Background History (circa 1895 - 1910)
On the 27 June 1895 Lynton and Barnstaple entrepreneurs led by Sir George Newnes succeeded in obtaining an act of parliament that authorised the construction of a narrow gauge railway line between Lynton and Barnstaple in North Devon with a gauge of 1 foot 11 ½ inches. Although there were contractual difficulties, the railway was eventually completed on the 16 May 1898.
In the same month Joseph Szlumer, who had been appointed to carry out the planning of the Lynton and Barnstaple (L&B) railway, put forward new plans for the construction of another narrow gauge line to link Lynmouth and Porlock to Minehead a maritime resort on the North West Somerset coast. Despite objections from landowners, the government commissioners finally sanctioned the compulsory powers to build the Lynton and Minehead (L&M) light railway. Backed by the Lynton and Barnstaple company, construction of the 20 mile line began on the 20 March 1899. By 1903, 12 miles of the railway had been built arriving at Porlock Weir, where unfortunately construction stalled. This was due to rising construction costs that had exceeded by far the original estimates. This situation also gave rise to speculation as to whether further finances could be raised to complete the line to Minehead.
Additionally at this time the standard gauge Great Western Railway, that reached Minehead in 1874, had also applied to parliament to extend their branch line
from Taunton by 9 miles to Porlock and Bossington.
In spite of objections especially from the promoters of the L & B and the L & M light railway, the apparent inability of the L & M to complete their contract
swayed the commissioners, and assent was given to the G.W.R. to build their extension, thus depriving the narrow gauge coalition of access to Minehead and its
potential revenue. The Great Western line reached Porlock on the 14 September 1907 and Bossington in 1908.
Forced to look elsewhere for income the Lynton and Minehead light railway, renamed the Lynton and Porlock (L&P) light railway applied to parliament to extend their line from Porlock Weir by 11 miles to a junction with the West Somerset mineral railway at Wheddon Cross in the Brendon Hills. By constructing this line it was anticipated that income would accrue from the carriage of iron ore excavated from the Brendon Hill mines to the dock at Porlock Weir and hence by barge to the furnaces of South Wales.
Fortunately at this time the West Somerset mineral syndicate were looking for an alternative dock to avoid the levis demanded on their iron ore at Watchet harbour. So when approached by the L & P they were happy to finance the construction of the short extension of their mineral line from Gupworthy to link to the L & P line at Wheddon Cross. Parliamentary assent was duly given in March 1905 and construction of the Porlock and Wheddon Cross light railway was completed in 1910.
History (circa 1910 - 1923)|
From 1910, initial trade for both passenger and freight on both the L & M and G.W.R. lines was steady, however neither railway achieved the anticipated shareholder dividends. In respect of the Lynton and Porlock light railway, diminishing freight traffic was largely due to cheap Spanish ore flooding the market which gradually brought about the closure of the Brendon ore mines. By 1922 negotiations where underway to sell both the Lynton and Barnstaple railway and the Lynton and Porlock railway to the Southern Railway, this was completed in March 1923. In regards to the G.W.R. the line became largely reliant on passenger revenue. However this was greatly diminished by the depression and the increase of road transport.
|The reality 1895 - 2016|
Although the Lynton & Barnstaple railway existed, in reality, there never was a Lynton & Minehead light railway or Porlock to Wheddon Cross light railway. However the Lynton & Minehead light railway is not entirely fictitious in so much as plans were drawn up by Joseph Szlumer but it was never built (see figure 1 - Map of Porlock Bay).
The final demise of the Lynton and Barnstaple railway came in 1935 when it was dismantled by the Southern Railway. Currently one mile of track has been restored running north from Woody Bay station. Although the Great Western branch line from Taunton to Minehead did exist and still does as the privately run West Somerset Railway, the extension to Porlock never did
This O gauge, 7 mm standard gauge and 16.5-7 mm narrow gauge scale model layout portrays two separate railway lines that were constructed by two companies in the Porlock Bay area of North West Somerset circa 1895 - 1923.
Great Western Railway: Standard gauge single line. The area depicted includes,
Lynton and Porlock Railway: Narrow gauge single line. The area depicted includes,
|Figure 1 - Map of Porlock Bay|