Help- 1 19 February 2014
Two storm-ravaged private railways in Devon are helping one another to recover after suffering major flooding, landslip and washout damage right at the start of the main tourist season which closed both of their running lines.
The Seaton Tramway was forced to curtail its planned operations for February half-term week after a serious washout of the track overnight on Valentine's Day (14 February). And the South Devon Railway has only just repaired a major landslip that occurred over Christmas which saw it finally reopen on Saturday 15 February for a nine-day branch line gala event.
In an enterprising move, the Seaton Tramway will be moving trams Nos. 6 and 8 by road to Colyton on Friday 21st February in order that they can circumvent the damaged track area and then start to operate a mini service from Colyton to Colyford from 22nd February. The Tramway will also have a display stand at Buckfastleigh at the SDR over the gala where people can find out more about their recovery programme.
And an elderly, 109-year-old steam loco of the LSWR’s M7 Class, a type which last ran on the branch line to Seaton in the 1960's and is normally based at the Swanage Railway, is also symbolically ‘flying the flag’ for both Devon lines and is running on the South Devon Railway (SDR) as a special guest visiting engine this week.
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Visitors coming to see the M7 in action on Friday 21st, Saturday 22nd and Sunday 23rd February at the SDR’s Winter branch line gala will be made aware of the strong link the loco has with Seaton, and can also find out more about the Seaton Tramway and the significant track and power cable repairs now needed to reopen the line.
The SDR has also volunteered manpower and equipment to help with the work at Seaton, in addition to the contractors already brought in by the Tramway Company to restore the running lines and reinstate damaged overhead power lines.
With the West Country’s rail links already badly hit by the destruction of the seawall at Dawlish, plus flooding and other landslips elsewhere in the region, both the Seaton Tramway and South Devon Railway – which together carry over 200,000 people every year -- are determined that the weather will not beat them and are standing together in support of one another through the difficulties caused by the recent floods.
In another link with Seaton and the former railway lines in East Devon, four former British Railways Southern Region loco crew once based at Exmouth Junction shed (72A) in Exeter, where the last M7 in Devon was based in 1963, are visiting the SDR on the afternoon of Friday 21 February to renew their friendship with Loco No. 30053. They will arrive around lunchtime and travel on the 14.45 departure hopefully hauled by the M7, No. 30053.
News updates and pictures of the Seaton Tramway and for the South Devon Railway’s Winter ‘Devon Branch Lines’ gala can be seen on their websites: www.tram.co.uk and www.southdevonrailway.co.uk and on their Facebook and Twitter pages.
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1) For further information and comment, please contact Seaton Tramway Managing Director Jenny Nunn on (01297) 20375 or firstname.lastname@example.org or South Devon Railway PR & Business Development Manager Dick Wood on 07711 552947 email@example.com
2) The 0-4-4 wheel arrangement and elderly looking M7’s were an engine type that once graced many former LSWR branch lines all over Devon -- but which never ran on the SDR’s Great Western route -- and star guest No. 30053 will bring back fond memories of the West Country railway scene of 50 years ago. The engine is visiting the SDR courtesy of the Swanage Railway and Drummond Locomotives Ltd. During the heyday of the LSWR, and then the successor Southern Railway, but before the infamous ‘Beeching Cuts’ and the end of steam trains on British Railways in the 1960’s, M7 locos could be seen right across Devon. From Ilfracombe and Barnstaple in the North; Okehampton, Tavistock and Plymouth in the West; and Exmouth, Budleigh Salterton, Sidmouth, Seaton and Lyme Regis in the East, the M7’s were once a regular sight.
3) As the last M7 working in Devon 51 years ago during 1963 was based at Exmouth Junction loco shed in Exeter -- serving the lines in East Devon to Exmouth, Budleigh Salterton, Tipton St. John’s, Ottery St. Mary, Sidmouth and Seaton – both the Seaton Tramway and SDR are hoping that people in Devon will make the local connection with both railways and come to the Winter gala to see an M7 run in Devon again and support the Seaton Tramway’s recovery works.
4) There will be an intensive timetable and enhanced services on both weekends at the SDR with early passenger trains from Buckfastleigh at 09.00 and Totnes at 09.37, plus late trains on the Saturdays including hot food on the 18.10 Buckfastleigh departures. On both Sundays, visitors and enthusiasts can enjoy early morning sausage and bacon rolls on the 09.40 and 11.10 round trips from Buckfastleigh, and there will be a real ale and cider bar on the main four coach trains.
Press Release prepared and issued on behalf of
the Seaton Tramway and South Devon Railway
by Dick Wood, tel 07711 552947,