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Friday, 5 October 2018

Seaton Tramway

In a nutshell

Gauge:          2' 9" (838 mm)

Length:        3 miles (4.8km)

Opened:      1970


Seaton Tramway, 
Harbour Rd, 
EX12 2TB

Tel:          01297 20375

Date of visit:     28 September 2018


Key Facts

  • The tramway uses part of the branch railway line to Seaton, which closed in March 1966. 
  • The line runs for three miles between Seaton and Colyton. There are six passing loops and there is a level crossing at Colyford.
  • The tramway was set up in 1970 by Claude Lane, of Modern Electric Tramways Ltd, which had originally been based in Eastbourne between 1954 and 1969.
  • The tramway now has fourteen tramcars which are based on classic British designs. They are scale replicas of the originals - between half-scale (1:2) and two thirds-scale (2:3). 
  • The majority of the tramcars were scratch-built by Claude Lane and/or his successor Allan Gardner, apart from three, which are rebuilds of full-size trams from Bournemouth, London and Exeter.
  • The modern looking station at Seaton was opened in June 2018, to replace the former building when the area around the station was redeveloped.
  • During the peak season, trams depart every 20 minutes between April and September. A minimum of four trams, are used, crossing each other at the intermediate passing loops. At peak times additional trams are rostered which can increase the number of cars in service to seven or even eight. 
  • Outside the peak season, trams depart every 30 minutes, with two or three cars in service.
  • There are cafes at Seaton and Colyton and most of the trams are wheelchair accessible.



My Impressions

I have visited the area several times over many years but this was the first time I experienced and travelled on the tramway. My first impressions of the new facilities at Seaton were highly favourable. The building has been very thoughtfully designed to blend in with the new developments on the adjacent sites.

The facilities inside are modern, but tasteful. There is a small shop and cafe and, of course, toilet facilities.

A single deck tram was waiting on one of the four tracks in the main station shed. As I wanted to take video we decided to wait until one of the open topped double deck trams arrived.

There was not long to wait until tramcar No. 11 arrived .......

... and the single deck No. 15, departed.

We took up our seats on top deck of the newly arrived car and waited while another car (No. 10) arrived.

It was impressive that, although this was outside the peak season, there were plenty of cars in service and each one had a goodly number of passengers.

 Before long, we were off ........

..... threading our way between the rear of the supermarket, the recently opened Jurassic exhibition centre and the car park.

The line then made a series of right angled turns.

I never cease to be amazed at the dexterity of tramcars, as they negotiate what seem like impossibly tight curves, without so much as a flange squeal.

The final turn took us alongside the River Axe, where the first passing loop was located, together with a single slip leading back to the tramsheds and workshops.

We then picked up speed along the old trackbed of the Seaton Branch railway line.

 Further down the line we encountered the second passing loop, where we met another tramcar on its way up from Colyton.

After passing it by ..........

 .... we resumed our journey, passing through Swan's Nest Loop, ......

...... and onwards to Colyford, where there was another loop .......

..... and a level crossing.

After receiving the signal white light, we edged forward ........

....... across the road.

Pressing on, ......

..... we met car No. 15 on its way back up the line.

We passed it on Tye Lane Loop ..........

 ..... and then carried on until we reached Colyton station.

The original station building and platform have been retained and enhanced to make it very attractive.

After passing the station building, we reached the end of the line, where we alighted.

The tramcar reversed and pulled up adjacent to the building and then, after a short wait, ........

..... it departed.

We spent around 15 minutes enjoying a cup of tea and a sticky bun, sitting outside the cafe in the sunshine. I also made a quick tour of the shop which had a good selection of memorabilia, local souvenirs,  books, pamphlets and postcards. The next tramcar (No. 10) then arrived.

The tramcar proceeded to the end of the line and the passengers disembarked.

I was intrigued by the reversing procedure. Firstly, the driver nipped upstairs and reversed all the seats.

..... and then he drove the tramcar back towards the station building, the trolley pole swinging itself around by use of a clever arrangement with the overhead wires.

We boarded the tramcar, taking up our positions once more on the front seats on the upper deck.

We proceeded up the line, passing car No.9 at Tye Lane Loop.

We traversed the level crossing once more at Colyford .........

 ..... and then ran beside the Axe, past the depot .........

...... where I was intrigued by an inset four-way point serving the storage sheds.

After re-negotiating the right-angled curves, watched by a herd of interested cows, ......

 ....... we arrived back at Seaton Tramcar Station, ........

..... pulling into track No. 3.

This was a delightful end to a busy day. It was encouraging to see the continued popularity of this very intriguing piece of tramway history. My only regret is that I have waited so long to travel upon it and see the care and attention to detail which has been lavished on these replicas of an important part of our country's transport history.

All the staff we encountered were helpful and obliging - and clearly proud of their role in keeping this tourist attraction up and running. If you are in this part of the world, it is definitely a must-see destination. I shall return.


[In preparation] 

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