Railway Development - a guide to dating maps.
As an aid to dating the various states of printed maps; the following tables show the lines and their opening dates. Please let me know if there are inaccuracies.
A state signifies a change to the original map after it was first published. Victoriam maps were typically updated with new railway information, however, this was not always correct. See my article in a later page.
Taunton / Beambridge
Newton Abbot / Moreton Hampstead
Beambridge / Exeter (St Davids)
Seaton Jn / Seaton
Exeter / Newton Abbot
Totnes / Ashburton
Newton Abbot / Totnes
Barnstaple / Dulverton/Taunton
Totnes / Plymouth
Barnstaple / Ilfracombe
Plymouth / Saltash (bridge opened 02.05.1859)
Sidmouth Junction / Sidmouth
Tiverton Junction / Tiverton
Sidmouth / Budleigh Salterton
Tiverton Junction / Hemyock
Budleigh / Exmouth
Newton Abbot / Torre
Halwill Jn./ Holsworthy
Torre / Paignton
Launceston / Halwill Jn.
Paignton / Churston
Holsworthy / Bude
Churston / Kingswear
Heathfield / Ashton
Churston / Brixham
Ashton / Exeter
Exeter / Crediton
Yelverton / Princetown
Crediton / Barnstaple
Exeter / Tiverton
Barnstaple / Bideford
Tiverton / Bampton
Bideford / Torrington
Bere Alston / Callington (Beer to 1898)
Torrington / Halwill
Plymouth / Millbay (goods) serving Cornwall from 04.05.1859
Plymouth / Tavistock (South)
Brent / Kingsbridge
Lydford / Launceston (officially 01.06.)
Plymouth / Turn Chapel
Axminster / Exeter (LSWR, Queen St)
Turn Chapel / Yealmpton
Exeter / Exmouth
Barnstaple / Lynton
Crediton / North Tawton
Bideford / Westward Ho!
Northam / Appledore
Okehampton / Lydford (orig. Lidford)
Axminster / Lyme Regis
Tavistock / Plymouth (LSWR)
Railways of Devon - from Batten & Bennett The Victorian Maps of Devon
The railway entered the Devon countryside in the 1840s and their development coincided, more or less, with the period of Queen Victoria´s reign. Before she acceded there were no steam rail lines (but there were mineral railways worked by horses) and at the end of her reign the Devon network was largely complete. The rise of rail has been covered in The Victorian Maps of Devon and reproduced , suffice it to say that even later editions of pre-Victorian works were often altered to include railways and a brief overview of the completion dates for main lines is given here as a rough guide only.
The Development of the Railways in Devon
The earliest railway in
John Rennie, the well-known civil engineer, used a 3ft 6in railway when he was constructing the Plymouth Breakwater (1812-1844). The track was used to bring stone from the quarry at Pomphlett down to the quay at Oreston, all three and a half million tons of it.[ii]
The first tramway was on the 'inclined plane' from the Tavistock canal to Morwellham opened in 1817. It was worked by a water wheel supplied from the canal itself. Morwellham Quay largely served the Devon Consols mine. The area both east and west of the Tamar at this point was to become the most important mining area in the
The first real line was the Heytor Granite Tramway which opened in 1820 and connected the quarries at Heytor to the Stover canal at Ventiford. The track was constructed with two granite ‘rails’ which lay inside the wagon’s wheels preventing the horses from deviating left or right. Trains were made up and were pulled by as many as twelve horses. The tramway was shown on many county maps, for example
In 1820 William Stuart, then the Admiralty engineer with Rennie at
In 1831 the merchants of Bideford and Okehampton raised funds for a report on the feasibility of a railway between the two towns. In October Roger Hopkins completed a survey and produced plans, books of reference, costs and a full report for lines from Okehampton to
The development of steam railways in the West Country almost exactly coincides with the reign of Queen
In 1780 it took nearly two days to travel from
But with the coming of the railway travel changed forever. On
The most dramatic account of the change comes from the notes in Cecil Torr’s book of Wreyland; ‘On 19 March 1841 my father started from Piccadilly in the Defiance coach at half past four, stopped at Andover for supper and at Ilminster for breakfast, and reached Exeter at half past ten’ (eighteen hours later). ‘On 10 October 1842 he started from Paddington by the mail train at 8.55 pm reached Taunton at 2.55 am and came on by the mail coach stopping at Exeter at 6.15’ (nine hours and forty minutes later). ‘20 March 1845 coming on the same train he reached
However, not everyone was so enthusiastic about the advance of the railways. William Collins, the publisher, is known to have chaired a demonstration in
But the railway was not to be stopped. The first proposals for a line from
The costs were large, not only the compensations for land and the actual construction of line and rolling stock but also for the bills to pass through parliament. The first Bill for the Great Western Railway approved by Parliament cost the company £87,197 or about £775 per mile of line constructed.[xvi]
Initially there was also the problem of time. The GWR timetable of
The GWR scheme was completed, approved by parliament and received Royal Assent in 1835; the actual construction was much quicker and by then Brunel was also working for the
Two routes were suggested for the line to
As early as 1836 Brunel had surveyed the route to
The route to
The line had reached Totnes by February 1848 and to Laira, on the outskirts of
The line from Newton Abbot to Torre followed in December of the same year but work on the branch line was slow. It took eleven years to reach Torquay and Paignton, where a party was held with a pudding weighing over a ton, and it took a further five years to reach Kingswear, opposite
At the same time branch lines continued to be built and to be absorbed. Most of these lines were built by local private subscription and were run as separate companies with the South Devon Railway. There was great hope that the lines would open up the county for both passengers and trade. The
This problem affected all the early lines in
The two track systems were very different in their construction. The narrow gauge had ‘conventional’ cross sleepers while the broad gauge used longitudinal timbers. Brunel had designed for speed and for comfort. By 1845 the train to
In 1845 the
In February 1848 the Railway Commissioners ruled that the line from
The gauge dispute continued until the end of the century,[xxx] aggravated in
The county was in a sense split. The North East and South West were developed by the Great Western Railway (God’s Wonderful Railway) and the
Trains ran regularly from Paddington to
Times improved and in 1887 the Jubilee Express took only six hours and fifty minutes to reach
For a long time the north west of Devon remained untouched by the railway although the Bideford to Torrington stretch had been completed by 18th July 1872. Before the Exeter-Barnstaple line was started the Taw Vale Railway Company had built a stretch for horse wagons from Fremington to
The Somerset and Devon Railway (known as the Slow and Dirty) proposed a shorter link from
One of the last lines to be sponsored by the two railway giants was the second Tavistock to
One of the later small companies was the Lynton & Barnstaple. It used the narrowest gauge in the county for passenger trains, a mere one foot and eleven and a half inches, and was sponsored almost entirely by local people. Sir George Newnes, head of a famous publishing house (he published Bartholomew's Royal Atlas c.1900) was one of the most supportive advocates of the new line. It was his wife, Lady Newnes, who cut the first turf at the projected site of Lynton station in September 1895.[xxxv] The line was not a success, partly due to the terminus at Lynton being several hundred feet above the village, and it was sold at a loss to the Southern Railway in 1921.
By the beginning of the twentieth century the network was almost complete. In the south the long-awaited route to Kingsbridge was opened in 1894 - it had been anticipated from at least 1872 - and in 1898 trains ran from
In 1903 lines connecting Exmouth to Budleigh Salterton, Axminster to Lyme Regis and the Ashton to
The year 1908 also saw the line from Bere Alston to Callington officially opened on 2nd March.[xxxviii] The Callington-Calstock Railway was founded in 1869, became the East Cornwall Mineral Railway two years later, and began goods traffic on
In 1925 the last line was built,
Colonel H Stephens planned the Devon and Cornwall Junction Light Railway to bridge the
The railway network in
In addition to the established lines other railroads and tramways, operated by independent companies, appear on some maps: the Zeal Tor Tamway to Shipley Bridge (1854-1890), and the Lee Moor Tramway to Plymouth (1854-1960), both built for the extraction of minerals from Dartmoor (shown for example on the Bartholomew /Black maps c.1862). There are also others which did not appear such as the Great Consols line west of Tavistock, which ended in the inclined plane down to the quays at Morwellham on the Tamar. This first operated in 1856 and was fully completed in 1859. The line included a loop to Wheal Emma (named in honour of the widow of William Morris, who had been one of the main shareholders).[xlii] Another line which did not appear was the Exeter Railway, though incorporated in 1883, it was only completed from Teign House to
The progress of the railways is reflected in the county maps but to use them as a guide to the dates of various states requires care. Some publishers noted the applications to Parliament for new lines and showed them falsely in anticipation. Examples of these are the line from Newton Abbot directly to Ashburton, and not via Totnes as it was later built (Archer/Dugdale 1858, Wood 1855); the incorrect eastern route from Barnstaple to Ilfracombe (Besley 1866, Murray 1865, Bartholomew 1878); a line from the south west to South Molton (Archer/Dugdale); and the line right round the town of Tiverton (Stanford 1878).
As a good example of the confusion one need look no further than the Archer/Dugdale series (119). The Bristol & Exeter Railroad to Exeter appears on maps in editions usually dated c.1842, although it was not to be opened until 1844. In amended maps, published c.1850, the South Devon Railway is shown to Devonport, the Taw Vale Railway to
The Becker/Kelly series (132) is a good example of erroneous railway information. The early maps showed a line to Ashburton via Newton Abbot, but later states corrected this to the correct line via Totnes. Two
But perhaps the most interesting example was the line from
Later editions of Philip's Handy Atlas have an interesting alteration to the Kingsbridge line. Although not completed until 1894 the line was shown in 1873 as closely following the river and it was not until 1895 that the line was redrawn correctly, some distance east of the river, and to include Gara Bridge and Doddiswell stations.
[i] J Smeaton; A Narrative of the building of the Eddystone Lighthouse;
[ii] Martin Smith; 1993; p. 105.
[iii] F Booker; 1967 (1974).
[iv] Helen Harris; The
[v] David St John Thomas; Regional History of the Railway -The West Country; David & Charles; 1960.
[vi] Bryan Gibson.
[vii] Sir R. Lethbride; The Bideford & Okehampton Railway; Devon Assoc. trans.XXXIV-1902.
[viii] C G Harper; The
[ix] Daniel Gooch; later knighted; a locomotive engineer and designer who joined Brunel in 1837. He also wrote in his diary that his back was so sore from working on the footplate that he could hardly walk the next day.
[x] Cecil Torr; Small Talk at Wreyland 1st series;
[xi] David Keir; 1952; p. 137.
[xii] Victor Thompson; 1983; pp. 18 and 30. The
[xiv] J Lloyd Page; in The Rivers Of Devon. See entry 170.
[xv] Isabel Brunel; Life of I K Brunel; Longmans Green; 1870.
[xvi] J S Jeans; Railway Problems .
[xviii] The journey took 4 hours to
[xix] Alfred Wheaton; The Handbook of
[xx] Thomas Latimer writing in The Western Times.
[xxi] R S Gregory;
[xxii] Deposited Plan 148 -
[xxiii] J Dilley; The
[xxiv] Reported in the
[xxv] In 1838 by Messrs Clegg, Samuda & Samuda.
[xxvi] Newspaper article of the time.
[xxvii] Newspaper article of the time.
[xxviii] Martin Smith; 1993; p. 31.
[xxx] The GWR abandoned the broad-gauge for all main lines on
[xxxi] Time Tables Great Western and other railways in connection Bristol And Exeter Railway To Plymouth; South Devon Railway To Plymouth; Cornwall Railway To Falmouth; West Cornwall Railway To Penzance. June 1865. Price One Penny.
[xxxii] Victor Thompson; 1983; p. 36.
[xxxiii] Victor Thompson; 1983; pp. 30-33.
[xxxiv] F Booker; 1967 (1974); pp. 204-209.
[xxxv] Victor Thompson; 1983; p. 42. Sir George Newnes also supported and financed the Lynton Cliff Railway.
[xxxvi] Martin Smith; 1993. p. 64.
[xxxvii] Victor Thompson; 1983; p. 55.
[xxxviii] The following account is taken from F Booker; 1974; especially pp. 22-23.
[xxxix] Besides copper and arsenic, tin, silver, lead, wolfram, and pyrites were extracted. The line was also used for the transport of bricks, tiles and granite.
[xl] In 1999 exploration took place at a recently discovered site in
[xli] Victor Thompson; 1983; p. 37.
[xlii] D B Barton; The Mines of