The South Devon Explorer offers an exceptional day out travelling by train from stations in Berkshire to Plymouth in South Devon.
We travel along the famous ‘sea wall’ from Dawlish to Teignmouth and over the South Devon banks through Totnes. The special train will be hauled from Bristol to Plymouth and back by steam locomotive No.6233 Duchess of Sutherland.
Our train starts from Woking in Surrey and will be diesel hauled from there to Bristol. En route, we stop at Guildford, Reading and Newbury to pick up more passengers. The route follows the river Kennet through attractive countryside and then runs beside the Kennet and Avon Canal for some distance before we make our final stop for passengers at Westbury. We change motive power at Bristol where steam locomotive No.6233 Duchess of Sutherland will take over the train.
We shall soon be speeding along through the Somerset countryside and across the Somerset Levels to Taunton, where we make a brief stop for our steam locomotive to take on water. Our steam locomotive will be working hard as we climb to Whiteball Summit on the Somerset and Devon border before descending through the Culm Valley to Exeter.
We then follow the Exe Estuary, passing the picturesque Cockwood Harbour, and run along the famous sea wall from Dawlish to Teignmouth. This is one of the most famous and scenic stretches of railway line in Britain, which gained international prominence when part of it was washed away in the 2014 storms. After Newton Abbot, we follow the South Devon line to Plymouth. Immediately we start to climb the very steep gradient of Dainton Bank. The climb twists and turns all the way to the summit at Dainton Tunnel.
A short reprieve for our fireman follows as we descend the gradient to Totnes, which will allow time to get the boiler pressure up for the next climb of Rattery Bank. Gradients as steep as 1 in 47 run for four miles to Rattery before they ease off for the remainder of the climb to the summit at Wrangaton. Running along the southern edge of Dartmoor, we descend towards Plymouth, our destination for the afternoon. There will be time here to visit this modern city, with its many attractions, including the Hoe with Smeaton’s Tower, the old Barbican area with the Mayflower Steps, and the many shops in the city centre.
Our return journey to Bristol will be steam hauled by Duchess of Sutherland. The first real challenge faced will be the ascent of the 1 in 42 gradient of Hemerdon Bank just outside Plymouth. There is also the climb to Dainton Tunnel from Totnes, followed by the return run along the Dawlish sea wall to Exeter. We then return to Bristol via Taunton, which should see some fast running across the Somerset Levels.
From Bristol Temple Meads, the train will be diesel hauled back to Woking. We stop at the same stations as on the outward journey, to set down passengers.
Premier Dining includes a full English breakfast and four course dinner silver served at your seat.
First Class includes morning tea or coffee with a bacon/breakfast roll, a Danish pastry and an afternoon service of tea or coffee with a savoury of the day followed by a scone with butter and jam.
Standard Class includes a reserved seat usually at a table for four.
Approximate timings shown