SEmG

Exeter Central 

The steep 1 in 37 climb for trains leaving St Davids became a significant feature of working at this station.  As early as 1862 this location was chosen for the initial trial installation of the 'block instruments' designed by the L&SWR Telegraph Superintendent W H Preece, which later became a standard feature of L&SWR signalling.  Throughout steam traction days extensive use was made of banking locomotives to assist services up this incline.  Many loco classes have been associated with this work but in latter years classes assigned were the E1/R 0-6-2T, Z class 0-8-0T from 1959 , W class 2-6-4T from 1962 and the final indignity of WR 0-6-0PTs from 1963. In order to avoid up trains having to re-start from a stand on the incline the signalman at the GWR West box at St Davids was not permitted to clear his starting signal until he had obtained 'Line Clear' from the signalman at Exeter Central 'B' box, whilst the latter was not allowed to give that permission without first getting 'Line Clear' from his colleague at 'A' box. This meant that, once the starting signal was pulled 'off' at St Davids station, the driver of an Up train there would know that he had a clear route right through to at least the midway crossover on the up lines at Central.

Along with the rest of Southern Region property west of Salisbury the station was handed over to the Western Region on the 1st January 1963. The service on the Southern main line was downgraded in favour of the Western route through St Davids and the most central station in the city became of lesser importance to the railway though not necessarily to the passengers. The eastern entrance from New North Road was closed in 1966 to save manpower and its footbridge fell into decay. The main line was rationalised to single track eastwards from Pinhoe by 11th June 1967 and the station's operations became relegated to local and secondary services. The goods yard was closed to general traffic on 4th December 1967, but the sidings were used as a Blue Circle cement terminal until January 1990. (The large goods shed was still standing in December 2000, but there are plans to re-develop this large valuable tract of town centre land.)

 
The now closed 1930's New North Road entrance in the late 1970s/early 1980s.

photograph by Paul Martin

Exeter Central
 
Exeter Central The 1930s New North Road footbridge in the late 1970s/early 1980s (contrast with the last picture of the current footbridge on page 2) - a product of nearby Exmouth Junction concrete works.

photograph by Paul Martin

 
And how the footbridge looked in 1963, with S15 Class Nº30842 waiting in one of the through Roads.

photograph by John Bradbeer

Exeter Central
 
Exeter Central New North Road bridge in the late 1970s/early 1980s. The extremity of the down platform with the down bay can be seen on the right. The track to the immediate left of the interestingly mounted signal is the remaining down through road, that on which Nº30842 is standing in the above photograph having been lifted..

photograph by Paul Martin

 
The goods yard in the late 1970s/early 1980s from the up platform. The Fyffes banana warehouse - formerly a common sight at many Southern locations - is on a dock on the right.

photograph by Paul Martin

Exeter Central
 
The up sidings at the west end were taken out of use in September 1969, along with the crossover between the main lines on the incline, and the down sidings in February 1970 - all these connections had been worked from the 'B' signal-box. The up through road was taken out of use on 9 November 1969. The 'B' signal-box was closed on 23rd February 1970 and its few remaining signals were taken over by the 'A' box (now renamed just plain 'Exeter Central'), with the points at the western exit from the down through line being converted to motor working. The layout at the eastern end of the station was rationalised and the lever-frame in the old 'A' box was reduced to just 50 levers. Subsequently the down through road was taken out of use on 13th October 1984 and by 1990 large plant tubs had filled the yawning gap between the platforms. The 1933 Queen Street booking hall was let out for commercial use and the entrance to the station then became little more than a corridor - indeed, the fact that a railway even existed behind that grand frontage became almost a local secret and this once great station had been reduced to little more than a giant halt.

With the advent of a new Exeter power signal-box at St Davids colour-light signalling came to the Central station area in 1984. Initially this was worked from a temporary panel in the old 'A' box, but eventually control passed to the new power-box and Exeter Central box was closed on 6th May 1985. For a while it was used by the Western Region as a training school for their signal technicians - having first replaced the Tyer's lever-frame by one of a BR(WR) pattern more familiar to them! - but eventually it was closed and demolished in the 1990s. The revised layout comprises simply the up and down platform lines, the down bay, a single crossover at the eastern, and a trailing connection from the up line into the remaining two sidings (apparently now disused). However one interesting feature is that the down line from Central to St Davids has been signalled for reversible working, which provides some extra flexibility.  One remnant of the 'old days' is the runaway catch siding situated on the up line at the top of the incline.

 
The Blue Circle cement terminal which occupied the goods yard after closure to general goods traffic.  This picture also provides a rare view of the rear of the up side platform buildings.

photograph by Paul Martin

Exeter Central
 
Exeter Central The former goods shed in the late 1970s/early 1980s.

photograph by Paul Martin

 
.....and probably not for much longer in July 2000. (See page 6 of this section). The rails in the goods yard have long since gone.

photograph by Colin Duff

Exeter Central
 
Exeter Central The rear of the goods shed pictured on 26th December 2000.

photograph by Chris Osment

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This page was last updated 28 September 2008

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