The Seaton Tramway
The Tramway Today
The Seaton Tramway is a charming narrow gauge tram line operated by miniature
replica trams. It is based at the attractive seaside town of Seaton, Devon and although
it doesn't truly fit the narrow gauge railway theme it is certainly within the spirit of the
Narrow Gauge Pleasure web site.
|Busy scene at Seaton terminus|
The line runs from the Seaton headquarters, which has been provided with a splendid
Victorian style building, via a halt and level crossing at Colyford to it's inland terminus
close to the town of Colyton. The journey takes the visitor along the banks of the Axe
estuary where the scenery is picturesque and peaceful before running further inland into the
pleasant Devon countryside. Colyton is a short walk from the station and is well worth a
visit as it boasts a variety of historic buildings. For those who lack the energy for the walk
Colyton station has excellent facilities for a break and refreshment before the return journey.
The line is operated by a seemingly endless supply of different replica trams, each one is
a unique miniature masterpiece and you will see everything from open double deckers and
spartan wooden seats to luxuriously upholstered wood panelled vehicles. There are enough of
these machines to run a tram every few minutes in the high season which means you may well pass
another tram in most, or even all, of the six loops along the way. Be aware that the trams are true
to scale to the point where the stairways are tiny! only the reasonably fit and slim sit upstairs.
History and Origins
This unique tramway owes its existance to Claude Lane who founded the Lancaster Electric
Company, which specialised in producing electric road vehicles such as milk floats and delivery
vans. Claude Lane was perfectly placed to indulge a passion for trams by building miniature
electric replicas, starting with a 15" gauge machine which excited so much interest that he built
two more. The miniatures were operated at fetes and functions until he found a more permanent
home for them at Rhyl where they ran for five years.
In 1953 Claude began operations at Eastbourne and also changed to the wider gauge of
two feet. The tramway thrived at Eastbourne but the length was restricted and conflicts with plans
for road traffic made the location less and less practical. At just the time Claude Lane was looking
for a new site British Railways were closing many minor branch lines and it did not escape him
that the track bed of one of these could be an ideal location. More than two years after the initial
approach Claude successfully negotiated the purchase of three miles of the Seaton branch from
British Rail and so it was here that he began building what we now know as the Seaton Tramway.
|Setting down at the new Seaton terminus|
Construction work began at breakneck speed in order to bring in at least some revenue during
the 1970 season and a limited, battery powered, service began on 28 August. During the
winter track was layed as far as Colyford when Lane's unexpected death plunged the enterprise
into sadness and uncertainty. The company was restructured under the leadership of Allan Gardener
and Roger Lane and, with some volunteer assistance, operation resumed in time for the summer
season. Power was still supplied by battery, a state of affairs which continued until 1973 when
the overhead system was finally switched on for the first time
The new gauge of 2'9", adopted at Seaton, allowed more generously proportioned vehicles which
helped cope with the summer queues while still allowing breathtakingly tight corners and pointwork
to be installed to bring the trams to a new Seaton terminus close to the town center in 1974.
As the new terminus is only a hundred yards or so from the sea further expansion took place at the
northern end of the route and a five year project to extend the line to its present terminus at Colyton
was completed in 1980. The first trams to arrive at Colyton signalled the completion of the tramway,
now a respectable three miles or so in length, but not an end to development as facilities are
constantly being improved.
Happily the tramway now presents the impression of a flourishing business and it is to be hoped
that it will continue to provide visitors to the area with a pleasant and relaxed few hours away from the
hurly burly of every day life for many years to come.