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Tuesday, 9 October 2018

Bicton Woodland Railway

In a nutshell

Gauge:         18" (457 mm)

Length:        1359 yards (¾ mile - 1242m) - 1½ mile journey out and back

Opened:       1963

Location:    

 

Bicton Park
East Budleigh
Budleigh Salterton
Exeter Devon
EX9 7BJ


Email:    https://www.bictongardens.co.uk/index.php?route=information/contact  
Tel.:       01395 568465 
 

Date of visit:     28 September 2018

 

Key Facts

  • The original 1963 trackplan included the station and a return loop through the Pinetum. The extension to the Hermitage was added in 1976.
  • The original rolling stock for the railway came from the Royal Arsenal Railway in Woolwich which, as it was 18" gauge, dictated the track gauge for the Bicton Woodland Railway.
  • The original locomotives were Woolwich (an Avonside 0-4-0T steam loco built in 1915), Bicton (an 0-4-0 Ruston Hornsby diesel built in 1942) and Carnegie (a Hunslet 0-4-0 0-4-0 articulated diesel loco built in 1954).
  • Another diesel loco joined the fleet in 1974 - a Ruston Hornsby 0-4-0 which was renamed Budley.
  • Seven goods wagons were also acquired from the Royal Arsenal and were subsequently converted into passenger carriages. Additional rolling stock was acquired from RAF Fauld and the Wolverton railway works which had 18" railways.
  • In 2000, three locomotives and much of the rolling stock was sold to the Royal Gunpowder Mills at Waltham Abbey and a new locomotive was commissioned from Alan Keef Ltd. - an 0-4-0 steam outline diesel locomotive called Sir Walter Raleigh
  • Four new carriages were also purchased from Alan Keef and Bicton was refurbished to match the steam outline appearance of Sir Walter Raleigh.
  • The journey lasts about 25 minutes
  • There is a well stocked restaurant and shop at in the gardens and plenty to see

Route

 

My Impressions

After paying my entrance fee to the gardens and passing through the shop and acknowledging the whereabouts of the toilets and restaurant, I made my way to the station. There was already a small queue of people awaiting the train's departure which, at this time of year, was every hour.

I showed my ticket and boarded the train, choosing the tail-end compartment in the last carriage.

With a toot, the Alan Keef diesel powered, steam outline loco pulled out. We very quickly entered a slightly wooded area on the banks of the dam which had been built for the ornamental lake.

Passing over the dam, we had a good view of Bicton House standing above the lake.

We then negotiated a triangular wye junction, .......

...... before heading out through the trees of the Pinetum.

At intervals, the driver tooted the whistle to alert us to points of interest printed on a card which we were loaned at the beginning of the journey.

At the furthermost end of the Pinetum, the track curved around and back on itself to give us an alternative perspective on the gardens.

The grounds are extremely well tended and clearly laid out. One day I must return and explore everything more thoroughly; this was a flying visit to give time to travel on the nearby Seaton Tramway in the afternoon.

We headed back towards the triangular junction ........

.... crossing over the junction for the loop, and then .......

...... taking the other branch at the wye junction.

We headed up the side of the lake towards the Hermitage, ........

..... where the line terminates with a loop.

Our loco (Sir Walter Raleigh - who was born nearby) ran round the train, .......

...... and then we set off once more.

We took the left-hand branch of the wye, .......

...... to cross the dam once more.


..... and then pulled back into the station.

I spent a short while watching the loco run round the train .........

chatting with the driver and snapping the older rolling stock, which dates from the time when the railway acquired its stock from the Woolwich Arsenal Railway.

I then made my way back to the car park and thence on to Seaton.

As can be seen from the photos and video, the railway is well established and follows an interesting route through the grounds. There is plenty more to see; not just the gardens and the house, but also a museum housing artefacts from the locality.

Given more time, I would have explored further, so it looks as if I will have to make a return visit - something I will look forward to doing.

Video