Dartmoor Railway

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Dartmoor Railway

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Review of "Dartmoor Railway"

published 20/01/2004 | lazza123
Member since : 03/12/2002
Reviews : 207
Members who trust : 96
About me :
Pro Cheap, access to Moors, friendly
Cons None
very helpful
Frequency of trains
Reliability of trains
Speed of trains
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How extensive is their Rail Network?

"Let the Dartmoor pony take the strain!"

So over the Christmas break I wanted to get some fresh air I wanted to go for a walk on Dartmoor. Now I could drive into the middle of the moor, leave the car and walk, or I could park the car a little way out and get public transport to the moor, this has the benefit of helping the environment, and is the option I chose. This op is not about the walk, but about the transport I took to get to onto the moor.

** What is it? **

The Dartmoor Railway is just that, it is a railway that takes you from Okehampton up to Meldon Quarry (right on the edge of the moor). Okehampton station is not part of the National rail network, although there is a link to the main line at Exeter. The station has been lovingly restored to how it would have been in the 1950's
In fact Okehampton station was once part of the Southern Railway, and was on their main route down into Cornwall, but as with most things in th e60's they pulled most of the track up, this is all that is left.

They call the service "The Dartmoor Pony"

** Where is it? **

Okehampton station is situated just on the edge of Dartmoor in Devon, it is easy to find from the main A30 from Exeter. There are the brown tourist signs pointing you in the correct direction.
There is a large car park, which is pretty flat.
There are buses from Okehampton town centre (about 1 mile away) but I couldn't really tell you frequency.

** Where does it go? **

As mentioned above it goes from Okehampton, south to the quarry at Meldon (about 3 miles away, and seriously uphill), this is really the edge of the moor, from here there are many walks you can take. However they have another station 4 miles north of Okehampton called Sampford Courtney (this is being rebuilt) You can do as I did, and get a "round robin" ticket, which takes you to Sampford Courtney, the back up to Meldon.

The journey is very enjoyable, there is so much to look at, rolling Devon farmland, right up to the moors. The timetable/information leaflet mentions a few things to look out for along the way.

** What is there? **

The station buildings contain a number of different things which are listed below. Also on the site in various locations are photo boards showing what the site was like in the heyday of steam railways.

@The buffet

This is situated on Okehampton station, it is called the Bullied Buffet named I believe after a designer of trains.

They have such things as Bacon rolls for £2.20, Jacket Potatoes for £4 Sandwiches for £2 (toasted for £2.20), tea 90 pence for a large mug. There is a kids menu too, all items £2.75
The buffet has seating for about 40 people, although with that number in there it would be a bit crowded. It is exceptionally neat and tidy, and I was greeted with a lovely welcome form the staff.

They are also licensed, so you can get beer and wine (I wasn't drinking, so didn't bother to look at the prices)

According to the timetable they also have a dining train.

I have just come back from there, and they now do "themed" nights in the buffet, so for instance this Friday and Saturday are curry nights!! I also noticed thay do Greek nights and Chinese nights, I did actually see the menu for the Chinese night, and I must say the food sounded very nice (I've yet to try) I didn't notice any prices for these nights, but they do recommend that you book well in advance!!

@The shop

The station shop sells all thing railway related, from kiddies Thomas the Tank engine, through to some serious looking model trains (I guess for serious modellers) and accessories. They also had a wide selection of "railway" related books, I found one with pictures of Okehampton station as it was! They have all sorts of "Dartmoor" tourist information such as maps and guide books too, so it is actually a good place to start your trip on the moors from, you can pick up that forgotten map!


These are on the platform, and I found them to be clean and functional


At Okehampton, they also have a cycle hire facility, so you can hire your bike, get the train to take you up to the moor, cycle for the day and get the train back. There are plenty of maps dotted around the station, and the cycle hire area to give you some ideas. The staff were also very helpful, and as mentioned the station shop sells maps and guide books.
You can actually cycle from Okehampton station up to Meldon, but it is a fair climb, and quite steep in places. I would suggest you have to be pretty fit to do it but I bet it would be fun coming back down whhhheeeeeeeeeee, but check your brakes first! (the cycle route actually runs along side the railway, and there are no roads to negotiate.

Opposite the station there is also a Youth Hostel, so if you are back packing it across Devon this would be a cheap and safe place to stop for the night.
Just to add some extra about the Youth Hostel - they run a number of adventure weeks for school kids, which include climbing, canoeing and a host of other outdoor activities, when I went by today, there were a lot of YHA staff on duty, all were qualified in some form of outdoor activity
Also in the Summer holidays they said they cater more for family groups.

** The trains **

They had diesel trains running when I visited, although they do sometimes have steam trains running. I found the carriages to be very clean, and in very good order. Although this line is not part of the national rail network, I found the ride to be very smooth. The total journey to go to Sampford, and then back up to Okehampton only took about 40 minutes, but such was the relaxed atmosphere it seemed to last quite a lot longer than that!

The train also had a buffet on board, selling much the same as the buffet on the station, maybe not surprising, as they are all the same company!

** Meldon **

This is the end of the line, there is a visitor centre, with a buffet and toilets here, although they are doing some renovation work and this was closed at the time of my trip. On the way to this stop, you pass some extensive quarry workings, which as it is an industrial site are off limits to everyone! (Health and Safety prevails)
The train pulls into a specially built platform (there was never a station here) and off you get, you can now walk the short distance to the viaduct, which gives breathtaking views into the valley, and down to Okehampton itself. From here the moors are your oyster so to speak (I'll do an op on my walk sometime!)

** How much is it? **

When I went, they were running "mince pie specials" for the whole round trip including tea and mince pies it was £7.50 (but that allowed you to ride on the train as many times as you wanted to.)
The standard price for the round trip according to last years timetable is £4.00 for an adult return (one trip) or the all day ticket is £6.00

Cycle hire costs £9.50 for adults and £6.00 for kids, that is for all day.

Cycles and dogs are carried free of charge on the trains. To get a ticket, you just pay the guard on the train.

There is a combined timetable/general information leaflet, which I think is very comprehensive. It has all the details about times, pricing, cycle hire etc.

** Disabled **

Everything at Okehampton is on one level, so there is no problem with disabled access, also when I was there, a number of people from a local hospital went on the train, some had wheelchairs. The trains each carried a ramp to allow the wheelchair to be loaded. At Meldon, the path to the viaduct is flat, so it is easy access for all.

** The Staff **

I found they couldn't do enough for you, they were willing to chat, give you useful information about what you might be passing on the line. I went to look at the diesel (like you do) and was invited up into the cab (well everyone wanted to be a train driver - didn't they?)
The staff on the platform area were equally as friendly, to my mind it really made the whole day out worth it.

** Contact them **

To contact them
Dartmoor Railway Ltd
Okehampton Station
EX20 1EJ

01837 55637


** Final thoughts **

I would say that if you are on Holiday in Devon, or if you just fancy doing something different, then this is definitely a must.

I was talking to one of the staff, and they were saying that they have a link to Exeter Railway station, so in the Summer you can get a train from Exeter to Okehampton, you could then spend the day in the moors without the hassle of a car.
He also told me that the line is actually owned by the quarry company, and as such they have trains from the quarry which supplies the ballast for Network Rail - what this means is that they have to have all the latest safety procedures in place, and the track has to be laid to certain standards.

They also said that they has aspirations to make this a commuter route into Exeter, as car parking in Exeter is getting a serious problem, also there are plans to build 800 new homes in and around Okehampton.

I certainly hope they succeed.

…and before I forget. If you do use this to get onto Dartmoor, make sure you have the correct protective clothing, etc. As the weather on the moors can turn very nasty in an instant.

Thanks for reading this and I hope if you do get to Devon you give this a try.


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Comments on this review

  • dakota196 published 17/02/2006
    great review - this is near me, I might have to check it out. Emma :)
  • hebawom published 20/09/2005
    Sounds brill - I often visit Devon so will make an effect to go here
  • AdamCristos published 28/01/2004
    I always did like old railways, especially the steam ones .... great reveiw I'm adding this to "my places to go"
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Product Information : Dartmoor Railway

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Listed on Ciao since: 20/01/2004