Old News & Reports

Older News

A group of Totnes members took the 0620 HST from Newton Abbot to London on 3rd November 2018. There they visited the Mail Rail exhibition at Mount Pleasant, the Tower Bridge Experience, and various Museums in the capital. The return was also by HST at 1903 from Paddington.

It is with great sadness that we record that May Webster passed away in Rowcroft Hospice on 4th July 2018.  

David Hughes, our Roster Clerk for Station Duties, has moved to Dorchester.   He can be reached by Mobile Phone (07397 397029) or email to doh7350@icloud.com

Car Parking charges at Totnes Main Line Station have increased in 2019.  The weekday charge is now £6.20 and the Saturday and Sunday charge is £3.80.

It is noted that Nathan Williamson has updated his website - www.totnestrains.com/ - recently. There are many excellent photos available for viewing, including a shot or two on the old Totnes Quay branch.  The signallers view of trains currently running between Taunton and Liskeard will be of interest to some. 

The Totnes Group AGM which was planned to take place at Riverside Station at 11am on Saturday, 3rd March 2018, was postponed to a date yet to be announced.

John Brodribb advised us on December 23rd 2017 of the very sad news that Dave Knowling had passed away earlier that day. A wreath appeared on the front of the engine on the second (and last) Santa By Steam train of the day on Christmas Eve. Such a shame that the gnomes at Woodville will not have had the chance to see it, or indeed the Santa Trains this year. A special train ran from Buckfastleigh to Totnes on Monday, 15th January 2017, arriving at 10.45 and departing at 11.15am. It conveyed Dave and members of his family, plus around 200 members of volunteers, and incorporated a stop at Pixie Falls (Woodville). The Rare Breeds staff are understood to have been responsible for the wonderful display of well painted gnomes on parade. Totnes will never be quite the same without Dave driving the engine in there on Mondays, or him visiting our books and magazines for sale on a Tuesday. A fond farewell to "maaaate".  A massive "well done" to John Brodribb for keeping us well informed of the arrangements for the special events of the day.   

The Totnes Station Group held their Annual Christmas Dinner in the Monster on Saturday, 16th December 2017. 26 members attended the event. The principal organiser was of course Allan Lovegrove, ably assisted by other members of the Group.  It is this sort of friendship that helps to over-ride the failings of certain areas of appreciation of the workings of the South Devon Railway. The skit produced by one of those attending, presented at the end of proceedings received a hearty round of applause. Copies of the script ARE NOT available!

Now that the 2017 Season has come to an end, the Diesel Gala over, and the SDR Santa Trains not coming to Totnes this year, it just remains for all the Totnes Group members to be thanked for their efforts and attendance throughout the year. Doubtless that message will be issued from Saunders House very shortly? 

31st January - 160th of the birth of G.J.Churchward at Rowes Farm, Stoke Gabriel.
20th July - 170th of the arrival of the railway at Totnes.
28th August - 120th of the take over of the Buckfastleigh, Totnes and South Devon Railway by the Great Western Railway.
30th September - Bulliver Bridge was declared open on this date in 1993. 25 years ago.
29th October - 70th of the stabling of the Royal Train on the Branch.

  The Station Group members took the main line train to Bristol on 4th November 2017, and visited the Docks Area, including a visit to the SS Great Britain Exhibition.  The day coincided with the second day of the SDR Diesel Gale Weekend.

News came through during August 2017, that the Santa Season trains would not be coming through to Totnes during December 2017, but terminating at Staverton.  The Halloween train at the end of October has also been cancelled. The rail connection with the main line remains out of use as at September 2017. The mains water supply remains at a very low pressure, despite South West Water having been made aware of the problem in May 2017, two inspections by their engineers, and the actual problem site having been located - albeit on Network Rail property. The Rare Breeds Farm are also affected by this low pressure problem.  Two important members of the Station Team are taking retirement at the end of the 2017 operating season, so we record our grateful thanks to William Lark and Ray Gale for their years of service to the smooth running of the Station over the years, and the support they have given their Roster Clerks during that time.. As ever, if you can assist with replacing them, please contact David Hughes - 01803 529410.   

The Totnes Group Hog Roast on July 8th enjoyed very good weather, a good attendance, and an actual train this year. A fuller report will be published in due course.

The symbolic level crossing gate, the post supporting it, and the telegraph pole opposite the canopy, were removed by the PW Gang on Friday, 31st March. The gate has been replaced by a blue plastic "fence" for the time being. It all part of a modification of the track in the run-round loop. Further work on this area will take place in due course.       The funeral for Dave Sweaney took place in Plymouth on Thursday, 6th April 2017.

The Group AGM took place in the Monster on March 4th 2017. The incumbents at the top table remains unchanged. The nameplate on the Ashburton Junction Signal Box was affixed later on the same day.

A new Running-In Board announcing our Station as Totnes Riverside was erected on Saturday, 4th February 2017. The earlier title of Littlehempston had existed since 1988.

A copy of Branchline Briefing dated 6th January 2017, announced that Barrie Cogar is no longer Chairman of the SDR Trust. Jon Morton is temporarily Acting Chairman.

Bulliver Bridge had another visit (Town side of the gates) from the vandals with paint cans, overnight December 9th/10th 2016. Thank goodness for the gates!

Chris Mackenzie Thorpe has advised that our Totnes Booking Office has dispensed just over 14,000 tickets during the 2016 Season, covering 15,700 persons enjoying the SDR from the Totnes end. Our regular Station Staff will have their own ideas of how many persons cross the Bulliver Bridge in addition to this, just to look, or visit the Rare Breeds Farm facilities.  That makes an awful lot of feet walking the planks on the bridge - mostly at least twice! 

Sadly we have to report that Geoff Howells passed away on Wednesday, 26th October 2016.  Geoff worked in the SDR Totnes Booking Office for a number of years. His funeral was held on Wednesday, 9th November 2016 at 2.00pm at St. Marys' Parish Church, High Street, Totnes.  About 14 SDR volunteers attended.

October 2016 News: Due to shortages of staff, the Booking Office was not open on three days this month. The 6500 gallon water tank appears to have been emptied again - the problem was being investigated, but no conclusive evidence was forthcoming.. The Totnes Group had an "Away Day" to Portsmouth on Saturday, 5th November.

The Ashburton Junction Signal Box is becoming operational in various stages during May. The Guards are not now required to use the Box as a covered Ground Frame, and will then take over the operations at the Buffer Stop end of the platform, in the Pilning Box. Just how we ever ran our 6.75 mile Branch Line without having three signal boxes in use, and yet carry about the same number of passengers per year as the Dart Valley Railway did in 1970, with only one, seems to raise a few questions.

The Station CCTV system gained an eighth camera on the system on May 21st.  This might be a good shot to rival the one from Buckfastleigh, as it looks towards the train approaching from the signal box end of the platform. Perhaps we should speak to the SDRA Web Master about this.  

The Totnes Group AGM took place at the Station on Saturday, 5th March 2016 at 11am. Those present heard the reports from the Chairman (Allan Lovegrove), Secretary (Chris Mac-Thorpe) and Treasurer (Paul Hope). A majority vote accepted that the Station would be called Totnes Riverside, as from the 2017 season. Until 1987 our Totnes end of the line was shown in the DVR Timetable (now SDR of course) was shown as Totnes Riverside, with the timetables pointing out that there was no access to Totnes Town. With some (three/four a day in the season) DVR trains running into the main station, our platform was shown on the "Buckfastleigh-Totnes line and Steam Leisure Park" 1988 timetable as Littlehempston Platform, as the low season trains did not proceed into the main line station. The practice at that time for passengers arriving at the Littlehempston Platform, and enquiring how to get to Totnes Town, was to advise them to return to Buckfastleigh, and get the bus. The timetable also asked the passengers wishing to book at Buckfastleigh to arrive 15 minutes before departure of their selected service.

Bulliver (No. 102) Autumn 1988 is the first Report Heading including the word Littlehempston, but continuing to use the word Riverside. This was obviously the interim period. The reports were written by the late Les Hawkins, of the London Group.            

HST set LA15 (described by some enthusiasts as GWR "sludge" green) visited the Buckfastleigh branch twice on Saturday,10th October, between trips from Paddington and the Heathfield branch. The power cars were 43187 (Buckfastleigh end) and 43188.  The sponsors were the Branch Line Society, raising funds for the Prostate Cancer charity. Class 150 multiple set 150202 caused a bit of a problem by suffering with brake problems in the down platform at Totnes, which then trapped a Cross Country unit behind it.  This was then sent over the crossover into the Up Platform to allow passengers from that train to alight.  The CC set was then sent back up to the crossover and then down to Plymouth on the through line.  This then allowed the HST special to use the crossover and come into the Up platform, before coming onto our branch.  All this caused an approximate 20 minute delay.

The SDR somewhat unexpectedly received A4 Locomotive 60009 Union of South Africa on the evening of Sunday, 16th August, following a failure with bearing problems at Newton Abbot on the down Royal Duchy Special 1Z37. The locomotive can be viewed from the viewing platform at Buckfastleigh Workshop.  It is said to be required for a Royal Train run from Edinburgh in early September. 

We welcome Tony Sibley back after a spell away on the sick list. David Hughes is often on holiday abroad, but trying to keep up his duties via a troublesome lap top computer and an iphone. Station volunteers are urged to continue to send their availabilities to David using his email address, and should remember that our Duty Roster is only updated using details supplied by David himself.

The Totnes Group Annual General Meeting was held at the Station on Saturday, 7th March, at 11 am. It was well attended. The Booking Clerks present on the day were introduced to the technology which has been brought about by the apparent present day passengers who want to book their tickets "on-line".  Andy Stevens came along and spoke of the new system taking no longer to deal with a queue of customers at the booking office window than in the past.  The proof of this will only be seen in the weeks and months ahead.  

Our rosters for the February Half Term week and March were delayed - the Roster Clerk, David Hughes was unable to appoint any Booking Clerks until such time as Training Sessions with the new equipment accepting OnLine bookings has been given. The station apparently needs another telephone line to be installed for this. It seems that the "Heritage" way of turning up at the station and exchanging money for an Edmundson type ticket to travel is to be superseded.  The training sessions are now likely to take place on March 7th, when the Group holds its Annual General Meeting

Excavations have been proceeding in front of the Station Masters' Office. to attempt to determine where the damp in the basement is coming from.  The facts that there is probably four feet of Devon clay compacted below the platform bricks, and the twice daily Summer watering of the Hanging Baskets, will probably all have their part to play in this problem. 

The sale of the Rare Breeds Farm appears to have now been completed. A quick look at their Web Page tells us that their admission prices for 2015 are £6.50 Adult, £6.00 Senior and £5.00 Child. A party of 2+2 costs £20.  They intend to open on March 15th and end their season at the end of half term in October.  The bad news for our Booking Clerks is that they still quote that Credit and Debit Cards cannot be accepted.  (March 7th update: Allan Lovegrove told the AGM attendees that the RBF are likely to be installing two credit card terminals in the near future)

Looking at the analysis of visitors to this site for December and January (bear in mind this out-of-season) we have been getting about three visits a day - and include some from Russia, Germany, France, Australia, Netherlands, USA and Tanzania.

Our station has now been fitted with CCTV Cameras, there are seven in all - don't forget to smile nicely!!!!!

Eleven members of the Station group travelled to London on October 8th - a trip organised by Paul Hope. The whole party visited the Cutty Sark at Greenwich, before splitting into two or three smaller groups.  One of the attractions which seemed to figure in the itinerary for all took them to view the sea of red poppies in the moat at the Tower of London.  What a sight! 

We welcome Ray Gale back to the fold of Station personnel, but unfortunately he was taken ill again shortly into his return to duties. We also saw Patsy Tidball at the Station on Tuesday, 23rd September, but only as a passenger.

You will probably read this here first - the issue of SDR Travel Cards has ceased, as of 19th July 2014.  The printed notice uses the words "temporarily suspended".  Existing ones held will still be honoured for the remainder of their two years of validity.

Be prepared to welcome yet another "new" visitor to the SDR.  The word is that a USA Tank loco will be visiting for the forthcoming Military Weekend (5th and 6th July). As it would appear that the only current working engine is 30065 on the Kent & East Sussex Railway, this must be the favourite.  Remember where you read this news first !!!!!!!!  (20th April)

Chris Williams has been appointed as the Railway Manager of the SDR.  He takes up his position on June 2nd.  The full announcement appears on the SDRT News page.  (8th April)

We have heard from Ray Gale that he will be unable to help us at Totnes in the next few weeks due to ill health.  We wish him a speedy recovery.  There has been no contact received from Patsy Tidball at this time.  She was last known to be researching the bus times from/to South Brent. 

Totnes Group members may have noticed that our two Ferry Vans (former CCT vehicles) are starting to show a requirement for painting, which then means that the decals (these are the yellow, some outlined in black, details) on both sides, of both vans, will need to be replaced.  Fortunately the original sign makers (Ansell and Porosa) are still in business in Torquay, and still have the artwork on their computer system - which will save us the costs of setting it all up for the remake.  The next part of the operation will be the raising of the funds to body fill, rub down,undercoat, top coat (twice?), and the new decals.  These alone require us to raise £210 plus VAT.  The whole job needs doing in the drier(?) months, so is there any reader of this news out there, who will support us with the funding?

Group member Chris Bowden was awarded the Patrons' Cup at the South Devon Railway Association Annual Dinner held at the Dainton Park Golf Centre on Saturday 25th January 2014.  Chris has been an SDRA Member since 1994, and has been involved with Carriage & Wagon, Permanent Way, Footplate, numerous building and property maintenance projects, and of course a wide range of engine headboards and other signage.  Chris is the eleventh winner of the Cup. The Presentation was made by Ron Reynolds, a previous President of the Association.

The 2014 Annual General Meeting of the Totnes Group took place at the Station on Saturday 1st March 2014.  

It is with great sadness that we note that Roger Lloyd Pack ("Trigger" of Only Fools and Horses), passed away today (January 16th).  He paid a visit to the SDR on 30th August last year and was spotted by SDR and Rare Breeds staff.

There will be a new "News type" page on this web site shortly - it is to show a Time Line for Totnes Station.  Researching the details for this is proving extremely interesting!  It is hoped you will find it just as interesting when we get it published - complete with all the usual E & O E warnings!

Following the violent electrical storms on Friday 3rd January, and another on Monday 6th, the Station Alarm system suffered a strike to the aerial for the Monster Alarm system.  A visit by the engineers found that we had suffered a complete failure of the Control Box (and it was subsequently found to have also caused a similar problem to the receiver unit).  Some of the work required was carried out on Friday 10th January, and those members involved with opening the station buildings, will need to know that a NEW ENTRY CODE has been installed.  Check with Allan Lovegrove for more details - using the old code WILL set the alarm ringing!   You have been warned!

The Summer Event at Totnes will be on Saturday, 12th July 2014.  The actual format (Carvery/Hog Roast etc.) will be decided at a later date. Please make a note of this date in your Diary.  As usual we shall be heavily reliant on a good attendance to raise the important funds to maintain our station. 

Following a fairly major landslip down onto the track adjacent to Rail Joint 236 at Milepost four and a half on December 26th, all passenger services are suspended until the February 2014 Half Term week (8th - 16th).  For those who travel the road between Hood Bridge and Buckfastleigh, the location of the landslip is very adjacent to where the road safety barriers were replaced recently, and immediately above the line.  The work to stabilise the bank and restore the track will be starting just as soon as the various experts have studied the area. 

The 2014 Timetables have been delivered to Buckfastleigh - complete with the usual couple of printers' errors (or was it down to the proof readers?). Copies are now available at Totnes Littlehempston Station.  

One announcer at Totnes Littlehempston has recently been reverting the title to Totnes Riverside.  The SDR disposed of this description a long time ago.  Can anyone identify exactly when?  Answers on the usual Ten Pound note please, c/o The SDRA Chairman.

The new Membership Rates for 2014 are now shown on the Membership page of "Volunteers Welcome" - see the left hand list. Those rates shown on the back of the new timetables, are only not all correct.  The new white Membership Application Forms, with the print in black and green, contain the CORRECT fees payable. 

The Alarm System was triggered on the evening of Sunday, 6th October at about 10.15pm, when a person or persons unknown attempted to enter the Monster by the end doors, Staverton end.  The Police were called, and attended, complete with Dog. Scenes of Crime are evaluating a number of clues.  So much for no problems in the Totnes area, as stated in the past.  Thank goodness for the Alarm System which ensured that members and Police were on the scene quickly.

The railway was visited by  "Trigger" from the Only Fools and Horses series of films, on Friday 30th August, when he rode from Totnes to Staverton and back.

Our contractor repairing the woodwork on the back of the Monster has found some very seriously "soft" wood supporting the wall and this will have VERY SEVERE implications on the cost of the repairs. We had better prepare for the begging bowls to come into action shortly!  We will need to keep up the sales of drinks, sweets and books.  Keep the "new" Booking Office 'fridge well stocked, and advertise our "goodies" over the tannoy system - particularly when the train set without a Buffet is in the platform.

It was with great sadness that we reported that Rod Tidball passed away on July 19th.  Our thoughts are with Patsy at this very sad time.  The funeral was held on Monday, 5th August 2013 at the Methodist Church, Church Street, South Brent, at 11am.  The attendance was probably around 250 - it was so difficult to tell as there were attendees in three different areas of the Church.  Rod was aged 63, and the mourners included members of the RAOB, the Maritime Fleet and of course South Devon Railway.  Patsy thanked us for our support - we just hope she managed to get into the liquid refreshment establishment where the Wake was being held!

This news item will mean that the Station duties will be will be even more difficult to cover than usual.  If you can assist with any of them, please advise David Hughes.  This can however produce problems, as when he is away, he will not be able to receive messages left on his answer phone.  If you get through to this, then please then advise Alasdair Page at Buckfastleigh.

Contractors working on behalf of Network Rail strimmed the triangle of land opposite the Totnes Littlehempston platform on Friday, 2nd August 2013.

For access to the members' area on the SDRA  website - please note that you should NOT include the full stops.

For a short while William Lark and Joe Clowes probably held the record for the best takings at Totnes ever.  They recorded takings of £2726.40 on Monday, 5th August. Then along came another record - Rosemary Jessop came up with £3161.95 on Saturday, 24th August - assisted by £172 late sales from the Friday.  Well done - the South Devon Railway will be proud of you!

Another Record Season.  The end of year figures for passengers carried in 2011 shows a new record of 112,400. 


Now that the 2011 Season has all but finished, we should congratulate ourselves on a successful running season, with the takings at the station being very close to those for 2010. With a certain amount of help from volunteers and staff from Buckfastleigh being encouraged to fill a number of the gaps that appeared from time to time, we scraped through.  We do however need to recruit some more "public facing" staff for the 2012 season.  David Hughes would like to hear from you on Telephone 01803 529410.