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Old 7th January 2017, 20:37   #16
Welshman
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I wonder, in my wildest fantasies, that if the L&B had survived into the 1970s, it would now be a mecca for tourists.

And even more so, if electrified on the Swiss model. Not for nothing was the Lynton area known as "Little Switzerland"

Regarding the climb from Lynton to the station, a cliff railway, similar to that between Lynmouth and Lynton, would have been perfect.
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Old 7th January 2017, 20:58   #17
Cowley
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Originally Posted by Welshman View Post
I wonder, in my wildest fantasies, that if the L&B had survived into the 1970s, it would now be a mecca for tourists.

And even more so, if electrified on the Swiss model. Not for nothing was the Lynton area known as "Little Switzerland"

Regarding the climb from Lynton to the station, a cliff railway, similar to that between Lynmouth and Lynton, would have been perfect.
It would be a very nice thing and as you say a cliff lift (water powered of course), to get passengers up the hill.
Pay extra and you can travel in a stagecoach (with improved brakes) down/up the hill too (he says pretending that he's not forgotten the original topic ).

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Old 7th January 2017, 22:58   #18
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I suspect most "lesser" railways, including all those under the 1896 Light Railways Act, never repaid their investment. Anyone investing to obtain a return would have been well advised to look elsewhere.

This doesn't necessarily mean they should not have been built. A lot of branches were promoted by the local land and mill owners who benefitted from better transport for their raw materials and products even if the finances of the railway itself were rather poor. As long as the receipts exceeded the operating costs the local main line company could probably be persuaded to take on the operation and the shareholders' original capital was essentially sunk. Perhaps they would have repaid their capital eventually had road transport not provided a more cost-effective alternative within a few decades, but even then would never have had an attractive rate of return. The modern equivalent is public investment that is justified by socio-economic benefits even if it generates no financial return.

On the question of the most successful narrow gauge railway I'd nominate the Ffestiniog. It provided an economical way of getting the slate from Blaenau to market for the best part of a century, and managed to survive long enough to enter the preservation era without ever officially closing. Since then it has been one of the few heritage railways to extend off its original route, and has led to the reconstruction of the much larger Welsh Highland.
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Old 8th January 2017, 13:24   #19
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I'm inclined to agree Edwin m although I'm not an expert in such things, I suppose that a hundred years of commercial operation before the preserved era is very successful, more than a lot of standard gauge lines in fact.
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Old 8th January 2017, 14:46   #20
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I wonder out of all the narrow gauge lines that existed in the UK which one would be considered the most successful? Going on the money they earned/ length of time they served a useful purpose/ amount of goods or passengers they shifted etc.
Predominantly industrial lines like the Ffestiniog were outstandingly successful for long periods, often being the key factor to allowing a particular resource like slate to be exploited to the extent it was. Eventually improved roads and lorries were able to supplant them, just as buses and eventually cars supplanted so many rural passenger dominated lines.

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I've also wondered whether the Lynton and Barnstaple, if gradually modernised over the years, including modern DMUs or even cheap electrification and EMUs, maybe a bit like a Swiss style railway. What it could have ended up like? (I'm slightly going on the Southern Railways keenness to electrify route miles here and also many other circumstances being different), would it have been competitive with the bus services or even driving a 1950s car between the two towns?

Or perhaps the L&B survived, was electrified and ended up being similar to the Ferrocarril de Soller route in Majorca?
With little green electric trains rattling through Exmoor, cheap return tickets and maybe some way of getting passengers up to Lynton station easily might have been devised over the years (redundant stagecoaches!).
In light of LSWR and Southern preferences elsewhere on the main line, they might more likely have adopted a 3rd rail solution like the metre gauge Ligne de Cerdagne - the 'little yellow train' in the French Pyrenees, or Saint-Gervais–Vallorcine in the French Alps!
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Old 8th January 2017, 14:57   #21
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A good book I got at Xmas, The Trains Now Departed by Michael Williams, has an interesting chapter about the L&B.
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Old 8th January 2017, 17:06   #22
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The notion of an electrified (whether overhead, or third-rail) L & B had never entered my head, prior to this thread -- it's taken a bit of digesting. Well, I've always loved the Manx Electric -- though that was electrically-worked from the outset...

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I suspect most "lesser" railways, including all those under the 1896 Light Railways Act, never repaid their investment. Anyone investing to obtain a return would have been well advised to look elsewhere.

This doesn't necessarily mean they should not have been built. A lot of branches were promoted by the local land and mill owners who benefitted from better transport for their raw materials and products even if the finances of the railway itself were rather poor. As long as the receipts exceeded the operating costs the local main line company could probably be persuaded to take on the operation and the shareholders' original capital was essentially sunk. Perhaps they would have repaid their capital eventually had road transport not provided a more cost-effective alternative within a few decades, but even then would never have had an attractive rate of return. The modern equivalent is public investment that is justified by socio-economic benefits even if it generates no financial return.
I just find it difficult not to feel – especially with minor rural local lines built late-on (broadly, turn-of-19th / 20th-centuries period) – that these were characterised by setting about the undertaking involved, in a sadly “lame” way: yet still more, with the restrictions imposed by the 1896 Light Railways Act – some would express doubts as to whether these lines offered (save for a select few "land and mill owners") much of an improvement upon horses and carts. (And corresponding stuff which was then going on on the Continent -- in France, for example -- with the instituting in large quantity, of narrow-gauge roadside tramways: appears /appeared, even more “palsied” and of dubious usefulness.)

More than anything else – as I’ve touched on earlier in the thread – the inaugurating of these highly-rural lines seems pretty futile, in the light of how soon and how dramatically road motor transport would “take off” and render them nonsensical or not far short thereof -- particularly passenger-wise: some of the standard-gauge light railways continued to be of some use for freight, in times after their passenger services were withdrawn. It should be borne in mind, of course, that “hindsight is 20 / 20”: at the time, people don’t know what’s going to happen in the future – at best they can take note of the way that the wind seems to be blowing, and extrapolate; which they may do rightly or wrongly.
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Old 8th January 2017, 19:37   #23
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One wonders whether some enthusiast purists would therefore consider the replicas from the Victorian period less worth saving, than original coaches from circa two-centuries-plus ago? I have a railway-enthusiast friend who rather eccentrically takes this kind of "purist" attitude to the length of feeling lukewarm about -- and considering less preservation-worthy -- preserved rail material which contains little or none of what it physically comprised when first built. Most folk, one gathers, would disagree here -- holding to the "William The Conqueror's Penknife" principle: as with a living creature, a loco or other vehicle keeps its essential identity regardless of how much its physical makeup may change over time.

Traditional stagecoaches were made mainly of wood. Unless they were stored in dry conditions, they would soon deteriorate due to dry and / or wet rot.

The only chance of their survival in "olden times" would have been to be saved by a sentimental member of the "landed gentry" - few others would have had either the space or the finances.
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Old 8th January 2017, 20:19   #24
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I find myself treasonously musing on a possibly also very attractive scenario in which the L&B never was; and in which the stage-coaches continued to assure public transport on Exmoor (three hours by coach Barnstaple – Lynton; an hour and a half by “two-foot-gauge” train; so what, people in those parts aren’t usually in much of a hurry ) for the decade or two until their displacement by the motor bus. Stage-coaches might even have continued beyond then in a restricted role (pace the issue of fitting them in with modern-day motor traffic), as summer tourist attractions – charging people far more than the bus fare for the journey, for the colourful “period” experience. I feel “torn” here, in a way in which I’m not used to.
In the summer of 1995, I was working in Bath, and my girlfriend worked at the Youth Hostel in Lynton. To get there, I used a mixture of routes - sometimes by train to Barnstaple and then on the bus, other times to Taunton and onwards on a community bus, other times by train to Bridgewater and then on to Lynton by bicycle, and a couple of times by bicycle for the whole journey.

The least slow was via Taunton, but the buses were not very frequent. Cycling was generally nice, although I always had to walk for Porlock Hill and for the climb out of Lynmouth as they are both 1 in 4. Countisbury Hill is an easier climb.

I don't like modern buses, so I don't think I would have used an old one, or a stagecoach if cycling was an alternative.
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Old 9th January 2017, 09:48   #25
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Much like many of the thousands of miles of French narrow gauge systems built under the Frecinet (sic) plans of the 1880's ad onwards , "chemins de fer local interet" - once the internal combustion engine appeared they were doomed and huge numbers succumbed in the 1930's (bar those that struggled on through WW2 - and fell in the 1950's)

Deeply rural location - and not competitive in the long term. Regretably.
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Old 9th January 2017, 10:40   #26
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Originally Posted by MarkyT View Post
Predominantly industrial lines like the Ffestiniog were outstandingly successful for long periods, often being the key factor to allowing a particular resource like slate to be exploited to the extent it was. Eventually improved roads and lorries were able to supplant them, just as buses and eventually cars supplanted so many rural passenger dominated lines.



In light of LSWR and Southern preferences elsewhere on the main line, they might more likely have adopted a 3rd rail solution like the metre gauge Ligne de Cerdagne - the 'little yellow train' in the French Pyrenees, or Saint-Gervais–Vallorcine in the French Alps!
I just looked those two up, I'd heard of the Little Yellow Train before but not the other one. Lovely little railways.
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Old 9th January 2017, 14:22   #27
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Traditional stagecoaches were made mainly of wood. Unless they were stored in dry conditions, they would soon deteriorate due to dry and / or wet rot.

The only chance of their survival in "olden times" would have been to be saved by a sentimental member of the "landed gentry" - few others would have had either the space or the finances.
Plus probably a lack of awareness of their historic significance at the time.
Not many people would have realised or cared that the long distance mail coach was about to become a thing of the past. The sheer speed with which railways were adopted in this country must also have been a factor. We went from a situation in which long-distance rail transport didn't exist in 1830 to one in 1850 where it was the normal mode of transport.
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Old 9th January 2017, 15:24   #28
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Much like many of the thousands of miles of French narrow gauge systems built under the Frecinet (sic) plans of the 1880's ad onwards , "chemins de fer local interet" - once the internal combustion engine appeared they were doomed and huge numbers succumbed in the 1930's (bar those that struggled on through WW2 - and fell in the 1950's)

Deeply rural location - and not competitive in the long term. Regretably.
These have very long been a big thing for me in terms of interest and sheer enchantment – to blame for which, chiefly Bryan Morgan and his The End of the Line: though by the time of publication of that masterpiece in the mid-1950s, the great majority of the intérêt local lines were gone. As you mention, they perished in great numbers in the 1930s -- a few, even earlier than that. World War 2 with its shortages and privations, gave a lease of life to many of those still running at the beginning of the war – some closed sections here and there, were even reopened.

I understand that as at the end of WW2, a remarkable large quantity of French light railways / “steam” (often by then, at least part railcar-ised) tramways – mostly metre-gauge – were still active: but an enormous amount of this which then survived, was abandoned in the half-dozen years immediately after the war. By the late 1950s / early 60s, the great majority of France’s remaining metre-gauge comprised lines / systems of intérêt general -- relatively substantial in length, and in infrastructure / initial building – there was only a small, ever-dwindling handful of intérêt local survivors.

As you say, re the shortcomings which did them in – “regrettably”, indeed: but I tend uncomfortably to feel that in their brief lifetime these lines – while a delight to those enthusiasts who revel in this kind of thing – must have been largely a misery to the poor folk who had to use them for getting from A to B. There comes inevitably to mind, the oft-told tale from that era: showing up in Ireland, France, the Iberian peninsula, and (I’d be willing to bet) a fair few other European countries. The rural roadside narrow-gauge line’s mixed train is pausing at a wayside halt, when a local farmer comes up level with it, driving his donkey-cart in the direction of the market town; which is the train’s destination also. Greetings are exchanged; the train crew ask him, “hey, Paddy [or Jean-Claude, or ‘whoever’] – clearly, you’re not using the train. Is anything wrong?”
“No,” the farmer replies; “It’s just that I’m in a hurry today – so I can’t be bothered with you lot.”

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In light of LSWR and Southern preferences elsewhere on the main line, they might more likely have adopted a 3rd rail solution like the metre gauge Ligne de Cerdagne - the 'little yellow train' in the French Pyrenees, or Saint-Gervais–Vallorcine in the French Alps!
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I just looked those two up, I'd heard of the Little Yellow Train before but not the other one. Lovely little railways.
To my shame, I'd been imagining that Saint-Gervais -- Vallorcine was "overhead wire", not "third-rail": this thread has set me right !
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Old 9th January 2017, 17:23   #29
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I've learnt a few new things too from this thread. Interesting stuff.
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Old 10th January 2017, 16:43   #30
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The Bryan Morgan book has a real air of dissapointment and decay in it right through - but then is was a miserable era.

Comparing the GWR and the Southern , both much admired by self.

The SR got rid of the L+B whilst the GWR invested in the Vale of Rheidol in the 30's and worked a rich sea of not lead , but tourism - helped of course by the great popularity of the Cambrian Coast region and access to South Wales the Midlands in less than 3 hours by road or rail. (Aberystwyth - "the Biarritz of Wales !) - the line had no real use in WW2 but was carefully mothballed and went from strength to strength in the "afflunet" 1950's.

The key being accessibility to a large and varied holiday trade , and dare I say it an enterprising management at Divisional and Local level.
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