Amberley Publishing - Transport, Military, Local and General History

Tag Archives: Bernard Warr

  • South Devon Railway by Bernard Warr

    This is the third book I have written for Amberley but the first about railways, a subject that is close to my heart. My romance with the South Devon Railway started on a hot summers day in 1965 when I was being driven along the old and winding A38 road in Devon. We came upon Buckfastleigh, much more famous among tourists for Buckfast Abbey than anything to do with railways in those days. My friend and flatmate, Nigel, in whose car we were travelling, pulled into the entrance of the station approach road but found our way barred by a substantial gate, firmly locked and chained. We climbed out to have a look and found a notice attached to the gate telling us that the former railway from Totnes to Ashburton was to be reopened by a private company as a tourist attraction. An appeal for help was made and an address to contact for information was given.

    Buckfastleigh Station in 1965. (Image Bernard Mills, South Devon Railway, Amberley Publishing)

    This sounded interesting and I contacted the address to offer my help, deep down expecting to be told that they wanted people who knew something about railways and could be of more use than a humble bank clerk. How wrong I was! They welcomed me with open arms and I was soon a regular attendee at the weekend working parties. On site, a veritable treasure trove of Great Western Steam engines and coaches had been assembled ready for the day when services could recommence. As it turned out, it was to be nearly four years before the first fare paying passenger was carried. The problem being the section of the line between Buckfastleigh and Ashburton. The Ministry of Transport wanted to keep this strip of land to enable the A38 to be straightened and widened. Because of this the company was only able to run services between Totnes and Buckfastleigh from April 1969.

     

    The very last train from Ashburton on 2 October 1971 was the 3.05pm to London Paddington, loading to eleven carriages, seen here approaching Buckfastleigh in the capable hands of former GWR loco 4588. (Image Bernard Mills, South Devon Railway, Amberley Publishing)

    In the succeeding years, as the railway prospered, so did Buckfastleigh, enjoying something of an economic renaissance as a result. Meanwhile the Dartmoor town of Ashburton, bereft of the tourist railway, has not participated in similar economic success.

    The last trains to Ashburton ran in 1971 and included enormous through trains from both Swansea and London Paddington and on this day, the line saw more visitors than at any time in its history.

    Shortly afterwards the road contractors moved in, ripped up the track and obliterated the line north of Buckfastleigh. An enormous embankment was built across the Buckfastleigh Station goods yard, removing at a stroke, the many storage sidings it contained.

     

     

     

    The bridge over the River Dart north of Buckfastleigh in 1971, with the station and goods yard in the background, all soon to be obliterated by the widening of the A38 Trunk Road. (Image Bernard Mills, South Devon Railway, Amberley Publishing)

    From this low point the company slowly built the new business, establishing a regular train service during the summer months and undertaking maintenance of the track, rolling stock and engines during the winter months. In those early years although the line passed through delightful scenery alongside the River Dart, it was very much a line to nowhere as the new station at Totnes, facilitated by the company, was divided from the town by the river and no one could get on or off!

    At about the time that the last trains to Ashburton ran the company was offered the freehold of the line between Paignton and Kingswear with the ferry across to Dartmouth. This proved to be an enormously successful venture and by 1989 the company decided that the line from Buckfastleigh to Totnes was losing money and could not continue to operate under their control. It was offered up for sale. Fortunately, the volunteers who had been supporting the Buckfastleigh – Totnes line banded together, formed a charitable organisation and negotiated a lease from the company with their first trains running from 1991.

    Copper capped chimney and gleaming brasswork. This picture of Small Prairie 2-6-2T No. 5542 as it passes Hood Bridge Permanent Way cabin says it all! (Image Bernard Miles, South Devon Railway, Amberley Publishing)

    The charitable status helped obtain grant aid to construct a pedestrian footbridge across the River Dart at Totnes which opened in 1993.

    Suddenly the ‘line to nowhere’ had gained a purpose and passenger numbers (and therefore revenue) soared. Over the years, other attractions have been developed; at Buckfastleigh there is the Otter Sanctuary and Butterfly World, whilst at the Totnes end is the Totnes Rare Breeds Farm. All very appealing for the family visit and makes an enjoyable day out. But of course, the real attraction is the Great Western steam engines with copper capped chimneys, gleaming brasswork and the smell of warm oil, burning coal and the steam! Long may it remain so.

    Bernard Warr's new book South Devon Railway is available for purchase now.

  • East Yorkshire Motor Services by Bernard Warr

    I retired from full-time work about ten years ago. Finding myself with time on my hands I started to look more closely at my extensive negative and slide collection which mostly comprised pictures of buses in the Midlands in the 1950s and 60s and railway subjects from the 1970s onwards.

    I set out to sort and catalogue my collection and by early 2011, I was ready to convert the many thousands of slides and negatives into digital images. To get the quality I wanted I had to resort to a professional scanning organisation and this proved expensive. Nevertheless, I carried on and had about 1000 negatives and slides digitised in this way.

    Showing off the fine lines of the Roe 'Beverley Bar' highbridge bodywork is a further example from the same batch, No. 491 (JAT 459), photographed on 18 August 1962. Note the flap on the destination blinds which allows the conductor to select the direction of travel without having to wind-on the blind. (Author's collection, East Yorkshire Motor Services, Amberley Publishing)

    In an attempt to defray the cost I started selling prints of these images on eBay and for the next couple of years this produced a steady flow of income, although it was quite labour intensive to deal with the packaging, posting, re-ordering etc. What did become apparent was the latent interest in the former Midland Red Bus Co that I had worked for when I left school in 1960. I decided to try and tap into this and write an account of my experiences based on my diary notes and photographic records taken at the time. After about two and a half years of occasional effort I had got the story down and found I had written about 75,000 words which when added to the captions for the 100 or so illustrations grew to nearly 80,000.

    What to do next? I contacted friends in the heritage industry and asked if they would be prepared to read my efforts and give me honest feedback. They all agreed and some passed the book on to other potentially interested readers. The results came back and were very positive. One of the reviewers, himself a notable author on Midland Red subjects with many successful titles to his credit, was very enthusiastic, said he enjoyed it from start to finish and even volunteered to correct my use of the English language and punctuation!

    Emboldened by the responses I was getting I decided to approach some publishers. One liked the story, offered me a contract and an advance of royalties. I signed up two years ago and we agreed that the title would be Midland Red Adventure. Since then nothing much has happened other than they have tried to get me to rewrite the book as a general history of the Company with lots of technical details of the buses. I'm not going to do this because it has already been done very expertly by others so there would be no point.

    After I had sent my 'flyer' about Midland Red Adventure to my selected prospective publishers I was approached by Amberley with a proposition to produce a full colour photo album of Midland Red buses to be called Midland Red in Colour, which was later published June 2018. Amberley have since asked me to do three more books in the same format and the first of these is about East Yorkshire Motor Services, published April 2019.

    In 1933 a new ticketing system was devised in conjunction with a prominent ticket manufacturer. (c. Stuart Warr, East Yorkshire Motor Services, Amberley Publishing)

    As their long-distance coaches visited Birmingham daily I came to know some of the drivers from both Hull and Bridlington depots, so on my teenage holidays to the East Riding, I would look up these friends and ride with them as they went about their daily work. Some of them are featured in the book.

    Another idiosyncrasy was the Willibrew ticket system named after its designers. No rolls of tickets here but plain rectangular tickets with the fares down one side. The conductor would insert the ticket into his ticket machine and slice off the section below the fare he was charging and the removed section was retained in the machine. Balancing the cash must have been a nightmare and some poor clerk would have to analyse hundreds of these ticket stubs each day.

    Looking back on it now, nearly sixty years later, it was a different age. Today it seems almost unimaginable that working men would befriend a teenager and encourage them in their bus enthusiasm hobby, but they did and my life was the richer for it because it led me to start a career in the industry.

    As to the book Midland Red Adventure well who knows?

    Bernard Warr's new book East Yorkshire Motor Services is available for purchase now.

2 Item(s)