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Seaton Tramway

Matt Lovell

MATT LOVELL tells us about his recent visit to this narrow gauge tramway in Devon.

Seaton in Devon was originally served by a branch line, which opened in 1886. This came off the Salisbury to Exeter mainline, and helped grow Seaton and nearby Beer into top holiday destinations. However, by the 1960s increased car ownership meant that less people were using the train for holidays, and the line closed in 1966 as part of the Beeching Axe.

Between 1969 and 1971 part of the line was converted into a 2ft 9inch narrow gauge electric tramway by Claude Lane, who was already running a similar line in Eastbourne. The line opened in 1970, with a limited service from Seaton, but was extended to Colyford in 1971, and then to Colyton in 1980, completing the current three mile route.

During my recent holiday to one of my favourite places in the UK, I thought it would be rude not to visit one of Devonís top attractions. It's a place that I have been many times before.

Seaton Tramway

We started our visit by heading to the tram station at Seaton, and were greeted by the tram.

Seaton Tramway

As we had some time before the oncoming tram was due in I took this time to take some photos and some video footage for my collection.

Seaton Tramway

One of the photos I took was of the Railbed (above). I find things like this interesting as you donít always see things like this in West Sussex where I live. The rails are laid down and then a layer of bricks are laid around it, which brings the top of the rail to road height for road vehicle access. This was also a common practice in many dockside railways back in the day.

Seaton Tramway


Seaton Tramway

Another picture I took was of the electrical arm attached to the top of the Tram, which provides the electricity required to run the motor. The arm is normally positioned towards the back of the tram to allow for a smooth glide along the pickup wire above.

After a few other snaps I heard a rumbling from down the line so I went and stood near the points to watch the oncoming tram pulling into the station. Once the passengers had alighted from the tram the electrical arm was pulled off the pickup, rotated 180 degrees, and then reattached to the pickup wire.

Seaton Tramway


Seaton Tramway

It was then time to get back on the tram so up to the top deck I went to get ready for the journey ahead. The seats used on the tram are designed so they can be positioned for forward and reverse travel. The guard would simply walk along the middle isle and flip the back of the seats to suit direction of travel.

Seaton Tramway

It did get a bit windy up on the top but it is still a trip I would highly recommend.

While we were trundling down the line we passed all sorts of sights including the tram depot, the river and lots of areas for bird watching.

Seaton Tramway

There are a few passing positions where the trams can pass by each other safely. The points are latched so they can only pass one way round.

After about ten minutes we reached the level crossing at Colyford Station. Here the driver had to get out of the tram to set the crossing, wait for the barriers to drop down and traffic to stop. Once the tram had crossed the crossing the driver got out of the tram again to reset the crossing back to normal. The staff even has a bit of a running joke when crossing as they invite the passengers (mostly the children) to pull funny faces at the stationary cars.

Seaton Tramway

After another ten minutes or so we reached the end of the line at Colyton Station, where we had to alight from the tram. Being a bit of an enthusiast I had to see how the tram overhead pickup turned around as I was told they do it automatically.

This was very cool to watch, as it did not involve any driver/guard interaction apart from driving the tram in reverse.

We then stopped for a bit of lunch at the cafe to wait for another tram to pull in to the station.

Seaton Tramway

The journey took roughly two hours with stops for lunch, and was a very enjoyable ride, although a bit bumpy along the way! It's a trip I am looking forward to hopefully doing again in the future.

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