Trains to run between Axminster in Lyme Regis once again – in model form!

By Francesca Evans

31st Jul 2023 | Local News

The new model railway will greatly expand on one already on display at the Community Waffle House in Axminster
The new model railway will greatly expand on one already on display at the Community Waffle House in Axminster

Nearly 60 years after it closed, trains will once again run on the famous old Axminster to Lyme Regis railway – but in model form.

This time, the magic of the six-mile branch line will come from a large model that is to be built and displayed as a modern-day attraction for Axminster.

The project is being planned in a partnership between Axminster Chamber of Commerce, the Community Waffle House, Axminster Community Shed and Axminster Heritage Centre. It has already won support from the South Western Railway and the Devon and Cornwall Rail Partnership, both of whom have agreed to commit funding. 

The building of what is planned as a substantial model is being undertaken by Lucas Barribal, who has already taken on the construction of a model of the railway through Axminster that is currently on display at the Community Waffle House.

Lucas had valuable support from the Axminster Community Shed and from Geoff Hicks, who modelled local buildings and other structures. 

Both are closely involved with Lucas in the re-creation of the Axminster to Lyme Regis line, which will be an altogether bigger task and occupy a much larger space.

It will be quite a challenge but a very exciting one, because the branch line was a real old-style railway masterpiece with steep gradients, sharp curves and the iconic local landmark of Cannington Viaduct, in Uplyme.

The Cannington Viaduct is one of the structures that will be modelled for the railway
The viaduct will be one of the central features of a model that will also celebrate the railway stations at Axminster and Lyme Regis. Wooden buildings from the latter still survive at Alresford Station on the Watercress Line in Hampshire.

The partners in the project hope that the model will be complete in time to be a part of Axminster's Christmas attractions. Their plan is for it to go on display in the windows of the former River Cottage premises in Trinity Square, Axminster, by kind permission of owners Palmers Brewery.

That arrangement is, however, subject to the building not being let in the meantime, in which case the use of other premises will be sought. The model will be entirely transportable in sections and it is envisaged that it will become a long-term attraction for local people while also drawing visitors to Axminster.

The Lyme Regis branch line connected the seaside town to the main line in Axminster and was opened in 1903. It came into being at a time when Lyme Regis was in decline as a previously busy sea port.

Tourists were seen as a solution to the challenge, but it took nearly 40 years to come up with a scheme that coped with the hilly terrain and build the line. 

When the branch line opened there were six return journeys on the branch every weekday, nine by 1908 and 11 by 1938 as holidaymakers flocked to the popular resort.

Passenger traffic declined after the Second World War and the line was eventually closed in 1965 as part of the 'Beeching Axe'. 

The model project is seen by the team planning it as a key element in the drive to increase visitor footfall to Axminster and in doing so support local businesses. It follows close on the heels of the Axminster Banners project and community picnic benches on the Minster Green, both instigated by the Chamber of Commerce.

The project also celebrates one of Axminster's key strengths as a railway town with links to both London and the wider West Country.


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