A guest post by Ann Tanner from Sidmouth Museum. Photos copyright Sidmouth Museum.
50th Anniversary of closure
2017 is the 50th Anniversary of the closure of Sidmouth railway station. Sidmouth Museum decided to mark the anniversary as its occurrence greatly affected the lives of residents and visitors to Sidmouth. The museum has planned an exhibition at Kennaway House in the centre of Sidmouth near the museum.
The museum heard about an exceptional model railway layout of Sidmouth Station. The layout accurately shows how the station used to look. They contacted Richard Harper, the designer and constructor, to ask him to exhibit it as part of the anniversary commemorations. So once again trains will run in Sidmouth!
The Exhibition, held on 22nd to 24th August 2017, grew and blossomed and included Railway Memorabilia. Some from Sidmouth Station itself. There was also a Photo Display spanning 93 years of Sidmouth Station and seaside holidays of days gone by. There was also an opportunity to see a display on the progress of the restoration of 34010 Sidmouth a West Country Class locomotive.
This locomotive was formally named ‘Sidmouth’ at the towns railway station on the 27th June 1946. Fortunately, it still exists and is the subject of a major restoration.
In this blog is a small taster of the many photographs that were on display.
Memories of Sidmouth railway station
Planning and discussing the exhibition has led to the most wonderful outcome because many memories of Sidmouth railway station have come to light:
A proud memory from a retired booking clerk: “Before the war taxis queued past the station and up Station Road to meet the incoming London trains. A regular bus service served the town and hotels.”
A happy childhood memory: “I first came to Sidmouth in 1955. My virgin Aunts (think WW1) brought me down on the train from Waterloo. I think we were in a through coach as I do not remember changing at Sidmouth Junction. My aunts sent the luggage ahead and we walked down to Mrs Farrant’s guest house in Cotmaton Road, my aunts did not do taxis. I guess that we went on the beach and did all the usual things. I was a pretty tubby little lad at the time and became fond of clotted cream which we had to take home at the end of the holiday.” The little boy grew up and having spent many holidays in Sidmouth coming by train then by car he finishes his reminiscence with “So after many happy summer holidays in Sidmouth where else would I ever want to retire.”
Passenger Luggage in Advance
‘Passenger Luggage in Advance’ was an amazing system which helped holidaymakers immensely. Cases and trunks were collected from the passenger’s homes and, for 2s. 6d, return were delivered to your hotel or guesthouse ready for your arrival. On departure, luggage was collected and returned to your home a few days later. The Sidmouth railway station drivers were kept very busy working into the evening so as not to disappoint any holidaymaker.
The Last Train
There are many sad memories of riding on the last train out of Sidmouth on the 4th March 1967.
A memory that illustrates how upset some passengers were by the closure. A friend of an elderly lady that lived in London sent the following to the museum.
The lady described Sidmouth in glowing terms “The town, which is surrounded by glorious countryside, is blessed with exactly the same climate as Cannes, but without being overrun by the vulgar nouveau riches.”
Her pony would travel in a special railway horse-box and her trap travelled with the heavy luggage and freight. The Station Master at Sidmouth Station personally met the train, welcoming passengers to the town and instructing his staff to reunite the pony with the trap. Holiday trunks were loaded onto the trap ready for the short drive to The Knowle Hotel.
She was always most generous in her praise for the kind efficiency of the staff at Sidmouth Station and especially pleased to be greeted by name, at the start of each of her visits to the town. She worried about each of the staff being made unemployed by “that horrid Dr Beeching” whom she considered, by closing the Southern Region branch railway line to Sidmouth, had deprived her of her annual visits to the town. This lady and many thousands of other people were disadvantaged by the misguided closure of this branch line. Today it would be a viable line just like the one to Exmouth and would relieve the town of the hundreds of car journeys.