What it Looks Like Today: The Tiverton Branch Line
Although not part of the Exe Valley Railway,it acted in unison with the Exe Valley Railway,with many Exe Valley trains timetabled to connect with the Tiverton Branch Line trains.Much of the freight that was used or produced in the Exe Valley,was sent up and down the Tiverton Branch Line via the main line at Tiverton Junction.
This made the Tiverton Branch Line very important to the local economy and the local people,as it was the main link with the outside world.
The first mile and a half or so of the Tiverton Branch Line has been transformed into a cycle way,so this stretch of the line is an easy walk for all.Near to the start of the line there is a small free carpark,which is where we parked,before setting off on our walk.
What we soon noticed within a few minutes,was the width of the line here,which seemed very wide compared to what we are used to with the Exe Valley Line.At first we thought that maybe it had been widened for the cycle path,but much of the original concrete post fencing is still evident on both sides,so it must be the original width.The actual answer as to why the track bed is so wide became more clear,when after a short walk later we came to the first bridge on the route,Tidcombe Railway Bridge.
When you see the large arch of Tidcombe Railway Bridge,you realise that there's something a bit unusual about the Tiverton Branch Line.Although only ever used as a single track standard gauge railway,it was originally built to be a double track broad gauge railway and hence the generous width of the track bed and the bridges.
The bridge itself is a lovely well built structure,but differs from the usual Exe Valley bridges in that it was built mainly from bricks rather than stone blocks.There are steps by the side that lead up to the road above,so we want up to have a look.On one of the walls of the bridge there is an interesting marking,"Joseph Hablet West Bromwich".
Joseph Hablet was born in Dudley in 1819 and set up a small brick making business in 1851 that grew into a large company,supplying stone to railways throughout the country.Most of his stone slabs also have a date of manufacture stamped on them,but unfortunately this one doesn't.
After further examination of the bridge,we continued our journey down the line.