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The LynBarn - the L&B's Fund Raising Railway






Back in late 1993, two Essex based members of the L&B, Mike Buse and Charles Summers, bought a complete 2ft gauge garden railway from LJ Smith & Son, owners of the Bungalow Nursery at Battlesbridge, a family-owned wholesale horticultural nursery. 

Comprising of two locos, some track and various wagons, the grand plan was that somehow the L&B could use these items in some way to raise funds in support of its rebuilding of the L&B.   As it turned out the track was virtually unusable and the rolling stock not in the best of condition and, as none of the stock was air-braked, considered unfit for passenger use.  But this did not deter the L&B's Devon Group however, who considered  two or three different options and eventually decided that by using what was salvageable, if a railway could be constructed at one of the existing leisure attractions in North Devon, this might possibly produce a small but useful income and all this could be done in time for the 1994 season.

The L&B then had a significant stroke of luck when it was made aware that as the ride was being taken out of use, the eight coaches used at the Treasure Island Railway at Thorpe Park were up for sale, and as it turned out ,we could also have the track as well!

L&B Railway Company Director Brom Bromidge had a fortuitous meeting with Trevor Stanbury, the owner of the Milky Way - a Theme Park near Clovelly which saw approximately 100,000 visitors per year - and a plan was hatched for a railway to be constructed by the L&B's Devon Support Group on a new site that would be landscaped by the Milky Way.  There was to be one L&B paid employee and the intention was to keep operating costs as low as possible and maximise revenue.  With an agreement  in place, construction of the LynBarn began in earnest.

The diggers move in, ...

... construction of the LynBarn during the winter 1993/94

Des Cockram, Len Howse and Paul Gower at work on the coaches
 

The formal Opening Ceremony took place on Tuesday. 10th May 1994 with Su Pollard, of Hi-de-Hi fame performing the honours.

In its first year the LynBarn Railway operated for more than 160 consecutive days, and carried 21,800 passengers. However, there was a lot of work to do over the winter to ensure 1995 would be another successful season.

The last train of the 1995 season ran on 31 October and over 50,000 passengers had travelled year, producing the majority of the income required to cover the mortgage repayments for Woody Bay Station.  The busiest day of the season was Wednesday 23 August when 1,132 passengers were carried producing an income of £451.55!

1996 saw 60,000 passengers carried and by 1998  this had risen to 70,000.

Every winter a small gang of volunteers undertook the essential routine maintenance, but by the Millenium these volunteers were not only trying to run the LynBarn, but were also working hard at preparing Woody Bay Station. Additionally, Chelfham had by now been bought - trying to maintain the L&B  empire was putting a considerable strain on the handful of local volunteers who were by then found themselves almost stretched to the limit.

So although considerably extended and improved during 2003/2004, with the increasing pressure of time and resources on the local volunteers, in order that it could concentrate on developing the railway at Woody Bay, the L&B decided to sell the LynBarn to the owners of the Milky Way and today it still operates alongside the sites other attractions.

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So concluded the L&B's business arrangements with the Milky Way.  But no one should underestimate how much has been achieved as a result of the operation of the LynBarn Railway. We owe a significant amount of thanks to the Stanbury family, for the LynBarn not only provided substantial contributions to L&B finances allowing us to purchase Woody Bay Station, the adjoining land and Chelfham Station as well, it also gave us a learning environment where volunteers could learn the skills and expertise required in the rebuilding the railway at Woody Bay.


LynBarn Rolling Stock

There were two steam outline locomotives, Sir George and Parracombe.


Sir George was the main passenger loco and built by and on loan from Alan Keef Ltd. Works No. 12  of 1984 a 4wDH Ex Thorpe Park Treasure Island Railway No.TIR001.  It was named Sir George by the children of Lynton School. The loco is now resident at the Grenlea Light Railway, Burbage. 


Parracombe was one of only three 'steam outline' 0-4-0 engines built by E.E. Baguley Ltd in 1947.  With a Perkins P4 type 34 horsepower 4 cylinder diesel engine as standard, 3235/6 went to Butlin's at Sheerness and 3232's history is as below. The original livery of all three is thought to have been dark red.

History of 3232 Parracombe*

31/3/1947   

RW Leonard, 66, New City Road, Cowcaddens, Glasgow

26/5/1948   

Hope Bank Pleasure Park and Zoo, Honley, Huddersfield, Yorkshire

1/1950   

Markeaton Park, Markeaton, Derby

1959   

Butlins, Clacton

1977   

Alan Keef, Cole Farm, Bampton, Oxfordshire

6/1978   

Butlins Minehead

10/1978   

Alan Keef, Cole Farm, Bampton, Oxfordshire

6/10/1978   

LJ Smith, Rectory Lane, Battlesbridge, Essex

29/1/1994   

The Lynbarn Railway, Milky Way,Clovelly, Devon

  *Extrapolated from:  A History of the Butlin's Railways By Peter Scott

In 2006 the loco was sold to Richard Booth and delivered to the Groudle Glen Railway in January 2007 and hauled its first passenger train there 22nd July 2007.


Also on site was a privately owned Severn-Lamb loco which ran on Southport Pier from 1973 to the mid/late 1990s where it was named English Rose.


Although never used during the L&B's ownership of the LynBarn, today it is the only operational loco at the Milky Way.

The Thorpe Park - Treasure Island Railway Coaches

When the Treasure Island Railway - at Thorpe Park in Surrey - closed at the end of the 1993 season the eight coaches and track were offered to the Lynton & Barnstaple Railway Association. 

At only £150 each these must have seemed like a bargain - but they still needed to be paid for, so a Devon Member loaned the money to the Devon Group, with an agreement that Devon Group would pay him back within two years. In the event, the debt was repaid by January 1995 - less than 12 months

Several L&B activists including Members of the Surrey, Essex and Devon Groups descended upon Thorpe Park in early February 1994 to dismantle the track and recover the coaches which duly arrived in North Devon later that month.

Thorpe Park Carriages in store.

Eventually, only three of the eight carriages were used on the "Lynbarn".  Four were extensively rebuilt by the L&B and were used as passenger carriages at Woody Bay Station until the arrival of the three heritage carriages and ISAAC in 2013 . The frame of the fifth coach was sold to an L&B member for use on his private garden railway.


Postscript - TREASURE ISLAND RAILWAY -  1983–1993

The Treasure Island Railway was created  In the early 1980’s on a peninsular of land between the main park area and Thorpe Farm. For the first few years it was accessed by the land train which transported people over to the farm and Treasure Island had its own station. Alternatively, at this time, one could walk to both Treasure Island and the farm.  But in 1989 the Canada Creek Railway replaced the land train and instead took guests to the farm via Treasure Island Station.  Very soon after this pedestrian access to Treasure Island and the farm was no longer permitted.

In the early days the ride consisted of the train trundling round the island past a few static tableux with fibre-glass pirate models, this however was soon seen as non-participative and a boring so to spice-up the experience, there was interaction with live actors dressed as the pirate “residents” of the island and it was this aspect that made the Treasure Island Railway memorable

The train stopped at a couple of points and pirate actors would jump out and act a little script of the usual corny puns and slapstick with the pirates ending up squirting the passengers with water pistols and throwing sweets or small novelties at them. The story also used to end up with one of the kids in the train being picked to be given the infamous “black spot” which could later be exchanged for a small prize back on the mainland.


The ride itself was subtly themed with the train passing through a pirate encampment with a log cabin etc the climax being when the train passed right through a large pirate ship wreck. 

The train would then head back towards the mainland and then pass to the right to unload at the second station. It would then reverse back to the 1st station to pick up its next load of guests, leaving the previous riders to wander back to the park.

1993 was Treasure Island’s last year of life, having given ten years of fun to countless trainloads of adults and children on their special trip to see the pirates “at home”. The reason given were the high running costs, not only of the trains, but also the numerous actors involved. There were also logistic problems of making sure enough trains were hijacked, and enough people wanting to experience it.  So a bizarre mix of scenic ride and live show came to an end.

Looking at old park maps and leaflets from 1985/1986, the island was originally sandy and bare whilst in the early 90’s the shrubs and trees had grown making the island seem more jungle-like.  After the ride closed the island became completely overgrown.

For more memories of the Thorpe Park Treasure Island Railway, including a surprising video CLICK HERE


With thanks to Dave Tooke for his input as well as the majority of the historical photos.

 

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