Crewkerne Prototype History

crewkerne station

Time & Place

Today, the stretch of main line from Waterloo to Exeter in Somerset is single track running a two hourly passenger train service between London Waterloo and Exeter. The reduction from double to single track came about in 1967 as a result of the Beeching report, which favoured the western route from Paddington to Exeter as the principal conveyance of passengers and goods between London and the south west.

The period of interest is roughly 1960 to 1965, also a time of change because management of the line passed from the Southern to Western Region in 1963. This event saw the start of cuts in services, but also the introduction of Western diesel locomotives.

The first few years of the 1960's was the Indian summer for services on the line. The flagship passenger express The Atlantic Coast Express left Waterloo for remote holiday resorts in Devon and Cornwall.

It comprised a Bulleid Merchant Navy pacific locomotive and coaches arranged in sets for detaching at principal stations along the route.

The sets were conveyed along branch lines to their final south coast destinations by other locomotives. Saturday workings in 1959 saw 18 passenger trains leaving Waterloo for the west of England between 7.30am and 3.05pm. 1961 saw a re-launched faster service of the Atlantic Coast Express, reaching Exeter in 2 hours 58 minutes.

Notable freight traffic included milk tanker trains conveying milk from United Dairies at Semley and Chard Junction and the Express Dairy at Seaton junction to London. Probably the heaviest traffic was ballast trains carrying stone from Meldon Quarry in Devon to all areas of the Southern Region for permanent way building and repairs.

Crewkerne was noted as a dispatch centre of bull calves, conveyed in horse boxes to Maud in Scotland for processing into veal.

Between 1960 and 1964 a holiday car carrier service operated between Surbiton and Okehampton during summer months. Cars were conveyed in GUVs (General Utility Vehicles) whilst the holiday makers occupied the passenger coaches.

With the transfer of the line from Southern to Western management in 1963 a new plan was devised and implemented that saw diesel hauled semi-fast trains running at two hourly intervals. Through freight traffic was rerouted to the Western main line and the Atlantic Coast Express destinations were cut to three with the train pulled by 'Warship' diesel locomotives. However, poor performance of the 'Warship' often resulted in the old Bulleid pacific taking over the train.

The landscape is one of rolling lowland farms dominated by dairy herds. The principal town in the area of interest is Crewkerne. The railway approaches from the east by a 1 in 80 climb. To the west is Crewkerne level crossing then the short Crewkerne tunnel followed by the summit at the hamlet of Hewish and just beyond is Hewish level crossing. A private siding and passing loop also existed there. The siding remained until 1963 and the loop until 1967.

The railway architecture, designed by Sir William Tite, is both magnificent and quaint. Other stations along this stretch of line are also attributable to him, all showing his distinctive Gothic style.

Crewkerne Station today is blessed with support from 'The Friends of Crewkerne Station' a voluntary action group who help maintain the environs of the station and promote its use.