The heritage benefits of our proposal are probably the most apparent and easiest ones to see, but this does not make them any less important.
The first and most obvious heritage benefit will be the station itself, restored to its former glory it will provide a gateway to see how life once was at a branch line terminus station. We feel that it is often very easy just to think of steam trains as a lovely day out for the children, and not see how important they once were to our country and how they changed the face of society forever. We aim to provide an experience that can teach both younger and older visitors what the railways were really about, why they were built where they were and the impact they had on local industries and the local population.
Ashburton for example had been looking to connect itself to other towns by way of a railway since 1832, but all schemes failed to get further than discussed. When the original South Devon Railway incorporated their company in 1844 to build a line from Exeter to Plymouth the residents of Ashburton began again to make plans to connect their town to the railway network. The first scheme was to go from Ashburton to Newton Abbot which even after a few adaptions still fell through. Eventually Ashburton did get its railway but it went via Buckfastleigh and on to Totnes instead, opened 1st May 1872.
The reasons for Ashburton wanting a railway were mirrored up and down the country, before the railways the only real way of getting around was by horse and stagecoaches. The stagecoaches ran on set routes, generally with set stopping places, Ashburton was one of these places, and it was a large source of revenue for the town and helped it to prosper. The railways led to a decline in stagecoach services, which led to towns such as Ashburton losing out on a good income, this is one of the reasons why they wanted to be on the railway map. When the railway arrived it played an important role at Ashburton’s cattle fairs bring cattle in and taking them away again, as well as transporting the traders themselves. The station also handled goods from Edwin Tucker’s malt house and seed business, umber from the various local umber mines as well as bringing in coal for the towns people, the gas works and Tucker’s malthouse. The early morning passenger train was also used by children of Ashburton who went to school in Totnes, the guard was entrusted with their care to the Station at Totnes.
This gives just an basic idea of the bigger picture that the railways played in both the industrial and social history of the area, with work from of dedicated team we could make this information available in an interesting an easy to understand way, which will be a valuable resource for educational institutes and historical societies. We would also hope that teaming up with other local groups we would be able to offer a comprehensive resource for local heritage.