Grace's Guide

British Industrial History

Grace's Guide is the leading source of historical information on industry and manufacturing in Britain. This web publication contains 148,487 pages of information and 233,925 images on early companies, their products and the people who designed and built them.

Bideford, Westward Ho! and Appledore Railway

From Graces Guide

Jump to: navigation, search

of Donington House, Norfolk Street, Strand, London

  • The Bideford, Westward Ho! and Appledore Railway (BWH&AR) was most unusual amongst British Railways in that although it was built as a standard gauge (4 ft 8½ in) line, it was not joined to the rest of the railway network, despite the London and South Western Railway having a station at Bideford East-the-Water on the other side of the river Torridge from the main town. The line was wholly situated on the peninsula made up of Westward Ho!, Northam and Appledore with extensive sand dunes the Torridge and Taw estuary.
  • The line which opened in stages between 1901 and 1908, closed in 1917, having been requisitioned by the War Office. Re-opening the line after World War I was considered, but dismissed as a viable option. It was the last standard gauge passenger railway to be built in Devon.
  • A scheme for building this railway was suggested as early as 1860 with a bridge across the Torridge and stations at Northam, Appledore, Clovelly, Hartland and Bude.
  • In 1866 a start was actually made on a line to run to Appledore with a branch to Westward Ho!, however soon after a full 'first sod cutting ceremony' by the Earl of Iddesleigh, the contractors went bankrupt and the project was abandoned. A project to create a 10.5 mile branch from Abbotsham Road Station to Clovelly had been put forward by Messrs. Molesworth and Taylor.
  • 1896 Company was incorporated.
  • Finally the Bideford, Westward Ho! & Appledore Railway was incorporated on 21 May 1896. Soon after the line passed to the British Electric Traction Co (BET). It was not until 24 April 1901 that the single track line was completed as far as Northam, although the first trial train ran with a few friends of the directors in January 1901. The first train, pulled by Grenville had been hired for the season and it reached speeds of 36 mph on its inaugural run. The remaining extension to Appledore finally opened in 1908, on May 1, costing £10,000.
  • The railway was built in three sections, with the first being from Bideford at 1 furlong, 9 chains and 50 links, the second from the termination of the first, being to Westward Ho!, length 4 miles, 3 furlongs, 9 chains and 50 links, and the third being from the termination of the second, to Appledore, length 2 miles, 3 furlongs and 4.2 chains.
  • The contract for construction was awarded to a Mr. Charles Shadwell of Blackburn and the estimate was for £50,000. The initial outlay was £87,208 and Mr. Shadwell was removed from his post on December 13, 1901. A subsequent court action proved that he did 'wilfully default' and judgment was given against him in 1905 for £7,500. Plans had been made for a 3 ft gauge track, however as intentions to connect the line with the L&SWR by a bridge over the Torridge were still optimistically speculated upon, the line was built to a standard Gauge specification. Gradients were severe in places, with a 1 in 47 on the Kenwith Castle to Abbotsham Road section.
  • The rails were delivered by boat to Bideford Quay by the S.S. Snipe in May 1898 and the sleepers also arrived at the quay, coming from West Hartlepool in September. Wood blocks were used on the quay, flush with the road surface to deaden the noise, as was the practice on roads with heavy horse and cart traffic in many places. The wood became very slippy and caused accidents in wet weather, the company not always being as careful with the application of sand and gravel as it should have been.
  • The Company filled in and culverted the stream coming down from Kenwith Castle, creating reclaimed land and preventing the high tides flowing up to the castle. The council had designs on this 'new land' and complained that the railway did not skirt the edge to release the land for other purposes.
  • The coaches could each carry about 60 people, with two or three on each seat. The maximum speed was about forty mph, however the streets section had a 4 mph speed limit. Trains could run at around 30 mph on many sections of the track, however winter storms could slow the trains to little more than a walking pace. Trains were usually two carriages length, except for during the winter timetable when one was more than sufficient, however four carriage trains which could therefore carry as many as two hundred people were sometimes run.
  • A large collar factory at the Strand, Bideford, was responsible for a lot of traffic in the mornings and evenings. In its first six months the line carried 8,552 passengers and in May 1901 consideration was given to purchasing more carriages.
  • 1908 The line is about five miles in length. [1]
  • In August 1908, some of the trains were so well patronised that some passengers had to ride on the steps. Visits from the Devon Hussars Yeomanry to Westward Ho! for several weeks encampment at Commons Farm added significantly to takings.
  • The Company made it very clear that published timetables were only to indicate the times before which a train would not depart and the specified times for each stop were only given as a rough guide. Trains normally made three regular and eight conditional stops, but 'expresses' did run which did not stop between Bideford and Westward Ho!. With two engines in steam the frequency could be every half-hour, but a train every hour or so was the norm in summer, normally taking about 20 minutes from Bideford to Northam or 15 minutes for the 'express'. Fifteen trains ran in each direction in the July 1906 Bideford to Northam timetable and lighter service of four ran on Sundays.
  • The 1910 Bradshaw's Timetable shows trains taking thirty minutes for the journey from Bideford to Appledore, ten trains in each direction, with an extra run on the Market Days (Tuesdays and Saturdays) and no trains on Sundays. The winter timetable for November 1, 1917 to April 30, 1918, which was destined never to be used, was down to seven trains in each direction and no Sunday service. Horse drawn coach buses ran from Westward Ho! to Clovelly and through tickets were issued from Instow to cover the journey by Ferry, Railway or Road transport. The Bus service cost £51 18S 0d to run for the six months ending 31 December 1906.
  • In 1905 the Bideford to Westward Ho! or Northam fare was 3d for 1st Class Single, 4d return and a 3rd Class Single was 2d, 3d return. Dogs cost 3d each and bicycles 6d or 1s if not accompanied. Parcels were 1d up to 7 lb, 3d up to 14 lb and 4d up to 28 lb. A Third Class from Bideford to Appledore cost 8d. Market Day tickets for Tuesdays and Saturdays were only 6d and an augmented train service ran. Bathing Returns could be purchased and books of tickets for ten journeys cost 3s 4d. Company Regulations covered every conceivable type of carriage, such as 1s for a bitch or a litter of puppies in a hamper or 2s for a harp in or out of a case. Return tickets admitted the holder to the Great Nassau Baths at Westward Ho! for only 4d. Tickets were made of paper, with a combination of the names of the boarding and alighting points printed in a double column on either side of the value.
  • Trains started from Bideford Quay on their scenic journey across the peninsular to the cliffs at Cornborough and Westward Ho!, then over the fields close to Northam Burrows and finally coming to the terminus at the port of Appledore, with its shipyards and maritime traditions.
  • The line was seven miles in length when fully opened in 1908. There were eleven stations and halts which largely served visitors wishing to enjoy the bracing air along the coastline, or to swim in the clear waters.
  • After Bideford Quay was a halt at Bideford (Strand Road) Halt, which was close to the 'Yard' with the principal engine, carriage, and maintenance sheds. Chanter's Lane Halt or 'The Lane' Halt was next, followed by The Causeway Halt, which had a two story traditional signal box built by order of the Board of Trade who had inspected the line a month after it opened. Following on from these were Kenwith Castle Halt, Abbotsham Road Station, Cornborough Cliffs Halt with its wooden platform, Westward Ho! Station, Beach Road Halt, Northam Station, Richmond Road Halt, Lovers Lane Halt and Appledore Station, which lay close to the Anglican Church.
  • Bideford Quay had a coal siding and eventually a loop, but no platforms and therefore carriages were fitted with steps that reached almost to the ground level. It had benches on the quay side, the Manager's office, a Booking Office and a Waiting Room, with an exterior clock saying 'Train leaves for Westward Ho!, Northam and Appledore'. Bideford (Strand Road) had a signal hut'.
  • Abbotsham Road, previously named Mudcott, was in open countryside with Mudcott Road having a level crossing across it. It had a passing loop, two wooden platforms and what appears to have been a ticket office come signal box hut. It was well equipped for its remote setting and lack of obvious patronage.
  • Westward Ho!, the busiest station, had its own Station Master, Mr. MacLaughlan; it had two platforms, platform lighting, a passing loop, ticket office, signal box operated by Mr. Spry, a waiting room, refreshment room, bookstall, level crossing gates and a Concert Hall called the Station Hall! A siding ran to the Westward Ho! Gas Works. An early photograph shows Westward Ho! with only the signal box and a long unbroken fence running along the back of the platforms with no other buildings or lighting. The similarity in appearance and construction between the Westward Ho! and Appledore platform buildings suggests that they were both built at the same time, circa 1908.
  • In an effort to entice the public onto their trains and provide shelter during inclement weather, the company built a Concert or Reception Hall on the 'up' platform at Westward Ho! in 1901 / 02, it was called the Station Hall. Performers such as the 'Jolly Dutch' and Clog Dancers performed in Station Hall. It was an expensive undertaking, costing £17 9s 7d in 1906, under the heading of 'Services of Minstrels' in the traffic expenses log. The building was well built and still stood in 1980 as a 'Beer Garden'.
  • Appledore had its own Station Master, Mr. H. R. Moody; a run-round loop, one platform, platform lighting, a ticket office, signal box hut and a small engine shed, a water tower, footbridge and a fuel store siding.
  • Three 2-4-2 side tank engines built by Hunslet Engine Co of Leeds provided the motive power and they were named 'Grenville' (works number 713), 'Kingsley' (works number 714) and Torridge (works number 715). Protective plates or skirts were attached for safety whilst running through the 'streets' section and a form of 'cow-catcher' was fixed to the front at a later date. One engine, Torridge was put on the track facing Bideford and the other two, Kingsley and Grenville faced Appledore. The line had no turntable.
  • The driving wheels were of 3 ft 3 in diameter and the locomotives weighed 27 tons in full working order, capable of pulling about 95 tons on a minimum curve of 160 feet. 12 inch diameter cylinders had a piston stroke of 18 inches at a working pressure of 140 pounds per square inch. Five hundred imperial gallons of water and 18 cwt of coal could be carried, 6,978 pounds of tractive effort at 75% of maximum boiler pressure. The heating surface was 444 ft² and the engine and coaches had a single automatic vacuum brake. The total wheelbase was 16 ft 6 in, and the coupled wheelbase 5 ft 0 in.
  • The locomotives were originally black, then repainted green, then repainted cherry red and finally painted black due to wartime regulations . The Dome and Safety Valve were polished brass. The green livery had the chimney black and lining in yellow or off white applied to the side tanks, cab sides, cab rear and wheel skirting.
  • Coal was stored at a linhay which stood opposite the Company's engine and carriage sheds. It was originally carried across from Bideford L&SWR Station on horse carts and tipped into railway wagons.
  • The bogie carriages were distinctive and 'American' in style. The six were built by the Bristol Carriage and Wagon Works, two as sixty foot long Third Class (one also being a third brake) and four as forty foot long composites for 40 Third and 10 First Class passengers. The carriages were exceptionally wide compared with those used by major railway companies and this led to increased congestion for non-railway traffic when trains were at Bideford Quay.
  • Entry to the carriages was from either end by a metal fenced platform with steep steps. Later the open ends of these carriages were totally enclosed against the elements. Lighting was by acetylene gas, with ventilators above. Each carriage had its own clock. The seats could be turned around and the carriages had a central gangway. Third Class seats were upholstered with 'rep' and First Class with 'American' leather. They had a polished teak exterior with the name of the company in full beneath the windows, and the arms of Bideford as a medallion on the side. Buffer beams and shanks were bright red. Interiors were of polished oak, with teak mouldings and the ceilings of the First Class sections were covered in pale green Lincrusta, picked out with gold leaf. In August of 1900 the carriages had been delivered, crossing Bideford Bridge with wheels and springs being taken over first and the compartments after.
  • All stock had a single buffer. The railway also had six open plank wagons with centrally placed drop down doors on either side, four covered wagons and a brake van for passenger and goods use, which had sliding doors with the company initials on them. The goods wagons had 'BWH' on one side and 'AR' on the other, second plank from the top.
  • The railway came under a Light Railway Order once the Appledore section was opened and this simplified the requirements for the signaling, especially as five of the crossings were controlled by 'Gatemen' and did not have crossing gates.
  • The signaling was installed by the company Saxby and Farmer. There were no ordinary 'starters' or 'distants', but what might be termed 'homes' of ordinary semaphore type, used at a number of places on the line. Commencing from the Bideford end, signals in both directions marked the point at which the line passed from open 'street' sections onto the British Electric Traction Co property. A further signal with a side arm controlled entry to the 'yard' and the road crossing beyond. Causeway and its Level Crossing were guarded by signals on both approaches.
  • From The Causeway, guarded by Mr. Blackmore, the line ran onwards to the station and passing loop at Abbotsham Road, which had a miniature semaphore watching over the roadway and the level crossing north of the station, with a full size semaphore controlling the passing loop and train entry. Appledore had a small arm on the semaphore signal covering the siding points. For a time a man with a red flag rode on the front of the locomotive whilst it passed through the streets of Bideford. Signal boxes were located at The Causeway Crossing, operated by Mr. Furzy and Westward Ho! operated by Mr. Spry, with signal box 'huts' at The Strand, Abbotsham Road and Appledore.
  • The company had about twenty-one staff, seven of whom served as gatemen at the level crossings (Clamp). In Irsha Street, Appledore, there was in 1965 a public house called 'The Rising Sun' and beforehand it had been the residence of H. R. Moody, the station master at Appledore. Mr. Dicker, who lived in Bideford in 1968, was one of the company workmen, based at the locomotive sheds at Bideford. Mr. Henry was the railway company manager in 1917. The Superintendent from 1910 – 1914 was Mr. Henry Sowden.
  • The train drivers were Mr. F. Palmer, Mr. Shephard and Mr. Hawkins. The latter two were retired Southern Railway express engine drivers. One of the firemen was a Mr. Harris, who was also an engineer. Other firemen were Alfie Curtis and Mr. F. Bucker. Mr. Spry worked the Westward Ho! signal box. Mr. Blackmore was in charge of Chanter's Lane Halt and the signal box at The Causeway was worked by Mr. Furzy. Mr. MacLaughlan was the station master at Westward Ho!, the busiest station on the line. Track Men were Jack Shears, who lived in Northam and Ned Kelly. Salaries and wages were high because of the need for Gatekeepers, etc., coming to £256 4s 0d for a six months period in 1906.
  • The line was never on a firm financial footing and the situation worsened with the rising cost of coal and the effects of the First Word War, additionally competition from Dymond's Horse Drawn Coach and later Motor Buses took much of the traffic off the line even in summer.
  • Few passengers from Bideford Station at East-The-Water would trouble to change again for the BWH&AR at the Quay when alternative transport would take them straight to their destination for less money. Trains did not run at times suitable for manual workers and freight, apart from Westward Ho! Gasworks, had always been a minor consideration. The line could not even manage the 1/2% dividend of the Lynton and Barnstaple Railway and eventual closure was inevitable.
  • In 1917 the Minister of Munitions requisitioned the line by Government Order for War Service and it duly closed on the 28th. March of that year. The track was used in the war effort and all three locomotives ended up at with the Ministry of Munitions at Pembrey (South Wales) or the site at Avonmouth. 'Kingsley' was scrapped in 1937 after having been sold by the Ministry of Munitions to the National Smelting Co, but the fate of the other two is unknown. It is said that the rail and sleepers transporting vessel was torpedoed off the Cornish coast.
  • The locomotives, derailing several times, had to be run across the medieval Bideford Bridge on temporarily laid track, then running along Barnstaple Street joining up with the old L& SWR line at Bideford's Goods Yard. The operation took two days to complete. Their iron side protectors or 'skirts' were removed to reduce the weight of the locomotives.
  • On 29 April 1921 Blackmore's held an auction at the Works Yard in Bideford and sold the six carriages and also possibly the trackbed in separate lots. One carriage was cut in half and used on the beach at Westward Ho! near Nassau Baths as Beach Huts, whilst the others were taken to the Midlands for scrap. Some of the lines equipment was purchased for further use by Holman Fred Stephens, through his company Associated Railways. The fate of the signal boxes is unclear, however the Westward Ho! box was still being used as sweet shop on its original site as late as 1970. [2]

Sources of Information

  1. The Stock Exchange Year Book 1908
  2. [1] Wikipedia