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Lynton & Barnstaple Railway
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An Outline History
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The Lynton & Barnstaple Railway (L&BR) was a famous narrow-gauge railway line in North Devon, England. It was opened as an independent railway on 11th May 1898, taken over by the Southern Railway in 1923, and closed completely on 29th September 1935. However the memory of the line lives on, and much of the route survives, as do most of the original station buildings. It is now the subject of an active restoration project, and the first part was re-opened at Woody Bay station on 11th May 2003, 105 years to the day after the original opening of the railway.

Chelfham viaduct circa-1900 looking towards the station Chelfham station circa-1900 looking towards Lynton
Chelfham viaduct and station looking north circa-1900

Map of the Lynton & Barnstaple RailwayThe L&BR was constructed as a 1' 11" gauge single-track line from Barnstaple across the western end of Exmoor (now a National Park) to a terminus at Lynton. In Barnstaple the L&BR started from Barnstaple Town station, which it shared with the standard gauge London & South Western Railway (L&SWR) line to Ilfracombe. The terminus at Lynton also served the adjacent harbour town of Lynmouth.

On the outskirts of Barnstaple, about a quarter of a mile from the Town station, the L&BR had their locomotive and carriage works at Pilton Yard (also known as Pilton Bridge or just Pilton). A signal-box and passing-loop were provided here and these form the subject of a separate page in RailWest.

Passing-loops were provided also at the four main intermediate stations on the line, namely Chelfham, Bratton Fleming, Blackmore (later re-named Blackmoor) and Wooda Bay (re-named Woody Bay in 1901). Halts were added later at Snapper (1903), Parracombe (1899) and Caffyns (1907).

A prominent feature on the line was Chelfham viaduct, the largest structure on a narrow-gauge railway in the UK. This viaduct still stands and was restored extensively in 2000 - hopefully it will carry trains again one day.


Manning Wardle 2-6-2T YEOThe railway started its services with three Manning Wardle 2-6-2T locomotives, named 'Yeo' 'Exe' and 'Taw' after local rivers, but shortly after opening a fourth locomotive 'Lyn' was purchased. Because of supply problems at Manning Wardle this locomotive was a 2-4-2T bought instead from Baldwin in America. In later years the Southern Railway ordered a fifth engine 'Lew' from Manning Wardle and this was similar to the original three engines. The passenger and goods rolling-stock were of distinctive designs and all the original stock was built by the Bristol Wagon and Carriage Works Company. In later years a few vehicles were built by the L&BR themselves at Pilton, including Brake Van No 23, and in 1927 the Southern Railway purchased more goods stock from J&F Howard Ltd of Bedford. Click here to see a picture of Brake Van No 23 nearing completion of restoration in 2003.

Further details will be added to this page in due course, but in the meantime please see the Minor Railways Index for details of other L&BR-related pages already on RailWest. For more detailed information about the history of the line, and the progress of current efforts to re-open further sections of it, please visit the web-site of the Lynton & Barnstaple Railway, and also Exmoor Associates who are working to secure more sections of the former trackbed for future use by the L&BR.

CJL Osment 2003
Map based on original courtesy Tony Nicholson, Chelfham pictures WCRA collection, 'Yeo' photograph courtesy Lens of Sutton.


Bibliography

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