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To Bude and Padstow by “Atlantic Coast Express” in 1928      

(The original article was published in the summer of 1928)

Bude Station 1928

During the winter months all “Atlantic Coast” services are given by the 11 a.m. from Waterloo itself, though division is not unusual, particularly at week-ends, even when one train only is scheduled.  The 11 a.m. then reaches Exeter (Queen Street) at 2.22 p.m., and after the Ilfracombe and Torrington coaches have left (at 2.30 p.m.), the Plymouth, Bude and Padstow Coaches follow at 2.38 p.m., calling at St David’s and then running fast to Okehampton, due 3.20 p.m.  The Plymouth coaches leave first, and are followed at 3.43 p.m. by the Bude train, which, at Halwill Junction, detaches the Padstow vehicles.  The final arrivals are: Bude, 4.58 p.m., and Padstow, 6.07 p.m..

 It is also possible to reach Bude and Padstow from London by the 12.40 p.m. from Waterloo, and Bude by the 3.00 p.m..  The principal return train is the 8.35 a.m. from Padstow and 9.40 a.m from Bude, reaching Waterloo at 4.00 p.m.  There are, of course, several other branch services of local interest, and there are night connections with London, but the “practicable” London-Bude and Padstow service is as follows:-


In summer, though there are not many additions to the number of services, which are, in the main, of an all-the-year-round character, the facilities are substantially improved, and there are some interesting developments, as indicated by the following:-

Budedep.7.15am9.40am10.36am11.00am1.33pm3.18pm (Saturdays Only)

It must be borne in mind that the winter trains are creditably faster between London and Okehampton, so that substantial accelerations by the “Atlantic Coast Service” (10.25 or 10.40 a.m. from Waterloo, and 9.40 and 10.00 a.m. from Padstow and 10.36 and 11.00 from Bude) are accounted for largely saving time by eliminating certain stoppages en route, there being separate trains instead of one combined train for all “Atlantic Coast” services.  Moreover, whereas in winter the restaurant cars work only between London and Exeter, in summer they run to and from Bude in two instances.  Winter and summer, however, modern corridor coaches are used, those for the “Atlantic Coast Express” proper having been specially constructed therefor. 


Of the summer trains the 10.25 a.m. Saturday express from Waterloo is the most interesting. It serves Bude and Padstow lines only, and is usually quite a heavy train.  It calls at Salisbury and Exeter (Queen Street and St David’s) to Haliwell Junction.  The Padstow portion leaves first, as it has a longer subsequent journey, and calls at Launceston, Otterham, Camelford, Delabole, Port Isaac Road, and Wadebridge, reaching Padstow at 4.35 p.m.  The Bude portion, which in summer includes a restaurant car all the way from London, serves Holsworthy, Whitstone and Bridgerule stations, and reaches Bude at 3.33 p.m.  The 10.40 a.m. train, which on other week-days takes the Bude and Padstow vehicles, has stops at Salisbury, Exeter (Queen Street and St David’s) and Halwill, subsequent calls being the same as for the 10.25 a.m. Saturday service, though about 25 minutes later (the start is 15 minutes later).


Behind this train is a stopping service from Okehampton, which can be used by passengers for stations, not served by the main train.  As the 10.25 a.m. Saturday train and 10.40 not Saturdays does not call at Okehampton, intermediate passengers generally travel to that place by the Plymouth portion of the 11.00 a.m. ex-Waterloo, and not by the Bude and Padstow trains.  The other branch trains are of a stopping character, though the journeys are relatively fast as far as Okehampton.


The favourite up service is the 9.40 a.m. N.S. and 10.00 a.m. S.O. ex-Padstow (principle satations only to Halwill Junction) and 10.36 a.m  N.S. and 11.00 S.O. from Bude. This had a restaurant car (Saturday only, summer) from Bude to London, and from Halwill Junction calls only at Exeter (St David’s and Queen Street), and Salisbury to London.  The other services are stopping on the branches and more or less fast between Okehampton and Waterloo.


As the route as far as Yeoford Junction has been described in a previous article, further remarks may commence at Yeoford Junction, or rather at Coleford Junction, a short distance beyond the station, where the Plymouth and Ilfrecombe routes diverge.  So far the country traversed is mainly pastoral, but as Dartmoor is approached  the hills become higher and the surroundings more rocky and bare.  Moorland alternates with grassland, and cuttings, short viaducts, culverts, etc., indicate that wilder country has been entered.  This is notably the case as Okehampton station is reached, with Yeo Tor ahead.  The station is higher up on the hillside, and splendid views are had over the valley of Okement, with the town down below.  The town is a military headquarters, and just beyond the station, on a lower branch, are platforms erected for the special traffic thus entailed.


Passing these, the main line continues to rise through rocky cuttings, with further views of the valley between and on each side, until, beyond the railway ballast quarries, the famous Meldon Viaduct is reached.  This seemingly inadequate structure consists of six spans, supported on high piers, the maximum height over the River Okement being 153 ft.  As it is crossed the passenger has impressive and far-reaching views spread before him, particularly when looking down the valley to the town of Okehampton, though the view on the down side is, perhaps, the more picturesque.


At Meldon Junction the Plymouth line is left, while the branch train runs rapidly down (now on single track) passed Maddaford Moor Halt to Ashbury, the first crossing station. Another four miles and Halwill Junction is reached.  The station has the usual two platforms, with a bay on the down side, while on the upside there is now a short extension, built more particularly for the light railway which runs from Haliwell Junction across to the Torrington line.

Halwill Junction

From the station the Padstow line first diverges, the Bude route being paralleled for a short distance by the Torrington line and its run-round line.  The Bude line then continues to Dunsland Cross, Holsworthy, Whitstone and Bridgerule (all three crossing stations).  Holsworthy is a fairly important country town, and was the first terminus of the branch.  It obtained its first railway communication in 1879, when the branch from Okehampton was opened.  The Padstow line as far as Launceston was added in 1886, and extended to Camelford in 1893, while it is not until 1898 that the extension from Holsworthy to Bude was completed.


There are short viaducts sections on both sides of Holsworthy station.  The country traversed is generally pastoral in character, rocky in places, with stretches of moorland and heath.  Near Whitstone and Bridgerule the boundary between Devon and Cornwall is crossed, so that, so far as Bude is concerned, it is only the last five miles which carry the railway route into the Royal Duchy.


The situation at Bude contains interesting features such as the Bude and Holsworthy Canal, constructed 1819 – 1826, and originally extending for some 30 miles, though now only about 1½ miles are navigable.  The River Bude accompanies the railway for most of the way from Whitstone and Bridgerule station, but about a mile before Bude is reached joins the River Strat and connects with the canal.  Neither river is, however, navigable, so that onwards to Bude there are both the River Strat and the canal generally parallel to the railway.


Nearing the station, close to the gasworks, a branch line is put off, which crosses the River Strat by a viaduct, and then runs down alongside the canal to the goods yard, which is thus separated from the passenger station by the river.  Goods lines extend for some distance alongside the canal to serve a few wharves and other premises.  Beyond the basin is a lock, which, with the basin, forms the “harbour”, well-protected within Bude Haven.  The River Strat winds round alongside the “Strand,” the main thoroughfare of Bude, under Nanny Moore’s bridge and over a weir, then wending its way through sandy stretches to Bude Haven alongside the canal lock.


The passenger station is neatly designed, with refreshment room, etc., though it has only one main platform and a short bay line, with one or two siding lines and a small engine shed.  Although on the outskirts of the town, it is merely a short pleasant walk along thee Strand to the upper town, adjacent to Summerleaze Downs and the North Cornwall Golf Links, or over the river by the main bridge to districts lying between the river and canal and beyond the latter.


An interesting point is that, in order to meet the demand for beach sand, an old flange railway existed until a few years ago.  This consisted of  angle rails, within vertical flanges of which the wheels of small wagons were guided (with hinged sections at the points), and extended from the beach, alongside the lock and basin to one branch, on which the contents of the wagons were tipped into barges or boats, and another branch by which the sand could be tipped from an upper level into railway goods wagons.  Unfortunately, this flange railway has now been taken up and its purpose is served by lengths of narrow-gauge contractor’s railway.


It is not until one has actually visited the place that one can appreciate the special favour in which Bude is held among holiday-makers.  It is compact and every part is handy, including the gentlemen’s (18 holes) and ladies’ (9 holes) golf courses on Summerleaze Downs, with the Bude links not far away.  Summerleaze Downs to the north and Efford Downs to the south are transversed by paths constituting interesting walks over the cliffs, while the sand-hills of the river-mouth and their extensions, with rock pools and the vari-coloured stratified cliffs, provide within easy reach equally for the needs of those whose idea of a holiday is a rest and for demands of children for rock pools and masses of rock of a safe and interesting nature.  Then there is  the breakwater, the lock, the river and the canal (on which boating is practicable), together with the Castle, historic Nanny Moore’s Bridge, Compass Hill, Shalder Hill, the walk along the Strand, the coastguard station, and many other items of local interest, all quite handy.  Bude is also a good centre for walks over or beneath the cliffs to Efford Ditch and Widemouth Bay, or north to Northcott Mouth, Sandymouth, and the Combe Valley.  Inland favourite walks are to Stratton, Launcetts, Poughill, Marhamchurch and Kilkhampton, or along the coast.  For longer trips by char-à-bancs or private car there are Boscastle, Morwenstow, Hartland, Marsland Mouth, Crackington Haven, etc.


It is now necessary to return to Halwill Junction to traverse the Padstow line.  Leaving the junction, there is little of special interest, except picturesque pastoral and moorland views, with occasional rocky cuttings or rushing streams.  The line then runs through Ashwater to Tower Hill station.  The former is a crossing station, but at the latter only the down platform is in use, the track alongside the up platform having been removed.  Onwards to Launceston a winding river is a close companion, sometimes on one side, then on the other, until the River Tamar is crossed and Cornwall is entered.  The G.W.R. line from Lydford and Tavistock now appears on the down side in the valley and gradually climbs, with the River Kensey between, until it passes under the Southern Railway track, to continue alongside, but now on the up side, to the Great Western station, alongside that of the Southern Railway.    The latter has two platforms, and both have sidings, engine shed, goods depot, etc.


Leaving the G.W.R., which has come to its terminus, we continue in company with the River Kensey through attractive hilly country to Egloskerry and on to Tresmeer.  Thence, with sections of high embankment and rocky cuttings followed by moorland, Otterham is reached, where the main north and south road, parallel generally to the coast, is crossed, and near which a glimpse is had over the downs right away to the sea at Boscastle.  A few miles further Camelford (Tennyson’s “Camelot”) is reached, whence coaches run regularly to Boscastle and Tintagel.  It serves a quaint, interesting place and constitutes a good centre for exploring the “King Arthur” country, besides having attractions of its own.  With further glimpses seawards, though the sea is still a few miles distant, the line swings round past the famous Delabole slate quarry to Delabole station.  These quarries are still in operation, and from the train one can look right down into their depths or note the cable lines by which quarry wagons are hauled up or let down.  Owing to the activities of the quarries, there are, of course, rather more sidings than usual at a small country station, while the numbers of employees at the quarries causes Delabole to be rather more than a country village.

Continuing towards Wadebridge, Port Isaac Road station is passed; some way beyond a short tunnel is transversed, and St Kew Highway station is reached.  Company is then joined with the River Allen, and after a mile or so of picturesque valley scenery the line curves round, crossing the Allen and the River Camel just before their confluence, and connection is made with the old and historic Bodmin and Wadebridge line.  A further short run, with the Camel as companion on the up side, and the ancient town of Wadebridge is reached, an interesting view being had approaching its famous bridge (of 17 arches) , which dates from about 1485.  Wadebridge is a fairly large country town, a centre for the district, and has a few local industries.  It will be remembered that the Bodmin and Wadebridge line was opened in 1834, and in 1845 was taken over by the London and South Western Railway, though it was not until 1895 that it was connected therewith, its only through communication being via the Great Western connection from Bodmin.  Much of its early importance was due to the valuable deposits of china clay at Wenford Bridge, and there is still a substantial traffic, though the branch from Dunmere Halt up the valley of the Camel is now classed as a “tramway,” and because of its light construction is even now worked by small Beattie 2-4-0 tanks of a class which has disappeared from all other sections of the late London and Soth Western system.  Three of these engines are normally stationed at Wadebridge and work on local services when not required for the china clay trains.


An intereating feature of the Bodmin and Wadebridge line (one of the original coaches is preserved at Waterloo Station, London) is the fact that Great Western Railway motor trains work into Wadebridge from the G.W.R. station at Bodmin, joining the line from the Southern Railway section at Boscarne Junction.  Wadebridge, therefore, is somewhat of a traffic centre as well as a country town, and the station has an island platform on the up side, engine shed and fairly extensive sidings, etc.  Leaving Wadebridge station on the last stage to Padstow, the line passes between buildings until clear of the town, and the rest of the way follows the widening waters of the Camel Estuary, generally almost on the water’s edge, with occasional short viaducts across incursions landwards.  At low tide sandbanks are seen here and there as the estuary widens, and the stage is distinctly interesting and picturesque until, as the line crosses the girder bridge over Little Petherick viaduct (about a mile from Padstow) and turns northwards, a splendid view is had of Padstow on the one side and Rock on the other, with the open sea between.  At Padstow the station has one main platform for passenger trains and, three lines away, a special platform for dealing with fish traffic.  There are also sidings for china clay traffic, while the tracks continue beyond the passenger station to serve the harbour. 

 Padstow Station

Padstow, originally Petrockstowe, is an important fishing centre, and now attracts substantial numbers of visitors and holidaymakers.  Golf at St Enedoc links, at Roch on the opposite side of the river and reached by ferry from Padstow, yachting on the broad waters of the Camel estuary, fishing, etc,, are some of the attractions offered; while the cliff scenery immediately outside the Doom Bar, its many beautiful coves and bays, the quaint “hobby-horse” parade on May Day, Trevose Head and lighthouse, and the numerous places of historic, archaeological and tourist interest within easy reach, constitute other reasons which cause visitors to come in substantial numbers.

Copyright  © 1999-2021 Edward Gregory. All photographs/images/graphics/maps/logos copyright to their relevant owners.