As the photographs on these pages attest, this was once a spacious, well-laid out station, tastefully expanded and modernised in the 1930s by the Great Western Railway (GWR). With four through tracks separating two island platforms, the station must have been an ideal location for trainspotters to see non-stop expresses pass through in the golden age of steam. Additionally, not only did two branch lines diverge here, but the site also laid claim to its own engine shed, which was complemented by a plethora of lengthy sidings. Alas, the ambling country branch routes, the famous named trains to the west and, indeed, even Tiverton Junction station are now but memories of a distant time.
On 1st May 1844, the public opening of the Bristol & Exeter Railway (B&ER) between its namesake cities occurred with much ceremony. The first continuous test run between Paddington and Exeter had occurred a couple of weeks earlier, on Wednesday 17th April. Laid as a double-track Broad Gauge line, the permanent way was contracted to Mr Hennet (or, in some period publications, “Hennett”) and the route engineered by Isambard Kingdom Brunel. It was now possible to travel between the capital and Exeter entirely by train, the journey timetabled to take 4 hours 40 minutes. A station at what later became "Tiverton Junction" opened with the line in 1844, initially being named "Tiverton Road". Typically, "Road" suffixes have over the years indicated that a given station is distant from the main population centre it purports to serve; indeed, Tiverton was about five miles from the railway, the latter of which passed through the parish of Willand. Tiverton Road station, located in the rural fields of Park Farm, was situated 60¾-route-miles from Bristol and 67¾-miles from Plymouth; stations at Cullompton and Wellington, which opened on the same day, were situated 2¼-miles south and 9-miles north respectively.
A branch to Tiverton was in the planning stage soon after the B&ER's main line opened, and would eventually diverge from the latter at Tiverton Road station. In Trewman's Exeter Flying Post, 23rd January 1845, it was remarked:
Mr. Brunel said, with respect to the Tiverton branch he had recommended that the atmospheric principle should be adopted, as he thought the nature of the line and the ground, and other circumstances peculiarly favourable for its adoption.
It was noted in the Morning Advertiser on Friday, 4th September 1846 that most of the land required for the Tiverton line had been purchased by the B&ER. The branch was laid as a single-track Broad Gauge line, five miles in length, and was opened to public traffic on Monday, 12th June 1848. From the outset, standard locomotive haulage was used on the branch, rather than the earlier-recommended atmospheric propulsion. Trouble had already been brewing on the South Devon Railway (SDR) with regards to the unreliability of their atmospheric system, the latter of which ultimately died a horrible death in September 1848, drowning in the vitriol of the press. It was equally hated by the SDR's own shareholders, who had overwhelmingly voted for atmospheric abandonment the previous August.
Multiple sources indicate that the name of the main line station changed from "Tiverton Road" to "Tiverton Junction" when the branch came into use, although newspapers of the era still referred to the old name when recounting the line's opening:
This day we have the pleasure to announce the opening of the Tiverton branch of the Bristol and Exeter Railway. The 10.0 train from Exeter, at about 15 minutes past 10 o'clock, took the directors and their friends, at and near Exeter, to the Tiverton-road station, where they were met by a large party of directors and friends from Bristol. Sir Thomas Dyke Acland joined the train at Hele. The party entered the carriages at the Tiverton-road platform, and the train arrived at the Tiverton station at a quarter past eleven o'clock. The train was received as it approached the station by a concourse of people of both sexes, who loudly cheered it in its progress, and upon its arrival at the platform, the company were received by nearly all the respectable inhabitants of Tiverton and in its vicinity. [Devonshire Chronicle, 12th June 1848]
The first station here had "up" and "down" platforms either side of the Broad Gauge double-track, and an accident report makes mention of the Station Master's accommodation:
The train reached this station at 10h. 55m., and the guard was occupied in re-forming his train, when a down special express from Bristol arrived and run into the aftermost waggon at about 11h. 5m., damaging the brake van and some of the waggons, one of which was forced up and fell on the down platform and against the brick wall of the station house, which it partly destroyed: no person was hurt. [Railway Department, Board of Trade, 3rd March 1855]
Sidings for goods traffic were evident at Tiverton Junction from the early years. A court case report from 1861 touched upon a cattle flow between the station and Banbury:
The first count in the declaration stated that the plaintiff delivered to the defendants, as carriers of cattle from Tiverton-road station to Banbury station for reward, certain cattle of the plaintiff, to be by them carried from Tiverton-road station aforesaid to Banbury station aforesaid... [The Jurist - Reports, 5th October 1861]
The second branch line to serve Tiverton Junction was that to Hemyock, the latter located 6½-miles east of the station as the crow flies. On 15th May 1873, the "Culm Valley Light Railway" was incorporated to build a single-track line between those locations, 7¼ route miles in length, with an authorised capital of £25,000 in shares and an additional £8,000 in loans. Initially, the line's promoter, engineer Arthur C. Pain, had estimated the construction cost to be £3,500 per mile; in reality, this rose sharply to about £6,000 per mile. The total cost of the scheme was around £46,000 and, unlike the main line, the branch was built to the standard gauge of 4-foot 8½-inches. Intermediate stations were opened at Uffculme and Culmstock, located 2¾-miles and 4¾-miles from Tiverton Junction respectively; these two villages and Hemyock had combined populations of 3,737 in 1880. The branch was formally opened to public traffic on 29th May 1876; the B&ER had previously agreed to supply tailor-made motive power and rolling stock for the line.
Since the main line and Culm Valley were built to different gauges, how did they link up at Tiverton Junction? In November 1974, the B&ER placed a contract with "Durnford and Son" of Bristol to lay a third rail on each running line between the latter and Exeter, allowing narrow gauge trains to run the full length of the main line. Mixed gauge between Bristol and Taunton was completed in May 1875, the last piece of metal being laid on 28th of that month. Extension of this to Cowley Bridge Junction, Exeter, was finished on Thursday 17th February 1876; a test train from Bristol ran through the next day, the sidings at St David's station were converted the following week, and regular freight trains commenced operation between Bristol and Exeter in the March. From 24th May 1877, standard gauge GWR passenger trains started running through to Exeter; before then, these had terminated at Taunton.
29th September 1956
The four through tracks separating the two islands of the 1932 station are in evidence in this photograph, which shows Large Prairie 2-6-2 Tank No. 4174 of Collett's 51xx Class, thought to be fronting an all-stations stopping service from Goodrington Sands to Taunton. As of 21st March 1959, No. 4174 was listed as being allocated to Newton Abbot (83A) engine shed, but in 1955 the engine was under Gloucester (85B). The structure in the background, which looks like a large platform canopy, was in fact the goods shed; this pitched roof covered a single track and platform face, upon the latter of which were brick-built offices housing a parcels depot and cloak room.
H. C. Casserley / © David Glasspool Collection
18th April 1960
Castle Class No. 5050 "Earl of St. Germans" is seen hurtling through Tiverton Junction on the "down" main with the 9:50 AM Liverpool Lime Street to Plymouth inter-regional express. The original notes which accompanied this negative suggest that she had hit 85 MPH by the time the photographer had captured the shot. Where would No. 5050 have come onto the train? It is possible that the London Midland Region brought the carriages down as far south as Bristol Temple Meads, perhaps with a "Black Five" at the helm, where the "Castle" took over. However, according to the Ian Allan ABC of 1959 (data correct to 21st March of that year), No. 5050 was allocated to Shrewsbury; so, perhaps the locomotive exchange happened there (a route of Lime Street > Crewe > Shrewsbury looks like a good possibility). Behind No. 5050 is the footbridge of 1932 and, to the latter's right, the water tank of the same vintage. The "down" goods sidings are marked by the wagons seen on the far right.
© David Glasspool Collection