Sixty years ago, I had the experience of riding the “Tivvy Bumper”. This was the nickname given by locals to the 4¾ mile branch line from Tiverton Junction to Tiverton in Devon. Motive power was usually one of the Great Western Railway 0-4-2 tank engines in the 14XX class. These locomotives also graced other quaintly nicknamed branch lines such as the “Wallingford Bunk” (at the time in Berkshire before boundary changes) and the “Marlow Donkey” in Buckinghamshire. And, of course, a replica of a 14XX class locomotive starred in the famous film “The Titfield Thunderbolt”.
Passenger services between Tiverton Junction and Tiverton which had run since 1848 ceased in 1964. The following year, Lord Amory, who as Derick Heathcoat Amory was MP for Tiverton and, later, Chancellor of the Exchequer in the Macmillan government, bought a “Tivvy Bumper” locomotive for display in the town. Many of Tiverton’s citizens were employed in companies owned by the Heathcoat Amory family, and the gesture was much appreciated. Thus, 41-ton locomotive 1442 when withdrawn from service after 30 years’ work was placed on a plinth in the open air at Tiverton. This state of affairs continued for about 13 years with 1442 getting increasingly rusty and dirty out in the elements. Then in 1978 she was taken for static display inside a purpose-built extension to the Tiverton Museum of Mid-Devon Life. She joined three others of this class of 75 locomotives which were saved after withdrawal. Three of the four are currently being restored to working condition. Their charm stems from the fact that they are very similar in design to a class of 0-4-2 tank engines which first appeared on the Great Western Railway in 1868.
I also saw and photographed 1442 at work on the 7½ mile branch line from Tiverton Junction to Hemyock. Since opening in 1876, this single line branch closed for passengers in 1963 and finally closed for all purposes in 1975. It had as the Culm Valley line carried passengers, freight and, later, milk to the Cow & Gate creamery. It was a tortuously curved line restricted to 15 mph and worked on the “one engine in steam” principle without signals but with the driver having a train staff as authority to proceed on the single line. There was also a weight restriction for any pair of wheels on the line (locomotives, carriages, tanks or wagons) which had not to exceed 13 tons 18 cwt. The pace was extremely leisurely with four intermediate stations and four sets of level crossing gates which were opened by the engine fireman and closed by the train guard.
While the “Tivvy Bumper” is still with us, Tiverton Junction station was no more from 1986 as it was moved two miles away and renamed Tiverton Parkway.
Mike Peart is the co-author of Volumes 3, 4 and 5 of “History & Development of Railway Signalling in the British Isles” and “Trains of Hope” published by The Friends of the National Railway Museum. He’s been an active Friend of the NRM since 1994.
Friends of the NRM is an independent charity, established in 1977 to support the National Railway Museum. We have raised £1.8m to date in support of the museum in funding, restorations, exhibits and acquisitions of new artefacts. We also support and promote research and educational projects relating to the history and development of railways.
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