Okehampton: Sunday day trips

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davetheguard

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I had a very enjoyable day trip along the normally freight only line to Okehampton in Devon yesterday. Devon County Council are paying for four return trips a day on Sundays operated by Great Western Railway. Next Sunday, 11th September, is the last date of operation this year if you'd like to do the trip too. Fares are reasonable (£5 for a day return from Exeter) available from railway ticket offices as usual, and railcard discounts apply.

I caught the first train of the day at Exeter Central departing at 09.04, with about ten passengers aboard; quite a few more joined at St. David's station. After stopping at Crediton to pick up three more passengers, we then stopped briefly again at the attractive signalbox to pick up the token for the single line to Okehampton. The railway from here operates as two parallel single lines: one to Barnstaple; one to Okehampton. Non-stop through Yeoford station, we then diverged at what used to be Coleford Junction on to what is now the Dartmoor Railway's tracks to Okehampton.

We ran through the former station of Bow, still with its station building and green running in board; now in private ownership. A quick stop was made at Sampford Courtenay station, where one passenger boarded, after our Guard had unlocked the gate to the platform.

And so on to Okehampton with views of Dartmoor in the distance. The station here is looking loved, neat in Southern Green, ticket office open for sale of tickets on the Dartmoor Railway trains to Meldon Quarry, busy cafe selling hot food as well as tea & cakes. Lots of people on the platforms, many of whom boarded the "153" bubble car back to Exeter, which left with all seats taken and a handful standing.

After a cup of tea at the cafe, I continued on by the Dartmoor Railway class 47-propelled train on to Meldon Quarry, where you can get off to inspect -and walk over- the huge viaduct. The trackbed continues on, now known as the Granite Way footpath/cyclepath. All with great views of Dartmoor, and a wonderful easily graded walk. I walked as far as the village of Sourton, where there's a pub for lunch, and returned over the moor itself on a different path. After a 8 mile walk, I was ready for another tea at Okehampton's station cafe, before returning on the 15.23 train to Exeter. The last train of the day -and the last train of the year- leaves for Exeter next Sunday at 17.59.

Well recommended, with or without the walk.

By the way, the 200 milepost, and the wooden "sculpture" are at the site of Meldon Junction, where the line to Bude & Padstow branched off the Southern's main line to Tavistock, Bere Alston, & Plymouth.
 

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davetheguard

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The chance to travel on Great Western's service to Okehampton in 2016 has now passed; hopefully there will be a train again next year.

Ideally of course, what the line needs is a "proper" 7 day a week service; a gift that is really only within the remit of the DfT as part of a franchise award. Will something be announced as part of the new South West Trains franchise? (due to be announced this month?); will it come with the next Great Western franchise award (2019)?; or will the town of Okehampton be destined to remain off the National Rail Network?
 

Ash Bridge

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The chance to travel on Great Western's service to Okehampton in 2016 has now passed; hopefully there will be a train again next year.

Ideally of course, what the line needs is a "proper" 7 day a week service; a gift that is really only within the remit of the DfT as part of a franchise award. Will something be announced as part of the new South West Trains franchise? (due to be announced this month?); will it come with the next Great Western franchise award (2019)?; or will the town of Okehampton be destined to remain off the National Rail Network?

Yes absolutely agree with you Dave, let's hope it's one or other of the first two options, many thanks for the pictures I'm especially interested in the shot that shows work has commenced on the former down line track extension at platform 2, do you know if it will become a loop or are they just extending it by a coach lenth or two?
 

fishquinn

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I actually missed this until now! Sorry for the delay but it sounds like a good little time there. Vote 47828!
 

ainsworth74

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A group of us did it back in July and the local user group down there was running a survey to try and get evidence of demand to submit to the DfT. I believe they were hoping to get it included in the SWT ITT from what I can recall.

Certainly it's well worth the trip and when we did it the pair of 153s loaded very well!
 

fgwrich

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The chance to travel on Great Western's service to Okehampton in 2016 has now passed; hopefully there will be a train again next year.

Ideally of course, what the line needs is a "proper" 7 day a week service; a gift that is really only within the remit of the DfT as part of a franchise award. Will something be announced as part of the new South West Trains franchise? (due to be announced this month?); will it come with the next Great Western franchise award (2019)?; or will the town of Okehampton be destined to remain off the National Rail Network?

I thought it was due to ultimately be linked into the Devon Metro, but only when the additional stock is made available?
 

davetheguard

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Yes absolutely agree with you Dave, let's hope it's one or other of the first two options, many thanks for the pictures I'm especially interested in the shot that shows work has commenced on the former down line track extension at platform 2, do you know if it will become a loop or are they just extending it by a coach lenth or two?

From what one of the Dartmoor Railways volunteers was saying, I believe the track extension is so that more of the length of D.R.'s Polar Express train can be accommodated in the platform.
--- old post above --- --- new post below ---
I thought it was due to ultimately be linked into the Devon Metro, but only when the additional stock is made available?

I'm sure you're right, but with franchises lasting several years, presumably there will need to be something written in the actual franchise agreement, even if the start of such a service is still some considerable time away?
 

davetheguard

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While doing a circular walk from flower-bedecked Yeoford station yesterday, we crossed over the railway on an overbridge by the 181.5 milepost.

The single line to/from Barnstaple & Exeter is on the right; the single line to/from Okehampton is on the left. Both tracks are maintained by Network Rail at this point. Look how rusty the Okehampton one has become already after a couple of weeks without a train.

Lets hope trains return in 2017 to give those rails a bit of a polish!
 

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Ash Bridge

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While doing a circular walk from flower-bedecked Yeoford station yesterday, we crossed over the railway on an overbridge by the 181.5 milepost.

The single line to/from Barnstaple & Exeter is on the right; the single line to/from Okehampton is on the left. Both tracks are maintained by Network Rail at this point. Look how rusty the Okehampton one has become already after a couple of weeks without a train.

Lets hope trains return in 2017 to give those rails a bit of a polish!

Sorry to get all sentimental, but that same shot forty some years ago and you would have been describing looking at the up and down lines from Waterloo, well one positive is that at least the mileposts still read from that location, and one day in the future... well who knows? Anyway, thanks for the nice shots Dave :)
 

Cowley

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Just having a cup of tea at Okehampton station right now :). The work they've done on the line in platform 2 looks smart. This cake's nice too...
 

Cowley

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Have they now completed all the trackwork?

Seems to be. It's all freshly ballasted on the buffer stop looks further away. I don't think I'd have noticed if I hadn't looked on here
 

Ash Bridge

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Seems to be. It's all freshly ballasted on the buffer stop looks further away. I don't think I'd have noticed if I hadn't looked on here
Ah great, thanks for that,
also was 47828 by any chance in operation on the shuttle to Meldon or has that operation finished for the year now?
 

Cowley

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Ah great, thanks for that,
also was 47828 by any chance in operation on the shuttle to Meldon or has that operation finished for the year now?

There weren't any trains while we were there but we only popped in for an hour as I was in the area waiting to pick some bits up for our wood burning stove, they may have been running today though, but I don't think they were. There were a lot of cyclists about and the cafe seemed to be doing good business.
 

backontrack

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Personally, I think that, if the line formally reopens, then the station at North Tawton, a former market town with a population of 2,026, should reopen too. Perhaps likewise at Bow, though that only has half the population so wouldn't be a very good bet. Sampford Courtenay only has half of Bow's population!
 

davetheguard

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We had another trip up to Okehampton on the GWR/Devon County Council Summer Sunday service yesterday.

The return working, which forms the first train of the day from Okehampton had an impressive 107 people on board when it left for Exeter. Apparently the previous Sunday it had had a record 114 passengers. With these sort of numbers travelling, it has been necessary to run the service with a two car set this year, rather than the single car which was booked in 2016.

The Dartmoor Railway were also operating, so we had a trip on their "Berkshire" two car DEMU to Meldon Viaduct, before a walk over the viaduct itself and a walk along the trackbed to the summit of the old Southern main line, with great Dartmoor views.
 

shredder1

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Last time I went through Okehampton was in the cab of a red Warship from the Quarry, circa 1971, must revisit again.
 
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