WIVELISCOMBE STATION HISTORY

LEFT IMAGE FROM LENS OF SUTTON ---------------------RIGHT IMAGE FROM BERNARD MILLS

The small, one-time market town of Wiveliscombe lies 12 miles west of Taunton on the former Taunton - Barnstaple branch line. The line was built to Brunel's broad gauge by the Devon and Somerset Railway and was opened to Wiveliscombe on the 1st of November 1871. Heavy engineering further west slowed the progress of construction to Barnstaple delaying the completion of the route until June 1873.

The line was converted to standard gauge between 15th & 17th May 1881 and twenty years later the Devon and Somerset Railway was bought by the Great Western Railway in whose ownership the line remained until nationalisation in 1948.

During the First World War train loads of mules were unloaded at Wiveliscombe having travelled to this country by sea via Avonmouth Docks. After spending a time on local farms to recuperate they were sent out to France to be used at the front line by the Army. Animal trade continued later when large numbers of rabbits were carried to London for the meat trade. This continued until the widespread outbreak of myxomatosis in 1953/54 decimated the stock of wild rabbits. Other livestock was regularly carried over the line to the markets in towns served by the branch and for the local hunting fraternity.

Motive power was principally the domain of the 43XX moguls. However other classes of locomotive could or may have run at other times particularly at week-ends when the line was used as a diversion for the main Taunton - Exeter line.

The Wiveliscombe Model Railway depicts the station and it's immediate environs during the last few years of it's life and is the first our first attempt at a model railway exhibition layout. The trackplan below shows the layout of the station and it's surrounding lines.

 

FACTS AND FIGURES:

Station Staff: A Stationmaster, Two Signalmen, Booking Clerk, Two Porters, Lorry Motor Driver.

Permanent Way Depot: Motor Trolley Based in Yard.

Goods Trains: 4 Each way a day, restricted to 28 wagons.

Goods Carried: Coal, Fertilisers, Hunting Horses, Livestock, Corn, Post&Parcels, Spirits, Beer Rabbits, Sugar Beet, Milk, Produce.

Passenger Trains: Seven Up and Seven down stopping services each weekday, Thirteen Up and Thirteen down on a Saturday.

Through Workings: From Ilfracombe to Cardiff, Carmarthen, Wolverhampton, Manchester, Birmingham, Paddington. Mainly Summer Services.

Locos on the line: 45XX,55XX,90XX, Bulldogs, Moguls, 42XX,43XX, LMR 2-6-2 Tanks, 3MT 82XXX, N Class, T9 Class, M7, (Westcountry, Pacific's passed for rescue work only!) Bubble Cars, 2 and 3 car DMU's. Class 22 Diesels. Class 35 Hymeks.

 

 

40th Anniversary of the Barnstaple Branch Line Closure

The beginning of October 1966 marked the closure of the Taunton - Barnstaple route which diverged at Norton Fitzwarren Jn. It's now October 2006 and 40 Years have passed since communities such as Wiveliscombe, Dulverton, Milverton and South Molten have been cut off from the mainline network. The line was built to Brunel's broad gauge by the Devon and Somerset Railway and was opened to Wiveliscombe on the 1st of November 1871. Heavy engineering further west slowed the progress of construction to Barnstaple delaying the completion of the route until June 1873.

The line was converted to standard gauge between 15th & 17th May 1881 and twenty years later the Devon and Somerset Railway was bought by the Great Western Railway in whose ownership the line remained until nationalisation in 1948.

During the First World War train loads of mules were unloaded at Wiveliscombe having traveled to this country by sea via Avonmouth Docks. After spending a time on local farms to recuperate they were sent out to France to be used at the front line by the Army. Animal trade continued later when large numbers of rabbits were carried to London for the meat trade. This continued until the widespread outbreak of myxomatosis in 1953/54 decimated the stock of wild rabbits. Other livestock was regularly carried over the line to the markets in towns served by the branch and for the local hunting fraternity. Motive power was principally the domain of the 43XX moguls. However other classes of locomotive could or may have run at other times particularly at week-ends when the line was used as a diversion for the main Taunton - Exeter line.

7303 is seen arriving at Wiveliscombe (Photo: Unknown but part of the Wiveliscombe Model Railway Collection)

The Somerset County Gazette covered the final train, it was published on the 7th October 1966, an extract from the article can be seen below:

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Exact Transcript from Somerset Archives

TAUNTON-BARNSTAPLE RAIL LINK ENDS

The last passenger special is seen stood at Wiveliscombe Station with passengers allowed off the train to take photos (Photo: Bernard Mills)

But there was no sign of mourning, it was more like an all night party rather than the closing of an old established railway line when the last Taunton-Barnstaple train specially chartered left from Taunton main platform on Saturday night. Hunting horns were blown, and detonators exploded as the train pulled out of the station with its 300 passengers.

A crowd of more than 300 also watched the train drawing away from the station bringing 95yrs of history to an end. Four extra coaches had been added to the special train to accommodate all who wanted to join in this sentimental journey, and the guards van had been turned into a mobile bar. There were certainly no signs of mourning with the passing of this rail link. Aboard the train was a party of 150 organised by the Barnstaple Round Table who had arranged the special train. As well as reserving 3 carriages, and producing a beautiful printed souvenir program, the Round table arranged for Barnstaple British Legion Band to travel on the train, and play at stations on the way.

Mr Tim Jones a member of Barnstaple Round Table said he thought the rail closure was a sad occasion as it would mean that railway passengers going to London or the North would now have to go via Exeter a longer journey. The drivers of the last train were Mr Lionel Cox of Taunton ( Barnstaple – Taunton ) and Mr Rex Lock of Barnstaple (Return Journey)

The Taunton to Barnstaple line must rank as one of the prettiest in the West Country. It runs through picturesque, thickly wooded scenery, and there are many impressive sights on the line. The most memorable being Filleigh Viaduct from which a magnificent view is obtained. The Taunton-Wiveliscombe section of the line was opened in 1871 and the Barnstaple section 2 years later. The reason for the closure is that, despite the change over 3 years ago, from the old steam engines to the modern diesels, the line has steadily lost passengers.

The view of Wiveliscombe Station from the front of the DMUon the farewell speical arriving from Taunton (Photo: Bernard Mills)

This very rare image shows a Collet Class Locomotive (No. 2251) shunting at Wiveliscombe in 1952. The photo was taken by Stanley Smith featuring his son Adrian Smith, who was kind enough to send us this image!

Here a British Railways 'Mogul' passes the busy A361 at Wiveliscombe on the 25th July 1964. (Image supplied by Lewis Goosey)

 

The above images were taken in 1978 and show Wiveliscombe Station in its derelict form after closure by Bristish Rail. Thankfully some individuals took time to record these scenes along the length of closed lines to ensure that key details were recorded for future generations, we would like to thank David from Blue Pelican Railways for allowing us to host these four images here on Taunton Trains. For those who wish to see other similar images along various closed lines, Blue Pelican Railways Flickr site is worth a view!