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Bideford & Instow

Bideford and Instow stations were situated on the Bideford Extension Railway from Fremington, in North Devon, Bideford station being an inconvenient distance from the town, and on the wrong side of the River Torridge. The Taw Vale Railway opened in 1848 from Barnstaple to Fremington Wharf for horse-drawn coal and other goods traffic and was opened to passenger trains when the Extension Railway reached Bideford by way of Instow in 1855. The Taw Vale line, the first railway in North Devon, was initially separated, by a 31 mile gap, from the main line which, at that time, was no nearer than Crediton. As this main line was built to the broad gauge, then the Taw Vale Railway (name changed to North Devon Railway in 1851) and the North Devon Railway extension from Barnstaple to Crediton were forced to follow suit. Widening of the Barnstaple-Fremington line commenced in May 1854, shortly before the opening on 28 July of the new line from Crediton, the first Bristol & Exeter engine having traversed the line from Crediton to Barnstaple on 28 June. Whilst the line to Bideford was being completed the railway ran a coach service from Barnstaple to Instow and Bideford.

The L&SWR arrived in Exeter in 1860 and Crediton on 1 February 1862, then leased the Bideford Extension Railway from 1 August 1862, absorbing it into the L&SWR on 1 January 1865. A third rail was laid to Bideford by March 1863 enabling narrow gauge trains to run through from Exeter, with some local trains still formed of broad gauge stock until the broad gauge was taken out of use in 1877.

A new, more convenient (though still the on wrong side of the river) station was opened at Bideford in 1872 when the extension to Torrington was opened.
With the railway map for this part of the world now set, Bideford settled down to a regular traffic throughout L&SWR and Southern Railway days and on into national ownership under British Railways. One noteable event was when the Bulleid West Country Pacific 21C119 visited the town in 1946 to be named "Bideford".

Whilst under the control of the various Southern entities, Fremington Quay had been an important port for the shipping out of China Clay and in of coal from South Wales for the railway's own use. When the Southern Region lines were transferred to the Western Region the coal traffic was soon stopped as they had their own route from South Wales, by rail through the Severn Tunnel. The "Beeching Closures" took a heavy toll in North Devon resulting in the abolition of the passenger service in 1965. Goods trains soldiered on with milk from Torrington and the dwindling China Clay traffic until, in 1982, the line was closed. An attempt to set up a preserved railway followed, but it failed and the rails were lifted in 1985. The trackbed was purchased by Devon County Council, thereby keeping the line relatively safe from developers' plans, and turned into the "Tarka Trail" for walkers and riders.

The photographs on these pages were all taken on 7 July 1999.

 
Bideford The rebuilt Signalbox at Bideford, in its original position on the up platform.

photograph by Glen Woods

 
Then, in 1989, two of the members of the previously failed North West Devon Preservation Society discovered that railway preservation would be encouraged at Bideford and formed the Bideford Railway Station Group which, in 1991, was merged with the Instow Signalbox Group to become the Bideford & Instow Railway Group. The platforms and Signalbox were rebuilt, a leverframe installed in the box, some track relaid and a small collection of rolling stock was assembled leading to the purchase of a diesel locomotive. Brake van rides were given to the public in 2004 and 2005.
 
The Bideford Railway Heritage Centre CIC was subsequently formed to manage both the Bideford and Instow sites. The Bideford site closed temporarily in 2008 due to vandalism and proposed housing development encroaching on the trackbed. Subsequently there were successful negotiations with the housing developer to leave the trackbed free from development and in 2012 the housing development was completed, the site was tidied and the PMV repaired and repainted. Repairs to the diesel shunter were completed in 2013. The site is accessible daily from the Tarka Trail and the museum in the signal box and PMV is open when volunteers are on site.
 
Current day overall photo of the site.

photograph by Clive Fairchild

Instow

All photographs are copyright

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This page was last updated 29 June 2013

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