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South Devon Railway


RCD’s Overview

The South Devon Railway is one of the country’s longest established heritage railways, its first trains running as early as 1969 when it was known as the Dart Valley Railway. Services run between the attractive tourist towns of Buckfastleigh and Totnes, running alongside the beautiful River Dart for much of its length. The railway aims to re-create the golden days of travel between the 1930s and 1960s along a traditional Great Western Railway branch. Its early start in preservation means it has a large and varied GWR related collection, including its impressive collection of GWR tank engines of the type once commonplace on Devon branch lines. This makes it one of the most authentic heritage railways in the country. The railway operates on a daily basis from late March to the end of October. A passing loop exists at the half way point (Staverton) to enable two-train running on the busiest summer and holiday periods.

The support group is the 'South Devon Railway Association' (see 'Information on the Suport Group' below).


Happening This Month:

  • Go to 'Homepage' and click into 'Railway Club Calendar'

Key Facts (where and when)

Extent of Railway (where to where):

Buckfastleigh to Totnes Riverside (Devon)

Principal Visitor Centre:

Buckfastleigh Station (TQ11 0DZ)

Period of Operation*

- Late March to October (Daily)

- November and December (Special event trains)

 [* This is a summary. Please go to the railway’s website for definitive operating days] 


Key Facts (what you’ll see)

Services usually steam or diesel?

Majority steam, with some diesel working during peak times and designated diesel events

Type of Steam / Diesel Locomotives Used:

Large collection of GWR locomotives, particularly tank engines. Also number of ex-main line diesel locomotives and heritage DMU

Length of Line:

6.75 miles

Time taken for a round trip:

1 hour 20 minutes

Number of trains per day:

4 in each direction (additional trains at peak times)

Number of Stations:

3 stations


Adult Rover: £18. Senior: £17. Child Rover: £12.50. Family (super saver): From £40

Time to allow for Visit:

2 to 3 hours, or half day if visit linked attractions


Yes, at Buckfastleigh station



Picnic/Play areas:


Preservation Established:


Car Park Facilities:

Free parking at Buckfastleigh


Key Facts (Galas/Events/Dining)

Dining Trains:

- Sunday Lunch

- Afternoon Tea 

Event Trains:

- The Polar Express: Mid November and December                                   

Principal Galas:

See website: Typically:

- Spring Gala: April

- Diesel Gala: July/August


- Drive a Steam Train/ Drive a Diesel Train

- Photo Charters




Telephone:                                                          01364 644 370


Social Media:                                            

                                                                             Also on Twitter/ Instagram/ YouTube/ Flickr



Brief History of the Railway and its Preservation  

Before the coming of the railways, Buckfastleigh and Ashburton were important regional towns, being located on the main coaching road between Exeter and Plymouth, and on the River Dart. The railway between Exeter to Plymouth opened in 1847 however it took a southerly route via Newton Abbot and Totnes, by-passing both Buckfastleigh and Ashburton. Those towns faced likely decline without a railway connection, and in consequence a branch line from the main line junction at Totnes to Ashburton via Buckfastleigh was built, opening in 1872. Built to broad-gauge, it was converted to standard gauge in 1892. The line saw falling revenues in the 1950s, and was closed to passengers pre-Beeching in 1958, and to goods in 1962. Devon was and remains very popular with holiday-makers, and a group of local businessmen saw the opportunity to open a steam operated railway to be run on a commercial basis. The Dart Valley Light Railway Ltd was incorporated and the branch lines to Kingsbridge and Moretonhampstead were considered before the Ashburton branch was finally chosen. It finally opened in 1969. Unfortunately, the section of the line between Buckfastleigh and Ashburton was lost to a road scheme in 1971. In 1989 DVLR indicated its intent to close the line due to operational losses. The volunteers who had been supporting the enterprise were offered a short-term lease and took over the railway to operate it on a more seasonal basis with increased reliance on volunteers. They formed a charitable organisation, and with no shortage of supporters, the line was renamed the South Devon Railway, with the freehold of the railway ultimately being acquired in 2010.


The Railway’s Vision:

To advance public education in the history and development of railway transportation by maintaining and operating a typical West Country branch line following the practice of the Great Western Railway and British Railways (Western Region). This will enable visitors to experience and learn about branch line rail travel as it was prior to 1966.


Steam Operational Locomotives:

(1) GWR Class 1366 (Collett) - No.1369

(2) GWR Class 4575 (Churchward/Collett) - 5526

(3) GWR Class 4575 (Churchward/Collett) - 5542

(4) GWR Class 57xx (Collett) - 5786 (L.92)

(5)  GWR Class 64xx (Collett) - 6412

(6)  GWR Class 64xx (Collett) - 6430


Diesel Operational Locomotives/DMU:

(1) BR Class 25 - D7612 (25 262 / 25 901)

(2) BR Class 33 - D6501 (33 002)


Steam Locomotives Under Overhaul:

(1) GWR Class 14xx (Collett) – 1420

(2) GWR Class 2251 (Collett) – 3205


Stored/ Under Restoration/ Out of Service:

- Peckett 0-4-0 - ‘Lee Moor No. 2’ (on display)

- Peckett 0-4-0 - ‘Ashley’ (on display)

- Peckett 0-4-0 - ‘Lady Angela’

- BR Class 09 - D3721 (09 010)

- BR Class 25 - D7535

- BR Class 37 - 37 037

- BR Class 50 - 50 002

- Heritage DMU Class 122 Bubblecar - W55000



Name of Principal Support Group:

South Devon Railway Association

Annual membership fee:

Adult: £25. Senior: £19. Student: £14. Junior: £12. Family: £40

Own Website:



Benefits of membership:                                  

-          Opportunity to work on the railway in a variety of fascinating and rewarding jobs

-          Discounts in shop and cafe

-          Quarterly Magazine, ‘Bulliver’

-          Privileged fares available on most South Devon Railway trains, except certain special events (free travel for regular volunteers)


How to Join:                           Go to


What They Say About Volunteering:

Our volunteers are what make the South Devon Railway; they are essential to the work that we do. They come from all walks of life and have a wide array of different skills that help us to keep the wheels turning. With hundreds of volunteers along our line, performing a huge variety of meaningful and enjoyable, sometimes challenging, roles, you’ll fit right in. No previous experience of working or volunteering on a railway is required, and you certainly don’t need to be a railway enthusiast, just a friendly and cooperative attitude will unlock a rewarding volunteer role.


How to Volunteer:                                           Go to


How to Donate:                                               Go to


WHY JOIN:  Contribute to a sustainable future for the South Devon Railway by providing financial and practical support.



Those interested in this railway may also be interested in the following railway societies also listed on this



Traditional Railway Societies:

- Great Western Railway Society

- Plymouth Railway Circle

- Friends of the Railway Studies Collection (Newton Abbot)


 Locomotive Societies (steam):

- Worcester Locomotive Society       


Model Railway Clubs:

- South Devon Garden Railway Group

- South Devon Model Railway Society

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