Bicton Woodland Railway
(Picture: Courtesy of Michael Wadman Flickr)
The Bicton Woodland Railway is located in the grounds of Bicton Park and Botanical Gardens in Budleigh Salterton, Devon.
It was the first private 18 inch gauge passenger carrying railway in the UK and is today, the only line of it’s type left in the UK.
The line was built in 1962 as an added attraction when the House and Gardens opened to the Public. The majority of the Locomotives and Rolling Stock were purchased from the MoD’s Woolwich Arsenal Railway. Two locomotives, an Avonside 0-4-0T Woolwich and Hunslet 0-4-0+0-4-0DM Carnegie were purchased from here along with several wagons which would later be rebuilt as passenger coaches.
The line opened for business the next year . A substantial station was built consisting of four platforms, three loops and a single road engine shed with a second road covered by a lean-to.
The line totals an impressive 1 1/2 miles in length and has an interesting layout. From the station, the line swerves sharply to the left and runs beside the lake before approaching a “Triangle”. The trains passes through the Triangle and turns off to the left running for a short distance, before entering a Balloon loop.
After traversing the Loop, the train passes back through the Triangle this time heading straight on, running further alongside the lake before arriving at the Hermitage terminus and farthest edge of the grounds. Here the locomotive runs round it’s train, before making it’s way back to the Triangle, turning left back onto the lakeside stretch back to the main station.
As mentioned earlier, two locomotives were purchased from the Woolwich Arsenal Railway. The steam locomotive, 0-4-0T No.1 [BWR Number] Woolwich was built by Avonside of Bristol. A considerably large engine for such a narrow gauge! The other was an articulated Diesel Mechanical, Carnegie, built by Hunslet of Leeds, and was by all accounts a “Beast” of an engine!
A couple of other, smaller locos were purchased to compliment the larger locos. Bicton was a Ruston & Hornsby 0-4-0DM and was numbered BWR No.3. The other loco Was another Ruston which had been re-gauged by another line from 2ft to 18″ before being purchased by the BWR in 1974, named Budley and numbered BWR No.4. This loco spent the latter days at Bicton on display in the Carpark adjacent to the station.
In 2000 the Gardens were sold and the new owners decided in 2003 to sell Woolwich [Which was out of ticket by this point] and Carnegie, both of which were purchased by the Royal Gunpowder Mills at Walton Abbey. Woolwich is undergoing restoration, Carnegie will follow once complete.
Bicton was retained and was joined in 2000 by an Alan Keef built 0-4-0 Diesel Hydraulic steam-outline loco named Sir Walter Raleigh. 4 new coaches were also purchased with this loco, the majority of the old stock also being sold to Walton Abbey.
Bicton recently had a new body fitted, replacing the old steam-outline with a new Keef design, similar to Walter Raleigh.
Budley also now resides at Waltam Abbey, minus its engine, which has to be replaced before she is returned to service!
Little has changed since the line opened with the exception of the new locos mentioned earlier. The station has in recent years seen the fitting of an overall roof over the main platform, and the old Lean-to on the side of the engine shed has now been completely covered and formed into part of the shed.
One other loco not mentioned above is an 0-4-0DM named Clinton, used for works trains.
(Pictures above: Courtesy of Michael Wadman)