User menu

10th Anniversary of the 1st Passenger Train 17th July 2004

" I confirm that the construction works at Woody Bay Station, Martinhoe Cross, Parracombe, Devon, which include: the permanent way, a two-road rolling stock shed, one steam and three diesel locomotives, one brake-third passenger carriage and a miscellaneous variety of goods wagons, are approved."

With those simple unadorned words from Her Majesty's Railway Inspectorate, written on 12 July 2004 following Major John Poyntz's visit on their behalf on 8 July, the way was at last clear for the first passenger train to pull out of Woody Bay Station on Saturday 17 July, a mere sixty-nine years after the last train had run on Sunday 29 September 1935. It was a milestone not only in the history of the Railway but also in railway history.

Indeed, four of the passengers on the historic first train had also travelled on the old Railway: Mary George, who had ridden on the line on her honeymoon in July 1935, Ken Oxenham, Frances Richards and Ken Sprague. The last two had travelled on the last train on the old L&B, Mr. Sprague as a boy of eight; his uncle Ron had worked as a fireman on the old line. Very sadly, Ken Sprague died just over a week later on 25 July.

Unable to travel on the first train because of a prior commitment was seventy-five-year-old George Tribe, who nevertheless visited Woody Bay the previous day. As a young boy he frequently rode the line from Barnstaple to Bratton Fleming until he received a sad letter from his grandmother saying that "the little trains have stopped".

The single carriage, which has been substantially reconstructed in the Railway's Bratton Fleming workshop, was originally built by Alan Keef for the Thorpe Park theme park in Surrey.

Until Emmet has had air-brakes fitted, it is not allowed to haul passenger trains; the locomotive in use is therefore the 65hp 0-4-0 diesel hydraulic Hunslet loaned to us by the Woodhorn Colliery Museum in Northumberland and renamed Exmoor Ranger in honour of the National Park.

The Hunslet sign on the front of the loco was very kindly donated by Graham Lee, the chairman of LH Holdings which recently took over the Hunslet Engine Co.

In the words of Hertfordshire member Peter Miles: (way before he assumed his current status!) "The station is as it was in the 1930s, possibly in better condition. Even the trees are those evident in photographs of that time. The whole atmosphere of the place is very hard to put into words. It's near to perfection. Restoration to these standards is incredibly rare."

A few days later - 26th July 2004 marked the twenty-fifth anniversary of the first meeting of the Lynton & Barnstaple Railway Association at the Cottage Hotel in Lynton.  The Association was formed with the objective of reopening as much of the original line as possible, and many of the founding members are still active supporters of the railway today.

The above is an edited version of an article written at the time by our long-standing magazine editor Tony Nicholson

The driver of the 1st train was Derek Simons and the Guard Fred Scholes. Later in the day Jim Pounds took over the driving duties with Chris Redwood as guard. Assistant guards were Tom and Libby Corderoy from Moorlands.

The youngest passenger on the first train was seven-month old Georgina Gardner who travelled with her father Charles Gardner.

Although not of the best quality here is some video of the 1st train.

Corporate Supporters - Where to Stay

The Denes Fox and Goose Highfield House Lynton Cottage Moorlands North Cliff Sinai House