SideTracked - Exeter St David's
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An easy 'cache and dash' near Exeter St David's station.
The station was opened on 1 May 1844 by the Bristol and Exeter Railway (B&ER). The station was designed by Isambard Kingdom Brunel and was one of his single-sided stations which meant that the two platforms were both on the east side of the line. This was the side nearest the town and so very convenient for passengers travelling into Exeter but did mean that a lot of trains had to cross in front of others.
This was not too much of a problem while the station was at the end of the line, but on 30 May 1846 the South Devon Railway (SDR) opened a line westwards towards Plymouth. A carriage shed was built for the SDR at the south end of the B&ER platform but the goods sheds and locomotive sheds for both companies were to the west, between the station and the River Exe. The SDR was designed to be worked by atmospheric power and an engine house was built on the banks of the river near the locomotive shed. This was only used for its original purpose for about a year but was not demolished until many years later.
The next railway to arrive at St Davids was the Exeter and Crediton Railway on 12 May 1851, the junction of which was a little distance to the north of the station at Cowley Bridge. This line was worked by the B&ER and trains were accommodated at the existing platforms. All these railways had been built to the 7 ft 0¼ in (2,140 mm) broad gauge, but on 1 February 1862 the 4 ft 8½ in (1,435 mm) gauge London and South Western Railway (LSWR) brought a line into the station from their own central station in Queen Street. The LSWR owned the Exeter and Crediton Railway and started to work the line for itself, although the broad gauge was retained for the B&ER to work goods trains to Crediton.
With two gauges and four companies using the single-sided station, it was in need of remodelling. A new double-sided platform opened on the site west side of the line and the original up platform at the northern end was closed. The original platforms had all had individual train sheds covering the tracks, and the opportunity was taken to replace these with one large train shed across all the main tracks and platforms. North of the station was a level crossing and just beyond this an additional goods shed was constructed. Unlike the earlier ones it was solely for transferring goods between the trains of the two different gauges. All these buildings were designed by the Francis Fox, the B&ER engineer, and the work was completed in 1864.
The B&ER was amalgamated with the Great Western Railway on 1 January 1876 and the SDR did the same thing exactly one month later. The main line from Bristol was rebuilt with mixed gauge track that allowed broad gauge trains to run through from London Paddington railway station to Penzance, while at the same time offering a standard gauge track for local trains from Bristol Temple Meads; the new line being ready by 1 March 1876.
The train shed was removed in 1912-13 and the platforms extended northwards towards the level crossing. A second island platform was provided on the west side and this entailed the goods sheds being narrowed from two tracks to one at their southern end. The middle island platform was mainly used for LSWR trains while down GWR services used the original main platform and the new island platforms. The station has remained largely in this form since, but resignalling in the 1985 saw the ex-LSWR services moved to the main platform so that down ex-GWR line services did not have to cross their path at the south end of the station. A through line between platforms 1 and 3 was removed at the same time. The new signal box was built on the site of the old atmospheric engine house and replaced three older signal boxes.
There are still many remains of the earlier stations to be seen. The main façade dates from 1864 and the Great Western Hotel dates from the earliest days, as does the southern section of platform 1. The goods shed opposite platform 6 shows the angle where the southern end was cut back in 1912, and at the northern end part of the original goods shed still stands beneath later extensions. The 1864 transfer shed can still be seen beside the line beyond Red Cow Crossing.
You are looking for a 35mm film container hidden near Red Cow Crossing, a short walk north from the main station entrance.
This is a very busy area and stealth will be required to retrieve the cache, particularly if the crossing gates are down.
Be careful of the busy road junction adjacent to the cache.
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