Bideford Railway Heritage Centre is a fascinating museum located in the town of Bideford, in Devon, England.
The museum is dedicated to preserving and showcasing the rich history of railways in North Devon, particularly the Bideford station, which was an important hub for the transportation of goods and passengers in the 19th and early 20th centuries.
Previously known as the Bideford and Instow Railway Group. They are responsible for the management of the Bideford station site. The old railway line is now part of the popular Tarka Trail.
|Bideford Railway Heritage Centre is located in Bideford, Devon, England.|
|The museum is dedicated to preserving and showcasing the rich history of railways in North Devon, particularly the Bideford station.|
|The museum features exhibitions and collections that showcase the history of railways in North Devon, including vintage railway posters, photographs, maps, and model trains.|
|Visitors can experience what it was like to travel by train in the early 20th century through the restored railway carriage.|
|The museum is run entirely by volunteers, who are passionate about preserving the history of railways in North Devon.|
|Visitors can donate to the museum, support the charity through membership, or volunteer their time.|
The Bideford Railway Heritage Centre is housed in the restored Victorian goods shed of the former Bideford railway station. It’s situated on the Bideford Riverside.
The station was opened in 1855 and served as an important junction for the North Devon Railway fo train travel, which connected Bideford to other towns and cities in the region. The station was used for both passenger and freight transport and played a significant role in the local economy.
In the mid-20th century, however, the station began to decline as road transport became more popular. in 1965, sadly, the line was blocked and fell victim to ‘Beeching Axe’ and was closed to regular passengers and freight in 1982.
The North-West Devon Railway Preservation Society was formed in 1985 to preserve the branch, but it could not raise the necessary funds. Later that year, Devon County Council purchased the trackbed for use in the South-West Coastal Path and removed the track in 1985.
It was not until late 1996 that a group of dedicated volunteers came together to restore the goods shed and create the Bideford Railway Heritage Centre.
Bideford Railway Station & Museum Video
See the video below for what the railway station looks like today as it is a local attraction for visitors to Bideford.
Bideford was opened in 1872 and closed to passengers in 1965 however milk and clay traffic continued with the line finally closed in 1982 and the track lifted. The Bideford Railway Heritage Centre has laid some track and restored the station, rebuilding the signalbox. In 2009 and 2011 James May relaid the track as ’00’ Gauge between here and Barnstaple Junction, running a model locomotive along the route.Roger Griffith, YouTube
- Bideford Railway Station in North Devon opened in 1872 and closed to passengers in 1965.
- The line continued for milk and clay traffic until its final closure in 1982.
- Excursion specials were organized and ran up until 1982.
- Milk was carried from Torrington to various dairies with two trains a day.
- Schoolchildren used the station after a bridge collapse, travelling to Torrington station before taking buses to school.
- Parts of the railway’s heritage have been preserved, including the Instow signal box and crossing gates.
- James May featured the Bideford line in his 2009 and 2011 TV program, “Toy Stories,” where he successfully ran a model locomotive along the entire route.
Exhibitions and Collections
The Bideford Railway Heritage Centre features a range of exhibitions and collections that showcase the history of railways in North Devon.
Visitors can explore the restored goods shed and view displays of railway pieces and memorabilia, including photographs, maps, and model trains. The museum also has a collection of vintage railway posters and signs, as well as a replica of a Victorian-era ticket office.
One of the highlights of the museum is the restored railway carriage that visitors can board. Visitors can experience what it was like to travel by train in the early 20th century, complete with authentic furnishings and fittings.
In addition to the exhibitions and collections, the Bideford Railway Heritage Centre also hosts a range of events throughout the year. These include steam train rides, model railway shows, and talks on railway history.
In 2019, an Interactive Interpretation Centre was opened in the green van, and the cafe, interpretation centre, and signal box are open from 10.30-4 pm every weekend from Easter until the end of October half-term, and daily during school holidays.
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Volunteering and Support
The Bideford Railway Heritage Centre is run entirely by volunteers, who are passionate about preserving the history of railways in North Devon. Visitors to the museum can learn about the work of the volunteers and find out how to get involved.
Visitors can donate to the museum or support the charity through membership or by volunteering their time.
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Near By Trails & Paths on Old Railway Lines
The Bideford Railway Heritage Centre is situated in a historically significant location, with several nearby trails and paths that were once part of old railway lines with many examples of Victorian architecture and feats of engineering along its routes.
One of the most popular is the Tarka Trail, a scenic route that follows the old railway line and takes you through the beautiful landscapes of North Devon. This trail is perfect for walkers, cyclists, and nature enthusiasts.
Another noteworthy path is the South-West Coastal Path, which was created after Devon County Council purchased the trackbed of the former North Devon Railway.
This coastal path offers stunning views of the sea and is a fantastic way to explore the region’s natural beauty while retracing the footsteps of the old railway system.
More about Railways in North Devon
The Bideford Railway Heritage Centre is just one of many fascinating sites dedicated to preserving the history of railways in North Devon.
The North Devon Railway played a significant role in the region’s transportation and economy during the 19th and early 20th centuries. However, the railway suffered a decline in the mid-20th century due to the rise of road transport and eventually fell victim to the Beeching Axe, leading to the closure of several lines and stations.
Despite the decline, the passion for railway preservation remains strong in North Devon. Various organizations and groups, such as the Preservation Society, are dedicated to preserving and restoring historic railway sites.
These efforts not only help to maintain the region’s unique heritage but also provide unique attractions for visitors interested in the history of railways.
The Bideford Railway Heritage Centre is a must-visit destination for anyone interested in the history of railways in North Devon and the local history of Bideford.
With its fascinating exhibitions, collections, and restored railway carriage, the museum offers a unique insight into the region’s transport history, it’s not just for railway enthusiasts. And with its dedicated team of volunteers and community support, the railway preservation & museum is sure to continue preserving and showcasing this history for generations to come.
Frequently Asked Questions
Here are the top questions asked about railways for Bideford and the railway heritage centre
Q: When did Bideford railway station close?
A: Bideford railway station closed to regular passengers on October 4th, 1965, although special trains occasionally used the station until the line was finally closed to freight in 1982.
Q: Does Bideford have a train station?
A: Bideford does not have a national railway station that is connected to it. However, the Bideford Railway Heritage Centre manages the Bideford station site and Instow signal box on the old railway line from Barnstaple to Bideford in North Devon.
Q: What is the closest station to Bideford?
A: The nearest stations to Bideford are Kingsley Road, Bideford, which is only 111 meters away, and Bideford Quay, which is about a 5-minute walk. However, Bideford does not have a national railway station that is connected to it, and Barnstaple is the nearest line.
Q: What is the nearest station to Bideford Bay?
A: Barnstaple Station is the nearest train station to Bideford Bay, which is approximately 17 miles or a 35-minute drive time from the park. The main lines that pass through Barnstaple include Bristol to Penzance with stoppages at Exmouth and Exeter.
Q: What are the Bideford Railway Heritage Centre opening hours?
A: The Bideford Railway Heritage Centre is open every day from 10:30 am to 4 pm, seven days a week.
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About the Author
Welcome to Bideford.com! I’m Matt, a seasoned explorer and avid fan of Bideford and the broader North Devon area. With over a decade of consistent family visits, virtually every weekend, I’ve immersed myself in the rich history and vibrant culture Bideford & North Devon.
On this site, you’ll find a wealth of knowledge amassed from my adventures here. From in-depth local guides to engaging blog posts about Bideford. Whether you’re looking for recommendations on things to do or guidance on where to stay we have you covered. Join me as we delve into the heart of Bideford, North Devon – a town that’s more than just a destination, but an experience waiting to be discovered.
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