A recent surprising – for a nostalgia-inclined railway enthusiast with a particular weakness for the narrow gauge – train of thought, which lately came about. Looking for general-knowledge question material; I turned to Google to supplement dim memories of reading stuff about public transport in the Exmoor area, prior to the 1898 opening of the Lynton & Barnstaple Railway. It emerged that that region was in those times, an anachronistic relic of the stage-coach era of most of a century earlier, in its romantic glory. A splendid article concerning same: www.lerwill-life.org.uk/history/coaching.htm Until the L&B’s opening, public transport between Barnstaple and Lynton; and Minehead and Lynton; was by stage-coach. This situation continued to obtain between Minehead and Lynton (no railway ever built over that route) until 1913. While I love rural narrow-gauge lines, and feel that the Lynton & Barnstaple must have been a delight to know, and mourn its demise in 1935: the linked-to article has me feeling that the stage-coach services were in their different way, perhaps equally delightful. From a practical, as opposed to a sentimental, point of view: it is difficult not to consider that if the promoters (in Britain, and also further afield) of minor railways – standard- or narrow-gauge – opened around the turn of the 19th / 20th centuries, had had foreknowledge of how soon and how quickly, road motor transport would take off; they would probably have “stayed their hand” and let their railways not happen – with said railways to have too short a spell of being truly useful transport-wise, for their existence to be worthwhile. The author of the linked-to article allows himself a sly dig at the Lynton & Barnstaple Railway with its 37-year life-span, as a usurping “ ‘new-fangled’ invention which in time also ran its course”. Delectable though the often short-lived light railways were, in their lifetimes – with the L&B one of the more delectable among them – 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.