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Halwill

The station at Halwill was opened on 20th January 1879 when the line from Meldon Junction (on the Okehampton to Plymouth route) to Holsworthy was opened. Not being situated anywhere in particular, it was named, after two nearby villages, "Halwill & Beaworthy". The station became a junction on 21st July 1886 when the first part of the North Cornwall Railway was opened, from Halwill to Launceston, with the official change of name to "Halwill Junction". Both routes were extended until by 10th August 1898 the Holsworthy route had reached Bude and by 23rd March 1899 the Launceston line had been extended (in several stages) to Padstow. A third line north from Halwill was added as late as 27th July 1925 when the North Devon & Cornwall Junction Light Railway was opened between Torrington and Halwill, though this line was not allowed to enter the original station but had its own platform, unadorned with any building, at the northern end; necessitating quite a walk for passengers changing to or from the Torrington line - none too pleasant during the often inclement weather! The station now had its full complement of routes, from Okehampton on the London side and to Padstow, Bude and Barnstaple (via Torrington) on the country side. From 1st January 1923 the 'Junction' was dropped from the name and the station was officially known as just "Halwill", though the full wording on the running-in board became "Halwill for Beaworthy, junction for the Bude, North Cornwall & Torrington Lines".

Halwill diagram
Diagram based on one in An Illustrated History of the North Cornwall Railway and reproduced by kind permission of Irwell Press.

The station layout itself developed considerably over the years with the final additions (eight sidings) being made in 1943 to handle military traffic during the build-up towards the Normandy landings. The military traffic, of course, evaporated after the end of the war whilst much of the pre-war traffic either failed to return, or only returned in part. Summer Saturdays were, once again, quite busy during the 1950s, but the growth in both family car ownership and road haulage companies contributed to a fall-off of traffic into the 1960s. The end came during the mid-1960s with closure first proposed in April 1964, followed by the lines to Bude and Wadebridge losing their goods traffic on 7th September 1964, the Halwill to Torrington line closing entirely as far as Meeth (and for passenger traffic to Torrington) on 1st March 1965, and the lines to Bude and Wadebridge closing to passenger traffic on 3rd October 1966.
 
The up side running-in board.

photograph by Chris Knowles-Thomas

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Halwill Station
 
Halwill Station A view of the up side buildings at Halwill station.

photograph by Chris Knowles-Thomas.

 
Halwill was an odd station in several ways. Originally built as a small intermediate station, the facilities provided for passengers hardly changed as the station grew in importance. The same small building lasted for the full life of the station with no canopy nor footbridge ever being provided, and just a small shelter on the other platform. Life at Halwill Junction would be very quiet for a while, then burst into activity with arrrivals and departures, dividing and joining of trains, all taking place with immense speed and efficiency. A down train to Padstow and Bude would arrive, the Bude coaches at the rear would be detached, the front portion would leave for Wadebridge and Padstow after which an engine would be attached to the Bude coaches and leave for that destination, all within a few minutes. The joining of up services was even more complicated. The train from Bude would arrive in Halwill, the engine run round and attach to the other end of the coaches and then draw them back out of the station in the direction of Bude. Once the Bude train was clear of the station the train from Padstow would arrive and stop in the platform. The Bude coaches would then be propelled onto the rear of the Padstow coaches and attached, the Bude engine would be detached and the joined train would depart for Okehampton and places east. The Bude engine would then make its way over to the goods yard where it might be required for some shunting whilst awaiting its next duty with more detached coaches for Bude. The Torrington platform was, of course, something else! The train (frequently formed of just one coach) would arrive in the segregated platform. Once all the passengers (usually very few indeed) had detrained the engine would propell the train back out of the platform to where there was a short run round loop. The points for this were not controlled by the Halwill signalbox but by a ground frame, a set of levers beside the track that, though locked and unlocked from the signalbox, were operated by the engine crew or, if they were very lucky, a shunter. Having run round, the engine and stock would then set back into the platform and await their departure time.
 
A view of the down side buildings as N Class Nº31834 arrives with a down train for the Launceston line, date unknown.

Photograph reproduced by kind permission of David & Charles Ltd., Newton Abbott.

Halwill Station
 
Services were steam operated almost to the end, with diesels not taking over until January 1965. At this time the service was much reduced and instead of dividing and joining the trains, one unit would work through from Okehampton to Bude whilst a connecting one worked from Halwill towards Padstow, sometimes only as far as Launceston. All trains to and from London were withdrawn, with the exception of one Saturday train each way between London and Bude during the summer of 1965.

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This page was created 18 May 2007

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