Somerset Industrial Archaeological Society

JUST over 80 years ago, one of Britain’s best-loved railways closed after carrying locals and happy holiday makers for only 37 years.

That line, which once crossed Exmoor and connected Lynton with Barnstaple, 19 miles away, is now being rebuilt. On January 30, Ian Cowling, a trustee of the new Lynton and Barnstaple Railway, described to a large audience the great progress made so far and the ambitious plans to complete the line.

Opened in 1898, with rails only two feet apart, its twisting route reached a summit of 1,000 feet at Woody Bay. The stations had attractive ‘Swiss Chalet’ designs and the little engines were named after local rivers. Killed by economic depression and motor buses, the railway closed in 1935. The rails were lifted immediately, the engines were scrapped, and the land was sold and nature took over.

However, enthusiasts were determined the railway would not die.

In 1979 an association was formed, and after much fundraising Woody Bay Station was bought in 1995. Several original carriages were found in different uses in fields and back gardens. Now faithfully restored and pulled by steam engines, they run again on a mile of the old line.

Last year 52,000 visitors enjoyed travelling on Exmoor’s narrow gauge railway.

Much of the original route has now been bought, and later this year another replica engine “Lyn” will be pulling the vintage train among Exmoor’s hills. The quality of restoration is impressive and Woody Bay is well worth a visit.

The Somerset Industrial Archaeological Society’s next meeting will be held on Monday, February 13, when John Godley will recall the history of the Fire Service, particularly in Somerset. All meetings start at 7.30pm, at North Town School, off Wood Street, Taunton. Parking and refreshments are available, and non-members are most welcome.

More details can be found at