The quote is from Stanhope Baker, who visited and photographed the L&BR in its final years, but it could be from anyone who has ever stood in the shade of the trees of a station that has been described as one of the prettiest in all England.
During the initial survey of the Lynton and Barnstaple route it was obvious that the Stoke Rivers valley would have to be crossed at some point. In order to maintain the ruling gradient of 1 in 50 there was really little choice as to the location of the viaduct and its adjacent station.
The station site is on a ledge constructed from infill and by cutting back into the rock - the wooded glade we see today is as a result of the trees planted by the company to hide the scars of construction.
The station building itself is just two rooms - a Waiting Room and a Ticket Office which also contained the electric train tablet machine. Gentlemen were provided with a modest urinal but ladies would have to hold on until Bratton Fleming!
Some twenty minutes by train from Barnstaple Town it was the first passing place on the line and remained largely unaltered until closure of the railway in 1935.
The first stationmaster only lasted a month! His replacement was John James Baker who was to become the longest serving Stationmaster on the L&B. Originally the regular driver of the Jones Brothers horse drawn Lynton to Barnstaple coach (which ceased running the day the railway opened), he took up the post of stationmaster at Chelfham on 6th June 1898.
Leaving there in September 1904, to take up the post of Stationmaster at Bratton Fleming until his retirement on 30th September 1931. Mr. Baker still frequented Bratton Station after his retirement, and was last photographed there on the last day of operation and also at Blackmoor handing over the station books to the Porter in Charge on Sunday 29th September 1935.
Following Jack Baker's departure, Amelia Randell (wife of William Randell was the L&BR's Permanent Way Inspector) was appointed Porter in Charge. By 1913 Percy Moore was Porter In Charge.Early in 1914, Francis Harding - described as “a sturdy North Devon country lad” attained national fame as the “boy stationmaster” when he was given sole charge of Chelfham Station at the age of only sixteen. He was there in 1935 when the last train went though.
Offered at auction in 1938, the Chelfham Station site including Distant Point was withdrawn when bidding went no higher than £275. It was sold by private treaty on the 2nd May 1941 for £490.
Having had only two owners since the auction, it was put up for sale in 1999 and a joint offer of £175,000 for the complete site including the Station Masters House "Distant Point" was put together by the Lynton & Barnstaple Railway Estates Company and the Distant Point Partnership (a time-share scheme organized by L&B Trust Members). This was accepted and is thought to have been the first time that a preservation group has used a time-share option to purchase a station. The map above just indicates the trackbed that was for sale but also included was all the land either side from the road right up to the boundary with Chelfham House.
IN 2007 the Lynton & Barnstaple Railway Estates Company was made a subsidiary of the L&B Trust and subsequently converted into the Lynton & Barnstaple Railway CIC. Chelfham Station site is asset locked to the L&BR Trust so cannot be sold outside of the organisation.
Standing 70ft high and at 132 yards long, Chelfham is the largest 2ft narrow gauge viaduct in the UK.
On April 27 1936 RC Copleston photographed the demolition train on its last journey over Chelfham viaduct. A miserable sight, lets hope that this is not the last ever record of a train on Chelfham Viaduct.
A Grade 2 listed structure - it is currently owned by the Highways Agency Historical Railways Estate - successor to BRB Residuary which was abolished in 2013. It must surely be every enthusiast's dream to see a train run over this splendid structure once again.
Just behind Chelfham Station is the old Station Masters House, Distant Point. An entry in the Company Minutes Book in 1898 states that the company wanted to build stationmaster’s accommodation here and at Bratton Fleming at a cost not exceeding £100 and although it has been written elsewhere that because the company was at this time in such severe financial difficulty no stationmaster’s houses were ever built - the reality is that at Chelfham they certainly did.
A drawing from the Devon Record Office archives providing irrefutable proof that Distant Point was built for the Chelfham Stationmaster.
Distant Point is neither L&BR Trust or Company property - it is owned by the Distant Point Partnership - an independent limited company set up to manage the time-share scheme. And although all those that manage the company are L&B members, its management is completely independent of the L&B.
Extract from Bratton Fleming Census 1904
Station House, Chelfham
Name Relation Mar Age Sex Occupation Birthplace
John J BAKER Head M 34 M Station Master Lynton
Emma BAKER Wife M 35 F Shirwell
John P BAKER Son 11 M Lynton
Edith A BAKER Daughter 7 F Lynton
Emmaline M BAKER Daughter 3 F Lynton