SOUTH Devon may get a fourth privately-run standard gauge railway, after revivalist group Heath Rail Link was given permission by Network Rail to lease the moribund Newton Abbot to Heathfield line.
The group wants to see the line reopened for use by commuter traffic as well as tourists. It aims to open a park-and-ride system in a field at Heathfield near the A38 trunk road that could take people by train into Newton Abbot.
The region already has three heritage lines – the Dartmouth Steam Railway, the South Devon Railway and the Plym Valley Railway – while in nearby central Devon, there is the Dartmoor Railway.
Ironically, after it closed in 1959, the Heathfield line, the surviving stub of the GWR Moretonhampstead branch, may have become part of the first.
There were those in the county who had followed the developments on the Bluebell Railway from afar. Launching a campaign for the reintroduction of trains to Moretonhampstead, the South Devon Railway Society was formed by the Rector of Teigngrace Canon O M Jones and Torquay enthusiast E G Parrott, and on June 6, 1960, the Paignton-Moretonhampstead special, `The Heart of Devon Rambler’ was run, behind GWR prairie No. 4174.
The society leased Teigngrace Halt as its headquarters, but it was not allowed to acquire the line, as part of it was still needed for freight traffic.
Read more in Issue 238 of HR – on sale now!Enjoy more Heritage Railway reading in the four-weekly magazine. Click here to subscribe.