History Of The Line

Opened on the 26th June 1866 it was a single track branch line and was operated by the South Devon Railway. The company passed in to full South Devon ownership in 1872. In 1878 the South Devon Railway was itself absorbed by the GWR (Great Western Railway), and thereby became a part of the Great Western System. The line was opened as a broad gauge route, but narrowing took place in 1892. There were originally two intermediate stations – Lustleigh and Bovey Tracey – though a third stopping place at Teigngrace was opened as early as 1867. Chudleigh road (later Heathfield) appeared in the timetable in 1874, and in 1882 this station became a junction following the opening of a short branch to Ashton; in 1903 the Ashton branch was extended along the Teign valley to reach Exeter. The heyday of the branch lasted until the advent of mass motoring in the 1930s, and thereafter the line was allowed the run down prior to closure in 1959. Although never a powerful instrument of economic growth the railway had served the needs of local people for almost a century, the railway has been dismantled beyond Heathfield, but the remaining portion did carry bulk oil established in 1965 and clay traffic for some time. Although the passenger service was withdrawn on the 2nd march 1959, freight continued throughout the line for some years longer. However the section from Bovey Tracey to Moretonhampstead closed completely in April 1964 and Bovey Tracey itself closed in 1967, after which Heathfield became the lines northern terminus. This 4 ½ mile section from Newton Abbot to Heathfield is all that remains of a once lovely rural line that connected rural community’s. After the bulk oil closed the line still had the odd clay train but this dwindled away as it went by road instead. In resent years it was used for wood trains, this has since moved. The line has been used for some special trains as well, Santa Special and a special HST, these were to raise money for charity. They were all very popular and all sold out well before the events. At present the line is mothballed as just below Teignbridge crossing the line has been washed out. The bottom part of the branch at Newton Abbot is used as a head shunt in case a train fails and further up the branch they use it for training crews on how to clear fallen trees from the line. It runs next to the Stover canal for about two fifths of its length. The canal use to pass under the line but the bridge was removed, and a culvert was put in its place. At present the line is in limbo awaiting its next use.

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“I approached Network Rail in May 2017 with some thoughts and ideas.  I asked for information under the Freedom of Information act (FOI) about the line.  I asked if they had any future plans for the line.  After a positive reply I decided to form a group that would dedicate itself to the opening of the line. The then named Newton Abbot to Heathfield Railway Revival Group was formed. I  posted it on Facebook which really took off “.(Mike Cooke). 

After lots of media attention and a signed petition of over 3000 signatures we met with Network Rail.  The outcome of which presented us with a few options of how we could proceed.

Heath Rail Link was founded and here we are today.