Dawlish Warren

In 1934, the GWR introduced camping coach holidays for the first time on its network, by converting a series of withdrawn passenger vehicles for use as accommodation, parked in sidings. The company found this to be a successfully venture and, in the following year, expanded the number of sites where camping coaches would be located, one of which was Dawlish Warren:

Coach Camps; Great Western Railway Points

Camp coach holidays have come to stay. Last year, when they were first introduced, they proved to be one of the most successful innovations introduced by the Great Western Railway.

As a result, the number of coaches which will be available for holidaymakers this year has been increased from nineteen to thirty-eight. They provide accommodation for six, eight, or ten persons, and are let at a weekly rental of £3, £4, and £5 respectively.

Points where coaches will be situated (in each case they will be adjacent to the local station) include: – Devon – Bampton, Ide, Ashton, Dawlish Warren, Lustleigh, Avonwick, Gara Bridge, Loddiswell. Somerset – Winscombe, Cheddar, Wookey, Blagdon, Blue Anchor. Cornwall – Fowey, Penryn, St. Agnes. Dorset – Abbotsbury, Portesham, Bridport (West Bay).

The only provision made in regard to the letting of these camp coaches by the railway company is that passengers should travel to and from their destination by rail. Reservation may be made as from April 1. [The Western Morning News and Daily Gazette, Friday 22nd February 1935]

It was proposed that, by 1940, a junction just north of Dawlish Warren would be made, resulting in main line trains bypassing the station and, indeed, all those from there through to Newton Abbot (exclusive). In 1935, the GWR sought powers to construct a line, 8¾-miles long, which took an inland route avoiding the sea. The scheme was, however, superseded by the onset of World War II and, after the conflict, never resumed.

Western Rail Developments; Bill Before the Commons; £5,500,000 Guaranteed Loan.

The Additional Powers Bill of the Great Western Railway Company has been deposited in the Private Bill Office of the House of Commons. Under this measure powers are sought to carry out the works to be undertaken in accordance with the terms of the agreement with the Treasury so far as those works are not already authorized.

The new works, which require Parliamentary sanction, comprise the construction of a new railway six miles seven furlongs in length from a junction with the company’s Cornwall railway near St. Germans to Looe, and a deviation line, eight miles six furlongs in length, from a junction with the company’s South Devon railway at Newton Abbot to a junction with the same railway near Dawlish Warren Station.

The time sought within which to construct these new lines is five years from September 30, 1935. [The Western Morning News and Daily Gazette, Saturday, 25th January 1936]

World War II had also seen the withdrawal of camping coaches across the GWR network, but under British Railways, these were advertised as being available again from 24th May 1952:

Pre-War Holiday Scheme Returns

The camp coach, popular pre-war luxury camping attraction, is to return to British Railways, Western Region, on May 24th. This holiday facility, which was withdrawn at the outbreak of war, provides a rail coach specially fitted with sleeping quarters and domestic requirements for 8 persons, stabled at certain selected stations, and available for travelling holiday makers at weekly rentals of between £7 and £10 [£202.90 and £289.90 respectively at 2019 prices].

Coaches will at present be available from Blue Anchor, Dawlish Warren, Fowey, St. Agnes, Marazion, Ferryside, Manorbier, Aberdovey, Abererch, and Borth stations. [The Banbury Guardian, Thursday, 8th May 1952]

Those at Dawlish Warren were parked in sidings within the “up” side goods yard, south of the platforms. The yard ceased to handle public freight from 5th August 1963, but the sidings remained for use by the camping coaches.

Diesel on fire at Dawlish

Firemen from Teignmouth and Dawlish rushed to Dawlish Warren today, when a diesel engine caught fire at the railway station.

The fire was confined to the steam-heating boiler and was soon brought under control by firemen using foam.

The engine was hauling the 5.0 a.m. Newton Abbot-Exeter empty stock train and was only slightly damaged.

It continued on its journey after a delay of about an hour and will go to Laira, Plymouth, today for minor repairs. [Herald Express (Torquay), Wednesday, 26th April 1967]

In 1978, each platform received a small waiting shelter of brick construction at their southern ends. Based on your author’s observations, the shelters were not in evidence in May of that year, but had appeared by the end of the following September. Both of the existing “up” and “down” side GWR buildings were initially retained; that on the “down” platform was still in existence by the end of August 1980, but had gone by the following year. The structure’s removal appears to have coincided with the renewal of the golf ball screen on that side of the station and the cutting back of the “down” platform at its northern end, so it no longer went beyond the signal box. The “up” platform had been similarly shortened about five years previously. In the meantime, the footbridge between the platforms had also been removed; it was still in place in October 1977, but had gone by the following year, passage between the platforms now being made by the road underpass at the station’s southern end.

What of the camping coaches? 1964 was the last year of British Railways’ involvement with the camping coach holiday nationwide. Afterwards, the management of those vehicles at Dawlish Warren passed to British Rail’s Staff Association and were used by employees for holidays. As of 1980, there were nine pre-1948 GWR vehicles use as camping coaches in the former goods yard; by May 1981, five of these had been replaced by a pair of BR Mk 1 vehicles and two ex-LMS inspection saloons. The remaining four vehicles of the GWR stock were replaced by five BR Mk 1s in time for the 1982 summer season, bringing the total number of camping coaches to the previous total of nine.

In 1986, re-signalling of the line sought to remove the fine semaphores which had for long graced the line, and extend the control of the signalling panel at Exeter. Colour aspect lights replaced semaphores from 14th November 1986 and the signal box at Dawlish Warren was closed for good; the latter remained standing until demolition in May 1990. The works included laying a facing crossover between the running lines south of the station, so that “down” trains could run along the sea wall through Dawlish on the “up” line – either due to engineering works or bad weather – and the connection with the camping coach sidings was severed.

In June 2003, history seemed to repeat itself; the ex-GWR “up” side station building of 1912 was destroyed by fire, just like that on the “down” platform had been in 1924. The structure had been used as holiday accommodation since the mid-1980s and, before that, housed a museum and model railway. In late 2006, construction started on a replacement structure on the "up" platform, again for use as holiday stays; this new building was based on the outline of a GWR type signal box and the final piece of scaffolding finally came down at the end of August 2007.

8th September 1980

The 1924 "down" side station building, whose predecessor was destroyed by fire caused by an overheated stove, is in evidence as "Peak" No. 45041 "Royal Tank Regiment" heads past northbound on the "up" through line. The single-track connection to the camping coach sidings (former goods yard) can be seen in the right background. © David Glasspool Collection


Class 50 No. 50043 “Eagle” is seen with a stopping passenger service in the “up” platform loop, BR Mk 2 stock in tow. The tall fence on the left, behind the “down” platform, was a golf ball screen protecting the railway from the adjacent links course. Sandwiched in-between the train and the “up” main building of 1912 is one of the waiting shelters of 1978. © David Glasspool Collection

August 1984

An HST set wearing the original blue/grey/yellow BR livery leads south, away from the camera, on the “down” main. The “up” side building was wearing chocolate and cream colours at this time. The semaphore signal bracket in the background applied to the "down" main, rather than the platform loop. © David Glasspool Collection

1st October 1988

Double-heading Class 31 diesels, Nos. 31449 and 31420, are viewed from Langstone Rock after passing through Dawlish Warren station and are about to embark on the sea wall. This was an InterCity CrossCountry working from Manchester to Paignton, and the stock was later stabled in Goodrington Sidings prior to the return trip. © David Glasspool Collection