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Ashburton in Decay


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Ashburton is the archetypal GW BLT. It must be true, everyone says so. It's become a cliche. However, could not be shunted by locos alone, survived on freight and cattle, people needed to travel to Newton Abbot and not Totnes and was preserved for a short time. And various of the buildings have preservation orders of various types. It forms the basis of my layout, slowly, oh so slowly developing. So on 13th August 2010 we visited on the way home from camping at Marazion.

 

There is decay. It llooks as if soon some of it will fall down whilst still occupied. There have been changes. some to accommodate the new uses to which it is being put. So to the pix - and the reasons.

 

Station building

 

The train shed is one of those still existing, this time as a garage.

 

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The garage also uses the station building - there's some replaced and some new windows. However there are a number of vehicles hanging around in various stages of hanging apart.

 

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Goods Shed

 

The goods shed fares better. Sopme of the roof has been renewed, looks like that followed the original pattern.

 

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Engine Shed

 

The Engine shed has a new door and seems to be suffering subsidence cracking.

 

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The original window style seems here to have been retained unlike that of the station building

 

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The stonework itself, local limestone, is suffering. Repointing will obscure the original should it be attempted.

 

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From the model point of view I always feel that trees are too small - the scale of these is quite normal

 

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The Yard

 

The industry at Ashburton is what kept the line going, the seed merchants (who still trade from the site), the maltsters, the umber works. All these have been gentrified/modernised and it is sometimes hard to tell their original appearance or use. the photos when they were part of a working railway tell of a certain decay - that they have survived at all is quite an achievement.

 

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All in all it is a mixed bag - listing seems not to be working in some cases, but commercial pressures are obvious.It is a railway disused for half a century, after all, and it is one of the best preserved disused sites around.

 

The Silent Whistle

 

Used to be the Station hotel.

 

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The Engine shed has a new door and seems to be suffering subsidence cracking.

..

From the model point of view I always feel that trees are too small - the scale of these is quite normal

For a building that is 139 years old and closed to original use over50 years ago it isn't in that bad a shape.

 

Judging by the size and proximity of those trees they are the cause of that cracking.

 

Nice set of photos, thanks for sharing.

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Looks like you managed to find Ashburton on a day without much traffic. When I parked next to the station 3 weeks ago al the parking was packed, well the free stuff anyhow. Those photos you have taken are a great record.

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  • 2 months later...

Good afternoon,

 

I am an architect based in Ashburton and have recently been approached to consider a siginifacnt re-deveopment of this site. My office is based in one of the Station Cottages and so I am very familiar with the location. I share in your appreciaiton of this collection of buildings, however I'm afraid I do not have any of your knowledge or real understanding of its architectural heritage. My client and I are very keen to restore and preserve those buildings of historical interest, whilst bringing vitality and real use back into this site. I am therefore writing openly to anyone who may be able to help me to understand the importance of this site to ensure that any new development is based upon a genuine understanding of the architecture. Would I be able to get drawings ( plans, elevations, sections ) or historic images ? Is there an archive that I should approach ?

 

I wolud be most grateful for any advice or help.

 

Thank you,

 

E.Sheryn ( van Ellen + Sheryn Ltd )

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Hi CB, Thanks so much for these photos. Having a clearout of magazines (I keep the older ones) I naturally came across several articles relating to Ashburton and I wondered what if anything of it was left and in what condition. Now I know exactly how it looks. Sorry, EWS, like Pete above I can't really help personally. However, Ashburton holds a collective interest within sections of the model railway community and some quite exquisite models of it exist. I don't have any references to hand immediately. I am sure there will be people on this website who will be able to direct you further.

Steve.

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EWS -

 

Nice of you to ask us - unlike Pete, I am a bit closer (York, UK) but I don't know a great deal about the GWR.

 

As Steve mentions, the station was/is very popular with GWR modellers, so there should be ample published on the prototype and its history. I guess it is likely to depend on how much research you want to do. You could do worse than pop into your local library and have a look at the two railways sections (Dewey system 385 and 625 - the latter is engineering orientated, so you may find books with plans there). The local library (Totnes?) should also have material in the research section.

 

Buckfastleigh station on the preserved South Devon Railway has a bookshop (I guess, most do) which will have publications on the history of the line and the station. If you find anything useful you will have to buy it, though. You may also be able to find people on the preserved railway who know about the station and its history, or could point you in the right direction.

 

I have no doubt that you will get more knowledgeable advice, perhaps identifying specific publications, but hopefully that is a start and I hope that helps.

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Good afternoon,

 

I am an architect based in Ashburton and have recently been approached to consider a siginifacnt re-deveopment of this site. My office is based in one of the Station Cottages and so I am very familiar with the location. I share in your appreciaiton of this collection of buildings, however I'm afraid I do not have any of your knowledge or real understanding of its architectural heritage. My client and I are very keen to restore and preserve those buildings of historical interest, whilst bringing vitality and real use back into this site. I am therefore writing openly to anyone who may be able to help me to understand the importance of this site to ensure that any new development is based upon a genuine understanding of the architecture. Would I be able to get drawings ( plans, elevations, sections ) or historic images ? Is there an archive that I should approach ?

 

I wolud be most grateful for any advice or help.

 

Thank you,

 

E.Sheryn ( van Ellen + Sheryn Ltd )

 

 

AS Kenton has said it must be the best preserved not used station site in the country. I remember going there when it was the Dart Valley Railway before the bypass severed it from the rest of the line. If you just Google Ashburton Station a wealth of sites come up. I am certain that if you contact the South Devon Railway they would give you all the assistance you need as they are into Railway Preservation. There are also countless books on the Dart Valley railway.

 

Your client owns one of the nicest GWR country terminus stations built, many a modeller has made layouts based on the station due to its compact size which includes an engine shed. Had the track still be joined to Buckfastleigh the place would be buzzing with visitors. If you ask any railway fan they would tell you to dig up the bypass and relay the track, sadly that will never happen.

 

Good luck with your project

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OP - welcome to RMWeb and many thanks for sharing your interest here. If it helps, you'll find it worth your while tracking down a secondhand copy of Paul Karau's 'GW Branchline Termini', I think there were two or three seperate volumes, one of which features some lovely photographs of Ashburton in it's twighlight years. Sorry but I can't remember which volume...!

 

Best of luck!

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Good afternoon,

 

I am an architect based in Ashburton .......

 

..........based upon a genuine understanding of the architecture. Would I be able to get drawings ( plans, elevations, sections ) or historic images ? Is there an archive that I should approach ?

 

I wolud be most grateful for any advice or help.

 

Thank you,

 

E.Sheryn ( van Ellen + Sheryn Ltd )

 

Hi EWS,

 

I would suggest in the first instance to get in touch with the South Devon Railway based at Buckfastleigh: http://www.southdevonrailway.co.uk/ until the A38 was built across the station yard in the 1970's the line extended through from Buckfastleigh to Ashburton. Until recently the SDR had ambitions to extend under the road and back into Ashburton. (Their Chairman is Alan Taylor)

 

As has previously mentioned the station site at Ashurton has always held a fascination among Great Western Railway enthusiasts, myself included. Almost any book on the GWR branch-lines makes a reference to Ashburton. Pg 107 of the OPC book "Historical engine sheds of the GWR" by Eddie Lyons shows the track layout at 1947. Apparently the engine shed opened in 1872 with the opening of the railway.

 

Hope this helps and good luck with the project.

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....................If you ask any railway fan they would tell you to dig up the bypass and relay the track, sadly that will never happen.

 

Good luck with your project

 

I am sure I read somewhere last year(?) that the SDR had commissioned a survey to do just that.

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I am sure I read somewhere last year(?) that the SDR had commissioned a survey to do just that.

I understood this to be a few years ago, and that it isn't something taken particularly seriously by the management of the line.... other priorities etc.

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One of the features of the station was the train shed (now the garage). Whilst not Ashburton was not unique in having a train shed it was/is an unusual structure and for many railway historians and modellers this would be considered a key structure that could be instantly identified with Ashburton.

The engine shed and the goods shed are very much "typical" buildings of their ilk having very classical lines showing instantly their use.

From the photos that are at the start of this thread, and from visiting the site, the stand out item to me that could improve the interpretation of the buildings and improve their looks would be to change the windows in the station building to a style more in keeping with the originals (as seen in the engine shed).

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Although the shed at Ashburton could be considered "typical" there remain few examples in such an apparent good condition. I am a little surprised that it is not listed status.

 

The Volume you require as a must read is the aforementioned Volume 2 of Great Western Branch Line Termini by Paul Karau publ:OPC ISBN: 0860930181 pp 30-53 There are numerous photographs of the engine shed, train shed, goods shed and two large pull out plan/elevation drawings of the engine shed, train shed, station and goods shed, along with track plans. I believe there is another book on the subject that I will seek out tomorrow.

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WOW. Such a quick response !

 

Thanks very much to all of you who have replied. I will take all of your advice on board. This project might not get off the ground, but rest assured that we will not be involved in any development that does not respect the important heritage of this site.

 

Thanks again.

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EWS thank your client for respecting the heritage of his property, unlike the gits who demolished Kingsbridge station over a weekend to stop any attempt at conservation or spot listing.

Even if it does not get restored fully or developed more a bit of sympathetic tidying and structural preservation would be good.

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>>>"Pg 107 of the OPC book "Historical engine sheds of the GWR" by Eddie Lyons shows the track layout at 1947."

 

I do not have a copy of that book myself, so I may be doing it an injustice, but my suspicion is that it was the volume with a totally fictitious layout, including a double-junction into the engine shed! The Karau Vol 2 is much more accurate.

 

Another good book to look at is "The Ashburton Branch: A New History" by Peter Kay, published by himself in 2000 (ISBN 1 899890 31 9).

 

The Great Western Society at Didcot might also be a good place to seek information.

 

To sum up what has been said before, Ashburton was/is a railway 'gem' and deserves a better fate than the likes of Kingsbridge etc.

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Forget most track plans in books they are secondary research and are limited by the person's ability to draw and observe.

 

By far the best source of historical track layout and relationship track to buildings is OS maps at a particular date and (if you can get access to them) aerial photographs, many of which are available in local libraries and other sources.

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And if the site ever was to be cleared, I know of at least one preserved railway that could use an ex-GWR station building and loco shed (and could probably use the goods shed as well).....Whether they would use any of them's a different question altogether!

 

It looks as if the extension on the end of the loco shed was built after closure as it obscures the bricked-up entrance to the shed.

 

As regards decay of the station building, maybe the photos didn't capture it very clearly but apart from some of the woodwork needing painting and a not unreasonable amount of moss on the roof, I can't see anything serious there (but I'm no expert!).

 

Richard

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Another drawback with old OS maps is the fact that some parts of them may have been revised at different times from others, so that the information which they convey may not be consistent for one time period. I have seen maps with the same signal shown in two different places ('cos it was moved between updates!), so I would not be suprised if the same thing happened with crossovers etc.

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Valid drawbacks indeed they are only a snapshot in time. However, due to theyre rigorous compilastion controls they are a little more reliable than the often hazy recollections of the author's pen or the undated photo taken with a distorted lens.

 

The best method is to take account of all available sources of material and to question the reliability of all of them.

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