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Tuesday, 16 June 2015

Devon Railway Centre

In a nutshell

Gauge:         2' (and 7¼")

Length:      approx 1/3 mile

Opened:     1998

Location:    


Devon Railway Centre Limited
Bickleigh
Tiverton
Devon
EX16 8RG

Email:   matthew@devonrailwaycentre.co.uk
Tel:        01884 855671   

 

Date of visit:     6 June 2015

 

Key Facts

  • The Centre is built on the site of Bickleigh Station on the South Devon Railway
  • The station closed to rail traffic in 1963 as part of the Beeching Plan
  • The station was bought in 1997 by the Gicquel family who has developed it into the Devon Railway Centre with a group of volunteers.
  • In addition to the 2' narrow gauge railway there is a 7¼" gauge miniature railway, a model village, model funfair, picnic areas, children's play areas, a drive your own train ride, a car ride, cafe, shop and a very fine collection of model railway layouts housed in a former mainline railway carriage
  • The Centre possesses eight narrow gauge locomotives (diesel and steam) and rolling stock.
  • It also has several standard gauge carriages, goods stock and a locomotive.

Route




My Impressions

I was not sure what to expect before I visited the Centre as the website suggests it is geared primarily for parents and children. However, I was pleasantly surprised by the way it has been organised and the range of exhibits on display. There was more than enough to keep a railway enthusiast of pensionable age interested.

My main objective was to view and ride on the 2' narrow gauge railway, which was served by its own platform and station shelter.

The open coaches were quite spacious and appropriate for the service they provided.

Our locomotive on this occasion was Ivor - a modified plate frame Simplex originally constructed in 1944 and now equipped with a Perkins diesel engine and a steam outline superstructure.

We boarded the train and shortly departed, passing the former goods shed which was now in use as a play barn and also an engine shed for the 2' gauge stock.

 Behind the shed. some rolling stock was being stored, including another plate frame Simplex in its original condition.

After passing behind the model funfair, we set off up the Exe Valley with the 7¼" railway running alongside.

 We then turned to the left, revealing the picnic area beside the river.

 Entering the balloon loop, we paused at Riverside Halt to be given a short history of the mainline railway and the station site on which the Centre is built.

We then returned along the original line to arrive back at the main station.

After running round the train, the loco prepared for another departure. The services run quite frequently and the entry ticket permits as many journeys on the railway as you wish.

Beside the 2' gauge station, is the station for the 7¼" railway - which again ran virtually continuously regardless of the number of passengers.

I was particularly interested in viewing the Centre's collection of small industrial diesels, as I was in the process of finishing off a 16mm scale model of a plate frame Simplex. Having discussed this with one of the staff, I was given a private tour to see their unmodified Simplex, so I could take some photos of its finer details.

Other examples of locos are on public display, such as this 1966 Simplex.....

..... this 1939 Hibberd......

.... and these Hudson skips.

I took a great number of closeup photos of many of the exhibits to act as inspiration for my modelling (see Peckforton Light Railway). Of great interest to me was the collection of model railways which were housed in a BR Mk1 carriage beside the original station building, in which is located the Centre's cafe. The standard of modelling was high, and a range of scales was impressive. What impressed me even more was that, unlike other model railway displays I have visited, every button pressed resulted in a working model.

The models on display ranged from 00 modern image.......

.... through Thomas the Tank Engine ..........

...... to representations of miniature railways........

...... narrow gauge .........

 ...... and a minimum gauge estate railway.

 They even house what for me is the foremost 2mm finescale model - Chiltern Green.


 (Apologies for the quality of these photos, they are extracted from video recordings)

There are more railway layouts than is depicted here. Unfortunately, I was pressed for time as we were passing through on our way down to Cornwall and so I was unable to spend as long as I would have wished exploring the rest of the Centre to the full. Sounds to me like a jolly good reason for a return visit, which I will relish.

Video

[In preparation]