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Sideshoots - associated subjects => Campaigns for new and improved services => Topic started by: FlyingDutchman on November 22, 2009, 10:25:03 pm



Title: Ilfracombe Branch
Post by: FlyingDutchman on November 22, 2009, 10:25:03 pm
They could reopen the link from Branstable to Ilfracombe, to help passenger to get to the new ferry service from Ilfracombe to Swansea

I am not sure how much of the branch is there


Title: Re: Ilfracombe Branch
Post by: RichardB on November 23, 2009, 02:36:25 pm
Crossing the Taw at Barnstaple would be the main problem.  The line has been built on through Braunton too.

The first couple of miles from Ilfracombe to Mortehoe is now a very nice walk.  Very well worth it.  You even get to go through a short tunnel.


Title: Re: Ilfracombe Branch
Post by: 34104 on November 23, 2009, 06:02:39 pm
There was a failed scheme in the early/mid 1970's to takeover the Barnstaple- Ilfracombe line when the trackbed and infrastructure was still in place.From what i remember,a few people who put quite a bit of money into getting the scheme off the ground were not pleased because they didn't get their cash back when it folded,details are hazy but i'm sure something like that happened.Pity,because the line could have done for Ilfracombe what the WSR has done for Minehead,although it could be argued that the lines were relatively close and may have taken some of each others business.Can't really see lines like this one reopening unless there is a genuine change in political thinking at the top and a commiment to provide major funding needed to reinstate bridges,stations etc, as stated by Richard.You never know,but i won't be holding my breath.


Title: Re: Ilfracombe Branch
Post by: vacman on November 24, 2009, 12:25:49 pm
Ilfracombe is a prime example of a line that "should never have closed", it remained busy right up until closure despite it being heavilly run down in it's final years, there's not an awful lot in the way of the old track bed, it was double track in places, including through the twin bore tunnels at the Ilfracombe end which would be ideal as this part of the line is a cycle/foot path so if the railway was re-opened the path could be retained and put through the "other" tunnel bore.

Main thing in the way is the lack of bridge at Barnstaple, also, Ilfracombe suffered from it's station being on top of a big hill above the town.


Title: Re: Ilfracombe Branch
Post by: TerminalJunkie on November 24, 2009, 01:32:59 pm
Main thing in the way is the lack of bridge at Barnstaple

Actually, the main things in the way are Braunton Police Station and the sheltered housing block behind this signal post:
(http://i.thisis.co.uk/274576/article/images/1526052/1245243.jpg)


Title: Re: Ilfracombe Branch
Post by: Andy on November 24, 2009, 05:12:33 pm
I agree with Vacman that this was a dumb closure (one of several in the early 70s, with Minehead, Swanage and Bridport also springing to mind) think that the main hope -albeit a slight one - for a reopening in North Devon would concern the Barnstaple-Bideford line which, as reported at the beginning of the month, commands some support at local authority level.

http://www.thisisnorthdevon.co.uk/news/Support-reopening-Bideford-Barnstaple-rail-link/article-1470387-detail/article.html


Title: Re: Ilfracombe Branch
Post by: grahame on July 23, 2019, 06:54:49 pm
Interesting very early cine film of a journey into Ilfracombe

https://player.bfi.org.uk/free/film/watch-view-from-an-engine-front-ilfracombe-1898-online

Quote
This exciting trip through the Devonian countryside was one of several ‘phantom ride’ films made in 1898 by dynamic early film producers the Warwick Trading Company. Phantom rides were films in which cameras were attached to the front of trains or trams, enabling viewers to experience their movement vicariously.



Title: Re: Ilfracombe Branch
Post by: grahame on July 23, 2019, 06:57:12 pm
Other rail interest films - https://player.bfi.org.uk/free/collection/railways-on-film


Title: Re: Ilfracombe Branch
Post by: Umberleigh on September 15, 2019, 06:43:32 pm
There was a failed scheme in the early/mid 1970's to takeover the Barnstaple- Ilfracombe line when the trackbed and infrastructure was still in place.From what i remember,a few people who put quite a bit of money into getting the scheme off the ground were not pleased because they didn't get their cash back when it folded,details are hazy but i'm sure something like that happened.Pity,because the line could have done for Ilfracombe what the WSR has done for Minehead,although it could be argued that the lines were relatively close and may have taken some of each others business.Can't really see lines like this one reopening unless there is a genuine change in political thinking at the top and a commiment to provide major funding needed to reinstate bridges,stations etc, as stated by Richard.You never know,but i won't be holding my breath.

My recollection is that there were promises that a German businessman would match-fund the investors (I could be mistaken!). I also recall that the closure of the Ilfracombe section was a condition of the continued survival of the Tarka line. It was a tragedy that this line closed, especially as BR continued to run summer specials to Barnstaple and then stick everyone onto coaches for the connection to Ilfracombe.

However, in my opinion thebest hope for this trackbed is light rail along the Barnstaple to Braunton section to alleviate the chronic road congestion between those two towns. You could, of course, extend this to Ilfracombe, but the old station is in a terrible location


Title: Re: Ilfracombe Branch
Post by: onthecushions on September 16, 2019, 09:25:12 am

Many of the Beeching closures were of difficult lines, because of curvature, gradients or station siting.

The Ilfracombe branch had two miles of 1/36 climb to Mortehoe.

The terminal station, high up above the town was a SR gem. I saw it just after closure complete with awnings and  ornamental wrought iron gates identical to those at Waterloo. Why do we smash these things up?

OTC


Title: Re: Ilfracombe Branch
Post by: Witham Bobby on September 16, 2019, 10:03:50 am

Many of the Beeching closures were of difficult lines, because of curvature, gradients or station siting.

The Ilfracombe branch had two miles of 1/36 climb to Mortehoe.

The terminal station, high up above the town was a SR gem. I saw it just after closure complete with awnings and  ornamental wrought iron gates identical to those at Waterloo. Why do we smash these things up?

OTC

And very many level crossings - staffed during the hours of service or resident crossing keepers.  Must have had a very high payroll cost.

As a early-years activist in the re-opening of the WSR, I was very aware of the Ilfracombe line's closure, the preservation efforts, and the messy breakdown of those efforts.

BR(WR) Bristol Division was very enthusiastic about reducing the size of their operation during the 1960s and 70s


Title: Re: Ilfracombe Branch
Post by: RichardB on September 16, 2019, 09:43:56 pm
A lot of either the Ministry of Transport or BR files on line closures are held at the National Archives in Kew.  I've gone through many for Devon & Cornwall lines.  One of the things I find most fascinating are the passenger counts.  Here are the ones for Ilfracombe - sadly they illustrate all too well why the line was closed.


Title: Re: Ilfracombe Branch
Post by: infoman on September 17, 2019, 05:58:56 am
Thanks for the info,where can I find passenger numbers for other stations?

In my case Parson Street from the last THIRTY years.

Thank you.


Title: Re: Ilfracombe Branch
Post by: RichardB on September 17, 2019, 10:32:47 am
Before the ORR Estimates of Station Usage, it was very hit and miss and, unless you are lucky, it is not possible to obtain passenger usage figures.

However in the case of Parson St and other ex-Avon County Council stations, the Council organised passenger counts at each of the stations twice a year, in August and November.  I've attached the 1981 - 88 count data which I had from my time at Bath Spa and working to promote Oldfield Park.  I have no idea whether these counts are still going or how long they were done until.  I'd suggest contacting the Severnside CRP -   https://www.severnside-rail.org.uk/contact-us/  .  Another poster may know and indeed have the figures.


Title: Re: Ilfracombe Branch
Post by: johnneyw on September 17, 2019, 11:01:47 am
Try the FOSBR website (Friends of Bristol Suburban Railways) for some of most recent passenger counts.

http://www.fosbr.org.uk/

There used to be more counts until relatively recently but getting enough volunteers has not always been achievable. Having longer trains on the Severn Beach Line, has made more counters necessary which has compounded the problem.


Title: Re: Ilfracombe Branch
Post by: Witham Bobby on September 17, 2019, 02:31:19 pm
A lot of either the Ministry of Transport or BR files on line closures are held at the National Archives in Kew.  I've gone through many for Devon & Cornwall lines.  One of the things I find most fascinating are the passenger counts.  Here are the ones for Ilfracombe - sadly they illustrate all too well why the line was closed.

Many of us involved with, or watching, the closures of the later 1960s and 70s were very sceptical about the way that the timetables were rigged to run the same costly service and at the same time be less attractive - missed connections, inconveniently timed first or last trains and all.  And many we were deeply suspicious of the way the accounting for ticket revenues and operating costs was done.  Central costs, although not reduced by closure of a station or branch, were applied to the cost of running the station or branch.  Maintenance costs were notional, and didn't represent the actual amount spent (which was often little or none)  Tickets sold on-the-train where branch line booking offices had shut, were attributed to the station where the conductor handed in the takings, not to the branch line that the train had run over.  A gigantic fiddle.

When closures were proposed, resultant Public Enquiries would fail to take into account costs such as the increased traffic congestion on the roads, or indeed the unsuitability of the roads to take extra traffic.

I can think of the Stratford to Tyseley route that was saved by court order.  But can't think of another route that was saved, once the powers-that-be had decided it should close


Title: Re: Ilfracombe Branch
Post by: Robin Summerhill on September 17, 2019, 08:29:25 pm
Quote from: Witham Bobby
Tickets sold on-the-train where branch line booking offices had shut, were attributed to the station where the conductor handed in the takings, not to the branch line that the train had run over.  A gigantic fiddle.

I don't think that is strictly correct.

A system of revenue apportionment was used to "establish" the revenue from the branch. To take as an an example the Calne branch, it was naively thought that passengers would meekly make their way to the nearest still-open station (in that case Chippenham) and take the train from there. So the only income that was taken into account was for the element of any journeys puely within the Calne to Chippenham section, and all revenue for onward destinations (eg Bath Bristol London wherever) ws counted as main line income that would still be received. Daft in the extreme with the benefit of hindsight, and indeed daft in the extreme back then, but that was what was done.

I would imagine that a similar situation existed Ilfracombe to Barnstaple, with fares for the portions of journeys beyond Barnstaple being counted as retained income.

Quote from: Witham Bobby
When closures were proposed, resultant Public Enquiries would fail to take into account costs such as the increased traffic congestion on the roads, or indeed the unsuitability of the roads to take extra traffic.

This was not within the terms of reference for the hearings, which were only allowed to examine cases of hardship, a term that was never really satisfactorily defined at the time. It is actually not the case that the suitability of roads was not taken into account - the unsuitability of roads in the areas to take additional traffic saved the rump IOW line Ryde to Shanklin, St Erth to St Ives and Maiden Newton to Bridport (although that one did succumb some 12 years later). And these are just the ones I know about - there will be others in other parts of the UK


Title: Re: Ilfracombe Branch
Post by: Umberleigh on September 23, 2019, 07:35:06 pm
The Gunnislake branch avoided Beeching due to the poor road connections to Plymouth for commuters from the peninsular along which the route runs. The Looe branch was reprieved at the last moment due to Barbara Castle having a soft spot for it 9or so I’ve heard!.

My understanding is that some viable branch lines were closed because a viaduct or tunnel needed costly repair that could not be justified at that time for the levels of traffic. As has been mentioned on here before, the entire network north of Crowley bridge (Torrington, Ilfracombe, Okehampton, Barnstaple) was almost lost in the Beeching days due to the condition of the Exe bridges at Cowley. Fortunately it was considered politically unacceptable for North Devon to become cut off from the rail network entirely.


Title: Re: Ilfracombe Branch
Post by: grahame on September 23, 2019, 08:24:06 pm
My understanding is that some viable branch lines were closed because a viaduct or tunnel needed costly repair that could not be justified at that time for the levels of traffic.

I think that's been the case the world over ... I wonder if we're ever going to see trains to Roscoff again, and here's an example I came across a few days ago, where a swing bridge control system burn out and with it the Portland (Maine) to Montreal passenger train service ceased.    Callendar to Crainlarich - scheduled for closure, but closed early because of a rockfall ...

(http://www.wellho.net/pix/portlandswing.jpg)


Title: Re: Ilfracombe Branch
Post by: RichardB on September 23, 2019, 09:46:54 pm
The Gunnislake branch avoided Beeching due to the poor road connections to Plymouth for commuters from the peninsular along which the route runs. The Looe branch was reprieved at the last moment due to Barbara Castle having a soft spot for it 9or so I’ve heard!.

Re Gunnislake, even though it was listed for closure in the Beeching report, it was never actually put up for closure for just the reason you say. 

Re Looe, it was reprieved on the same day as St Ives (and when Padstow's closure was agreed) - 20 September 66.  They were three of 29 decisions announced on that day and I found the Ministry of Transport press release at the National Archives (I think it was in the MoT Looe closure file).  This is what Minister Barbara Castle said in the release -

"I have refused to close the branch lines serving St Ives and Looe in Cornwall.  In spite of the financial saving to the railways, it just wouldn't have made sense in the wider context to have transferred heavy holiday traffic on to roads which couldn't cope with it.  Nor would extensive and expensive road improvements have been the answer.  At St Ives, these would have involved destroying the whole character of the town.  At Looe, they could not have avoided long delays in the holiday season.  It would be the economics of bedlam to spend vast sums only to create greater inconvenience."

Re the Padstow line, the release says "Compared to St Ives and Looe, the rail-borne holiday traffic is comparatively light.  New bus services will be introduced to meet the needs of holiday-makers, schoolchildren and the small number of regular travellers."


Title: Re: Ilfracombe Branch
Post by: RichardB on September 23, 2019, 09:53:05 pm
I was able to spend a day at the National Archives last Friday.  I was mainly trying to hunt down the 1910 pooling agreement between the GWR and LSWR covering their routes to and within Devon & Cornwall, unsuccessfully as it happens - though I did find a lot of letters and documentation around it.  I also looked at the Bridport closure files and saw how, sadly, usage fell away in the early 70s, leading to its closure after an initial reprieve (as noted above).

Always good to visit and they have an excellent Cold War exhibition on until 9 November. 



Title: Re: Ilfracombe Branch
Post by: Umberleigh on September 24, 2019, 06:18:47 pm
Thanks for the interesting snippets.

There is a photo to be found on the internet of a GWR Mogul and passenger train approaching Wiveliscombe station. On the road in the foreground is a convoy of 1950s (or early 60s) family cars, luggage strapped to their rooves, and all headed North for the moor or the coast. I bet the kids in those family cars were excited to see the train again, but alas now from the ‘comfort’ of the family car. For me, born in 1968,  it serves as a reminder why so many branch lines were doomed once Britons took to the roads with such enthusiasm.



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