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Article posted on Monday, 17th September 2018
We are down in Devon, staying not far from the River Dart and The South Devon Railway at Buckfastleigh Station. 

As you are probably aware, by now, I rather like the steam engines, however, today due to a technical hitch the only passenger service available was diesel. I was a tad disappointed but as we pulled into the ample car park at Buckfastleigh, we heard the characteristic toot! toot! of a steam engine and spied the familiar plume of steam.

As we trooped over the passenger bridge towards the platform, to await the arrival of others, we could see the glorious Great Western 6412, 0-6-0 pannier tank engine, (I always fancy these engines look rather like a match box from the front), in full steam with four carriages behind, awaiting the signal to leave the station. 


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Pausing on the bridge we watched as a few excited "would be train drivers", on a footplate experience day, inch out of the station billowing smoke around our feet as they departed up the line for Totnes. I must admit I felt a tinge of envy as the last carriage (carrying the name EMMA) disappeared from view. I think I might like a footplate experience!!!.


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Having photographed the signal box from the steps of the bridge we alighted onto the platform and headed for the museum, a truly fascinating place.  


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In pride of place we found TINY 151,Brunel's broad-gauge engine (on loan from the National Railway Museum).  It was mounted on the original partially hollowed track called bridge rail.  I was a little startled to find that it boasted a vertical boiler and hubby pointed out the vertical cylinders. He also urged me to look at the broad-gauge carriage.  You can get up close to all the items on display and even sit inside the carriage. There were many smaller gauge engines on display and other related items to view as well. Lots to look at.

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As we exited the museum a diesel loco drew into the station. My other half pointed out the shunter cups (caps). These are depicted in the photograph and hang on a hook with a chain attached to them, so that when a carriage, or a piece of rolling stock, is being propelled during a shunting operation they prevent the buffer springs being compressed each time a movement is carried out, the cups are placed on the shank of the buffer to make it a rigid structure.



He also spotted the water tower situated by a beautiful set of signals. He pointed out the brazier positioned below the take-off pipe, to be lit in icy conditions so that the steam engines can be watered, no matter how cold the weather. Seen alongside SEA KING the Bo-Bo Diesel Loco which hauled us to Totnes.


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We were joined by friends and all went into the café. A big building at the rear of the station with a gift shop next door selling 00 gauge model engines and other memorabilia. Choosing a table outside to accommodate two children and a big golden Labrador dog, we found the café offered a good selection of meals and beverages at a reasonable price.

Having eaten, and the remainder of our party having arrived, we all boarded the 2.15pm to Totnes following the River Dart to Staverton and on to Totnes Riverside. As we pulled smoothly away we passed an 0-6-0, 08 class diesel electric locomotive. We were informed that there were many of these produced around the time of nationalisation (British Railways).

As can be seen from the photograph the origins of this locomotive are very evident, you can see it has a chassis with more than a nod to steam locomotive design, spoked wheels, coupling rods, leaf springs and a rigid plate frame with horn cheeks. This design allowed engineering plants, that had the machinery and skills suitable for the existing manufacture of steam locomotives, to produce a very rugged chassis for a highly acclaimed diesel electric locomotive. The diesel electric part supplanting the steam section of the locomotive.



Children all settled into their seats and dog stretched out on the floor, the adults were free to chatter and enjoy the scenery. The Dart was quite low today but there were still a few people in canoes and small boats sailing downstream. Straight out of Buckfastleigh, I noticed all the brown cows in the fields possibly the South Devon or just Devon breed, one such herd of cattle with suckler calves was being inspected by the farmer.

Two of the younger members of the party were particularly enjoying the journey and have taken a keen interest in steam and railways in general. Their grandfather has recently purchased a 32mm gauge (16mm scale) loco called Russell. On Thursday evening said grandfather fired it up for the first time. It is gas fired, steam propelled, and he had brought along a rolling road for it to run on, as track is rather difficult to lay in a caravan awning. So, by torch light we were running time trials on the small engine, or rather just timing how long it could run for on one filling of gas (which turned out to be around 32 minutes). 

We all enjoyed this exercise so much that we declared it to be the very best bit of the whole weeks holiday. My hubby commented "That's the train bug for you, once you have caught it you never get it out of your system!!!" 



We glided to a halt at Staverton Station, an excellent replica of a Great Western Railway station in its heyday. On our way in we had passed some rolling stock and there was also a track laying train in a siding. Continuing down the line enjoying the sunshine and lovely Devonshire scenery we finally came to a halt at Totnes Riverside Station. Here we had fifteen minutes to alight, as the engine ran around to the other end of the train. I was very impressed with the external design of the toilet block here. It had a Great Western Pagoda roof and looked charming. Ice creams purchased, children and the dog ushered back on board we all enjoyed the return trip.


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All too soon we found ourselves back on the platform at Buckfastleigh but the fun was not over, as we sauntered over the bridge to the far side of the complex that has a large garden railway (32mm), a butterfly and otter park and a 7¼" gauge track that was running.

We all piled onto the two carriages of a Roanoke 0-4-0 with tender engine. This delightful little track also runs along a small stretch of the river Dart and then through a lovely wooded area and on through a tunnel, into some more formal planted areas. It also passes a small yard storing spares for engines which my other half found very exciting as he pointed out boiler plate formers, railway chairs and some stock that was waiting for repair.

Sadly, the garden railway was not operating at the time of our visit but my husband took some photographs along with one of a fascinating dragonfly sculpted in steel, and that ended our lovely day.


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As a footnote to this I would like to mention that I found all the staff and volunteers charming, helpful and very informative. I was also taken with a brindle whippet (apologies if I have the breed wrong) and a black boxer Labrador cross called Oliver, apparently both dogs can frequently be seen on Buckfastleigh Station. So, if you are a dog lover look out for them when you visit.