Bideford, Westward Ho! and Appledore Railway - History - Construction and Opening

Construction and Opening

A scheme for building this railway was suggested as early as 1860 with a bridge across the Torridge and stations at Northam, Appledore, Clovelly, Hartland and Bude. In 1866 a start was actually made on a line to run to Appledore with a branch to Westward Ho!, however soon after a full 'first sod cutting ceremony' by the Earl of Iddesleigh, the contractors went bankrupt and the project was abandoned. A project to create a 10+1⁄2 miles (17 km) branch from Abbotsham Road Station to Clovelly had been put forward by Messrs. Molesworth and Taylor.

Finally the Bideford, Westward Ho! & Appledore Railway was incorporated on 21 May 1896, with its Head Office address at the Electrical Federation Offices in Kingsway, London WC2. Soon after the line passed to the British Electric Traction Company (BET). It was not until 24 April 1901 that the single track line was opened as far as Northam, although the first trial train ran with a few friends of the directors in January 1901. The first train, pulled by Grenville was played off by Herr Groop's German Band which had been hired for the season and it reached speeds of 36 mph (58 km/h) on its inaugural run. The remaining extension to Appledore finally opened in 1908, on 1 May, costing £10,000. The railway was built in three sections, with the first being from Bideford at 1 furlong, 9 chains and 50 links (0.39 km), the second from the termination of the first, being to Westward Ho!, length 4 miles (6.4 km), 3 furlongs, 9 chains and 50 links (7.23 km), and the third being from the termination of the second, to Appledore, length 2 miles (3.2 km), 3 furlongs and 4.2 chains (3.91 km). The contract for construction was awarded to a Mr. Charles Shadwell of Blackburn and the estimate was for £50,000. The initial outlay was £87,208 and Mr. Shadwell was removed from his post on 13 December 1901. A subsequent court action proved that he did 'wilfully default' and judgment was given against him in 1905 for £7,500. Plans had been made for a 3 ft (0.91 m) gauge track, however as it was hoped to connect the line with the L&SWR by a bridge over the Torridge, the line was built to a Standard Gauge specification. Gradients were severe in places, with a 1 in 47 (112 ft/mi) on the Kenwith Castle to Abbotsham Road section.

The rails were delivered by boat to Bideford Quay by the S.S. Snipe in May 1898 and the sleepers also arrived at the quay, coming from West Hartlepool in September. Wood blocks were used on the quay, flush with the road surface to deaden the noise, as was the practice on roads with heavy horse and cart traffic in many places. The wood became very slippery and caused accidents in wet weather, the company not always being as careful with the application of sand and gravel as it should have been.

The Company filled in and culverted the stream coming down from Kenwith Castle, creating reclaimed land and preventing the high tides flowing up to the castle. The council had designs on this 'new land' and complained that the railway did not skirt the edge to release the land for other purposes.

Read more about this topic:  Bideford, Westward Ho! And Appledore Railway, History

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