Slap bang on Dartmouth’s riverside embankment is a former railway station which has since been converted to a restaurant. Nothing unusual about that you might think, but the station never had a railway in the first place – no tracks, nothing – so why was there a station here?
The simple answer is that it was used as a booking office to buy train tickets, but I suppose you’re now wondering why you would want to buy a train ticket at a booking office where there were no trains. Well, the answer to this is also quite simple, or at least up to a point.
Basically, Isambard Kingdom Brunel’s railway line to Torbay stopped at Torre, and the Dartmouth and Torbay Railway Company was formed to extend it to Dartmouth via Torquay, Paignton, Brixham Road (now Churston) and Kingswear, but the proposed bridge across the River Dart was beset by problems and so the railway line terminated at Kingswear.
The solution was to build a floating bridge across the river in the form of a chain ferry, and in August 1864 both the railway and ferry opened, as did Dartmouth railway station where you could buy a combined ferry and train ticket.
Today, the railway sill runs to Kingswear and is operated by the Dartmouth Steam Railway and Riverboat Company. The company also operates a popular ‘Round Robin’ trip which includes the steam train between Paignton and Kingswear, a passenger ferry across the river to Dartmouth, a trip up the River Dart to Totnes, and an open-top bus back to Paignton. If you want to find out more about the train journey you can read about it here.
The ferry is also still running, but is now a floating platform pulled along by a tug boat. It can be used by both foot passengers and vehicles and crosses the river between the slipway next to Kingswear station and Bayards Cove, a picturesque corner of Dartmouth which I wrote about in Privateers, Castles, Sea Dogs and Pilgrims. The Lower Ferry, as it’s called, is operated by South Hams District Council, as is the more modern Higher Ferry a bit further upstream.
Below are pictures of the Lower Ferry, Bayards Cove and the Higher Ferry.
In my next post about Dartmouth, I’ll be taking you for a stroll around the town to explore some of its more interesting corners, and as you may have already guessed, we’ll be starting our walk from the Station with No Railway.