Steam on the English Riviera

End of October is when most heritage railways pack up for the winter, and get ready for the Santa Specials. The South Devon Railway was having a half-price weekend to commemorate the clocks going back, so I travelled down to Torbay on Friday 27 October to get me some steam action. The trip involved changes at Gatwick Airport, futuristic Reading and Newton Abbot to reach Paignton (£20.80 from the GWR site, I refuse to buy from Southern on principle). The scenery beyond Exeter being wonderful. Arriving at the flat Torbay town, first sight was of a forlorn Lydham Manor  outside the Dartmouth Railway station, which is just a level crossing hop from the mainline station.

7827 Lydham Manor
7827 Lydham Manor

So, on to the Brampton Guesthouse and my £25 a night single room (with shared shower room and loo)! After a walk down to the pier and a couple of pints of dark ale with fish and chips at the Talk of the Town Wetherspoon's, it was off to bed.

Saturday, after a superb fried breakfast, I wandered into town to get the 10.30 steam train. This stretch of the Dart Valley wasn't going to be running on Sunday. It was hauled by Standard Class 4 75014 Braveheart - why? cos it used to do the Fort William to Mallaig run when the film was being made.

74014 Braveheart at Paignton
This carried us down to Kingswear, where we got an included ferry ride to Dartmouth (£15.75 concession), a charming town with posh delis and artesan markets. After chasing a few Pokemons I re-crossed the river on the proper ferry this time (the first leg was on a cruise boat helping out).

Dartmouth ferry

Braveheart was the only loco running, so back at Paignton I hopped on a 12 bus and went to visit Brixham. When I were a lad my dad drove us down to Torquay in his Commer van - no motorways, it must have taken days! I remember visiting Brixham, and seeing the William of Orange statue (tho I though he was on a horse!).

William of Orange at Brixham

I tried to find a decent crab sandwich to no avail, so got the bus back and continued on to Torquay, where after a stroll round the harbour, found the Green Ginger Wetherspoon's for a well earned pint. Back at Paignton I popped into Lidl for some sustenance and went back to the B&B to watch Casualty.

Sunday's journey to the other Dart Valley line, the South Devon Railway was a little more complicated. I established that the hourly Stagecoach Gold bus (wot, no number?) went to Totnes, but not very near the station. As it happened, it stopped more or less opposite, but it was a longish walk to the station via some woods and a footbridge.

South Devon Railway footbridge
It was a surprise to see a pannier tank in London Transport livery No L.92, and this took us in Great Western splendour up to Buckfastleigh.

London Transport pannier tank No. L.92
On the way we passed the other loco, a Prairie tank No. 5526, which after a pasty in the refreshment rooms I travelled back to Totnes behind (my ticket granted me freedom of the line all day).

GWR prairie tank No. 5526
Back at Buckfastleigh I explored the sheds and workshops and saw locos in different states of repair, including 4920 Dumbleton Hall. There was something I though was a Deltic doing manoeuvres in the yard, but turned out to be

4920 Dumbleton Hall at Buckfastleigh
4920 Dumbleton Hall

I thought I might be able to catch a bus from Buckfastleigh, in fact a red London bus had been doing tours of the town and abbey all day, but had finished by the time I walked up to the main road to see what I could find. No luck, no bus for ages, so I walked back down to the station to get the last train to Totnes, and... it was being hauled by the diesel! A Class 37 No. 6975.

Class 37 No. 6975

A big plus point was that I could travel back in the observation car! Back at Totnes it was getting dark so I trudged back to the mainline station and bought a ticket to Paignton via Newton Abbot, only to find my Senior railcard had expired! Had there not been a fast train in, I'd have renewed there and then to enjoy my discount... ah well. Back at Paignton it was straight to the Wetherspoon's for a well earned pint!

Bronze Age workings, in the shape of an axe head
Monday morning it was another splendid breakfast, then a walk to the station to get a new railcard and a scenic ride to Exeter St David's where I'd be staying a couple of nights with my friends Dave and Jude, highlight of which was a visit to a Bronze Age site at a secret location, to see some mystery objects! The only regret is that I failed to see the Babbacombe Cliff Railway, but I'd overheard a woman on the Dartmouth train say it was broken anyway...

More photos on Flickr.