President David Shepherd CBE FRSA FGRA
EARLY STATION ON THE TRACK TO TORQUAY
It is now over 150 years since the railway arrived in Torquay, though it is, perhaps, difficult to imagine Torre Station as the terminus it then was, of a single line from Newton Abbot.
It was, however, never intended to be a terminus. The original prospectus envisaged a line to Kingswear via Brixham, and when this failed to materialize, land was bought for a terminus in Upton. But that too met with opposition from Dartmouth, where they feared that the railway might reach Torquay and Brixham harbours but not their own.
Like the rest of the South Devon Railway, it had been intended that the Branch Line to Torquay would be worked on Atmospheric principle, with power being supplied from stationary engines contained within the large stone building with the Italianate Tower that still stands today alongside the line summit, between Browns Bridge and Lawes Bridge.
However, despite the Atmospheric System having been recommended by Brunel for its efficiency over locomotive haulage, it had in practice been ruinously expensive for the South Devon Railway, which was forced to abandon the system and revert to locomotives in September 1848, at which time the Torquay branch was nearly complete.
These were the years of famine in Ireland, after the failure of the potato crop and during the construction of the branch there had been bread riots in the streets of Torquay in which the Navvies building the railway had managed to get themselves involved, demanding the release of rioters imprisoned in the Town Hall. This would have been the building at the junction of Abbey Road and Lower Union Street, not the present one at Castle Circus.
Had the Torquay Branch not been in such an advanced state of construction in September 1848, the impoverished state of the South Devon Railway following the Atmospheric debacle might have left Torquay without its railway for several more years.
However, the line was nearly complete and following inspection on December 9, it was approved for opening on Monday December 18 l848, when the GWR "Leo" Class 2-4-0 Saddle Tank Taurus brought the first train in from Newton Abbot soon after l2 noon. Torquay Station, as it then was, had been duly opened.
Not until August 1859 did Torquay Station become Torre, when the line was extended to Paignton, but Torre retained its inconveniently short curved platform, situated half way down the falling grandient to Livermead, and continued to serve as the Goods Station for Torquay.
At the time this picture was taken on May 10 1958, upwards of 25 men were employed here by the railway. Before resuming its journey, 0-4-2T No1427 hauling the 10.5 am from Paignton to Moretenhamstead, had been taking water from the tank mounted between the up and down tracks – the bag is still dripping water.
The large notice between the tracks says ‘All down goods and mineral trains stopping for traffic purpose to pick up and put down brakes here’. In other words, this is the nearest you are going to get to level ground, and any brakes "picked up" for shunting must be "put down" again before moving off down the hill.
Thanks to Rail Trail with Peter Gray.