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SOUTH DEVON RAILWAY News 01st August 2017
John Haslam Denis Johnson
Photo © JBrodribb 2017

August already – where ever does the time go? According to Einstein’s theories of relativity “time accelerates as you get older” – and it certainly seems to be true this season. Lots happening on the South Devon Railway.

The old order changeth. Neil Smith left in May after sterling service over very many years, and now two more departures are imminent. SDRT and Plc Company Secretary John Haslam retires in about a fortnight, and his current post is advertised on the SDRT website , where you can find full details. Denis Johnson finishes at the end of the season in October. Very many thanks to both of them for their service over many years. Apart from his regular duties John has stepped up on more than one occasion, most recently taking the reins when Dick Wood was forced to retire through ill health. Denis has been a familiar face around Buckfastleigh for many years, dealing with staffing the station in general and the booking office in particular. Now that the SDR is moving into a Brave New World where everything is digitised and online both are a link with a more traditional past.

Former GWR 0-6-0PT 5786 as L.92 re-emerges from the SDRE WorkshopPhoto © JBrodribb 2017

Coming back into service shortly is L.92, fresh from the overhaul of its firebox. Having successfully passed its steam test last Friday it has needed careful attention to valve settings, but has been out on test today (Tuesday), and this will continue throughout the week. It is hoped to have it back in revenue earning service next week. It is shown shortly after taking water at Buckfastleigh today.

Former GWR 1369’s boiler receiving attentionWorcester Group’s Kitson 0-6-0ST
Photo © JBrodribb 2017

1420 has now been shunted into the workshop to take the place of L.92. Work has continued on its boiler and firebox, and it moves to the head of the restoration line. Work has also been carried out on 1369’s firebox, prior to examination and assessment of its condition. Another rebuild in progress, being done by the Worcester Locomotive Society, is on their Kitson 0-6-0ST “Carnarvon”. I couldn't resist the caption to the photo: "A Kitson of Parts", seen outside the workshop.

Liz Crimp; Buffet Steward on 1917Photo © JBrodribb 2017

Passenger traffic has been heavy, as befits the peak season and blue two train timetable. The shortage of serviceable coaching stock continues to be an issue. Two sets are operating five days a week, Sunday to Thursday, and this week the shorter – three Great Western coaches – has been strengthened with auto 233. It is unlikely that there will be two buffet cars available for some time yet, as blood & custard No 1917 will be withdrawn for significant attention when chocolate & cream No 4802 returns to traffic. On the subject of buffets, Roger Gibbs will now be taking charge of competence and training for buffet staff and Travelling Ticket Inspectors, and this means that Personal Trackside Safety certification will be needed. Liz Crimp, who remains in charge of rostering staff, is first on the list tomorrow!

Now that it is August, the museum footfall figures for July are available, and again show an increase by comparison with July 2016, of about 2.5%. The year remains slightly down on 2016 overall, largely because there were a lot fewer operating days in the early season, and low figures for some event days. Let’s hope for a good August, always the heaviest month for footfall.

Not much to report on site development. About the only visible movement is of contractors’ plant out of the structurally–complete new carriage shed.

Chris Mackenzie Thorpe writes with a note about this year’s Torbay Steam Fair, which will again be held at Churston, on the A379 Kennels Road, just after the Brixham Road junction. After its successful visit last year with 0-4-2T No 1420, the SDR’s Routemaster bus is returning to Torbay Steam Fair this coming weekend, 04 — 06 August. Rides will be available to the public to Hillhead for just £1 (50p for children) giving fantastic views of Torbay. There is plenty else to see at the fair, and there is also beer and live music. For more info see

As ever, very many thanks to the unsung heroines and heroes of the South Devon Railway – its army of willing volunteers who keep the trains running and the whole show on the road (rails?). More news later in the week, hopefully including the trials of L.92.

Best wishes

John Brodribb
SDRT Museum Curator

Update: 03 August 2017

L.92 “dodging” the rain on Wednesday 02 August 2017
L.92 shunting the empty stock at Buckfastleigh at the end of a normal “Blue” day
Photo © JBrodribb 2017

Just a quickie today, with an update on L.92. Yesterday, Wednesday, it rained in Devon, and then it rained some more, and after that it rained quite a lot more. L.92 emerged and wandered around in the rain, and the photo of it by the water tower shows just how wet it was. The railway was busy, but our passengers generally seemed very happy with their day out, which was great.

Today, Thursday, it had been hoped to get L.92 on the front of a train, but there simply wasn’t time once all the hundred and one little jobs had been done on it. In the end it shunted the empty stock at the end of the day. Once 5542 had brought the short set back, due in at 4.15pm, L.92 took it over to yard road 1, where it is normally stabled. The set had been strengthened with auto coach 233, which was certainly needed today. The photos show the shunting in progress, with Ben Greening in charge. His fireman was Rob Oaten. The partial rebuild on L.92 is a huge tribute to all the workshop staff and volunteers at Buckfastleigh; well done to everyone involved.

GWR 0-4-2T 1420 back in the main SDRE WorkshopsPhoto © JBrodribb 2017

The other photo shows 1420, which has now been shunted into the workshops so that rebuilding can step up a gear.

Best wishes

John Brodribb

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