Slumbering giants at Paignton Station, Devon.
One of the best things about passing through Paignton (other than watching the marvellous Oystercatchers at Preston) is the opportunity to pause awhile and take in the steam trains and carriages of the Dartmouth Steam Railway which roommates with the local British Rail station.
These stately engines, momentarily retired from service, wait for coaling and watering so that they can soon return to their bombast, vigour, and vim. If you are anywhere in Paignton you are likely to hear the shrill, joyful whistle of the trains as they clatter across Goodrington beach on their way to the epic Dart estuary terminus of Kingswear. As their well-polished livery passes by, this older somewhat tired seaside resort is momentarily lifted, standing to attention, with a nod to the jolly japes of yesteryear!
The beauty and romance of British steam.
South Devon has long boasted one of the most scenic and naturally beautiful portions of the British Rail network. The invention of the steam engine by Richard Trevithick in 1802 and its subsequent lightning speed innovation and deployment across the UK is a marvellous feat of engineering which is sadly underrated in these modern times.
More magnificent than the metal, steel, fire, and water was the mass human endeavour needed to get the whole thing up and running, particularly the efforts and sacrifices of the navvies who dug and laid sleeper by sleeper what is our modern rail network by hand.
Great Western Railway (GWR) has long been an emerald in the crown of the British railway system and from the mid 19th century the Torquay line progressively carved right around the bay to a branch line terminus at Brixham.
A trip to the English Riviera was incomplete without relaxing in a beautifully appointed carriage as you whistled through Dawlish onwards to your Torbay seaside getaway.
Beeching cut short the South Devon railways as the age of steam came to a close.
In the 1960s, Dr Richard Beeching, chairman of British Railways made swingeing cuts to many of the South Devon branch lines, a decision that remains controversial to this day.
As electric trains superseded the manual labour of steam, many of the beautiful engines were scrapped cutting off generations of engineering and manufacturing expertise.
When you take a look at this footage of a steam engine being built, you will see how much was being discarded:
Beeching’s loss is the Preservationists gain!
Almost as soon as Beeching’s axe had been wielded, steam enthusiasts with an understanding of the rich heritage that was about to be lost banded together and bought up the discarded railway.
By the early 1970s, Preservationists were running steam locomotives on the defunct Paignton to Kingswear line and have continued to this day.
With a gorgeous rolling stock and lovingly restored and maintained engines rescued from around the country, the Dartmouth Steam Railway is run to mainline standards.
Ride the Paignton to Kingswear line with Dartmouth Steam Railway or at least take in the sights and sounds of this remarkable vintage railway station!
It is excellent news that from mid-May 2021, the Dartmouth Steam Railway will be back in action running a reduced and albeit socially distanced service. Nevertheless, you can get on one of their trains once again!
Even if you aren’t able to get on board, make sure you take your little lads and young ladies down to see these magnificent engines at Paignton station or wave them by on Goodrington beach. If, like us, you enjoy a ramble from Sharkham point over to Kingswear, you should be able to catch a glimpse or at least hear the trains as they go by.