Barnstaple Town station opened on 16 May 1898 as an intermediate station on the L&SWR line to Ilfracombe, and the Southern terminus of the L&B. Both lines came under Southern Railway ownership in 1923. After the L&B closed in 1935, the station continued to serve the Southern Railway and its successors until The main line closed, in October 1970.
Barnstaple Town replaced the L&SWR Barnstaple Quay (opened in 1854, renamed Barnstaple Town in 1886) – which had been located on the Junction side of the Commercial Road crossing, a short distance up-line. The total cost of rebuilding the station in its new location was about £6,000, of which £2,000 was contributed by the L&B.
Originally the two lines were controlled by two separate Signal Boxes - the L&B Box was a traditional timber-framed construction, the L&SWR box being brick built as part of the main station building. Southern cost-saving measures included downgrading the L&B box to a ground-frame, as the former LSWR box took over responsibility for the narrow gauge line.
During the 1980s and early 1990s the old LSWR signal box was operated as a small museum for the L&B and the station building was in use as a restaurant. The signal box is currently unused, while the station building is used by the local education authority.
The original L&B stop-block remains in situ, and although much of the trackbed is now used for car parking, and clear of obstruction, a modern housing development obscures the L&SWR route immediately west of the station, and the nearby Barnstaple Civic Centre severs the original L&B formation shortly before it reaches the site of the former crossing at Braunton Road.
Pilton Yard, also known as Barnstaple Yard, 27.5 chains (550 metres) from Barnstaple Town, occupied a triangle of land bounded by Pilton Causeway, Yeo Vale Road, and Mill Leat. Pilton was the main depot and operating centre of the Lynton and Barnstaple Railway. Goods facilities were also provided at Pilton, but there were no passenger facilities. Fronting onto Pilton Causeway, the L&B's main offices were also based at Pilton, in a building formerly belonging to a tannery which had earlier occupied the site, and which took over the site again after the railway closed.
The mainline from Barnstaple passed under Bridge 4, crossed Pilton Causeway on the level, and passed the Pilton Signal Box into Pilton Yard. As the main line snaked through the yard following the course of the mill leat, there was a long yard loop following the S-curve, from which branched the various shed roads and a long head shunt.
The yard comprised several buildings including a corrugated iron two road locomotive shed, with inspection pits. This shed, originally built with a low arched roof, was later given a pitched roof. Behind the loco shed, one road extended into the workshop, and there was a further inspection pit in front of the shed. on the other road, was a turnout leading to the L&B's only turntable. Locomotives always travelled with their boilers facing "down" the line, i.e. towards Lynton.
1932 Map of Pilton
The turntable was used to turn rolling stock periodically to even-out bearing wear. After closure, the turntable was installed at the Romney, Hythe & Dymchurch Railway in Kent, but is now owned by the Lynton and Barnstaple Railway Trust and in storage in North Devon for eventual restoration and reuse on the new L&B.
There was originally an open siding running parallel to and between the loco shed and two-road stone-built carriage shed, but this was later enclosed to provide a paint shop and additional carriage storage.
Two further roads were used for goods transfer, one leading into a brick-built goods shed.
Since closure, some of the trackbed has been compromised by road improvements, but much of the site remains open and unobscured. The carriage sheds, locomotive shed and other remnants of the railway were destroyed in a fire in 1992, and the site is now largely in use as a car park, although there are still signs of its former railway use, including patches of concrete where the inspection pits once were.
Chelfham Viaduct (Bridge number 22) was Designed by F. W. Chanter, the L&B's Chief Engineer. The 121m long viaduct curves in plan at the southern end and is 21.3m high. It has eight yellow Marland brick arches supported by tapered brick piers with masonry bases. Each arch spans 7.3m.
The viaduct contains over a quarter of a million Marland bricks. Buildings built of these cream-coloured bricks from the ball clay works at Peters Marland near Torrington can be seen throughout the west of Exmoor. These became particularly popular in the 1880s and during the building boom that took place in the coastal resorts until the end of the 19th century and beyond.
The brickwork facing covers a core of concrete made from beach sand. Salt from the sand leaches through the bricks and causes mottling on the surface. But may provide some protection against frost damage.
After closure, the rest of the trackbed, buildings and land from the line was sold at auction in 1938 (the railway itself having been auctioned off (and the rolling stock mostly scrapped) in 1936). The viaduct, however - unsurprisingly - remained railway property
Looking rather forlorn, 60 years after closure
In 1943, it featured as a location in the war-time film The Flemish Farm, where it represented the Franco-Belgian border, complete with sentry box and German Guards!
In normal circumstances, a redundant structure such as this would probably have been dismantled. The smaller Lancey Brook viaduct and a handful of other L&B bridges were blown up during WW2 as a military training exercise. Since its original construction a number of buildings, including a school, have been built under the viaduct making it complex and expensive to to dismantle. Consequently, it remained Southern Railway property and passed to British Railways in 1948, The viaduct was classified as a Grade II listed structure on 25 February 1965, and following the abolishment of BRB (Residuary) Ltd in September 2013, is now the responsibility of The Highways Agency for the UK Government.
In 1999 the adjacent station including the station building and the Station Masters House was bought jointly by the L&BR Estates Company and the Distant Point Partnership.
In 2000, the viaduct was extensively restored, at government expense. The intention was to carry out necessary repairs to a safe condition, including the fitting of a waterproof membrane to the deck, and improved rainwater drainage, but additional work, including restoration of the parapets (which had been removed in the 1950s to prevent them falling onto the buildings below), was also carried out at the same time. The additional work was funded by L&B Trust Members as part of the long term plans for reinstating the line. Bricks matching the originals in the repairs and for the new parapets and although the colour difference is noticeable, they will fade to match in time.
A similar viewpoint, after restoration
Visual inspections are carried out annually, and a full survey takes place every 6-10 years. Listed on the BRB register (now managed by The Highways Agency) as "Reserved for the Lynton & Barnstaple Railway Trust" The viaduct is available to the Trust as soon as we have a Transport and Works Act and are ready to begin relaying tracks across what is the largest narrow gauge railway structure in England.
Ready to start relaying track?
Blackmoor Gate Station became a tearooms in the 1940s, Much extended, It is now a licenced Restaurant.
Lynton & Lynmouth station building is now a private residence.The Goods Offices and shed have been converted into two private homes.
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