Turning the clock back to 1944 - the SDR Military weekend, 5th - 6th July 2014

The clock will be turned back seventy years to ‘D-Day’ 1944 and the key turning point of the Second World War when the South Devon Railway and the Devon Branch of the Military Vehicle Trust (MVT) host the impressive ‘Military weekend’ on Saturday 5th and Sunday 6th July.

A special former Southern Railway steam loco with a strong wartime pedigree will be attending as the star of the show in the form of ‘USA Class’ 0-6-0 dock tank engine No. 65. It was imported from the United States during World War II to help with the war effort and then worked around Southampton docks in the build up to D-Day.

This powerful engine, is normally based on the Kent & East Sussex Railway and the loco’s hire has been kindly underwritten by the Devon MVT given its strong wartime connection.

Whilst the USA Class dock tank engines - known as ‘Switchers’ in America - only saw service around Southampton docks and a few places in the South East, one member of the class did make it to Devon and worked at the now moribund Meldon Quarry, shunting heavy stone trains. 

The military weekend event will feature over 50 historic military vehicles, such as jeeps, trucks and motor bikes from the 1939-45 wartime era and beyond, plus uniformed personnel, weapons displays and an encampment. There may even be the remains of a crashed RAF Spitfire if the enemy gunners have been on target.

With the SDR’s own ‘Dig for Victory’ vegetable garden and many people attending in 1940’s costume, the event aims to recreate scenes of what life and railway transport was like in 1940’s war torn Britain. There will also be a display of World War 1 material in the SDR Museum and the Valiant Soldier pub in the nearby town of Buckfastleigh.

With other features such as unexploded bombs and sandbags by the station buildings, armed sentries on guard, an ENSA concert singing group, plus well-armed military and goods trains, visitors can step back in time to wartime Britain and maybe even beat the rationing system with an on train cream tea!

Men, women and children turning up in 1940’s period clothing will be made especially welcome, and all travellers on the railway should be given a wartime identity card when they buy train tickets. 

Military Police will be looking for a German spy who is known to be in the area, and patrolling the stations and trains to check identity cards as well as looking for any downed German airmen or paratroops in disguise. 

Plain clothes Police will also be looking to detect ‘Spivs’ illegally offering restricted, stolen or rationed wartime goods such as watches, nylons and items of women’s lingerie! 

Period vehicles will be parked around the site and many staff will be wearing WWII uniforms and clothing. 



Working Timetable 

30th June 2014