188 Lew looks al­most new in this pho­to­graph taken at Barn­sta­ple Town sta­tion. Be­hind is Taw, still in L&B liv­ery but with South­ern Rail­way ’plates on the bunker sides. There was a cross-plat­form con­nec­tion to the South­ern’s Barn­sta­ple-il­fra­combe line here.


Right: Pil­ton was the L&B’S nerve cen­tre, with of­fices, lo­co­mo­tive shed and work­shop, car­riage sheds, goods de­pot and turntable. The L&B of­fices and goods shed still sur­vive, but the de­pot build­ings burnt down in the 1990s and the site is now a car park.

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