Wednesday, 9 March 2011


For passengers travelling the main railway line between Plymouth and Exeter who have delighted in the section hugging the shore between Teignmouth and Dawlish, the pleasure continues as the train starts heading inland, because between Dawlish and Exeter the line continues to skirt the water, now following the west bank of the River Exe, passing through the village of Starcross, a particular attraction for birdwatchers, who, if sitting on the right side of the train can gaze out at the feathered occupants of the estuary.

The famous engineer Brunel, who we last met when crossing the Tamar on his majestic railway bridge, demonstrated green credentials which would have done him proud in our 21st century era of climate change driven obsessions. He built a railway connecting Exeter with Newton Abbot which made use of a system called the “atmospheric railway”. This type of railway used air pressure for propulsion, thus saving on fuel and reducing the amount of dirt the passengers were exposed to. The system involved the construction of pumping houses at intervals along the route, and the one at Starcross still stands today, serving as a reminder of Brunel’s inventiveness, although sadly this particular venture was doomed to failure, largely because the system turned out to be more expensive than envisaged.

Map of the area.

IMGP4270photo © 2009 Matt Buck | more info (via: Wylio)

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