“Reaching down where the fresh and salt water meet,
The Roofs may be seen of an old-fashioned street,
Half village, half town, it is pleasant and smallish,
And known, where it happens to be known, as Dawlish.”

R.H.D. Barham (1880)

Welcome to Dawlish!

Dawlish is set on the edge of beautiful rolling countryside as it meets the impressive cliffs of the South Devon coastline. There are three beaches all within walking distance: Boat Cove, Coryton Cove and the main beach, which stretches all the way to Dawlish Warren. The town is beloved by visitors, many of whom return year after year and dream of owning a home here. This attractive town is for the most part, unspoilt by mass tourism and retains a hospitable air of elegance.

Dawlish is a small seaside town on the beautiful coast of South Devon set between dramatic rust brown cliffs. Its popularity in the 18th Century as a gentle holiday destination is evidenced by the graceful Georgian and Victorian architecture which you see today.

The name of Dawlish

The place of Dawlish is as written 'Doules' in the Domesday Book and is supposed to derive its name from Dol-is, a compound word, signifying a fruitful mead in a bottom of a valley, or on a river's side. This relates to the location, as Dawlish is situated in a picturesque valley, being sheltered by hills on 3 sides which lead to the sea on the East.

Another possibility is the discovery of the name Deawlisc which means devil water and is supposed to represent the reddish coloured water from the hills, after heavy rain!

For different reasons today, Dawlish would have been an attractive place to live in early days, when survival was main objective; with fish from the sea, fresh water from the river, salt marshes for preserving food and woods for weapons, hunting and fuel.

The Lawn

The park, which is known as The Lawn, divides two shopping streets, offering an oasis of calm and shade on hot summer days. It has a bowling green, a bandstand, deckchairs, beautiful mature trees and a charming hatchery where you can see the latest additions to the local duck population.

The Brook

Dawlish has a unique feature which adds to its charm: Dawlish Water, known locally as The Brook. This is a small river which runs alongside the park and through the town centre, tumbling down a series of weirs and under pretty bridges. It provides a delightful home to many different varieties of waterfowl including the famous black swans, which were introduced from Taronga Zoo, Sydney and have been the town’s emblem for over forty years.

The Railway

Another unique feature is Isambard Kingdom Brunel’s famous strip of railway line which runs along the coast between Dawlish and the sea. There are regular services to Newton Abbot and Plymouth or to Exeter (less than half an hour), all connecting to Intercity trains. Many steam and diesel hauled chartered trains run through Dawlish, particularly at weekends and therefore, a stay at one of ther Great Cliff holiday apartments could be well worthwhile for any person, with even just a mild interest in railways!

Local Facilities

There is a good selection of shops in the town centre, approximately 600 yards from Great Cliff, these include a Post Office/Newsagents, Off-licence, Boots and a Co-op, together with many of the smaller, independent retailers. The town also has a leisure centre with a swimming pool, lawn tennis and badminton clubs, a museum and a cottage hospital.


Bird watching colonels on the old sea wall
Down here at Dawlish, where the slow trains crawl
Low tide lifting, on a shingle shore
Long-sunk islands from the sea once more
Red cliffs rising where the wet sands run
Gulls reflecting in the sharp spring sun
Pink-washed plaster by a sheltered patch
Ilex shadows upon velvet thatch
What interiors these names suggest
Queen of lodgings in the warm south-west

Sir John Betjeman 1906 - 1985

A brief history of Dawlish...

1044 First mention of Dawlish (Doflisc) in the Charter of 1044 with corresponding boundaries. King Edward the Confessor grants manor of Dawlish to his Chaplain, a man known as Leofric

1069 William I made a grant of land to the church of St. Peter at Exeter and this grant included 'Holcombe'. The land at Dawlish is mentioned as well as Holcombe and Southwood

1072 Manor of Dawlish bequeathed to the Church which remains under Church ownership until 1807.

1086 Domesday Survey. Dawlish (recorded as Doules) remains annexed to See of Exeter

1148 First mention of a church at Dawlish

1253 Dawlish known as Douelis

1284 Dawlish known as Douelys

1348 The Plague or Black Death recorded, including deaths of at least 3 priests

1411 Dawlish known as Douelysh

1426 Dawlish know as Douelyssh

1536 Dawlish known as Douelyshe

1555 Dawlish known as Dulishe

1607 Dawlish known as Dulyshe

1629 The Plague returns until 1630

1640 Manor of Dawlish let on lease to raise funds for Charles I

1655 Sir Peter Balle is mentioned as Lord of the Manor and holder of the great tithes

1717 A mill is recorded on the rent book, probably just constructed at Brunswick Place (now The Old Mill Tea Room) mainly to produce flour

1733 New flour mill constructed known as Town Mill at Church Street

1791 Dawlish known as Dalditch

1793 Bridge House constructed

1795 First large residential house built in the Old Town, followed by Brook House and later known as New Bridge House

1797 Dawlish now known as Dawlish

1799 A letter-receiving office opens in Dawlish

1803 Land improved either side of the Brook, with stream straightened, banks built up and marshy land drained

1806 First shop recorded in the rent book at Weech Road

1810 Serious flooding washes away newly created lawns, banks and bridges. All rebuilt with series of weirs to prevent a recurrence

1811 A new mansion built known as The Manor House

1814 Independent Chapel built in Chapel Street

1817 First fire engine purchased

1819 New poor houses erected

1820 School erected in the workhouse yard

1824 St Gregory's Church rebuilt

1825 The flour mill at Brunswick Place is rebuilt, following a fire. Although primarily a flour mill, it is now also used to produce animal feeds. A potato store is added to the front of the building (now the Old Mill Tea Room)

1828 Baths built at Marine Parade
First Post Office opens in Mill Row (now Brunswick Place)

1844 South Devon Railway buys almost all properties in Marine Parade including Great Cliff House (formerly Kennaway's House), to buy out opposition to the railway . SDR uses Great Cliff House as offices and as a meeting place for Directors, property let to Joeseph Samuda (Patentee of the Atmospheric Railway), to supervise construction.

1846 Broad Gauge Railway opens at Dawlish Saturday, 30th May first train from Exeter to Teignmouth via Dawlish with 9 coaches

1847 First Atmospheric trains start to run in February but no public service trains until 13th September

1848 Last Atmospheric train runs on Saturday 9th September; replaced by steam locomotives . South Devon Railway begins to sell off properties in Marine Parade, including Great Cliff House, which is then occupied by private residents for the next 100 years

1857 Police force established to support Parish Constable

1860 "Dawlish Cider" made from locally grown apples - business lasts until 1962

1861 The Wesleyans open new Methodist Chapel in Brunswick Place

1868 Coastguard Station built

1870 York Inn demolished in the Strand, in favour of the Congregational Church in Gothic style

1873 Original Dawlish Station destroyed by fire

1875 Dawlish Station rebuilt

1879 Cast iron footbridge added from sea wall across to Marine Parade

1885 Large rock fall at West Cliff – cliff face then “sloped”.

1880 Ladies bathing pavilion opened on the main beach (gents bath at Coryton Beach)

1884 Dawlish Cemetery & Mortuary Chapel built

1887 The Dawlish Corps formed

1890 Mail catching device in use at Dawlish Station

1892 Last Up and Down Broad Gauge trains run on Friday 20th May, both passing each other at Dawlish Station. Line converted to Standard Gauge.

1893 First telephone exchange opened

1895 Baths on Marine Parade substantially altered - to become a gentlemen's club

1897 Extensive alterations made to St Gregory's Church - interior & exterior

1900 First trial and naming of Dawlish horse-drawn fire pump on 5th April

1901 Sea Wall widened by 18ft to enable construction of last section of double track from Dawlish to Parson's (completed in 1905). The new wall has a dramatic effect on lowering the beach level. The sub-way from the beach to Marine Parade is reconstructed.

1907 New fishermen's shelter opened at Boat Cove - lasts until 1937

1908 Post Office & Telegraph Office saved by firemen on 21 August
Nos 1 & 2 Sea Lawn properties gutted by fire on 22 December

1909 St Agatha's Roman Catholic Church completed in Exeter Road

1911 Walford's Cinema opens in Chapel Street
Two more bells added at St Gregory, in commemoration of George VI's coronation

1914 Restoration of the original Dawlish fire pump completed, for display

1918 Bridge House taken over by GWR as a railway convalescent home in July

1929 GWR builds Haldon Aerodrome for flights to Torbay, Cardiff & Plymouth

1930 Motor fire engine purchased

1935 Extensive playing fields opened, with 2 football pitches, a hockey/cricket pitch, bowling green, hard & grass tennis fields, children’s playing area and car park

1937 New fishermen's shelter built at Boat Cove

1940 Improved water supplies from the Haldon Hills completed

1941 Automatic telephone exchange installed

1942 Herbert Brooks Hancocke moves to Hope Cottage, Dawlish, prior to his retirement as Chief Boiler Inspector for the Great Western Railway in 1945 - later to become the Chairman of Dawlish Town Council.

1943 B17F Flying Fortress crash lands in field near Langdon Hospital, damaged by flak. Later repaired with 3 new engines and flown out

1945 Victory Tea celebrations held

1946 The Manor House purchased by Dawlish Urban District Council. The whole house was used as new Offices for the Council and the Gardens opened to the public

1947 Black Swans introduced from the Taronga Zoo, Sydney, by Captain C.R.S. Pitman

1950 Great Cliff House combined with 2 or 3 other properties in Marine Parade to form The Great Cliff Hotel.

1952 Sub-way to Marine Parade filled in – slight protrusion marks site

1954 Herbert Brooks Hancocke Chairman of Dawlish Town Council

1955 Fire destroys 6 bedrooms at Mount Pleasant Inn

1959 The Shaftsbury Theatre constructed by The Repertory Company with seating for 170
The mill at Brunswick Place closes. (Later restored to become The Old Mill Tea Room).

1962 Deep snow and freezing temperatures closes roads and schools
Dawlish cider-making business closes

1965 New concrete footbridge from sea wall to Marine Parade replaces cast iron bridge

1971 The Great Cliff Hotel becomes The Great Cliff Hotel for Residents

1974 The Manor House taken over by Teignbridge District Council and rooms were let out. The building eventually falls into disrepair but bought back by Dawlish Town Council

1980 Dawlish Town Council reopens The Manor House, following extensive renovation

2004 The huge wheel at The Old Mill is restarted on 5th May by the Mayor of Dawlish, Cllr Bill Farrow, with the wheel pumps turned on by Mr Bill Strickland, who turned it off 45 years ago when he worked at the mill.

2005 The Great Cliff Hotel for Residents is demolished

2006 23 new luxury apartments built on site of The Great Cliff Hotel, now known as Great Cliff

A brief history of the railway….

1835 First serious proposals made for a railway to run from Exeter to Plymouth

1836 Brunel survey’s a route across South Devon (preferring to tunnel behind Dawlish & Teignmouth to avoid a sea wall)

1843 Resurvey carried out by Brunel
Great Western Railway and Bristol & Exeter Railway agree to provide large share of Capital
South Devon Railway deposits its plans
Isambard Kingdom Brunel appointed Engineer for the South Devon Railway
Considerable opposition on environmental grounds, especially at Dawlish

1844 All objections referred to the Admiralty Engineer, James Walker
SDR received its Act in July, just after completion of line from London (Paddington) to Exeter
Construction commences with completion objective of July 1845, with 2,000 workmen known as “navies” employed
SDR buys almost all properties in Marine Parade, Dawlish to buy out opposition and uses a house (now the site of Great Cliff) for Board Meetings for several months
SDR Directors agree to adopt the Atmospheric system following a visit to Dalkey, near Dublin but would not be operational until 1847

1845 Many problems experienced in building the sea wall
Sea Wall at Dawlish built with sub-way from the beach to Marine Parade
Track-laying commences on Broad Guage
16th December first SDR test run from Exeter to Cockwood and back
Boathouse footbridge built

1846 Track laid as far as Teignmouth, through Dawlish
Gradient from Dawlish Station past Marine Parade has a steep gradient of 1 in 30 to avoid spoiling residents’ sea views (now 1 in 96)
5 tunnels built – Kennaway, Coryton, Phillot, Clerk’s and Parson’s (first three are named after the landowners; last two named after the famous rocks)
Temporary timber station built at Dawlish – lasts for 27 years!
Work starts on the Engine House at Dawlish for the new Atmospheric Railway
Saturday, 30th May first train from Exeter to Teignmouth via Dawlish with 9 coaches hauled by locomotives Exe and Teign (renamed Viper for the event), hired from the GWR by the SDR
4,000 tickets sold at Teignmouth on the Bank Holiday Monday, many to Dawlish
Trains take 45 mins to travel from Teignmouth to Exeter with 7 trains each way
Teignmouth to London takes an unprecedented time of 5 hours 20 mins
31st December line opens as far as Newton Abbot
Sea breaches line near Breeches Rock

1847 First Atmospheric trains start to run in February but no public service trains until 13th September
Icy weather disrupts services with valves not closing properly

1848 Whole service is Atmospherically worked as from February
Hot weather during summer causes valves to dry and tear
Half year accounts for Atmospheric Railway show a loss & Shareholders vote to abandon the system in August
Last Atmospheric train runs on Saturday night 9th September, returning to steam locomotives.
SDR begins to sell off properties in Marine Parade
Fares increase & public enthusiasm destroyed until lowered in 1850’s

1852 Exminster Station opened

1853 Railway bridge at Holcombe destroyed in a storm

1855 Sea breaches line at Smugglers’ Lane

1869 Sea breaches line at Sea Lawn
High level footway on sea wall extended eastwards from Coastguard footbridge

1870 Footbridge constructed at Rockstone (known as Black Bridge locally)

1872 Sea breaches line at Rockstone

1873 Original Dawlish Station destroyed by fire
Doubling of line through Dawlish Warren
Line slewed inland at Langstone rock
Footbridge at Langstone Rock removed
Footbridge built at Dawlish Warren
GWR agrees with Dawlish Local Board to provide a public footway along the sea wall when the line is doubled

1874 Line doubled from Starcross to Dawlish

1875 Dawlish Station rebuilt

1876 South Devon Railway taken over by the Great Western Railway

1879 Cast iron footbridge added from sea wall across to Marine Parade

1884 Signal box built at Parson’s Tunnel
Line doubled west of Parson’s Tunnel

1885 Large rock fall at West Cliff – cliff face then “sloped”.

1892 Last Up and Down Broad Gauge trains run on Friday 20th May, both passing each other at Dawlish Station
First Standard Gauge Down test train leaves Exeter on Saturday 21st May at 5.30am and passes Dawlish at 1.15pm on way to Newton Abbot
Normal service with Standard Gauge resumes on Monday, 23rd May

1901 Work starts on replacing the Sea Wall at Dawlish – 18ft further out and has a dramatic effect on lowering the beach level. The sub-way from the beach to Marine Parade is reconstructed

1902 New walkway along sea front opened at Dawlish in April – sometimes known as “The King’s Walk” in commemoration of the coronation of Edward VII.
Work starts on doubling the last section between Dawlish and Parson’s Tunnel.

1903 The Teign Valley line available as a diversionary route for problems with sea wall until 1968

1905 Completion of last section of double lines between Dawlish and Parson’s Tunnel
Railmotor service introduced between Exeter St Thomas and Dawlish or Teignmouth
New station created at Dawlish Warren, known as “Warren Halt” located by deserted waste land but with good beach

1906 Warren Halt’s platforms extended – site becomes popular day trip destination from Exeter
Replacement signal box built at Parson’s Tunnel

1907 Warren Halt becomes staffed and renamed “Warren Platform”

1909 Parson’s Tunnel signal box boarded up out of use

1911 Line slewed inland for second time at Langstone Rock

1912 Warren Platform station replaced by a new station ¼ mile to the North – named Dawlish Warren by the GWR

1918 Present (now disused) signal box built at Dawlish
GWR takes over Bridge House as a railway convalescent home

1920 Rock tipping begins between Langstone Rock & Dawlish Warren with engineers siding installed to tip direct from wagons. Footway closed.

1921 Parson’s tunnel lengthened by 129 yds to avoid rock-falls
Star Class loco No. 4055 "Princess Sophia" on a north-bound express collides at low speed with a goods train (carrying corn, baskets, coal, alcohol and toilet pans) transferring from the up to the down line at Dawlish station

1924 Dawlish Warren platform building destroyed by fire

1929 GWR builds Haldon Aerodrome

1930 Sea breaches line at Sea Lawn

1934 Dawlish down platform lengthened
Parson’s Tunnel signal box re-instated to cope with summer traffic

1935 Camping coaches introduced at Dawlish Warren

1936 Act approved for a “Dawlish Avoiding Line” from Eastdon to Hackney

1937 Act approved for a revised “Dawlish Avoiding Line” from Exminster to Hackney

1939 Outbreak of war puts “Dawlish Avoiding Line” on hold.

1937 Footbridge span replaced at Dawlish

1941 Engineers siding at Langstone Rock lifted

1945 Footway re-opened between Langstone Rock and Dawlish Warren

1948 New Parcels Office built at Dawlish

1949 “Dawlish Avoiding Line” scheme abandoned

1952 Sub-way to Marine Parade filled in – slight protrusion marks site

1961 Ridge and Furrow type Canopies of Dawlish station replaced by Flat Canopies

1962 New generation of diesel hydraulic locomotives gradually replace steam locomotives
Ballast washed out at Marine Parade on 8th March due to storm - Dawlish down platform also damaged.

1964 Parson’s Tunnel signal box closed for good

1965 New concrete footbridge from sea wall to Marine Parade replaces cast iron bridge

1971 Major works commence by the Water Authority to help stabilise Dawlish Warren

1974 Large section of Dawlish down platform demolished by a storm on 11th February
Work completed on stabilising Dawlish Warren area

1976 Diesel hydraulic locomotives phased out in favour of High Speed Trains (HST’s)

1981 Camping coaches replaced at Dawlish Warren

1986 Sea breaches line West of Smugglers’ Lane
Mechanical signalling replaced by colour light signalling, controlled from Exeter St Davids. Reversible working introduced between Dawlish Warren and Teignmouth on the Up Line
Dawlish & Dawlish Warren Signal Boxes closed for good

1989 Dawlish Warren signal box demolished

2013 Dawlish signal box demolished

2014 "The great storm" destroys the sea wall at Sea Lawn (east of Dawlish station), leaving Cornwall & Devon without a railway from February to July.

The Atmospheric Railway

The Atmospheric System

The line through Dawlish was originally intended to be an “Atmospheric Railway”, mainly because the Directors of the South Devon Railway had been very impressed with such a system following a visit to a line at Dalkey, near Dublin. Isambard Kingdom Brunel was given the task of designing the line which was based on a relatively simple system.

A continuous pipe was laid between the rails (Broad Gauge) which had a leather valve running the length of the pipe at the top. Air was exhausted from the pipe by engine houses located at regular intervals which basically sucked a piston along inside the pipe, which was attached to a carriage known as a “piston carriage” with other carriages attached.
Dawlish Atmospheric railway


Although work was underway to construct the pipes, stationery engines and boilers in the spring of 1845 at Exeter, Countess Wear, Turf and Starcross, the next engine houses for Dawlish, Teignmouth, Summer House and Newton Abbott, were not started until 1846. As a consequence, the line was not ready in time for Atmospheric working and the first trains were hauled by steam locomotives, hired from the GWR as from 30th May 1846.

Test trains for the Atmospheric system were started in February 1847 but public services did not commence until 13th September 1847. The whole service, including freight trains, operated from February 1848.


The appearance of engineless trains must have seemed incredible to the public at the time and in general, the system well liked with no smuts, a smooth ride, rapid acceleration/quicker timings (the highest recorded speed was 68 mph with a train of 28 tons), with the same level of punctuality as everywhere else. Unfortunately, however, the whole system went badly wrong under extreme weather conditions, starting off with icy weather in the winter of 1847/48.

Icy conditions caused the valve to freeze and not close properly which affected services on several occasions. Additional problems then occurred in the summer when hot weather caused the valve to become too dry and tear, not to mention the leather valve being eaten away by rats! Excessive leakage of air into the pipe through the valves put more work onto the pumping engines, which were never efficient even for their normal duty, which then led to excessive fuel consumption and frequent breakdowns of the pumping engines themselves.

A lack of telegraphic communications between the engine houses meant that the boilers for the pumping engines could not be regulated for the flow of traffic, in effect working double the time actually required, often running short of steam.

End of the Atmospheric Railway

The teething problems coincided with the half year accounts for the first half of 1848 which showed a loss – something almost unheard of for a major railway company at the time.

In August 1848, infuriated shareholders voted to abandon it almost as quickly as they voted for it. This was despite staff reducing costs to a level where the Atmospheric system would have returned a good profit in the second half of the year, including completion of the engine houses at Dainton, Totnes and Torquay.

Normal Atmospheric working continued until the last train, which worked on Saturday night, 9th September 1848. The engine houses were then closed for good and locomotive hauled trains returned to the scene.

The Broad Gauge Railway

The Gauge

The line at Dawlish was originally laid as “Broad Gauge” where the distance between the tracks was 7ft ¼ inch instead of “Standard Gauge” at 4ft 8 ½ inch which was standard in most other parts of the country and the world. The Broad Gauge had been adopted by the Great Western Railway which was building its line to the west of England from London, Paddington. The advantages of Broad Gauge had been recognised by the Great Western’s engineer, Isambard Kingdom Brunel, where trains could be more stable, run at higher speeds and provide more space for passengers or for carrying goods.
Dawlish broad gauge

The Route

The route across South Devon was originally surveyed by Brunel in 1836 which, whilst similar today, proposed a route tunnelling behind Dawlish and Teignmouth to avoid having to build the “sea wall”. The costs of tunnelling were considered to be too high including several other proposals which followed on. It was only in September 1843 that Brunel resurveyed the route when the Great Western and Bristol and Exeter Railway agreed to provide a large share of the Capital for the building works to commence, under name of the South Devon Railway.

The Act was received in July 1844, despite much opposition on environmental grounds, especially at Dawlish where it was thought that the line would “drive away many residents and perhaps all the visitors”. The greatest opposition came from the Exeter Corporation who said that enemy ships would be able to shell trains running along the sea wall!


The laying of track began in August 1845 and by March 1846, the Broad Gauge line had been laid from Exeter to the other side of Teignmouth. It had been intended to have double Broad Gauge line tracks but a decision had been made to operate the line as an Atmospheric Railway. With substantial costs involved, it was soon decided to make the line single in order to save money.

Unfortunately, the Atmospheric system was nowhere near completion, much to the annoyance of the Directors and the railway initially operated with Broad Gauge steam locomotives, hired from the GWR. The first official opening day was on the Bank Holiday weekend of Saturday, 30th May 1846, with two locomotives Exe and Teign (renamed Viper for the event), hauling nine coaches from Exeter to Teignmouth.


The running of Atmospheric trains on the Broad Guage track was short lived with normal running for just one year. Following various teething problems and a financial loss, the last Atmospheric train ran on Saturday night 9th September 1848, reverting to normal steam hauled trains. To help improve the flow of traffic, the line was widened to accommodate double Broad Gauge lines from Exeter to Dawlish, which was completed in 1874. A single line existed west of Dawlish to Parson’s Tunnel until 1905, initially as Broad Gauge track and then as Standard Gauge track from May 1892.

The Broad Gauge operated with some dubious practices although the South Devon Railway introduced “Absolute Block” working right from the start, where no train would be allowed to enter a section before the previous train had arrived at the next. The points and signals were all worked by individual levers and not connected or interlocked, which was standard practice in the early days of railways. Although there were collisions, the damage was never really serious, due to low-speed restrictions enforced through the stations and staff were simply fined or dismissed for such errors.

Improvements were slow coming, although interlocked signal boxes were introduced at Starcross, Dawlish, Parson’s Tunnel and Teignmouth between 1874 and 1884, including modern style semaphore signals rather than Brunel’s disc and cross-bar signals. To help save on costs, the Great Western Railway put off many improvements until converting to Standard Gauge, when many alterations would have to made anyway.

End of the Broad Gauge

There were several reasons for the end of the Broad Gauge, despite its brilliant performance. As the Broad Gauge was only limited to the Great Western Railway, there was considerable inconvenience in transferring passengers and freight to places further afield, where Standard Gauge was the norm.

Railways with Standard Gauge refused to invest money to widen their tracks to Broad Gauge. Some flexibility was gained however, through introducing a third rail, so that trains of mixed gauges could run over the Broad Gauge lines, although these dual gauge lines never went as far as Dawlish. After 1865, the Directors of the Great Western Railway began a policy of converting Broad Gauge tracks to Standard Gauge. To help speed up the process, the remaining 171 miles of Broad Gauge were converted to Standard Gauge over just one weekend from Friday, 20th May to Sunday 22nd May, which included the line at Dawlish.

The two last up and down Broad Gauge trains actually passed each other at Dawlish station on Friday night, 20th May 1892. When the trains arrived, the passengers pulled down their windows and shook hands with each other and sang the chorus of “Auld Lang Syne”! Such was the speed of conversion, the first down Standard Gauge test train reached Dawlish at 1.15pm on Saturday, 21st May 1892; the up line was finished at 6.pm on the Sunday, with normal Standard Gauge operation from Monday morning, 23rd May 1892; so ending 54 years of Broad Gauge operation on the Great Western Railway.

The “Western” Diesel Hydraulics


From 1962 the British Railways (Western Region) had introduced a new class of powerful diesel hydraulic locomotive, known by drivers as “thousands” (each locomotive was numbered from D1000 to D1073); by BR (W) as “Class 52’s” (the locomotives’ official Class number) and by enthusiasts as “Westerns” as each locomotive was given a name beginning with the word “Western”. With the building of 74 locomotives between Swindon Works and Crewe Works, these locomotives enabled steam locomotives, particularly the “Kings” to be finally phased out.
Dawlish diesel railway


The Westerns operated from London (Paddington) to all parts of the British Railways (Western Region) and were a familiar, if not daily sight and sound along the sea wall at Dawlish to thousands of visitors. The locomotives hauled many passenger trains for holiday makers and could also be seen on heavy freight trains, such was the locomotive’s versatility. The Westerns were gradually being phased out in the mid 1970’s, in favour of High Speed Trains (HST’s) but generated a quite a following amongst railway enthusiasts, who appreciated the design, sight and incredible sound of two 65 litre, high revving Maybach V12 engines.

End of the Westerns

The last official Western working in BR days was on 26 February 1977 when two Westerns hauled a farewell rail tour in both directions through Dawlish. The locomotives were D1013 Western Ranger and D1023 Western Fusilier which double-headed the rail tour from Paddington to Swansea to Plymouth and then all the way back to Paddington!


Since 1977 a total of 7 Westerns were preserved and D1015 Western Champion can still occasionally be seen passing through Dawlish on special charter trips. D1015 is the only main-line certified locomotive, following 25 years of restoration work by the Diesel Traction Group. At least one of two Westerns (D1013 Western Ranger and D1062 Western Courier) owned by the Western Locomotive Association can be seen operating each year from around May to October on the Severn Valley Railway.