Status: South Hams District, Devon, Village, England
Travel: Car, Lower Ferry, Passenger Ferry, Higher Ferry
Eating & Sleeping: N/A
Attractions: Dartmouth Steam Railway, Kingswear Castle, Kingswear Marina, River Dart etc
In my Dartmouth post I mentioned the Station Restaurant, which is housed in an actual train station building built back in 1864 for the Dartmouth & Torbay Railway, which connected to the Great Western Railway past Torquay and was intended to run to Dartmouth via Kingswear. Construction problems meant that it never made it across the river so the station at Dartmouth remained empty. This meant that the line then terminated in Kingswear instead, with passengers then being taken across the river to the Dartmouth Station on a special pedestrian ferry.
The whole line closed in the 1960’s, but it was bought by the Dart Valley Railway Company, and re-opened along part of the line. It now runs to Paignton, and covers around half of the original route. It was the ideal place to stop as the station is literally just around the corner from where the Lower Ferry docks.
Steam trains run up and down the route, and during our time in Dartmouth and Kingswear we spotted two different engines, out of a fleet of at least 4 different Steam Engines:
The smaller Green engine is called Hercules, and was originally built in Swindon in 1920, and worked in the village of Aberbeeg in North Wales as a coal train, like many of this class. It was sent for Scrap in the South Wales town of Barry by 1964, but after 22 years at the yard it was still in one piece, but in a very bad condition. Happily it was rescued in 1986 and carefully restored, and was then bought by the Dartmouth Steam Railway (also known as the Dartmouth & Paignton Steam Railway) in 2008. The railway also owns one of Hercules’s sister engines, called Goliath (5239) in a similar paint scheme.
Aside from Hercules & Goliath, two much larger engines also work on the railway, and one of these is called Lydham Manor (7827) which can be seen above pulling the coaches along the line towards Kingswear in a photograph I took from the Dartmouth side of the river. This Engine was also built in Swindon, but was made for much heavier duty work, such as pulling trains on the North Wales Cambrian Coast Line. The Engine is part of the 2nd wave of this class to be built, as the first set of 20 date back to 1938, with a follow up order of 10 in the 1950’s. Lydham followed Hercules to Barry in 1966, but was rescued much earlier, in 1970, and beautifully restored. It joined the line in 1973 and is still in regular use today. A similar engine called Braveheart (75014) is also in use on the railway but the design is slighty different. You can find more about the engines on the Railways official webpage here.
This is a view of the station interior, with the central platform containing a Cafe, Ticket Office & Shop. On the left is an old train carriage which contains a small museum about the railway and it’s history, which is open during the day. It’s an odd feeling being on an old train whilst looking around the exhibits, but its the perfect way to preserve all these fabulous old bits of stock.
Trains run regularly throughout the day towards Paignton, and the line is directly next to the river as it leaves Kingswear, giving great views over at Dartmouth. When we hired a boat in Dartmouth we were quite close to the Kingswear bank further up the river and the train (headed by Lydham Manor) went straight past us, which was an incredible sight.
Also in the station when we visited was a large Diesel Engine called Titan (D2192) and the chance to drive it up and down the platform for just £5 was being offered, but unfortunately we didn’t have time. The Engine was built as a shunter, and usually resides at Churston, near the other terminus in Torbay, for use shunting rolling stock.
The end carriage on the regular train that is hauled along the line is the No.13 Devon Belle, one of a pair of Observation Cars which originally ran on the Devon Belle service between London and Plymouth in the 1940’s and 50’s. The other surviving car is No.14, which began life in 1918 as an Ambulance Coach, and was subsequently converted into a Pullman Passenger Coach and then a Bar car in 1937. Both Coaches then became Observation Cars in 1947. Since use in the USA in the latter half of the 20th century, No.14 returned to the UK and has been in use at the Swanage Railway in Dorset since 2008.
As Hercules coupled up and began to depart we got a great view of it alongside Titan, on either side of the platform. Hercules left, out on its journey towards the seaside town of Paignton, which we visited a few days later.
Kingswear is quite similar to Dartmouth, with quaint little houses built in layers up the side of the hill. This is a typical street in the village, and the varying colours of the buildings make it a pleasant place to explore. Whilst as landmarks go there aren’t a vast number on this side of the river one of the things about Kingswear is that part of its attraction is its charm, and its position opposite Dartmouth means that, even if you have come to visit Dartmouth specifically, you could go for a quiet wander around Kingswear as the two places come almost hand in hand.
The views out across Dartmouth are also quite spectacular, as well as of the Kingswear Marina, located next to the station. Hundreds of boats crowd the river, and can regularly be seen sailing up and down the Dart. High up on the Dartmouth side behind the Marina is the Britannia Royal Naval College, completed in 1905. As the only surviving Naval College in the country it is of special importance to the Royal Navy and commands a spectacular position above the Dart.
You can find out more about the Naval College, and Dartmouth itself, by reading my dedicated post here.
One of the days we were in the area we hired a boat in Dartmouth, and sailed up and down the Dart for 3 hours exploring both sides of the riverbank. Dartmouth is home to a grand Castle near the mouth of the Dart, just before it flows out into the English Channel. Opposite the Castle is the smaller Kingswear Castle, shown above.
A precursor to Dartmouth Castle was built around 1388, with Kingswear following much later when construction started in 1491. Completed by 1502, the two Castles now guarded the entrance to the English Channel, and were specifically built to house gun platforms for artillery. Dartmouth however was the larger Castle and throughout history it flourished whilst Kingswear was slowly left to decay, until brief use during the English Civil War (1642 – 1651). It wasn’t until 1855 that the Castles fortunes were reversed, when it was bought by Charles Seale-Hayne (1833 – 1903, British Politician from London). He employed Thomas Lidstone to convert the building into a private residence, which it remained until World War II, during which it was occupied by the Royal Marines as a defensive position against potential sea attacks. It then passed back into private ownership after the War, before being eventually bought by the Landmark Trust in 1987, and it is now available for holidaymakers to stay in.
It’s a stunning building and offers a unique holiday opportunity, facing off with Dartmouth Castle. Together the two create an imposing presence on the river, protecting the two settlements against any future attack.
Kingswear is a pleasant little village, which sees a lot of traffic as it sits at the start of the through route from Dartmouth – Torquay via the Dart Ferries and Kingswear. Steam trains run regularly to Paignton, and local buses can be found in both Kingswear (for Paignton) and Dartmouth (Plymouth).
We soon followed the main route out of Kingswear, heading to the town of Totnes, which has it’s own Castle on a hill in the centre of town…