Tuesday, 14 June 2011

Seven to Devon!

Seven Happy Chappies at Buckfastleigh Station

Last weekend saw us enjoying our annual 'ALR Boys Away' weekend when this year we headed for Devon. Our 'Social' Secretary had come up with an excellent itinerary and on the way down on Thursday, we stopped off to spend time at the Devon Railway Centre at Bickleigh, a former station on the Exe Valley line which closed in 1963. Set in a lovely woodland area there is a variety of attractions there for the whole family and it proved to be a pleasant break for us (and our driver!).
A model village scene at the Devon Railway Centre

Then onwards to Brixham, our base for the weekend where we were well looked after by Judith & Kevin Cartwright at their ideally situated B & B establishment overlooking Brixham Harbour (www.seatang-guesthouse.com). This fine old sea captain's house is full of train models (lots of GWR for some reason?), paintings and photographs, so plenty to see and chat about there! Highly recommended!!!!
View from the 'Sea Tang' at Brixham

Friday saw us heading off to the Dartmouth Steam Railway and River Boat Company via the Brixham to Dartmouth Ferry on the old WW2 'Fairmile' vessel. After disembarking at Dartmouth, we had a quick look round this busy old historical town, and then took the ferry across to the P & DR station to await the train to Paignton. The black 'Torquay Manor No 7800' duly arrived (and eventually ran round!), hauling us up this picturesque line to Paignton where we strolled through the town to catch the ferry back to Brixham.

Bally gets friendly with his mate Isombard at Dartmouth station !

Boys aboard the Devon Belle Pullman Saloon ready to depart Dartmouth (eventually! where is that loco?)

Saturday was a great day. We drove up to the South Devon Railway's terminus at Buckfastleigh where we were given a very warm welcome by the staff and vounteers there, and treated to a tour round the facilities by a very enthusiastic Andy Matthews, Duty officer for the day as it was their 50's & 60's weekend (thanks Andy, much appreciated!). This is a lovely authentic working railway true to the GWR heritage but also catering for the more modern diesel era enthusiasts. South Devon Railway Engineering Ltd are based there as are R K Pridham Engineering Ltd, recently acquired by SDRE Ltd and relocated there. So most jobs can be dealt with and there are ambitious plans to develop the site further.

Class 25 D7612 picking up the token as the train departs Buckfastleigh Station on the SDR

We also spent time on the 71/4" gauge railway there where Gary showed us round before we took a ride round the circuit. It was good to see some junior members helping at the station.

We were also lucky enough to be shown round the signal box at Buckfastleigh to see how the railway was controlled, fascinating.
Then we took a trip down the line to Totnes and back, during which time we won a cake in the raffle (and ate it !), and enjoyed a good 'crack' with the Buffet car staff! What a great and friendly railway this is!

So, with time to spare, what shall we do now Chaps? Well, we headed off to the Trago Mills complex near Newton Abbot where we had heard there was a miniature railway. Blimey, there is!!!!! A most impressive 10 1/4" gauge, 2 mile long, three station railway running through the complex of shops and entertainments. The loco on duty was Number 24, a Sandy & Rangely Lakes 2-6-2, (excellent!) which threaded its train through this massive 'playground'. We were lucky here again, and after obtaining the OK, our driver dropped us off at the workshops where we spent a fascinating and enlightening hour or so in the company of the railway's Chief Engineer. It turns out that a lot of the equipment here came from the Suffolk Wildlife Park! Small world eh?

The Bickington Railway's No 24 crosses the road at the Newton Abbott Trago Mills complex

The weather up to now had been quite kind to us, but it wouldn't be an ALR Boys Weekend Away if it didn't rain, and did it rain on Sunday, never stopped all day! We planned to pop into Pecorama at Beer on the way back home and so we did. It was very wet and wild (steady!) up there and the 71/4" line wasn't running unfortunately, but after having a good look round the shops and the model railway displays we popped into the station on the way up to the car park to have a quick look. We got chatting to the staff there and they were kind enough to take us down to the workshops and sheds area so we could have a look round. Their locos and coaches are very impressive, esecially Claudine, 2-4-4 T No 9, and Otter 2-4-2 No 1, what a pleasure it must be to drive these lovely, large locos around this fully (automatically) signalled layout, and get paid for it!
So, after a quick cuppa we returned to the vehicle and headed back home through the wet full of inspiration and good ideas! Another very enjoyable weekend, where next year Chaps?