Extracts from 'The Barnstaple to Minehead Railway'. Published 1935 by L.T.Catchpole

The Lynton & Barnstaple Railway (L&B) opened as an independent railway in May 1898 as a single track narrow-gauge railway just over 19 miles (30 km) long running through the rugged and picturesque area bordering Exmoor in North Devon, England. Although opened after the 1896 Light Railways Act, it was authorised under its own Act of Parliament and built to higher (and more costly) standards than others of the time.

Barnstaple to Lynton

Following the opening of the Devon and Somerset Railway to Barnstaple, there were calls for an extension to serve the twin villages of Lynton and Lynmouth, which were popular with holiday-makers.

Through the middle of the 19th century, several schemes were proposed, from both established railway companies and independent developers. One scheme suggested electric power, while another proposed a line from South Molton.

None of these schemes offered sufficient prospects to encourage investment, and few got further than initial plans.

the original device

Due to the difficult terrain, one scheme suggested a gauge of 1 ft 11.5 in (597 mm), already in use on the Festiniog Railway and elsewhere, to ease construction. This scheme was supported by local landowner Sir George Newnes, who became chairman of the new company. The Lynton & Barnstaple Railway Bill was passed on 27 June 1895, and the line opened on 11 May 1898 with public service commencing on 16 May.

Sir George Newnes

This scheme did not however meet with universal enthusiasm. From the beginning there were doubts as to the intentions of the promoters. Although often attributed to the difficult terrain, many of the sinuous curves and deviations were due to resistance by local landowners along parts of the route.

early days at Blackmoor Station

A guide published whilst the line was being built stated:

On the highest point at Lynton a pretentious mansion has been built for himself by the proprietor of a certain well known publication, whom some look on as the benefactor and others as the evil genius of the place. Through his enterprise it is that the "lift" was made in 1888, to be cursed by conservative and artistic souls, but blessed by unwieldy bodies and rheumatic limbs; he has also favoured the railway, now a 'fait accompli', and the pier which seems so much wanted. Yet whatever may be said of the railway, there is good reason for doubting if the pier would be a real advantage. It would certainly flood the place with a class of excursionists for whom there is little accommodation, and on whom, for the most part, its characteristic beauties would be thrown away.

The line was a modest success and earned a small return for its shareholders.


bring 'Lyn' back to life