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Totnes Quay warehouses - gentrified


Coombe Barton

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Back in the 1960s I visited Totnes Plains with my parents on several occasions. The only photos I have are from Tony Kingdom's book on the Ashburton Branch. Being now intent of producing a test track that incorporates building technique tests, this area has an appeal. So in the summer on the way back from Cornwall we spend a couple of nights at Stioke Gabriel and SWMBO was persuaded to allow me to photograph the area. So I'm posting here gentrified warehouses. and other buildings All I really remember from the 1960s was not being allowed to go down The Plains because it was 'rough'. How times change.

 

The Plains have warehouses. What used to be industrial is now upmarket. Note that the gable to the right appears to have been an addition, but from some time ago, and the shed/ lean to to the right is no longer there - evidenced by the roof line but nothing else survives

 

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The hoist and housing - preserved but obviously inoperable

 

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But of your building has a bend or a wobbly wall it may just follow a prototype

 

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And repairs to brick and stonework - may not be modern - hard to tell

 

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The river side also has preserved features.

 

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The Plains also apeared to boast and dyehouse (there is a place called Dye House Quay) and a malthouse

 

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And this has a filled in door

 

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There's the pub (front and rear pix)

 

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THe 1863 warehouse next to it (but I believ just beyond where the rail tracks ended)

 

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And a pair of limekilns, now put to other uses. (person for scale)

 

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In the first of the Limekins pics, the holes in the wall are probably evidence of a lean to shelter to keep rain off the finished product.

 

Hope this is of use to someone.

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Not much of a challenge - there was a level crossing gate to the north of the bridge through which engines were not allowed to pass. The line had come riverside of the Harris Bacon factory about along the edge of the car park as is. From there it was a single track running along the Plains, crossing the road to the west of the bridge on the level, opposite the Royal Seven Stars Hotel where the bus shelter is, then just tootling past the warehouses to stop on the quay a bit short of the warehouses next to the Steam Packet Inn. The end of the line just petered out in mud.

 

None of the maps I have say anything different. I think if you walked along the edge of the pavement just in front of the Plains warehouses you'd be walking the track. If you look in Google Maps and Streetvire, you can do a virtual walk along the Plains and you'll see the warehouses I've photographed - that's the course of the track.

 

Horse powered - a couple of Clydesdales (I think) until 31 May 1948 thereafter tractors. The Quay branch closed on 14 June 1965.

 

The details are from Tony Kingdom's book, as are the only pix I can refer to.

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Nice snaps there John. It's nice that some of the original structures have survived. There even used to be some sleepers & ballast placed on the original alignment outside a couple of the buildings by the project architect Anthony Harrison as a nod to the quay line. (gone now) There was always a short length of track at the very end of the old line in the grass leading up to one of the large timber ship mooring bollards. I went down there recently and alas, someone has removed even that. IMHO an act of vandalism by somebody just seemingly to make the grass easier to mow. Now there is no trace whatsoever that the quay line ever existed. It's even hard to find anything at the Totnes Station end now.

 

Fortunately there are a very few old pictures (mainly of' The Plains' end) in the Totnes Photographic Museum in part of what was the old Harris Bacon factory. Worth a look if ever you're in town.

 

Years ago I knew the last BR horse shunter. The horse was replaced by a Ferguson T20 tractor (IIRC)

 

The line was single from the gate across the road and onto the plains right down to the bottom with one reverse siding at FJ Reeves timber yard. (again IIRC!) I was involved in the salvage of track on part of what now is the trading estate for the Dart Valley Railway. Some of the early GWS locos were stored there Collett 3205 I think was one of them.

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Fortunately there are a very few old pictures (mainly of' The Plains' end) in the Totnes Photographic Museum in part of what was the old Harris Bacon factory. Worth a look if ever you're in town.

 

That's a date for when we go there next summer, if we can get on on a Saturday. Thanks for the headsup.

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The line was single from the gate across the road and onto the plains right down to the bottom with one reverse siding at FJ Reeves timber yard. (again IIRC!) I was involved in the salvage of track on part of what now is the trading estate for the Dart Valley Railway. Some of the early GWS locos were stored there Collett 3205 I think was one of them.

 

 

3205 and 4555 were the first locos to arrive at Buckfastleigh and originally lived in the goods shed (after the rear buffers of 4555 were removed to allow the shed doors to close properly), they never lodged at Totnes.

 

At Totnes 6998 Burton Agnes Hall, 1466 and 1363 lived out in the open on the industrial estate (AKA the racecourse to the locals) together with a 70 foot Centenary coach and another coach whos identity I do not remember. These were open to the elements, and the public, but did not suffer any vandalism to the best of my knowledge.

 

This situation continued until the Hall and 14 went to Didcot and 1363 transfered to Bodmin during the G W S tennancy of Bodmin General.

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Not wishing to pull rank or be pedantic 1369 came straight up the branch to B/leigh when it worked light engine from Wadebridge (it took all of the day to make the journey as it had to keep hiding in sidings so as not to upset the main line trains). I was one of the small group huddled at the end of the line waiting for it to be given the road, on to the branch from the up through, for some thirty minutes before the signal man found sufficient space in the timetable to carry out the maneouver. We made the trip up in the darkness with only a glowing bed of clinker, and no burning coal, to persuade the water to turn into some form of low temperature steam!

 

One other memory of this time was when during the move out of the Quay, on the Sunday before the run to Didcot we assisted in the move to Laira.

 

After the train was reversed up the branch onto the main line we pulled forward into the down through main and I ended up leaning out my vestibule window opposite the cab of a western pulling a P W train, the driver of this looked out of his window back along our train (which the two steamers were pulling) and then back to me, his comment sticks in my memory to this day "And what part do you play in the Circus?" with that he moved his train away.

 

It was only later at Laira, after disposing of the two locos, we realised that of the three of us who lived in Plymouth nobody had realised the folly of riding on the train. We were in Plymouth but all of our cars were still in Totnes!

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Thanks for posting these and the ensuing answers - Its a most interesting thread to me because of all the towns on the main line Totnes* is the one i know least about - Think I will have to alter that situation next time Im in and around South Devon!

 

*Never even got a semi-definative answer as whether it is called Tot-Ness or Totnus....Anyone know?

 

When I worked there it always seemed to be pronounced "T-o-t nus" by townsfolk.

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  • 4 weeks later...

In the Kingdom book, the photo of 1369 coupled to W231W is on the GWS Open Day of 9 October 1965

 

Abject apologies C B the loco we were meeting that day was 1638 not 1369 (almost in the spirit of the memorable quote most of the numbers but not neccesarily in the right order) 1369 went to the Quay for a while before coming up the branch. I can only offer another mass resignation of the grey cells as my excuse for the error.

 

To make matters worse I cannot find my copy of Tony Kingdom's book to check, but if I remember correctly (this time) there is on the same page another photo of a group standing talking to the crew of 6998 Burton Agness Hall at the same open day as the photo of 1369. I am in that group - the tall thin one with the dark rimmed glasses and shiny shoes - anyone who knows me now will not recognise me; thankfully!

 

As a small consolation you may like to look at this BBC film of the Dart Valley I found by accident whist browsing the County Donegal Yahoo group.

 

We lead a convoluted life!

 

http://www.bbc.co.uk...ains/7313.shtml

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Excellent stuff. Thanks. I recognise several of the staff on there. Particularly remembering 80064 on which I did some rust chipping!. I left the rat-race to move to Buckfastleigh and work on the DVR in 1974 or thereabouts. Happy days!

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Glad you liked the clip Re6/6, i just missed you at B/leigh by a few years as we left in '71 to support other causes as the road came through. It is strange to see the embankment where the "back roads" used to be and without the forrest that hides the Railway today.

 

One indicator of growing age is that both Barry Cogar and Dicky Elliot (the voice of Dumbleton Hall) retired last year, from the T&D and SDR respectively, along with Dave Knowling, also Bob Saunders was one of the three originating directors who have all died in the last twelve months.

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Very interesting to hear about the quay branch. I have not seen any new photo's of workings on the line for years.I feel duty bound to share a snippet of information that came to me in the 1960's. I have a friend who saw a Class 03 work beyond the gate and across the Plains once in the early 1960's. Unfortunately he didn't have a camera with him and I don't know if anyone can confirm the working or why it happened. It is likely to have been a Sunday afternoon as they had a family ride in the car on Sundays. They were held up by a man with a flag while the loco crossed to go in front of the wharehouses. D2178 and a couple of others were allocated to Laira at the time so it is a possibility though a contravention of the rule that no loco should proceed beyond the gate. At the time it seemed that they were just lucky to see something on the line but now it is probably akin to sightings of the Loch Ness monster. If only he had had a camera!

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  • 4 weeks later...

I actually got to know these warehouses very well in the mid to late 70’s when I’d just started at South Hams as their conservation officer. Although unused and being left to deteriorate (so they could be demolished and replaced with brand-new blocks of flats!) they were clearly full of history and character… so I got them listed. That was in 1976… but it took an age to convince the owners they would have to sell them to ‘someone’ who was prepared to save them, if they didn’t want to treat them to a bit of tlc. By today’s standards the restoration scheme probably isn’t ‘the best’, but overall, I think, it’s not too bad for it’s time. Sad to hear the last piece of track has now been taken up… I can remember getting the architect (not Anthony Harrison, btw) to incorporate it into the hard landscaping.

 

Anyway, I got to like one of the warehouses so much (the one with the strange chimney, called the Old Cider Factory) that I took a few photos and measurements and made a model in 2mm scale (I was into N gauge then!). So, for anyone who may be interested, here are a couple of photos of the original in the late 70’s together with 3 I took of the model I painstakingly made! I was planning to incorporate a platform with a canopy over and to pile the barrels high!

 

As you can see, the structure is plastic, while the stonework was scribed into a clay (while wet) called Pecoscene. Great stuff, but no longer with us! I clad the roofs in (real) natural slates (I was a conservation officer, remember)!. All cut and sanded to wafer thin pieces 2mm x 1mm… apart from the smaller ones that create the hips to the chimney! You can’t see them, but the valley gutters that go back along the 2-storey section were made from that lovely lead-like stuff that was used to cap wine bottles. Looked so real! There’s a piece where the chimney begins to narrow, as per the lead flashing on the original.

 

About the same time I also made a model of Rattery Viaduct… which was pecoscene-onto-timber… which I still have, as it hasn’t crumbled away! It could be looking for a place to ‘come alive’. I’ll post a photo if requested.

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Alan, that's great.

 

Your Old Cider Factory is now called the Malthouse. And comparing then and now photos "you wouldn't recognise the place". It certainly looks like a Malt House vent.

 

If you have any more pix of that area would you please consider posting them. I'm creating a model, ot exact by any means, using that area as an inspiration. What I don't have is contemporary pix.

 

Your second propotype picture confirmed that tere was a lean to tin roof on the building to the north I'd surmised from wall stains. And the wooden structure on the roof now puzzles me.

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When moving house, Kris, about 20 years ago, my father-in-law (bless him!) thought it was made in a 'skaledale' sort of way... and grabbed it when putting it into a box! That was for starters, but later the Pecoscene simply fell off in chunks, even though I'd flooded it time and again with plastic weld... as per instructions. I'll post a photo of what's left... without the stonework (and lots of slates) as it shows how I used fuse wire to create the window bars.

 

John...

 

I'll also go through my slides (how ancient is that!) to see what other photos I have of the Plains. They won't be any earlier than the mid 70's though.

 

That wooden structure on the roof looks to be a large dormer window with at least 5 vertical panes. Cheeks slate hung? The photo does enlarge with a click... although I suspect you know that!

 

Will be back soon!

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Alan, the town owes you a lot when you got them all listed. They are now such an important part of The Plains 'scene'. The mind boggles as to what it would've looked like with some 70s style new flats.

 

Thanks for correcting the Anthony Harrison misinformation. I can recall a conversation with him about the sleepers & ballast 'nod' to the railway which was put at the front of the building shown in your picture (or the next one), and assumed erroneously that it was due to his involvement. T'was a few years ago now...memory and all that!

 

Super model BTW.

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