Sunday, 5 September 2021

Target Railway

While on our family holiday near Okehampton in Devon, I met up with friend and fellow 009 modeller Tom Dauben, who lives in the area. Tom suggested we meet up a mile or so south of the town at a remote spot near Rowtor, on the edge of Dartmoor. This wasn't just so he could walk his dog, but because he'd discovered an interesting little narrow gauge railway...

What could be mistaken for an ancient burial mound from the rear, or a bunker or gun emplacement from the side, turns out to be a small 2-road loco shed, with narrow gauge tracks emerging to the barren moorland. This is not far from Okehampton Camp army base and the railway was built as a moving target...

I was aware such lines existed, as this little trolley preserved at Amberley was from another. Built by Wickham the low body covers a petrol engine and it is set running, carrying a plywood (replaceable) target on top. Clearly it is not meant to carry passengers. This link shows a similar trolley exists at the Rowtor railway. 

I suppose a bullet-proof engine shed is unusual? It may have been out of use for some years, but the doors show signs of maintenance, the right-hand doors having a fresh coat of primer by the look of it. Shining a light through a crack the frame of the trolley could just be made out, 

The track is of pre-fabricated steel type apparently ballasted with turf, according to the above link it is 2' 6" gauge. The points to the shed have levers although the turf seems to stop the blades moving now. 

The other track from the points curves around into a balloon or reversing loop, and there is a similar loop at the other end. Between the rails in the spur to the shed a piece of bent rail sticks up, I presume to activate a trip switch to stop the trolley. 

The balloon loop points at each end are sprung. 

Between the balloon loops the tracks run in a shallow cutting behind an embankment. The trolley would be protected by the embankment with the plywood tank visible above, for the squaddies to shoot at. 

The loop at the other end looks even more desolate than the one at the shed end. Tom's dog was more interested in his ball. 

The far end of the line curving behind the embankment, with Rowtor in the distance. It was a fine summer's evening and as you can see an absolutely stunning spot, as scenically spectacular as any narrow gauge railway. but it would be bleak in bad weather. The railway is small and there is little to see, but it's interesting, largely complete, and certainly unusual. Thanks Tom for showing me - and it was good to catch up!


Justin Achammer said...

Great photos, what an interesting location. Thanks for sharing!


Mark said...

With balloon loops at both ends and sprung points, it sounds ideal for a small working diorama that's more than just an oval of track. Go on you know you want to :P