Station Name: AVONWICK

[Source: Nick Catford]


Date opened: 19.12.1893
Location: On the west side of an un-named minor road
Company on opening: Great Western Railway
Date closed to passengers: 16.9.1963
Date closed completely: 16.9.1963
Company on closing: British Railways (Western Region)
Present state: The station has been tastefuly renovated and converted into a private dwelling retaining most of its original external features. A small stone building nearby is probably the weigh office.
County: Devon
OS Grid Ref: SX718576
Date of visit: 25.4.2006

Notes: The station house is of grey stone with ractangular granite framed windows and square topped chimneys, similar to other stations on the branch.

The station was the quietest on the line, losing its goods service on 11th June 1956. On the same date the station was downgraded to an unstaffed halt.. A loop line serving two small sidings, one to cattle pens was lifted in December 1956.

After closure the station remained derelict until it was bought by the present owners Bob & Beryl Gale in Nov 1970. The owners have, in the past, been troubled by trespassers but are pleased to show the station to intereseted visitors.

BRIEF HISTORY OF THE BRENT - KINGSBRIDGE BRANCH RAILWAY
Before the opening of the branch line to Kingsbridge the town was served by Wrangaton Station which was opened on the 5th May 1848 on the South Devon Railway which had opened between Exeter and Plymouth in 1846. Shortly after opening the station was renamed Kingsbridge Road, but reverted back to its original name when the GWR opened the Kingsbridge branch in 1893.

The Kingsbridge branch was a long time coming as many local residents didn't support the line as the town was served by three good coach services. The Kingsbridge & Salcombe Railway was incorporated in 1882, the company being taken over by the Great Western Railway in 1888.

The line left the Exeter - Plymouth line at Brent which became a junction station and followed the scenic Avon Valley for 12.3 miles into Kingsbridge with intermediate stations at Avonwick, Gara Bridge and Loddiswell. The line crossed the River Avon ten times but the only major engineering feat was the 638 years Sorley Tunnel which takes the line beneath Sorley village. Because it hugged the narrow Avon valley there was barely a straight length of track on the whole branch with the three intermediate stations and the terminus at Kingsbridge all built on a curve. The line was single throughout with a passing loop at Gara Bridge Station. Initial plans to extend the line five miles south along the side of the estuary to Snapes Point at Salcombe were never implemented and Kingsbridge remained the railhead for Salcombe. The opening of the branch brought new prosperity to Salcombe but the failure to extend beyond Kingsbridge prevented the wholesale development of the town as a tourist destination. In the early days a horse drawn coach did brisk business meeting trains and taking passengers on to Salcombe.

The line, which became known as the Primrose Line had a quite life relying heavily on leisure traffic. In 1934 the GWR introduced 'camping coaches' at the the stations consisting of old coaches converted into holiday accommodation. The weekday Cornish Rivera Express carried a through coach for Kingsbridge which was detached at Exeter in the down direction and attached to the up train at Newton Abbott. At weekends the branch had a direct service to and from Paddington. During WW2 there was an increase in traffic during the build up to D-Day.

After the war passenger traffic dwindled during the 1950's due to the popularity of the car and it came as no surprise that an early closure under the Beeching proposals was announced. It is interesting to note that traffic on the Kingsbridge line increased by around 25% in its last twelve months of life and a summer Saturdays through train to Paddington was packed out during the summer months prior to the lines closure. Goods traffic at Kingsbridge was also very heavy during the last summer on the line but there was no last minute reprieve. The line lost its passenger and goods service on 16th September 1963 despite a spirited local campaign to keep the line open as a preserved line. This campaign failed at the 11th hour due to the intransigence of the British Railways Board and the group turned their attention to the Buckfastleigh line which opened as the Dart Valley Railway in 1969 and now operate as the South Devon Railway. Track lifting along the Kingsbridge line was completed in May 1964.

Today parts of the route has been turned into a public footpath although plans for a cycle way were dropped. Sorley Tunnel has been used as part of an Adventure World tourist attraction but this is now due to close.

To see the other stations on the Brent - Kingsbridge branch railway click on the station name: Brent, Gara Bridge, Loddiswell & Kingsbridge




Avonwick Station in c. 1910
Copyright photo from John Alsop collection




Avonwick Station in summer 2005
Photo by Bob Gale

1910

1921

2005

November 2005

November 2005

November 2005

2006

2006

2006

2006

Click on thumbnail to enlarge

 

 

 

[Source: Nick Catford]


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