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South Devon Railway

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The line was built by the South Devon Railway and first opened on 1st May 1872. It was taken over by the Great Western Railway in 1876. The line closed to all traffic on 7th September 1962 and was re-opened as a preserved steam line on 5th April 1969. The South Devon Railway Trust took over the running of the line on 1st January 1991.

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    • More +
      29.12.2009 18:51
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      Brilliant family day out.

      My family and I visited South Devon Railway for a day trip to Totnes on the steam train.

      Admission Prices:
      Return trip (single fares also available)
      Buckfastleigh - Totnes Littlehempston
      Adult £9.90
      Senior Citizen £9.20
      Child £5.90 (5 years - 14 years; under 5s FREE)
      Family £28.90 (two adults and two children)
      There is also FREE parking at Buckfastleigh for cars and coaches.


      We travelled from Totnes to Buckfastleigh to Totnes and it was just like going back in time.
      It was a thorougly enjoyable ride on a proper steam train. Taking in the wonderful scenery from Buckfastleigh to Totnes. We went in the summer and it was a fantastic journey beside the river Dart t. The trains are clean and comfortable, in my opinion much better than the trains of today. The children enjoyed the ride and the ability to get up and move around the train.
      Only trouble was the journey It is only about 5 miles (8 km) long which wasn't long enough, to enjoy such a wonderful train and scenery.

      There is good access for disabled visitors. with friendly and helpful staff.
      There are other attractions in the same area, I have listed the attractions and prices below. This will allow you to fill the day out.

      Joint ticket - Return trip + Dartmoor Otters & Buckfast Butterflies + Totnes Rare Breeds Farm
      Adult £19.50
      Senior Citizen £17.50
      Child £13.00 (5 years - 14 years; under 5s FREE)
      Family £58.00 (two adults and two children)
      Joint ticket - Return trip + Dartmoor Otters & Buckfast Butterflies
      Adult £15.40
      Senior Citizen £13.90
      Child £10.00 (5 years - 14 years; under 5s FREE)
      Family £45.50 (two adults and two children)

      Joint ticket - Return trip + Totnes Rare Breeds Farm
      Adult £13.00
      Senior Citizen £11.90
      Child £8.20 (5 years - 14 years; under 5s FREE)
      Family £38.60 (two adults and two children)

      We have visited the Otter and Butterfly attraction, this is again well worth a visit.

      Both Buckfastleigh and Totnes are themselves great places to visit. Its only a short 10 min walk to the famous Buckfastleigh Abbey. The high street in Totnes is on rather a steep hill so this needs to be considered.
      You need to check the timetable online to ensure the train is running.

      I would say that this is well worth a visit.

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      • More +
        11.06.2007 11:45
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        Great "special" event with Thomas, but seems expensive for "normal" days

        The South Devon Railway is, as the name suggests, a railway situated in South Devon, running steam trains from Totnes to Buckfastleigh. I visited with my family in May 2007, on a special “Day Out with Thomas” weekend.

        There are three working stations on the line: Buckfastleigh, Staverton and Totnes Littlehempstone. If you are travelling by car, it’s best to head to Buckfastleigh station where there is extensive free parking just off the main A38 road from Plymouth to Exeter. There is some limited free parking at Staverton. At Totnes station there is no parking, although you can park at the Main Line (First Great Western) station or the dedicated Totnes Council car park, for both of which there is a (reasonably steep) charge, and a short walk to the station. If coming by train, a good feature of this heritage line is that, unlike many others, you can buy a through ticket from the main line, although you do have to cross between the Main Line and Littlehempstone stations, via a short walk and a footbridge.

        Local buses serve all three stations, and in addition, Buckfastleigh operates a vintage bus (Routemaster) service between the station and the town centre, via Buckfast Abbey. The timetable can be found on the South Devon Railway website, www.southdevonrailway.org. I would thoroughly recommend taking this picturesque journey, as you get a great view of the surrounding countryside and Buckfast Abbey itself. The round trip only takes around 15 minutes and was the highlight of our visit, as they were operating an open-top vehicle. Also making an appearance was “Bertie” the railway bus, and “Bulgy”, who as fans of Thomas the Tank Engine will know, is very naughty – and instantly recognisable to his younger fans.

        The South Devon is a standard gauge line, opened as a preserved steam line in 1969. It is operated as a charity, the South Devon Railway Trust, and volunteers run steam hauled passenger trains from Easter to the end of October each year. They also operate a number of vintage diesels, and some rolling stock. Among the most famous of its locomotives is the Peckett 0-4-OST, “Lady Angela”, immortalised by Rev. W. Awdry in the Thomas the Tank Engine stories. Throughout the year the railway hosts a number of special events, such as the “Day Out with Thomas” weekend that we attended, or “Santa” trains. It is also possible to dine aboard one of the stylish Super Salon Pullman coaches on selected dates for traditional Sunday lunch or an evening meal, and I will certainly be trying to do this later in the year.

        On the day that we visited, the “Fat Controller” was in charge at Buckfastleigh station, and there were Firemen dressed in the old-fashioned blue costumes from the Thomas the Tank Engine stories. Many of the locomotive characters from the books were visiting, complete with plastic faces attached to the front to make them look exactly right. Of course, this included Thomas himself, and his fireman provided entertainment for the crowds, doing everything wrong as he attempted to fill up Thomas’s water tank (with a leaky bucket) and being told off by the Fat Controller for his efforts.

        Trains were running the full length of the line (30 minutes one-way), as usual, but there were extra trains laid on by “Duck” and “Julian” which just ran up to Staverton and back, and we took one of these, sitting aboard an old carriage on a leather bench seat. This was an approximately 20 minute trip, which was just long enough to please our two young sons, although I was a bit disappointed not to be able to disembark at Staverton station. I can understand why they did this though, as it was extremely busy and they wanted to make sure that everyone had a chance to ride. Since we live nearby, we popped into Staverton a few days later to have a look around instead. This is a very pretty “chocolate box” station and well worth a visit.

        After our ride with Duck, we visited the small museum exhibit on Platform 1, although to be honest, this wasn’t very interesting for the children, so we crossed the wooden footbridge to the Gardens and picnic area on the other side of the line. A miniature railway operates here, for which there is an extra (£1) charge and there is also a huge, open-air, model railway laid out on raised trestles, with steps up for children to be able to see. My boys enjoyed playing on the small adventure playground just a little further along. It is also in this area that you can see some of the restoration work occurring in the loco shed, although Buckfastleigh lacks the display space of other heritage lines that I have visited and they do not, for example, have their non-operational locos out on display.

        They do have a very pleasant café and courtyard (complete with gift shop of course) just outside the station entrance however, where you can sit with an ice cream or cream tea and watch the trains and buses coming and going.

        We paid £30 for a family ticket for our day out, although on a “normal” day return fares are slightly less than this, at £9.00 for adults, £5.40 for children or £26.00 for a family ticket for 2 adults and 2 children. Children under five are free, but not on special event days. It is also possible to purchase a combined ticket for the railway and the neighbouring attraction, Buckfast Butterflies and Otter Sanctuary. One downside is that it does not appear to be possible to purchase a platform ticket just to watch the steam trains operating up close without travelling on them.

        Overall, we had a very enjoyable day out because of the Thomas theme, and the line is one of the more picturesque that I have visited. It is also well located to be able to combine with other attractions (Buckfast Abbey, the Butterflies and Otter Sanctuary, or the Elizabethan town of Totnes) to make a very full day out. However, I do feel that it is slightly lacking in comparison to some other heritage lines as an attraction in its own right, as it does not have, for example, as many locomotives or wagons on display as there are at the Bluebell Railway in Sussex. For this reason, it seems expensive, especially as you can’t just buy a platform ticket to pop in for an hour or so. Overall though, I would still say that it is worth a visit, although we probably won’t visit again until next year.

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