The Branch Line Society


BLS / L&CI Yuletide Tracker
Sunday 21st December 2014

FGW ran no less than seven charity Santa trains, using a festively decorated 2-car 150234 with suitable window decals; at roughly hourly intervals from Newton Abbot to the former Heathfield station. They were packed by locals with many excited children, having sold out very quickly. Due to our previous charity work and Tracker tours with FGW the Society was honoured to be asked to be involved in the day. Much interest was shown in our Society publicity and sales stand at Newton Abbot booking hall, staffed by your Publicity Officer, General Secretary and Editor. With 40 advance bookings and those made on the day we managed to more than fill our allocation of 75 seats on the final enthusiasts' train at 15.55. In daylight, and driven by a lady FGW driver dressed as an elf (!), there was a photo stop (at participants' own risk) in the Up platform at Heathfield (CP 2 March 1959, Moretonhampstead branch) before running to the end of line (4m 07ch) then back through the run round loop (Down platform). At Newton Abbot the former P9 line was taken to the buffers, (once the Motorail terminal, and previously the bay for the branch and Teign Valley services to Exeter, it used to be separated from the main station by the through lines).

There was a great Christmas atmosphere, FGW staff and passengers alike had an enjoyable but hectic day. Our mini-raffle for rear cab rides, donations, tickets, sales of window decals etc. helped to raise a total of £5.5k for Dame Hannah's Trust, a local charity that helps people with a range of disabilities. The timber trains (which run round at Heathfield) from Teingrace where there was a good supply of logs to Chirk Kronospan still operate but less frequently and the three year contract has nearly finished. Only one had run in December with occasional trains from Exeter Riverside Yard. There is also timber to Chirk from Baglan Bay, Carlisle Kingmoor Yard and Ribblehead. The day reminded one member of 5 July 1970. The 4th had been the Society West Wales Railtour (see BLN 1221.1666) on which word had spread about the last trains to Bovey (Tracey) a further 2¼ miles beyond Heathfield the following day, causing some to have a very long diversion home! Four last DMU trips were run by BR Western Region from Newton Abbot and carried quite a few members, some camping the night in local fields! The line had already CG 4 May 1970.

A member asks if, with 16 letters, is 'Moretonhampstead' the longest single word in an English station name?