Lyme Regis Branch

WWII brought some extra traffic to the line due to fuel shortages leading to the withdrawal of bus services and a Sunday service was introduced on winter Sundays as well. These lasted until 14th January 1951 when they were cancelled due to coal shortages, never to be resumed.

Summer holiday traffic increased during the 1950s but the encroachment of the private motor car was being felt by the end of the decade, not to mention the competition from the Southern National buses. Diesel multiple units replaced steam from 4th November 1963, at which time the through coaches to Waterloo ceased. Earmarked for closure in the Beeching Report, the branch lost its goods services from 3rd February 1964 with the line closing completely from 29th November 1965 just 62¼ years after its opening. The track soon disappeared under a blanket of weeds and was lifted during 1967. There was a brief period when it looked as if trains might return to at least some of the branch when a 15" miniature railway was built on one and a half miles of the trackbed at Combpyne in 1970, but this had been abandoned by 1974.

The station buildings at Lyme Regis as photographed from the road in September 1965.

photograph by Chris Knowles-Thomas

Lyme Regis branch The platform showing off to good effect some of the produce of the Southern Railway's concrete works at Exmouth Junction.

photograph by Chris Knowles-Thomas

Another view of the station buildings which also shows the flat, empty land where once had been a run-round loop and sidings.

photograph by Chris Knowles-Thomas

Axminster The cattle dock, still in reasonable condition even though it was no longer served by a siding.

photograph by Chris Knowles-Thomas

The goods shed was still in use in 1965, but not for its intended purpose. Before they were lifted there were sidings on either side of this building. Road access then had been from the far end.

photograph by Chris Knowles-Thomas

Lyme Regis branch
Lyme Regis branch The end-on view of the goods shed showing the large overhang of the roof which would have extended across the stock in the sidings on either side.

photograph by Chris Knowles-Thomas

All that remained in 1965 of the engine shed. This wasn't the original as that, a wooden building, had burnt down shortly after the L&SWR took control of the line. Fortunately the locomotive crew, alert to the danger, had moved the engine out to safety. The shed was replaced a few months later.

photograph by Chris Knowles-Thomas

Lyme Regis branch The end of the line, and a rather sorry sight it was too. This area had been bustling with railway activity in previous years.

photograph by Chris Knowles-Thomas

No account of the Lyme Regis branch would be complete without mention of its three antique Adams radial 4-4-2T engines. In a similar manner to the long-lasting Beattie Well Tanks at Wadebridge, these three survivors were kept at Exmouth Junction purely for working the Lyme Regis branch as, on account of its sharp radius curves, no other locomotive tried on the branch had been successful.

Nº30583 photographed sitting in the Lyme Regis bay at Axminster on 4th January 1961.

photograph by John Bradbeer

Axminster When the line first opened two LB&SCR Terrier class 0-6-0T locos had been bought to work it but despite their short wheelbase they spread the track, lightly constructed with flat bottom rail spiked directly to the sleepers, out of gauge. When the radials were finally retired much of the track had to be relaid in 1960 to allow ex-LMS 2-6-2T locos to work the line. Three years later steam power was withdrawn!

In this photo the 10:45am ex-Waterloo has paused briefly at Combpyne, in the charge of 4-4-2Ts 30583 and 30584. This was a regular double-headed turn on summer Saturdays and was photographed on 25th June 1960.

photograph: Mike Morant collection

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