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North Devon in 100 Objects: 91. Somweir Junction

Part of model railway, depicting a station, with signals and bridge. There are some people on the platform and steam train on the platform behind.

The scale model of a railway station and sidings is based on Barnstaple Junction railway station (the present Barnstaple station) as it would have been in the 1930s. The model is the work of retired architect David Knight of Shrewsbury, who devoted 25 years to its construction.

Actually, the model is only ‘based on’ Barnstaple Junction; David has called it ‘Somweir Junction’, and most local people would immediately recognise a certain amount of modeller’s licence. It shows the station as it probably looked about 1930, after the Southern Railway had undertaken considerable work there, but before the signalling was modernised.

The real Barnstaple Junction station was opened in 1854, when the Taw Valley railway reached the town. The station master’s house and station buildings, beautifully replicated in the model, date from the 1850s.  In 1874 a second platform was constructed in conjunction with the opening of the line from Barnstaple to Ilfracombe.

In the 1970s, after the closure of the Ilfracombe line, the track layout and the signalling were much reduced and by the 1990s the station was served by just a single track approaching the original platform of the Taw Valley railway. Work for the downstream Taw Bridge in the 2000s dramatically altered the site, so the complex of points and crossovers which took the line across the Taw to the Town Station and on to Ilfracombe, shown clearly on the model, now have to be imagined as they would have lain under the present station car park.

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