President David Shepherd CBE FRSA FGRA
Teign Valley Line joins the casualty list
This picture is entitled The End of the Line, not very original, I grant you, but it summed up my feelings at this time in 1958, when after a gap of 2 years since the last trains ran to Princetown, this year saw the posting of closure notices for a further 3 of our non too numerous local branch lines.
The Princetown Line, although providing a valued link with the outside world when winter snows blocked the roads to Yelverton and Tavistock, had not been given the publicity needed to enable it to earn a decent profit during the summer, when tourists could have flocked to enjoy the moorland views it offered – had they known it existed!
Without the life blood of adequate publicity, it remained largely undiscovered delight, and even the residents of Plymouth, Devonport and Stonehouse no longer explored the Plym Valley in the vast numbers that had done so in earlier years – they could now afford to go further afield on their days off.
Consequently, although deeply shocked by the announcement of impending closure back in 1955, there was a feeling that this might be a one off, and that our other branch lines might survive. It had been expected that the Princetown Line would close at the end of 1955, but in the event it hung on and saw out the worst of that winter, closing to all traffic, not only to passengers, in March 1956.
It was therefore, something of a shock to the system that after a 12 month gap the closure notices began to be posted one after the other on our local lines. First came the Teign Valley Line, which connected Heathfield (on the Moretonhampstead Branch) with Exeter, joining the main line at City Basin Junction, a few hundred yards south of Exeter St Thomas Station.
Its use as an occasional diversionary route between Exeter and Newton Abbot had always been cited as a reason for not closing the line, but in fact most of the diverted Plymouth and Cornwall traffic usually went via the southern route to the north of Dartmoor, and it was mostly only the local traffic to South Devon that used the Teign Valley route, due to weight restrictions on the size of locomotives which could be used.
Mineral traffic on the line, which had been considerable, had dwindled by the mid 1950’s and passenger traffic had always been far less than the lines promoters had hoped for, and not enough to sustain the line.
And looking further ahead, although we did not know this at the time, the Ministry of Roads – sorry, Transport, had its eye on most of the Heathfield end of the Teign Valley Lines trackbed for the new A38 Trunk Road.
The picture was taken on the day that the Teign Valley Line was closing to passengers, June 7 1958, but it featured the next of the local lines to be selected for the chop, 0-4-2T No. 1427 is standing short of the run round crossover under the overall roof of Moretonhampstead Station, still then lit by gas, coal gas from the local gas works, and pointing in the direction of Okehampton, potential targets which this line never reached.
No 1427 had been a Newton Abbot engine for most of its life, but before the years end it would be off to end its active days at Gloucester and Cheltenham, and after a period in store was withdrawn in July 1960.
By Peter Gray
NB The line finally closed to all traffic in 1969