River Dart Raft Race 2014

With hundreds of brave participants set to paddle and push their home-made rafts through torrents of river water from Buckfastleigh to Totnes on Sunday 5th October for the annual River Dart Raft Race, we are running a special ‘early bird’ train for onlookers to view the spectacle in what is hoped to be one of the event’s biggest ever turnout of up to two thousand participants and supporters.

Organised by the Rotary Club of Totnes as a fun way of raising funds for local charities, the River Dart Raft Race or “River Dart Struggle” has been a popular local event for many years. 

Over 30 rafts carrying up to 300 people between them in two to ten-man teams are already booked to take part in the much enlarged 2014 event. 

Some of the best views of the racing rafts going down the River Dart can be had from the adjacent South Devon Railway, so we have teamed up with the Rotary Club and will be running four steam trains the same day, plus the early morning diesel observation service departing Buckfastleigh at 9.05am, just after the race starts.

The ‘early bird’ diesel special will slowly meander down the line stopping at key points along the way close to the river so that local people and visitors alike will be able to enjoy grandstand views.

The ‘early bird’ train will arrive at Totnes at 10.42 to pick up passengers at that end of the line and also dropping off those who wish to stay and travel back later on steam services. The ‘early bird’ train will leave Totnes for Buckfastleigh at 10.45, calling to drop off people at Staverton station.

For those in need of food and refreshments, the South Devon Railway’s Refreshment Rooms at Buckfastleigh will also be open that day from 8am onwards for breakfasts and hot drinks and, as an additional spectacle, around 100 members of the Healey Driver’s Club and their classic cars will be starting off on their annual Exmoor Rut from the station in the morning.

And those wishing to travel later on in the day and view the paddlers from the comfort of the SDR’s warm, steam-heated trains moving down the valley can also do so too, enjoying a moving vista of the action and fun on the water, plus the chance to cheer on the soaked, intrepid rafters.

Many supporters are expected to follow the teams’ progress by train as the SDR offers some unrivalled close views of the river over its seven-mile route, and people can have a full day out by catching a later train back after seeing rafts cross the finishing line. 

The race itself starts from Buckfastleigh at 9.00 on Sunday morning and rafts will be despatched thereafter at one minute intervals until the last crew gets underway up to an hour and a half later. The finish point is Vire Island, Totnes.

SDR train passengers will be able to see the rafts almost alongside the railway on a number of stretches of the River Dart, and train tickets are valid for all day travel and passengers can take as many trips as they wish and break their journeys en route.

In addition to the 09.05 ‘early bird’ diesel service, four round-trip steam train services will be  departing from Buckfastleigh at 10.45, 12.15, 2.15 and 3.45 and returning from Totnes at 11.30, 1.00, 3.00 with the final return train at 4.30 to allow for a full day out.

It is very important that onlookers fully understand that they must not trespass on our railway lines during the event, and we will be patrolling key stretches to ensure people follow the rules about staying off the track at all times.

24th September 2014 

More details... 

Press release 


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