Author:   Michael Messenger

Published:   2007
Edition:   Hardback
Pages:   120
Genre:   Narrow Gauge, Light & Industrial

Status:   In Stock


North Devon Clay: The Story of an Industry and its Railways by Michael Messenger.

The rich deposits of ball clay in north Devon have been known for many centuries but were too out of the way to be exploited until the coming of the railway age. In 1881 the owner of the Marland clay works had a private railway built, of three foot gauge, to reach the main line system. Remarkably, he employed the internationally known J. B. Fell as engineer and Fell used it to demonstrate his patented ideas on light railway construction, resulting in spectacular timber viaducts spanning the Devon valleys. An eclectic collection of locomotives worked this six mile line, the Torrington & Marland Railway, for over forty years, and within the works until 1971.

Attempts to bring standard gauge main line railways to the area were unsuccessful until H. F. Stephens proposed the North Devon & Cornwall Junction Light Railway, from Torrington to Halwill Junction. This was delayed by the Great War but, after much political involvement, eventually opened in 1925 with government backing to support agriculture and relieve unemployment. It was one of the last branch lines to be built in Britain but was immediately struggling to meet the bourgeoning competition from road transport.

This book describes the development and growth of both the ball clay industry, at Marland and Meeth, and of the railways that made the industry possible. Whilst the clay industry thrives, the railways have all been superceded and their full stories are recorded. First published in 1982 the book has been fully revised and expanded as a result of much additional research and information. Advantage has also been taken of the expansion of photographic archives and many new photographs are included. Also included are many maps, diagrams and scale drawings of the narrow gauge locomotives and rolling stock.