Notes: Halwill and Beaworthy Station was opened by the Devon and Cornwall Railway when the line from Meldon Junction to Holsworthy opened in 1879. In the early days, Halwill was only a passing place and wasn't formally renamed Halwill Junction until the 21st of July 1886 when the North Cornwall Railway opened its first section to Launceston
Halwill subsequently became the "largest single line junction in the country" when the North Devon and Cornwall Junction Light Railway (ND&CJLR) - a Colonel Stephens line - opened to Torrington in Southern Railway days on the 27th of July 1925.
Initially the station consisted of a large station building on the down (northbound) platform with several small buildings on the up (southbound) platform together with a small signal box. It had a passing loop with one siding on the down side which included a stone-built goods shed.
When Halwill became a junction with the opening of the North Cornwall line, a new large signal box was built on the up platform which controlled the junction and the new bay platform on the down side. In the down direction, the trackwork and signalling allowed a train to depart from the down platform towards Bude at the same time as a down train departed from the down bay over the North Cornwall line. In the up direction, there was an inner home signal which allowed up trains to be signalled into the bay. The latter signal was subsequently removed, however, and all up trains then arrived in the up platform.
At the same time as the down bay opened, the goods yard was expanded with three further sidings and a 50-foot turntable was installed. In LSWR days, a slaughter house was installed but the Southern Railway later demolished this and replaced it with a much larger one further north.
With the opening of the ND&CJLR in 1923, a new bay platform was added beyond the Bude end of the up platform which had no facilities at all - except for a running in board (which only ever showed Halwill) and a single bench seat. At the same time, the signal box was extended to accommodate extra levers - giving it an odd lop-sided look. The signal box now contained four single line token machines - the tokens being lowered to the platform by means of a bucket on a pulley!
As the ND&CJLR bay was largely self contained, two new ground frames were opened to control the ND&CJLR run-round loop and access between the ND&CJLR and the main line, both of which were beyond the ND&CJLR bay platform.
During the second world war, an up goods loop and a group of seven sidings was built to the south of the level crossing. The points at the up end of the loop and sidings were controlled by a new ground frame which was released by the electric key token for the Halwill - Ashbury section.
Over the years, the station had a number of names - which may or may not have been displayed. It opened as Halwill and Beaworthy in 1879, then became Halwill Junction in 1886 - which appeared for a while on the signal box. During Southern days (from 1923), the target signs only ever showed Halwill - one being displayed on the corner of the signal box. The down platform running in board took the prize however declaring : Halwill for Beaworthy - Junction for Bude, North Cornwall & Torrington Lines.
When the line opened in the spring of 1879, the LSWR - who worked the line from the start - ran six trains per day to Holsworthy, which increased to eight in the next few years but there were no trains on Sundays By the summer of 1914, the LSWR had 6 down trains to Padstow plus one to Launceston and nine to Bude. In the up direction, there were five from Padstow and eight from Bude. On Sundays, there was one train to/from Bude and one train to/from Launceston.
In the summer of 1932, the Southern Railway had modified the service only slightly to six down trains to Padstow plus one to Launceston and eight down trains to Bude. In the up direction there were six from Padstow plus one from Launceston and nine up trains from Bude. In most cases, the through trains to/from Padstow split from or combined with trains to/from Bude.
In BR days, there were four down trains over the North Cornwall line to Padstow plus one which only ran as far as Launceston. There were eight trains a day to Bude of which two started at Halwill. In the up direction there were four trains from Padstow and one from Launceston and six from Bude. On Sundays there were two trains to Bude and one to Launceston - largely to cover Royal Mail requirements.
Halwill saw much joining and splitting of through trains - including the portions of the Atlantic Coast Express to/from Padstow and Bude. In the up direction, the Bude train would arrive first, the loco would run-round and then pull the train back along the Bude branch. After the arrival of the Padstow train, the Bude portion would be propelled onto the rear to form the combined train to Okehampton, Exeter Central, or Waterloo.
The ND&CJLR line only ever had two trains a day from Halwill to Torrington which departed at 10:38 a.m. and 6:30 p.m. On arrival at Halwill, the train - which normally consisted of a tank engine and single brake composite coach - had to reverse out of the bay platform to get to the run-round loop (which it had passed through on the way in). Having run-round its single coach, the loco backed the train into the bay platform once more ready for departure. Steam hauled trains through Halwill ceased from 1st January 1965 and the Torrington service was withdrawn on 1st March 1965. The last train through Halwill was on 1st October 1966 (a Saturday) with official closure from 3rd October.
One of the 'busiest' times at Halwill in BR days was the departure of the 6:21 p.m. to Padstow, followed by the 6:25 p.m. to Bude and the 6:30 p.m. to Torrington. At other times, Halwill was quiet for long periods.
Apart from the usual general goods, the main freight at Halwill was meat from the slaughter house. Cattle vans arrived from all over the area, the cattle were slaughtered and then - in BR days - the meat was packed into a number of containers each day which were mounted on 'Conflat' wagons (Conflat stands for 'container flat' wagon). These wagons were usually attached to the 3:13 p.m. 'up perisher' departure from Padstow which left Halwill some two hours later at 5:00 p.m. The station closed to freight traffic on 7th September 1964.
The area around the former Halwill station site has undergone residential development and is named 'Halwill Junction' after its former station. A housing estate stands near the site of the station, on a road somewhat ironically named 'Beeching Close' .
In 1990 the Devon Wildlife Trust purchased from British Rail and a private landowner a section of trackbed around Halwill to create a nature reserve covering an area of 2¾ hectares divided into five compartments. In 1998 Devon County Council began works to establish a cycleway to cross the site; this was completed in April 2005 when a 2½ mile cycleway, forming part of the National Cycle Network National was opened which runs from the village centre via Beeching Close through the nature reserve and the woods on an elevated boardbank to the Forest Centre at Cookworthy. The section was opened as part of a plan by the County Council to extend the Tarka Trail to Hatherleigh station, from where the Ruby Way will continue to Halwill Junction and then on to Holsworthy and Bude.
There are plans to further increase the cycle network by reopening the section east towards Meldon Junction. In 2005 Devon County Council agreed in principle to the creation of a bridleway on an intact disused section of the Bude Branch from Thorndon Cross (near the former Meldon Junction) and Halwill, a distance of approximately 7 miles. The proposal has made slow progress in the face of objections from local residents and the prohibitive prices demanded for the sale of their land by trackbed owners. In 2007 the Council again reiterated its intention to convert the disused railway to public amenity, reaffirming its intention to create cycleways on the sections from Bude to Halwill and Torrington to Halwill.
Tickets from Michael Stewart & (5233) Brian Halford. Route map drawn by Alan Young.
See: North Cornwall Railway web site for more pictures of Halwill
See also: Torrington & Padstow