FIFTY years ago the Beeching Report did away with miles of railways in the South West, deeming them inefficient. A Dorset author is keen to share his childhood memories of journeys no longer possible.
West Country Railway Memories, by Robert Penrose Prance, is a collection of stories from those glorious days of steam. Prance's nostalgia covers a number of counties but, being a Plymothian, the journey from South to North Devon was one he often took.
Areas such as Tavistock, Torrington, Barnstaple and Braunton were familiar stop-offs for the author, and the book outlines the importance of these localities in both the romance of rail travel and the development of his own life. Moreover, it gives some explanation to modern readers of how now obsolete stations were once thriving hubs.
Much of the Tarka Trail was built on old railway lines, so many areas North Devonians love for walking, cycling and running were once used for travel of an altogether different nature.
Prance writes about Meeth Halt station, for example, as a "little gem" that "marked the midway point on one of Devon's most extraordinary railways between Torrington and Halwill Junction". This defunct station is still preserved on the Tarka Trail, as is an old train carriage at the Puffing Billy pub in Torrington.
West Country Railway Memories, by Robert Penrose Prance, is published by The Oakwood Press, available from or can be ordered at Waterstones in Barnstaple.