Station Name: TORRINGTON

[Source: Martin James]

Date opened: 18.7.1872
Location: A386 Station Hill, east of bridge over River Torridge
Company on opening: London and South Western Railway
Date closed to passengers: 4.10.1965 and 19.1.1968 after temporary reopening
Date closed completely: 5.3.1983
Company on closing: British Railways (Western Region)
Present state: The station building is extant and in use as a pub/restaurant, an extension has been built on the up platform, both platforms are still extant. The 1970's fertiliser depot/shed is still extant
County: Devon
OS Grid Ref: SS480198
Date of visit: 8.9.2005

Notes: The line beyond Barnstaple Junction was extended in stages with the final extension from the (then) Bideford terminus being built by the LSWR via Bideford (New) Station to the terminus at Torrington on the 18th of July 1872. The new station at Torrington had two platforms, a goods shed, and an engine shed which was accessed via a 50-foot turntable. Although the station was called Torrington the town it served was Great Torrington.

Torrington remained a terminus until 27th July 1925 when the North Devon and Cornwall Junction Light Railway (ND&CJLR), a Colonel Stephens line, opened to Halwill Junction via Petrockstow, Hatherleigh and Hole. The new standard gauge line replaced a narrow gauge line built for the china clay industry.

Closure started in 1964 with the withdrawal of goods traffic beyond Torrington. General goods services were withdrawn from Torrington on 6th September 1965 although private sidings remained in use (see freight below). Torrington lost its passenger service north to Bideford on 1st March 1965 and closed completely to passengers on 4th October 1965.

Torrington re-opened briefly to passengers in January 1968 after the town bridge was damaged by flood water and had to be closed. This meant that all traffic into and out of Bideford had to use country lanes via Torrington which was the next crossing point on the river. On 10th and 11th January BR ran a free shuttle service between Bideford and Torrington to give some relief. The service was withdrawn after 11th January but reinstated on 15th after local protests finally being withdrawn on 19th of January when a temporary footbridge was opened.

After closure to passengers the line into Torrington from Bideford remain in use for freight traffic. Torrington signalbox closed on 29th September 1970 and final closure came in 1983 with the final 'special' running on 25th January with official closure from 5th March. Ironically, had the china clay traffic continued (see section on freight) then it's also likely that passenger trains would still be running to Bideford.

An attempt to re-open the line from Barnstaple (as it now is) to Bideford was made by British Rail in June 1982 and was successful in obtaining the relevant Parliamentary Approval; finances could not be raised from either central or local government and so the attempt came to nothing. Possibly if it had been a few years later then EU grants might have been available.

The station building has now been restored as the Puffing Billy public house and tea rooms on the Tarka trail cycle and walkway.

Passenger trains
When the line opened in the summer of 1872, the LSWR ran six trains daily plus one on Sundays. In the 20th-century, for a station which was part of the 'Withered Arm' beyond Exeter, Torrington enjoyed an excellent - possibly surprising - passenger train service.

In LSWR days in the summer of 1914, there were twelve trains a day to Barnstaple Junction and four on Sundays. On weekdays, three of the trains went to Waterloo, and one on Sundays. Journey time on the 11:00 a.m. Waterloo to Torrington was 5-hours 8-minutes. In Southern Railway days in the summer of 1932, this had risen to seventeen trains a day to
Barnstaple Junction and seven on Sundays. On weekdays, three of the trains went to Waterloo, and two on Sundays. Journey time on the 11:00 a.m. Waterloo to Torrington was 5-hours 11-minutes.

In BR days, there were four daily services in summer to Waterloo, five on Saturdays and one on Sunday. Journey time on the 11:00 a.m. Waterloo to Torrington was 5-hours 5-minutes. There were also many local trains to Barnstaple and Exeter plus WR sets going via Barnstaple Junction and thence onto the Barnstaple (Victoria Road) to Taunton line.

Mention has been made of the 11:00 Waterloo-West of England service which on Mondays to Saturdays during part of Southern Railway and British Railways times was known as The Atlantic Coast Express (the ACE) which was the most multi-portioned train in the world with coaches for Plymouth, Padstow, Bude, Torrington, Ilfracombe, Exeter Central (two kitchen
restaurant cars), Exmouth, Sidmouth and Exeter - the latter single coach being detached at Salisbury at 12:23 p.m. and added to a local all-stations train to Exeter Central which left 13-minutes later at 12:36 p.m. In winter the ACE consisted of 13-coaches with three coaches for Ilfracombe, two for Plymouth, the two kitchen/restaurant cars for Exeter, and a single brake-composite coach for each of the other six destinations - including Torrington with arrival at 4:05 p.m. On busy summer Saturdays the train ran in four portions with many coaches for each of the destinations. In BR days the up portion left Torrington at 10:30 a.m. with the train arriving at Waterloo at 3:40 p.m.

In the opposite direction from Torrington, there were two through trains daily along the ND&CJLR to Halwill Junction, plus a third to Dunsbear Halt - which then ran empty to Petrockstow from where it returned. There were no trains on the ND&CJLR on Sundays.

Stations served by local passenger trains from Torrington included : Bideford, Instow, and Fremington in the Barnstaple Junction direction, and Watergate Halt, Yarde Halt, Dunsbear Halt, Petrockstow, Meeth Halt, Hatherleigh and Hole (for Black Torrington) in the Halwill Junction direction.

Unlike most stations which just dealt with general freight, cattle etc., Torrington was associated with four specific types of freight throughout its 110-year history.

1. China clay from Marland and Meeth was transhipped from 1881 when a 3-foot gauge siding was laid into Torrington yard between two of the standard gauge sidings. After the opening of the ND&CJLR in 1925, Torrington ceased to be a transhipment point for the china clay and became a through station for clay trains to Marland & Meeth.

China clay traffic continued for over 100-years until 1982 after which it went over to road transport - mainly because money was not available to upgrade the line to take the modern bogie china clay wagons now is use in Cornwall etc.

2. Traffic for a private lime kiln siding - Reed's Siding - was handled from 1884 to 1956. Initially the siding was accessed directly from the turntable, but this was later removed and Reed's Siding accessed from a new up-siding.

3. Milk traffic in churns had been handled at Torrington for many years, but in the late 1940's, milk was transferred to 6-wheel tank wagons - which ran to Vauxhall in London; this continued until 1978. Milk was loaded into three wagons at a time in the depot yard on the goods shed road but beyond the goods shed, which operationally must have been a nightmare.
This continued until the mid-1970s when a new longer loading facility - which could load seven wagons at a time - was built on the former up platform.

4. The final type of freight handled at Torrington was somewhat unusual in that it only started in the mid-1970s. When the milk loading point was transferred to the up platform, the goods shed was demolished and a new rail connected ICI Fertiliser Depot was built in the yard. Traffic continued for less than five years, however, until the 11th of January 1980 - after which it went over to road transport.

Tickets from Michael Stewart

Torrington Station looking north in c.1900. At this date the station was still a terminus
Copyright photo from John Alsop collection

Torrington Station looking north in c.early 1960's
Photo from John Mann collkection

SCTS Exeter Flyer railtour at Torrington Station looking north on 3rd October 1965
Photo by Graham TV Stacey (from 30937 Photographic Group web site)

Torrington Station looking north in 1981
hoto by Martin James

Torrington Station in September 2005
hoto by Dave Holman