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The Taw Vale Railway opened in 1848 from Barnstaple to Fremington Wharf for horse-drawn coal and other goods traffic and was opened to passenger trains when the Bideford Extension Railway reached Bideford by way of Instow in 1855.
The Taw Vale, also, was to be of the broad gauge in order that, together with the Exeter and Crediton Railway, it might in accordance with the terms of the Act be leased to and worked by the Bristol and Exeter Railway. Certain parties interested in the Taw Vale purchased 1700 shares in the Exeter and Crediton - rumour had it that the money was furnished by the London and South Western Railway and, at a general meeting on January 11th, 1847, carried resolutions that the Exeter and Crediton be leased, along with the Taw Vale, to the London and South Western.
The Railway Commissioners refused to allow the Taw Vale to be anything other than the broad gauge - specified in the Act of incorporation.