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Sidmouth

Sidmouth

Sidmouth Station on 2nd September 1961.

photograph by Chris Knowles-Thomas

 
A railway to Sidmouth was first proposed in 1846 as a branch from the proposed Exeter, Yeovil & Dorchester Railway, which failed to become a reality. Another proposal in 1852 was to build a broad gauge branch from the proposed Devon & Dorset Railway, which similarly failed to be built. In 1853 the Central Western Railway was proposed, which became the Salisbury & Yeovil Railway and opened to Exeter on 18th July 1960 with a station at Feniton but no branch to Sidmouth. However, following a proposal of 1862 a The Sidmouth Railway & Harbour Company recieved an Act of Parliament on 7th August that year with the intention of building a line from Feniton to Sidmouth, to be leased to the L&SWR when built. Following acrimonious disputes between both London and local shareholders and the constructing engineer, the company failed and was wound up in 1869. A further Bill was promoted in 1871 for a Sidmouth Railway, to be worked by the L&SWR for 55% of the gross earnings. This line was eventually built, after a few financial problems, and opened on 6th July 1874, with the station at Feniton now renamed Sidmouth Junction. This was operated by the L&SWR who attempted to buy the line outright in 1894 but failed with the result that the Sidmouth Railway remained an independent operation until 1922 when it was finally absorbed into the L&SWR in the run up to the Grouping and formation of the Southern Railway.

Sidmouth station was situated high above the town some three quarters of a mile from the coast. The story at the time was that it stopped deliberately short in order to discourage day-trippers, who would despoil a "select town"! Built in an Italianate style there was a double-sided platform which could take a seven coach train on one road and a five coach train on the other. This led to some interesting workings when the nine coach "City of Plymouth Holiday Express" arrived behind a Bulleid light pacific, requiring a second engine to remove the rear portion of the train and shunt it into the other platform. The western platform road had no run-round facility so when a train arrived here, once emptied of passengers it had to be set back, the loco detached and run forward into a siding and the coaches then run back into the platform road by gravity.

A large goods shed was provided on a long siding to the east of the platform, whilst a cattle dock was built on another, shorter, siding to the west of the platform. When opened the station had an engine shed and a turntable but the turntable was removed and the engine shed put to other uses during the economies of the 1930s. There was a tall Signalbox with a 23 ever frame.

On opening the timetable provided for seven trains each way, Monday to Saturday, with no Sunday service initially. This number was quickly reduced to six but by 1887 had increased to seven trains once more. In the years that followed the frequency was gradually improved, with mixed as well as passenger trains timetabled. The peak pre-war service was in summer 1938 when eleven passenger trains ran between Sidmouth and Sidmouth Junction, three of which continued to Exeter Central. Additionally, five services ran between Sidmouth and Tipton St Johns, three of which went on to Exmouth. There was an even busier service on summer Saturdays. Following the war and Nationalisation the service was improved further with some 15 trains running each way by 1951.

Sidmouth station could also boast inter-regional trains with through coaches to and from Derby, via the Somerset & Dorset line, in the 1930s, but this service did not resume after the war. From 1960 there was a train to and from Cleethorpes, a service that ended in 1962 as it was also routed over the Somerset & Dorset line that ceased to be used for long-distance trains during that year

 
Sidmouth A view looking from the end of the platforms.

photograph by Chris Knowles-Thomas

 
The tall Signalbox which housed a 23 lever frame.

photograph by Chris Knowles-Thomas

Sidmouth
 
Sidmouth A large goods shed was provided on a long siding to the east of the platform, whilst a cattle dock was built on another, shorter, siding to the west of the platform.

photograph by Chris Knowles-Thomas

 
When opened the station had an engine shed and a turntable but the turntable was removed and the engine shed put to other uses during the economies of the 1930s. It was still in use thus in 1961.

photograph by Chris Knowles-Thomas

Axminster
 
Sidmouth There was still a lot of goods traffic in 1961, as evidenced by the wagons in the sidings. A daily goods left Sidmouth Junction early in the morning, returning from Sidmouth mid-afternoon until closure of the goods yard from 6th September 1965, except for coal traffic which lasted until 8th May 1967.

photograph by Chris Knowles-Thomas

 
The line was threatened with closure in the Beeching Report of 1963 which brought about howls of protest from the local population. Steam power ended at Sidmouth when diesel mutliple units started to work the line in November of 1963 but as these only went to Sidmouth Junction and had no through coach for London (with the exception of two through coaches provided on summer Saturdays only until 1965), many of the passengers who had previously travelled up the line from Sidmouth now drove to Axminster for the main line train. The inevitable end was, however, in sight with the last passenger train leaving Sidmouth station on 6th March 1967. The station remained open for coal traffic, but only until 8th May 1967. Closure and lifting of the railway was almost as painful as its birth had been. With the connection to the main line at Sidmouth Junction removed from 11th June 1967 track lifting trains had to travel via Exmouth but on 10th July 1968 floods breached the line at Newton Poppleford and East Budleigh resulting in two isolated sections of track, one being that from Tipton St Johns to Sidmouth, with a number of wagons now marooned at Tipton. To add insult to injury, the rest of the demolition work was completed, and the marooned wagons taken away, by road.

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