Friday, 10 April 2015

The station with no railway: Dartmouth

Last week, in a comment, Maria from Spain mentioned the only railway station in the country without a railway – Dartmouth – and she asks whether or not that is true. Well, yes, it was but, as we shall see, is no longer.

The Station Restaurant - once Dartmouth Station
The story starts back in the middle of the 19th century. A line had been built from London all the way down to Cornwall. It crossed the river Dart at Totnes, just above stream of the old road bridge but that is a good way from Dartmouth (on the west bank of the Dart) itself which suffered in those days from very poor inland transport links. So it was that a branch line was proposed which would link Dartmouth to the main line, joining it at Paignton (which is to the east of the Dart).

Agreement as to where the line should run was reached fairly quickly but it proved impossible to agree on where a bridge should be built. In fairness it must be remembered that at that time the Dart was a busy port and that the ships that came into the harbour and on up to Totnes with their tall masts were important to the local economy and a bridge would have put an end to that trade. So it was decided that the line should be run down into Kingswear (the town – then village – on the opposite side of the river to Dartmouth) and that the last part of the journey should be by ferry. Nevertheless there was a station built on the Dartmouth embankment complete with ticket office and waiting room – and its own Station Master. From there you walked down a covered gangway to a floating pontoon, also covered, and so onto the ferry which took you across the river where a similar arrangement took you up to the platforms.

This line opened in 1864 and continued to operate until the branch line was closed on 30 December 1972. The ferry was then passed to the local authority and the railway line to the Dart Valley Railway Company which was already operating the heritage line linking Totnes to Buckfastleigh. Nowadays both the line and the ferry are operated by the Dartmouth Steam Railway and Riverboat Company who offer a circular tour to visitors. This takes you from Dartmouth to Totnes by riverboat, thence by ‘bus to Paignton, by rail to Kingswear and back to Dartmouth on the ferry.

The station itself was rebuilt in 1986 when the embankment was raised and other flood protection works carried out and is now a restaurant.

As you know, we live a field away from the Dart some distance upstream of Totnes and the other day I went for my first walk around the gardens at Dartington Hall since the beginning of November when I first fell ill. All the photos here (apart from the one of the station) were taken on that walk. I hope you enjoy them.