Steam-powered train – not seen in South Devon for 100 years – thrills railway buffs
By PGStrange | Thursday, February 21, 2013, 23:08
A STEAM-POWERED train – not seen in South Devon for more than a century – has been thrilling railway buffs at the South Devon Railway…
GWR Steam Railmotor No 93, seen here arriving at Buckfastleigh station, is the star attraction at the South Devon Railway's Western Branch Line Gala
Railway enthusiasts - including Michael and Anne Cullum from Newton Abbot (left) - enjoying the South Devon Railway's Western Branch Line Gala
"The steam railmotor is a marvellous piece of restoration,” said railway enthusiast Derek Cheesborough from Plympton. “It’s smooth quiet and a comfortable ride”
The Steam Railmotor, built in 1908 and finally restored last year, is the star attraction at the railway's Western Branch Line Gala which runs until this Sunday (24 February).
Described as a "feast" of Great Western Railway branch action, the gala proved hugely popular last weekend. With pannier, prairie and autotank-hauled trains, there was plenty for the many rail enthusiasts from Devon and around the UK who attended the event to enjoy.
But the undoubted star was the GWR Stream Railmotor No 93, which steamed gracefully up the line from Buckfastleigh to Totnes and back on special pre-booked trips.
Michael and Anne Cullum from Newton Abbot were making quite a day of it.
"I saw that they were running some new trains here, so we thought we'd come down, go to Staverton, go to the pub, have some lunch, see the River Dart... it would be lovely," said Michael. "I like steam trains and the engineering side of it and all of that… a bit of nostalgia. And the steam railmotor is interesting."
"I knew the railmotor was running, so I thought, 'I'm coming down!' " said Michael Baldry, a railway enthusiast from Bletchley, Buckinghamshire.
"The railmotor was an attempt by the railways to make a self-contained vehicle. So although it's steam-operated, it still works on the same principle as modern diesel or electric trains. It can be driven in both directions, up and down the line and can do a quick turn-round. So that's why it was done, to speed things up."
Derek Cheesborough from Plympton was equally enthusiastic. "It's a marvellous piece of restoration," he said. "It's been virtually rebuilt and it's so smooth and quiet and a very comfortable ride."
The train that that they'd all come to see was built in 1908. Described as "totally unique", No 93 is the only surviving example of the Great Western Railway's original fleet of 99 steam propelled railcars. They were designed as local trains, making frequent stops on branch lines. Similar railmotors ran on the Totnes to Ashburton line around the early 1900s and also around Plymouth, Exeter and Teignmouth.
The railmotor was a victim of its own success. They proved popular but couldn't carry the number of passengers who wanted to travel on them. GWR expanded the principle, putting a steam locomotive in the middle of up to four coaches.
Renovation work on No 93 began in the 1990s. In July 2007 the project received more than £760,000 of National Lottery funding and the rebuild – including a new steam power unit – was completed last year.
Railmotor No 93 will be back in action today (Friday 22 February) as well as Saturday and Sunday (23, 24 February). Advance booking is essential.
South Devon Railway, The Station, Dart Bridge Road, Buckfastleigh TQ11 0DZ (0843 357 1420)
More pictures: South Devon Railway Western Branch Line Gala