Celebrating South Devon Railway's 150th Anniversary
We chatted with South Devon Railway's €‹Operations Manager, Alasdair Page€‹, to find out more about the railway's heritage and what their 150th Anniversary entails.
Locomotive 5526 and two Victorian coaches heading to Totnes
How did the South Devon Railway begin?
The railway was opened by the Buckfastleigh, Totnes & South Devon Railway in 1872. The line was later absorbed into the Great Western Railway and then finally by British Railways in 1948. The railway closed to passengers in 1958.
A group of businessmen decided that running a steam railway would be an attractive tourist attraction and in 1969 the Dart Valley Railway opened up as far as Buckfastleigh as the remaining line to Ashburton was due to be covered over by the new A38 road.
By 1991, the Dart Valley Railway had another successful tourist railway operation in Torbay, so they decided to terminate operation of the not so profitable Buckfastleigh line. The South Devon Railway was then formed as a charitable organisation to take over and the railway run mainly by volunteers.
What events have you got planned for South Devon Railway's 150th anniversary?
We have a three day event taking place this Bank Holiday, 30th April €“ 2nd May. Visitors will be able to enjoy a journey behind the former Ashburton Branch engine, 4555, as well as ride in some historic GWR carriages, including an 1881 built saloon. The Bigjigs Rail GWR Saddle Engine is inspired by South Devon Railway's real-life GWR steam engine.
There are also special displays, recreations and additions that demonstrate the history of this iconic branch line to really bring history back to life. Victorian couple, Frank and Eliza (courtesy of the Ceridwen Theatre Company), are on hand to take you back in time to May 1872.
We welcome visitors to join in with the Victorian fun by coming in period Victorian dress - a great excuse to blend in with the historic carriages, stations and actors. To find out more, click here.
What is one of your best memories of SDR?
The 50th Anniversary in April 2019 was a great milestone event where we celebrated half a century of our railway being preserved. During the event we reunited our old locomotives with many of the volunteers from the past and present.
What is your favourite toy train?
The Bigjigs Rail Heritage Collection Black 5. We were fortunate enough to have a Black 5 visit us at Buckfastleigh in 2010.
What is next for South Devon Railway?
We are looking forward to another busy summer season of running steam trains daily through the valley of the River Dart. Believe it or not, preparation is already underway for our Polar Express trains this Christmas!