Friday, 15 July 2016

Launching Project Woody Bay.

Deep in the heart of North Devon and miles from Woody Bay lies Woody Bay station

Launching another new feature of the blog, project Woody Bay. It has long been an ambition of mine to recreate this station in model form and with Heljan producing the iconic Manning Wardle 2-6-2T, PECO producing some of the coaches and wagons and Bachmann reproducing the station building itself there's no excuses left really!

This will be an occasional blog which focuses on all the aspects needed to build this model, so expect to see blogs on:
  • Baseboard construction
  • Track planning and laying
  • Scenery
  • Electrics
  • Locos and rolling stock
But we are going to kick off with where all layouts should kick off and that is at the research stage.  Beginning with a brief history of the railway.

Several schemes had been proposed to reach the hilly areas of North Devon but in 1895 a proposal to build a narrow gauge railway from Barnstaple Town station to Lynton was passed and the line completed in Spring 1898 with the official opening taking place on May 11th. The scheme's most influential backer was Sir George Newnes, a well known publisher who seemed to have a less than perfect reputation with the local population. Regardless of this it was Lady Newnes who officially opened the railway. 

For a short time it prospered but in truth the railway seldom returned any decent profits and as early as 1921 it's demise was being forecast. When we look along the route it is obvious to see why Lynton station, 20 miles from Barnstaple was a long and steep journey. With the unfortunate drawback of the station being high above the town so as not to spoil the views from several prominent residents homes.

Barnstaple Town offered a connection to the LSWR main line (now also closed) and from there the line climbed up into Exmoor. Via, Snapper Halt, Chelfham, Bratton Fleming, Blackmore Gate, Parracombe, Woody Bay and Caffyns Halt before finally reaching Lynton and Lynmouth. A problem many of these locations faced is they were destinations in name only and many miles from the actual villages they served, as we'll see when we look at

Woody Bay later on. The most impressive structure on the route was Chelfham Viaduct, which lays claim to be the largest narrow gauge structure in England. Fortunately the viaduct gained Grade II listed, unlike other L&B buildings and track bed it was not sold at auction and remained property of the Southern Railway, later British Railways and latterly Railtrack/Network Rail. For a line that closed in 1935 it's remarkable that all the stations survive.

It's easy to see why the Swiss chalet style stations like Woody Bay did survive as they made excellent homes, which is what all of the stations apart from Blackmoor Gate, which became a pub.
Woody Bay station probably has the largest claim to have been nowhere near it's destination as it's 3.5 miles to Woody Bay from the station. Plans for a connecting branch. Never materialised.

In 1923, as part of the grouping act, the railway became part of the Southern Railway. Initially the Southern seemed determined to turn the fortunes of the railway around, a new locomotive was constructed along with several new items of rolling stock. It wasn't to be however and the railway closed in September 1935.

This wasn't to be the end for Woody Bay or the Lynton and Barnstaple railway as the line now has a preserved section starting at Woody Bay and running currently for around a mile to Killington Lane but with grand plans to extend. The group also looks after Chelfham Station and Snapper Halt so there is plenty going on with the society. A society I was in fact a member of in the late 90s and where I could helped with initial site work at Woody Bay. Distance proved an issue though so I reluctantly had to give it up. Hopefully one day I shall return there to help once again.

More info on the railway at 

Hopefully the next time we look at the project layout we'll conclude the research with a visit to Woody Bay and have a look at the locomotives and rolling stock of the railway. I hope this blog has proved interesting and something different.

Keep enjoying your modelling guys. Tony :)


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