The Bideford, Westward Ho! & Appledore Railway (BWH&AR) was a little-known and short-lived single-track standard-gauge (4' 8½") independant railway in the north-west of the county of Devon, England. It was opened in 1901 and closed in 1917, after it was requisitioned by the UK Government for the War effort. It had no physical connection with any other railway. It had a number of unusual features, including the fact that it was the only railway company in the UK to include an exclamation mark in its title and to connect to a place that had been named after a novel.
The area of Devon served by the BWH&AR was situated to the west of the River Torridge, along the Atlantic coast. It became more widely known perhaps after the name Westward Ho! was adopted from the title of a famous novel by Charles Kingsley. With the expansion of the railway network in North Devon a number of schemes were proposed to serve the Westward Ho! area. One such scheme obtained an Act of Parliament in 1866, but the railway company was wound up in 1870.
The first railway actually to arrive in the area was a single-track line from Barnstaple to Bideford, which eventually became part of the London & South Western Railway. This line ran to the east of the River Torridge and terminated in that part of Bideford known as East-the-Water. The crossing of the River Torridge proved a major obstacle to all the proposed railway schemes for the area and eventually the BWH&AR circumvented the problem by starting in West-the-Water on the other bank. As a result it never had any physical connection to any other railway.
The BWH&AR obtained an Act of Parliament in 1896 and construction of the line began in 1898. As was so common with many Victorian railway schemes the costs greatly exceeded the estimates and the contractor eventually defaulted. By early 1900 the BWH&AR Company had become a subsidary of the giant British Electric Traction Group (BET), which had major interests in many tramways. The first part of the line from Bideford Quay to Northam was opened on 24th April 1901.
To be continued.....
© Chris Osment 2003