Station Name: HALWILL
[Source: Martin James]

Click here for Halwill Gallery 4: August 1964 - c1964


An interesting and relatively usual view just north of Halwill station and showing two portions of the ‘Atlantic Coast Express’ (ACE). The locomotive is Maunsell N class No.31846 and the date is Saturday 22 August 1964. This locomotive, together with the ACE, was withdrawn the following month but No.31846 is nonetheless maintaining a good head of steam as she comes off the North Cornwall line with the Padstow portion of the ACE. The lack of a headboard was not unusual particularly, apparently, on Saturdays but carriage roofboards also appear to be absent. The train, which had departed Padstow at 8.30am, comprises Bulleid 5-set No.838 and was one of the sets allocated to Waterloo - Weymouth and Waterloo - West of England routes. The train on the right is the Bude portion of the ACE, comprising a Bulleid 3-set. It had departed Bude at 9.30am and arrived Halwill 10.10am. Coupled to its far end is BR Standard 4MT tank No.80039. This train would linger at Halwill for sixteen minutes. The procedure was as follows. The Bude portion of the ACE would arrive at Halwill station and the locomotive run round. Then with passengers from Bude and stations to Dunsland Cross remaining on board would draw out the station to where it is seen here and await the arrival of the Padstow portion, due at 10.22am. Once the Padstow portion was at the platform, the Bude portion would be pushed to the station and the two trains coupled. The Bude locomotive, No.80039 in this instance, would detach and run to the locomotive sidings behind the goods yard. In the down direction the procedure was reversed, not just with the ACE but also with dividing Exeter or Okehampton to Padstow/Bude local services. With the Padstow and Bude portions coupled, the ACE would then depart Halwill at 10.26am. With additional portions attached along the way, the ACE would not reach Waterloo until 3.40pm. While these timings may appear tediously slow, not helped by the ACE calling at almost every little wayside station within the West Country, if the railways to Halwill, Bude and Padstow were still open today the journey time would probably not be much of an improvement. Worth mentioning is that there was also an ACE portion from Torrington but this ran via Barnstaple where it joined with yet another portion from Ilfracombe. Certain portions had, however, already been withdrawn prior to the demise of the ACE. The stock of the Bude portion seen in this view cannot be identified. The set is either 701, 761 or 781 but is too unclear to confirm which. The track in the foreground is the Torrington branch, which parallels the Bude branch before swinging away eastwards beyond the end of the cutting in the distance. A mix of upper and lower quadrant signals can be seen and in particular the rather oddly sited lower quadrant where the North Cornwall line swings away. On the left, a rake of cattle wagons are stabled on the goods yard headshunt. Once a common sight across the network, these wagons were generally XP rated which meant they were fitted with the continuous brake and screw couplings and could be attached to passenger trains but with speed restrictions applied according to wheelbase and other factors. During the 1960s British Rail reduced the speed limits for such wagons following a number of derailments and despite the general loss of such traffic to road transport this helped to hammer the final nail into the railway cattle traffic coffin. One aspect of the railway now largely forgotten is that certain staff were required to be competent in livestock handling and welfare. Cattle, sheep, pigs etc. had to be fed, watered, wagons and pens cleaned and veterinary assistance summoned if necessary. All this was the responsibility of the railway and offers a glimpse at one of the many reasons why wagon-load traffic was uneconomic and ultimately phased out.
Photo from Jim Lake collection

Halwill in August 1964 with 'Mongoliper' N class 2-6-0 No.31853 standing at the up platform. One of the Ashford-built examples, she was withdrawn the following month having been resident at Exmouth Junction shed since June 1959. No.31853 appears to be heading a goods train of open wagons, and what is presumably the fireman is leaving, or climbing back onto, the footplate. The level crossing is closed to the road and a number of intending passengers are waiting on the down platform. It would therefore appear that a passenger train is approaching from the south and once this has cleared the single-line section and the necessary token exchange completed No.31853 will trundle on her way. The simplistic, but very presentable, station building will be noted, as will the Halwill & Beaworthy running-in board bearing 'change here for' information which at this time was all still relevant.
Photo received from Sid Sponheimer

On 29 August 1964 unrebuilt Bulleid Pacific No.34107 'Blandford Forum' is signalled away from Halwill. The train is presumably a portion of the ‘Atlantic Coast Express’ (ACE) and comprises portions from Padstow and Bude which will have joined at Halwill. This may explain the presence of the second locomotive visible in the distance, which may have come off the Bude portion. The splitting and joining of ACE portions at Halwill was a complex affair and one probably responsible for the shunt signal on the left which applied to movements on the down line but in the up direction. Out of view to the left was the south end of Halwill goods yard, on the west side of which was the locomotive turntable. A third locomotive appears to be present either in the bay platform or near the goods shed, both being in the left background. The signals in the background were on two separate gantries and not one as this view may imply. They were the down starting signals and applied to the junctions to the north of the station. The stubby post between the tracks in the foreground was for the level crossing gates. In contrast to the rest of the station, the gates themselves appear to have been in a quite shabby condition by this date. The train is formed of mainly Bulleid stock but, ironically, the vehicle immediately behind the locomotive is not easy to identify. It has the look of an ex-GWR Collett vehicle about it but in actuality is probably of Maunsell origin. The ACE ceased to run shortly after this photograph was taken, as did No.34107 and she had been scrapped by the end of the year. As is well known, the lines serving the coastal towns of Devon and Cornwall very much relied upon the seasonal holiday trade as, indeed, did many others. Devon and Cornwall are delightful counties with plenty to offer so it is sad to think this has largely been forsaken for foreign holidays with supposedly guaranteed sunshine, plus budget airline sandwiches along the way. Had this not been the case and as with other locations in Devon and Cornwall which did manage to keep their railways, it may have still been possible today to pass through Halwill by train, albeit in a clinical modern DMU complete with tedious announcements, no room for bicycles and the ever-present threat of reprisals against those travelling with the wrong ticket no matter how innocently it was purchased.
Photo received from Sid Sponheimer

The north end of Halwill station in the 1960s. On the right a single-unit railcar, later Class 122, waits at the rudimentary and slightly comical Torrington bay platform. The North Cornwall & Devon Junction Light Railway had its origins in a narrow gauge (3ft) line serving the ball clay industry. Under the auspices of Colonel H F Stephens it was converted to standard gauge and extended through to Halwill, which it reached in 1925. It was this late date which, together with the line being a light railway, was the reason for the bay platform having to use what space was available at the pre-existing Halwill station and thus was a rudimentary affair. Perhaps more to the point was what the NC&DJLR could afford or was willing the pay the Southern Railway. The line remained independent until nationalisation. Only six years older than the diesel railcar is BR Standard 4MT 2-6-4T No.80041, seen here performing some sort of manoeuvre but quite what is unclear. It has not used the crossover, not is its front end displaying a headcode. The 4MT tanks busied themselves in the area alongside Ivatt 2-6-2T's and other BR Standard types, both tank and tender. Staying with the relevant 4MT tanks, following one of two teething troubles the type was decent and powerful, for its size, machines. Under the direction of Robert 'Robin' Riddles the type was designed at Brighton, where the majority of the 155-strong class was built. They were based upon the LMS Fairburn 2-6-4T but incorporated features common to all the BR Standards intended to make the work of the crews and fitters easier. Loading gauge considerations resulted in the distinctive curve to the water tanks and cab when compared to the Fairburns. One problem which affected some the class and which should have been picked up upon the design stage was the tank ventilators obstructing drivers' view. No.80041 was one of those so-plagued, the design being modified from No.80059 onwards. Allocated from new to all BR regions apart from the Western, they were thus 'foreigners' when the WR took over the former Southern lines in the South-West. No.80041 was based at Exmouth Junction from July 1962 until June 1965. Diesel railcars appeared in 1963, with the WR takeover, so this view will date from the 1963 - 1965 period. She carries no shedplate but the outline of, and mounting bolts for, are visible on the smokebox door. Fifteen of the class survive in preservation but No.80041 is not among them; she was withdrawn in March 1966 and scrapped soon afterwards. Having not even seen 14 full years’ service, this highlights well the saga of the BR Standard steam locomotives albeit not as bad as certain of the diesels which replaced them, which did not even attain a service life reaching double figures.
Photo received from Sid Sponheimer


Halwill was one of those railway gems which are now found only in the history books; a rural station somewhat 'in the middle of nowhere' and yet which could be a hive of activity as the junction for several branch lines as well as seeing main line trains. One such hive of activity can be seen here in this 1964 view. In the down main platform and the bay two single-unit railcars of what became Class 121 can be seen, built by the Pressed Steel Co. in 1960. Both are displaying headcode 2C77; '2' indicating branch or secondary service; 'C' indicating the Western Region's Plymouth Division; '77' indicating the route which in this case was Bude. The railcar at the main platform has probably come from Okehampton while that in the bay is probably on layover between Halwill - Bude shuttles. At the up platform a Class 116 3-car DMU stands. It will be rasping away towards Okehampton and perhaps Exeter. The unit displays the 2-character type of headcode fitted to many DMUs. It is showing 'C2', the usual code for units so-fitted in this area and which means simply Plymouth Division (C) local/branch service (2). In other words the same as the first two characters as used in the 4-character headcodes but reversed. The purpose of headcodes was to enable staff, and in particular signalmen, to identify the type and route of trains. Further, the railway used these codes to reference trains in logs, working timetables and other documentation. Headcodes are still used today but are no longer displayed on trains as centralised signalling and electronic train identification methods have rendered the practice unnecessary. The exception was the electric trains of the former Southern Region which continued to carry 2-character route numbers but this has, at the time of writing, all but been phased out with the introduction of modern rolling stock. Class 116 were 3-car high density, ie suburban, DMUs built at BR Derby Works. Other similar types were built by contractors but Class 116 was distinguishable by not having a roof mounted headcode box. They lacked toilets and, originally, internal gangway connections. The class was allocated new to the Western Region, as were other similar suburban types, but was more familiar on local services in and around the bigger cities such as Birmingham, Bristol and Cardiff. Together with single-unit classes 121/2, their use in Devon and Cornwall offered little improvement over the steam-hauled stock they replaced. Nevertheless, for the first few years after introduction DMUs proved popular with the travelling public and the suburban types were perfectly adequate for local journeys. As with other DMU types, line closures meant they spread their proverbial wings and a few members of Class 116 ended up on suburban services out of King's Cross until displaced by electrification. A long way from King's Cross, the 42-lever signal box at Halwill has been stated as being the largest box on a single-track system anywhere in the country but the claim is far from being true. What might be true is Halwill box, after all routes to the station were opened, being the most complex on a single-track system by virtue of its containing no less than four Tyers single line tablet instruments. As in other views, the Southern fixtures and fittings, including 'targets' are to be noted as is what is presumed to be telephone on the far left although quite what its purpose was, being so close to the signal box, is unclear.
Photo received from Sid Sponheimer

On 22 August 1964 a BR 4MT tank departs Halwill with a service to Bude. The two coaches have split from the train at the platform, which will shortly depart for Padstow behind another locomotive. It will not be the locomotive just visible of the right, which is another 4MT tank, but a third locomotive which will be waiting somewhere behind the photographer. The signalman has reset the starter signal to 'on' promptly. Unfortunately it is not known if what we are seeing here is part of the ‘Atlantic Coast Express’ or an Exeter or Okehampton to Padstow/Bude local service but the rolling stock, all main line corridor types, suggests the former. The two detached coaches forming the Bude portion are BR Mk1 types. The first is a BSK (Corridor Brake Second) but the second has a 3 + 4 bay arrangement suggesting an all-first vehicle, either an FO or an FK. Either type, Mk1 FO or FK, was uncommon on Southern metals and that is notwithstanding Halwill coming under the Western Region by this date. The livery of the two Mk1 coaches is also a puzzle. They appear to be in carmine and cream (officially crimson and cream) but 1964 was a little late for this. The Western Region opted, for a time, for a chocolate and cream livery but even on a black and white photograph the contrast was quite obvious. On the left is the Torrington bay with its running-in board displaying simply 'Halwill'. At one time it displayed 'Halwill Junction', the only board on the station to do so, others displaying 'Halwill for Beaworthy' originally and later with added connections information. Thus although the Torrington platform was physically connected to the up platform of the main part of the station, the varying names implied two different stations and in one sense until 1948 this could be said to have been the case.
Photo by Roger Joanes

Again on 22 August 1964, with the Bude portion having left, N class No.31853 departs Halwill with the Padstow portion of the same train. The stock is one of the Bulleid 5-sets. The scruffy condition of the locomotive tells us that she was a resident of Exmouth Junction. It was very thoughtful of the staff at this shed to provide an easy way of identifying a locomotive's base! To be fair, during the rundown of the steam fleet few sheds bothered to keep their allocations looking smart as there was arguably little point. No.31853 was withdrawn shortly after this photograph was taken, having been at Exmouth Junction since June 1959. It is difficult to say if the steam at the rear of the tender has drifted back from the engine of it the steam heating for the train is operative. If the latter it must have been a chilly day despite it being August. The ‘Atlantic Coast Express’, if this is what this train is, was withdrawn two weeks after this scene was photographed.
Photo by Roger Joanes

One of the very few views from inside Halwill goods yard, in this case on 22 August 1964. The train is entering the yard and passing between the slaughterhouse and goods shed. In the left background part of the Torrington platform can be just be made out and one of the bracket signals for the Padstow and Bude lines. The train has come from the North Cornwall line and the N class No.31845 is using headcode lamps as opposed to discs. This usually indicated that all or part of the train's journey, part in this case, was undertaken during the hours of darkness. The nature of wagon-load goods trains on lines where there were numerous goods yards and sidings to be shunted, such as between Padstow and Halwill, meant such trains could and did take many hours to complete the journey and often occupied an entire shift for the crew. No.31845 would be directed within the yard by a shunter (a member of station staff), then uncoupled and taken to the turntable, if necessary, and water tower. Another locomotive, which on this day was a BR 4MT tank, would then deal with the shunting. The remarshalled train would then be taken forward by either No.31845 or, more likely, another locomotive. The goings-on in Halwill yard could have occupied a further few hours depending on what was required to be unloaded, loaded, attached or detached. This type of work became increasingly unprofitable, especially after the advent of reliable road transport, and plodding goods trains became a nuisance when BR wished to speed up and increase the frequency of passenger services. BR wanted rid of these goods trains and must have been relieved when Dr Beeching announced their phasing out in favour of block and Freightliner trains. That said, it took over two decades before wagon load goods trains disappeared altogether. Behind No.31845 is a 'Van B' (or 'Bogie B') Southern Railway parcels brake van. There were two mains types of these, with and without a stove. Those with a stove had orange panels painted onto the bodysides and in this form looked rather peculiar. The van seen here at Halwill appears not to be so-adorned. These and many similar pre-nationalisation-designed vans survived well into the BR blue era and finally disappeared en-masse in the late 1980s. By the time of this photograph the former Southern lines in the area were under the control of the Western Region and No.31845 is carrying an 83D shedplate, this being the Western Region's rendition of Exmouth Junction. Previously 72A under the Southern Region's system, the shed became 83D in September 1963. Although the date of this photograph is known, little details like this, when visible, are always useful for approximate dating of otherwise undated photographs.
Photo by Roger Joanes

Pressed Steel Co. diesel railcar No.W55031 waits in the down bay at Halwill. It is displaying the headcode, 2C77, for Bude. Certain features are worth a mention. Note how the overhead warning flashes have been positioned partly over the so-called 'speed whiskers', creating something of a visual mess. Speed whiskers were to be phased out and replaced with yellow warning panels whilst the warning flashes would have been positioned according to a BR directive. Later, a single flash was usually positioned at the top of the windscreen on the secondman's side, i.e. on the left as we look at No.W55031. These flashes were introduced following one or two tragedies involving firemen climbing onto steam locomotive tenders or bunkers beneath overhead wires. Flashes became a standard fitting regardless of whether vehicles operated beneath overhead wires or not. Below the two marker lights are the blue square coupling codes, these indicated to staff that units with the same code could couple together and work in multiple with all units so-coupled being controlled from the leading cab. On the bufferbeam the various connections for vacuum, air and electrical jumper cables can be seen. Vacuum was for the brakes and air for the epicyclic gearbox (not 'preselect' as they are sometimes misdescribed). Warning horns were also below the bufferbeam. At the bottom corner of the dash the railcar's data panel can be seen. This gives information on weight and dimensions as well as the date the railcar was new, in this case 4 - 12 - 60 (4 December 1960). Also present are the letters MBS, for Motor Brake Second. The SP date is also given (workshop date) but it is too unclear to read for certain although it appears to be 12-65 (December 1965). This is the only clue we have as to the date of this photograph. It may be observed that DMU destination blinds in the area were usually left blank. The reason was not laziness but because the units were fitted with Western Region blinds when new and these did not foresee the takeover by the WR of the ex-Southern lines in the West Country. Bodmin, however, was on the blinds due to the Bodmin Road - Bodmin General section and it is thought Padstow also appeared on the blinds of certain units. On the platform, the trolley can be seen marked 'Halwill J -'. This was common practice and done for accountancy reasons. The double bracket platform lamp will also be noted as will the concrete 'fencing' on the right, another product of the Southern's Exmouth Junction concrete works. Of No.W55031, she went on to enter departmental stock as one of the Severn Tunnel emergency trains as did No.W55027 and both are now preserved. Meanwhile, as of 2016, two, 55020/34 remain in revenue service while a third, 55022 remains in non-passenger
use as a route learner.
Photo by Rev. Peter Westall

A DMU enthusiasts’ delight at Halwill, very likely on the same day as the view of No.W55031 (above) in the down bay, seen here in the left background. At the down platform another Pressed Steel Co single-unit stands displaying headcode 2C61 on its rear; this was the code for Okehampton - Halwill. In the Torrington bay stands another single-unit, this time one of the Gloucester RC&W cars, later Class 122. This view can therefore be dated to the 1963-65 period. Entering the up platform and apparently emerging from the sidings is a 3-car DMU of what became Class 116. When you think, for example, of commuters from Kings Cross having to put up with two decades of Cravens DMUs on many suburban services for which the Cravens were totally unsuited, you must wonder why high density suburban units such as Class 116 were seen pottering around the byways of Devon and Cornwall. The answer probably lay with diagrams; the Plymouth Division's high density units would be found on more appropriate services during the peak hours and for school traffic, with quieter periods and weekends spent on said byway potterings. In the event, a handful of Class 116 did end up on Kings Cross suburban duties but that is another story. On the up platform is a mix of railway staff, ordinary passengers and railway enthusiasts. Whilst the latter might suggest the Class 116 is operating a railtour, there are not enough enthusiasts present for this to have been the case so the DMU is most likely about to operate a normal service to Okehampton. The water column, right, still has its bag, suggesting steam in the area has not yet come to an end. Once the flurry of activity seen here was over Halwill station would retreat back into peaceful slumber for a couple of hours until the rasps of the next DMUs to arrive and depart reverberated around the surrounding countryside and perhaps with the occasional clatter of a goods train in between.
Photo by Rev. Peter Westall

A Gloucester RC&W diesel railcar, later Class 122, rasps away from the Torrington bay at Halwill. This is probably the same service as seen in the picture showing the Class 116 unit. The railcar seen here has a small yellow warning panel and an overhead warning flash in the windscreen at the top and 'Overhead Live Wires' at the bottom. They are still in use today although design can vary. The cloud of smoke from the departing railcar was typical of what we now call 'First Generation' DMUs. It was caused by a build-up of unburned lubricating oil following periods of engine idle. DMUs were frequently left in stations between services with their engines idling for a number of reasons, the main one being maintaining of vacuum for the brakes. Otherwise, an engine shutdown would require the parking brake to be applied and, if stopped for any length of time, the battery isolating switch to be opened. Failure to do this could result in drained batteries. The battery isolator was located on the underframe but precise position varied according to builder. So it was that DMUs were frequently seen idling away at platforms between services, with the characteristic rattle of the drive to the cooling fans, and clouds of blue smoke when the engines were revved upon departure. Other points to note in this view are, left, the lower quadrant signal on the North Cornwall line and in the 'off' position and the shunt signal, left-most of the two visible in the distance, also in the 'off' position. In the distance the run-round loop for the Torrington branch is just discernable but there is no obvious sign of the connection to the main line. On the right, the bay running-in board had been altered to show simply 'Halwill', it previously having also displayed 'Junction'. This alteration was rather a waste of money, unless the original board needed replacement for some reason, as was the placing of a 'target' nameboard close-by. The up line into the main platform now has a length of flat bottom rail while prominent on the left is the water column, one of three at Halwill, presumably used by locomotives in the down bay.
Photo by Rev. Peter Westall

The diesel railcar seen approaching Halwill previously is seen here having departed for Padstow and branching off onto the North Cornwall Line past the surviving lower quadrant signal. On the right is the Torrington bay platform with its 'target' nameplate on the lamp standard and running-in board which by this time informed arriving passengers only that they were at Halwill. It had previously announced 'Halwill Junction', this board presumably having originated with the light railway. The line to Torrington was never part of the Southern Railway and only became part of the Southern Region at nationalisation. Despite this, the platform is faced with concrete, suggesting that it had been constructed by the Southern Railway for the former light railway. It was, after all, built on the Southern's land but Colonel Stephens is also known to have used concrete to a limited extent. The lamp standard on the Torrington platform is something of a mystery. It is clearly a product of Exmouth Junction Concrete Works but when it was installed, and by whom, is unclear. Station lighting at Halwill was changed to electricity, from oil, believed sometime during the 1930s but whether the lamps on the Torrington platform (there was three) were installed by the Southern for, or at the behest of, the light railway or after nationalisation remains a mystery. In the left foreground some of the point rodding and signal wire runs can be seen. Towards the bottom of the lattice post on the left is a switch box and under close examination trunking is visible going up the post. This might suggest the signal lamps were electric but at the time of writing no confirmation of this has been found.
Photo by Rev. Peter Westall

Click here for Halwill Gallery 5: c1964 - October 1965

 

 

 

[Source: Martin James]



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