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Bude

Bude Station

The front of Bude station as photographed in the early 1960s.

photograph by John Bradbeer

Bude station opened with the arrival of the L&SWR line from Holsworthy on 10 August 1898. As was frequently the case in the latter years of the building of the railways, this was not without much delay and disappointment. On 20th January 1879 the L&SWR opened its line to Holsworthy, but much to the distress of the people of Stratton and Bude, showed no signs of continuing on to the coast. In 1883 Stratton offered £1,000 towards the cost of a Bill for a 9½ mile line to be built, via Bridgerule and Stratton, to Bude, which led to an Act being passed for the building of the line on 20th August 1883. However, despite a ceremonial "cutting of the first sod" near to the proposed site for Bude station, not much else happened! The work was due to be completed by October 1891 but extra time had to be asked for in 1890, and was granted. However, come the end of 1891 there was still no progress so an Act of Abandonment was obtained on 20th May 1892.

The traders of Stratton were not to be beaten, however, and tried again in 1894. On 6 July 1895 a further Act was obtained for a line to be built by the L&SWR. The L&SWR was, by this time, investing heavily in the construction of the independent North Cornwall Railway (a line it leased but never owned) and to shave £10,000 from the proposed construction costs adopted a route more or less direct from Bridgerule to Bude, avoiding the need for a costly viaduct but ignoring Stratton altogether, even though that place was then four times the size of Bude. From then on things went more smoothly with the line constructed for the L&SWR by John Aird & Co., which was later to build the West Highland Railway.

In 1905 a through coach from and to Waterloo started running, as did the "Bude and North Cornwall Express". Leaving Waterloo at 11am, with the up service from Bude leaving at 10:15am, these were the forerunners of the "Atlantic Coast Express".

The railway was inspected on 9th August 1898 by Colonel F A Mandarin, RE, and though not quite complete was passed for traffic, subject to a speed restriction until the permanent way became "consolidated". There was a further line, "Railway Nº2", which led from the station across the marshes to the Wharf near the sea lock on the Bude canal. This line was for goods traffic only, so didn't require inspection.

The following day a Directors' Special came down the line, hauled by a virtually brand new Drummond C8 class, Nº290, from Exeter Queen Street to a much decorated Bude, with public services starting the day after, intitially of seven trains each way, weekdays only.

The length of the main platform may have seemed excessive on opening but by the 1930s it was too short for traffic requirements so the station layout and signalling were remodelled slightly to allow twelve coach trains to enter the main platform. Longer trains, fifteen coaches or more, could be accomodated by dividing the train between the two platforms. A down train would normally arrive with a pilot engine which was uncoupled at the down home signals and run into a siding. The train engine would then run into the main platform, with the engine going all the way to the buffer stops if necessary. The pilot engine would then couple onto the rear of the train and draw it back sufficiently to release the engine, which then went on shed whilst the stock was berthed in both the main and bay platforms. For an up train, up to five coaches would be in the bay with the remainder in the main. The portion in the bay would be drawn forward, then set back onto the main portion of the train. Because of this all passenger movements inside the home signals were controlled by ground shunt signals, referred to as running dummies. Local services were normally catered for with a two set and it wasn't unknown for the two set and its engine to be berthed in the bay whilst all this was taking place!

Goods facilities were catered for by a small yard with a brick goods shed and a cattle pen, as well as the Wharf branch; and was quite varied - from Whitsone bricks, general building materials and farming requirements to the special traffic needed for the Airship Station established at Marhamchurch during the First World War. The Wharf branch was a more than welcome resource on a number of occasions when the small facilities at Bude were overwhelmed by a large number of wagons as being able to leave stock on this line saved the day on a number of occasions. This Wharf branch generated a large amount of traffic with, for many years, sea sand, coal, feedstuffs, corn and fertiliser traffic using wooden sailing ketches that traded between Bude and the Bristol Channel ports. It was cut back in 1955 to make way for a car park by the Wharf but continued in use well into the 1960s.

The station buildings themselves changed little down the years. W H Smith had a bookstall on the platform from the beginning, with also a lending library. The refreshment room was licenced, making it popular with the local population as well as travellers, and electic lighting was installed from the early 1920s. Until 1938 a horse bus would meet all the principal trains to convey passengers for the Falcon Hotel to their destination.

The Bulleid light pacifics were infrequent visitors to Bude though one memorable occasion was on 1st November 1945 when 21C106 arrived to be named Bude by Councillor John Hallett, chairman of the Stratton and Bude UDC. The turntable at Bude was too short for these locomotives, so any that did visit had to run in reverse gear when they left. A number, including the first, 21C101 Exeter, were used on afternoon trains to Bude during October 1947 whilst the turntable at Okehampton was being enlarged, something which prevented the use of the usual T9 class locos.

Situated on a short loop off the loop line at the north end and connecting with the Wharf siding at the south end was a single line loco siding, with an engine shed and a 49' 10" turntable. As part of changes to the layout in 1939 the connection at the south end was removed, leaving it as just a loco siding. At the same time a new siding was put in off the loop line, to the north of the loco siding, which during the latter years housed an ex-LNWR sleeping coach for the use of crews "overnighting" at Bude.

Decline and fall summed up the years after the end of WWII. A brief post-war return of traffic either side of nationalisation soon declined as the travelling public found it could afford a motor car, then from April 1950 the Western Region assumed commercial and engineering responsibilities for the line, though the trains were still run by the Southern Region, the lines so operated being referred to as "penetrating lines". In 1958 control was handed back to the Southern Region, but only briefly as, on 1st January 1963, all responsibilies went over to the Western Region, itself heavily committed to dieselisation. The timetable was cut back with the through coaches for Waterloo discontinued, replaced from 1st January 1965 by diesel railcars that connected with services to Paddington at Exeter St Davids, or sometimes a North British diesel with a single coach. Bude did, for a short time, have one direct train to Paddington on summer Saturdays, but the writing was on the wall as the process leading to closure was already under way. First the goods services were withdrawn from 5th September 1964, with the goods railhead removed to Launceston to be carried on from there by lorry, and finally the passenger service, along with the Halwill to Wadebridge route, closing from October 1966, just over 68 years since the triumphal opening. The last train, diesel railcar Nº55012, left Bude for Exeter Central on 1st October, crammed full with the passengers that had deserted the line in their droves.

Bude poster

Southern Railway publicity poster for Bude. Reproduced by kind permission of Southern Posters - classic railway art.

The branch map

A map showing the route of the railway from Okehampton, via Halwill Junction where the branch left the North Cornwall line, to Bude.

drawing © Nigel Brodrick

Bude

The main building and forecourt as seen from Bencoolen Road. The Station Master's garden and house are to the right, with the refreshment room, parcels office, booking hall, toilets and staff accommodation situated in the single storey section beyond. On the extreme left are the water tower and larger of the two gasholders.

photograph by Chris Knowles-Thomas

Bude

A view along the main platform with the stretcher box and Smith's bookstall visible beneath the canopy. To the right are the loop, signal box, engine shed, water tower, gasworks and hand points leading to the back road.

photograph: Nigel Brodrick collection

Bude

N class Nº31831 waiting in Bude's main platform for its departure time.

photograph: Mike Morant collection

Bude

The end of the line with the headshunt for releasing the engines of incoming trains.

photograph by Chris Knowles-Thomas

Bude

N class Nº31844 has arrived at Bude with a train from Okehampton on 21st April 1960. The loco will draw forward onto a headshunt, some 228¼ miles from Waterloo, then run back over a 'Y' point in order to run round the train.

photograph reproduced with kind permission of Joanes Publications

Bude

The LSWR standard type 4 signal box contained a 36 lever Stevens Frame. With a fixed distant, four spare levers and three hand points the station layout was unusual in that almost any shunting movement required the signalman to set a route. The mineral wagon behind the box is standing on the spur beyond the turntable.

photograph by Chris Knowles-Thomas

Box diagram

This image of the 'box diagram is a copy, not the original, and the copyright for it rests with Nigel Brodrick. Click on the diagram for a larger (1,250 x 635 pixel) version.

Bude

View from Nº22 points towards the buffer stops. From left to right can be seen the ash heap, engine shed, water tower, Nº2 up main platform and Nº1 bay platform starting signals, the goods shed and office.

photograph by Chris Knowles-Thomas

Bude

The 49'10" LSWR vintage turntable with ash heap, engine shed and water tower beyond. The SR concrete fence had to be erected to prevent the prevailing south westerly winds blowing ash all over the station! In the distance an unidentified N Class 2-6-0 stands in the main platform with a train for Halwill Junction. Photgraphed on 1st September 1961.

photograph by A E West

Bude

Looking towards Holsworthy from the end of the main platform with, from left to right, the siding leading to the goods shed, the bay platform and shunt signal Nº6 (bay to dock), the up starting signals, main line, loop, signal box, gasworks, ash heap, engine shed and water column.

photograph by Chris Knowles-Thomas

Bude

Having turned on arrival, N Class 2-6-0 Nº31874 simmers gently as she stands over the pit beside the coal stage whilst awaiting her next turn of duty on 7th September 1963.

photograph by Chris Knowles-Thomas

Bude

The water tower was originally fully covered but, by the final years of steam, all that remained of the roof was the steel supporting structure.

photograph by Chris Knowles-Thomas

Bude

Looking across the main line and loop towards the canal, with the 228 milepost to the left, turntable centre right and rail-mounted crane beyond.

photograph by Chris Knowles-Thomas

Bude

View looking along the bay platform with Nº14 crossover and associated yellow shunt signal Nº12 (dock to up bay) clearly visible. In the background, from left to right, are the cattle dock, Silcock's store, goods shed, up siding with distant wagons and the up starting signals.

photograph by Chris Knowles-Thomas

Bude

A close-up view of the goods shed, this time with the doors closed.

photograph by John Bradbeer

Bude

The road access side of the goods shed, with the gas works rather prominent in the background.

photograph by John Bradbeer

Bude

The cattle dock from the bay platform, with yellow arm shunt signal Nº12 and the far end of Nº14 crossover visible in the foreground.

photograph by Chris Knowles-Thomas

Bude

Looking along the main line towards the station. Nº25 points (main to loop) are in the foreground and beyond the hand crane stands on an isolated section of track beside the harbour branch, which curves away behind the signal box.

photograph by Chris Knowles-Thomas

Bude

The view towards Holsworthy, slaughterhouse to the left, yellow shunt signal Nº30 (up siding to main) and Nº31 crossover in the foreground.

photograph by Chris Knowles-Thomas

Bude

View from the up yard of Nº23 crossover (bay to main) and shunt signal Nº29 (loop to main), with the gasworks beyond.

photograph by Chris Knowles-Thomas

Bude

End of the line - the main buffer stops were situated 228 miles 308 yards from Waterloo. Photographed on 1st September 1961.

photograph by A E West

Bude after closure | Sep 61 Working Notice

This page was last updated 12 September 2008

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