Dartmoor Explorations

A collection of walks, discoveries, insights and pictures of exploring Dartmoor National Park

MERRIVALE LIGHT RAILWAY

Steve Grigg

In Anthony R. Kingdom’s book, “The Yelverton to Princetown Railway” (1991), there is mention on page 75 of a proposed connection from the GWR line near King’s Tor to Merrivale Quarry. In 1908 plans were drawn up by Prigg & Lindon (Engineers) for this railway. It was to be 1 mile, 5 furlongs and 7.25 chains long, which is 1.72 miles or 2.76km. (NOTE: A furlong is 220 yards and a chain is 22 yards). It was to be known as the “Merrivale Light Railway” (MLR) of standard 4 ft 8.5″ gauge and its departure point was just past the Swell Tor sidings on the main Yelverton – Princetown line. This post traces the course of that railway and what might have been.

The estimate for the construction was around £12.6k in 1908, which in 2020 prices would be around £1.53m. The estimate can be found here:

https://www.flickr.com/photos/tarkaman/15662618255/

MLR Map
Taking the plans from Anthony R. Kingdom’s book (Pages 76 and 77), I have “overlaid” the railway proposed route onto a map from that era. There would have been 4 embankments, 2 bridges and a cutting. It is hardly surprising it was never financially viable.
MLR 1
Close to the start of the MLR showing Swell Tor Sidings
MLR 2
The MLR would have had an embankment which would have been built alongside the existing embankment of the GWR railway
MLR 3
The MLR construction would have needed to take into account the overbridge, which I have always assumed was for sheep and cattle
MLR 4
This part of the plan is confusing as the proposal was to cut across the old tramway (close to where the GWR line wraps around King’s Tor) and through a boulder strewn area. I assume it was to enable appropriate “curves” and gradients necessary to build the line down towards Long Ash Newtake.
MLR 5
Another angle looking back at the GWR overbridge
MLR 6
The Pila Brook side of the old tramway curve. A slight descent would have been necessary from this point.
MLR 7
Boulder strewn hillside would have presented some construction problems no doubt
MLR 8
The plans involved cutting across Long Ash Newtake, so planning to cut through private land didn’t seem to matter ! An embankment would have been necessary here as the land drops down to the Pila Brook
MLR 9
The Pila Brook would have had to be crossed. Maybe a culvert was planned ?
MLR 10
Looking across Pila Brook and Long Ash Newtake at the course the MLR would have taken
MLR 11
The plan was to run the MLR just south of the Merrivale Antiquities (fortunately). At that time, one wonders if the DPA (Hansford-Worth) had knowledge of these plans ?
MLR 12
The start of the cutting for the MLR would have been close to menhir
MLR 13
The MLR cutting would have been up to 33ft (10m) in depth
MLR 14
The MLR would have run very close to Hillside Newtake Wall
MLR 15
Another obstacle, the leat which comes off the Pila Brook near West Mead Quarry / Red Cottages area and runs across Long Ash Hill through one of the stone rows.
MLR 16
Approaching the B3357
MLR 17
The sites of the two proposed bridges plus two huge embankments
MLR 18
The B3357 road bridge was proposed to be a girder construction and would have looked out of place in this moorland setting. Here, I have superimposed a picture of a girder railway bridge in an attempt to show what it might have looked like
MLR 19
A close up of the proposed bridge.
MLR 20
After crossing the B3357 the largest obstacle lay ahead, the River Walkham Valley just north of Merrivale Bridge
MLR 21
Approaching the Walkham Valley
MLR 22
Looking across the Walkham Valley, there is an embankment, which is believed was part of the proposed construction.
MLR 23
View of the embankment above the Walkham gives a sense of the height the railway would have had to run above the river
MLR 24
The superimposed bridge, is a photograph of Leftlake Bridge on the Redlake Tramway. As the plans describe an “arch” I have assumed it would have been a bit more elegant than the girder bridge crossing the B3357. It would certainly have dwarfed the surroundings
MLR 25
A closer up view of the existing embankment
MLR 26
View from near river level
MLR 27
The embankment taken from near the Grimstone and Sortridge Leat, just above the Shillapark Farm track
MLR 28
A wider view of the proposal taken from Grimstone and Sortridge Leat
MLR 29
Looking down on the embankment into the Walkham Valley
MLR 30
Merrivale Quarry, the reason behind the 1.72 mile (2.76km) railway plan. One wonders at the devistation this construction would have caused.

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