Steam Engine Number 1638 still pulls trains

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The Independent Online
(Photograph omitted)

Steam Engine Number 1638 pulling a train across the River Dart at Nursery Pool, near Buckfastleigh, in Devon. The South Devon Railway Trust, a charity formed in 1990, leases the former seven-mile-long Great Western Railway rural branch-line, 'the Primrose Line', from Totnes to Buckfastleigh and operates a predominantly steam-hauled service for members of the public from March to October, writes Joanna Gibbon.

The passenger line was closed in 1958, before Dr Beeching's economies, and was resuscitated in the 1960s by a group of businessmen, who found they could not make the line pay, and sustained a considerable loss in 1990, their last year of trading. The trust, which made a trading surplus of pounds 60,000 the following year, is appealing for pounds 250,000 for the building of a footbridge over the Dart near Littlehempston Riverside Station, where the line ends, to allow access to the station into Totnes. At the moment, it is impossible to take a day-trip to Totnes on the railway: the trust is keen to maximise its facilities, with help from the footbridge, by providing a valuable transport link between the two tourist centres. Such a step would offer relief to the congested roads during holiday-times in Devon.

The railway line follows the east bank of the River Dart, through some of Devon's most beautiful countryside, which attracts swans, heron, badgers and foxes. At Buckfastleigh, which has an otter sanctuary and a butterfly farm nearby, there is a railway museum - most of the six locomotives used on the line are genuine GWR engines - and workshops where the engines and rolling stock are maintained. At Staverton station, where the train stops halfway down the line, cider barrels on the platform indicate that in the past the station was mainly used for conveying cider from local farms. For further information, contact: The Secretary, South Devon Railway Trust, The Railway Station, Buckfastleigh, Devon TQ11 ODZ, telephone 0364 43536.