How times have changed…

My father cleared his pipe, and asked me if I fancied a treat on my birthday.

I stopped fidgeting and moved a Jack Russell that was after the scraps on my plate.

How about going on a train? This was amazing, where and how?

My father who was known as Bacchus Baughan explained.

“We should go from Kingsbridge to Brent, mother can pick us up and drive back.” He went back to excavating his pipe.

This was the last year of the Primrose Line, built with some 48 bridges up the Avon Valley, it was finished in December 1893. With the last train running on the 14th September 1963.

Mother packed a suitable picnic and we set off from Ringmore to Kingsbridge, crossing the Stakes at Aveton Gifford and up to Churchstow. My excitement built as we dropped down into Kingsbridge. I do not think I had ever seen a train.

The train was there belching steam in a drab green with 5 or 6 wagons attached, the railway men were taking on the coal and water needed for our trip. My father did much pointing with his pipe. We got our tickets and made our way on board.

There was quite a wait whilst the cattle were loaded in the cattle wagon, and then with much puffing and a ribbon of steam we climbed out of Kingsbridge. I hard hardly settled down when we arrived at Sorley Tunnel some 600 yards long. It seemed we were rushing along but it was in fact not much more than 30 miles an hour. The 12-mile trip used to take about 35 minutes.

I suppose today by road in the summer this could take an hour! But that is progress.

As we entered the tunnel so the steam and noise reached a crescendo, however added to this train started shaking as the cattle started bellowing and rushing in fright.

As we exited down towards the Avon Valley and Loddiswell, the engine coasted, and my father was soon pointing out the “camping coaches” next to the line that had been converted into holiday accommodation.

At Gara Bridge there was a passing loop otherwise it was single track. The track crossed the river some 10 times with the fields running steeply up from the track and some lovely meadows. For this reason, the line was known as the Primrose line.

All too soon we were at Brent waiting for mother to catch us up with the family Hillman Hunter Estate loaded with tea and terriers.

Today is 60th anniversary of this line shutting. In the line’s heyday, there was a direct service from Paddington to Kingsbridge at the weekends, and the weekday Cornish Rivera Express carried a through coach for Kingsbridge that was detached at Exeter heading West, and attached at Newton Abbot heading East.

What might have happened if the line had stayed open and been extended as originally planned to take passengers to Salcombe?

How would the South Hams have changed?