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A Unique Tram Collection on the Former Seaton Branch.
Running for about half it’s length alongside the Axe Estuary, the Seaton Tramway
offers great opportunities for spotting wildlife while riding aboard it’s unique
Seaton Tramway at a Glance
Type: Preserved tramway on railway trackbed
Gauge: Narrow, 2’ 9”
Length: 3 miles
First opened: 1868
Re-opened in preservation: 1970
By Train - The nearest main line station is Axminster on the Waterloo to Exeter line
which is served by South West Trains. Seaton is about a 6 mile bus ride from Axminster.
By Car - Seaton is the ideal place to join the Seaton Tramway as the station is adjacent
to a large pay and display car park. There is very limited parking at Colyton and
none at Colyford. The tram station is adjacent to the Underfleet car park in Seaton
on the B3172, which is accessed from the A3052 Exeter to Lyme Regis road. Refer to
the map above for directions and postcodes.
The map below shows the location of all the stations and stops on the Seaton Tramway
together with Riverside Depot (not open to the public). Click on any of the markers
to see the station name and postcode (where applicable). Use the zoom and pan tools
to explore the map.
The unique Seaton tramway is quite close to where I now live so I visit fairly often
these days. Modern Electric Tramways Ltd relocated to Seaton at about the same time
I became interested in anything that runs on rails so had read about it many times
before I finally paid my first visit in 2001.
From the Seaton terminus, the 25 minute journey begins on a stretch of line with
some sharp curves before joining the original branch line trackbed at Riverside Loop.
The line then follows the river Axe estuary, past Axmouth Loop, over Bobsworth Bridge
and Swans Nest Loop and into Colyford.
This southern section is of particular interest to twitchers, you can usually see
waders, ducks, geese and gulls and occasionally something more exotic, from the tramway.
Even in hot weather, it can be chilly on this stretch aboard an open topper so a
coat is advisable.
The tram stop at Colyford is right next to the White Hart Inn and just down the road
from the Motor Museum which is housed in a former garage where TE Lawrence (of Arabia)
was a regular customer. If you choose to alight here on a busy day you will need
to be prepared to wait for a tram with available seats to continue your journey as
many trams run full between Seaton and Colyton.
The line crosses the A3052 on a level crossing immediately after the Colyford tram
stop and there is a distinct change in the countryside from marshy estuary to farmland
and woodland. Two more loops are passed before the beautifully refurbished station
at Colyton is reached.
Whichever direction you are travelling, all passengers are required to alight at
the terminus, you can then rejoin the same tram or catch any other later tram for
the return journey.
No matter what the weather is doing, the Seaton tramway has suitable trams to suit
it, open toppers for sunny days and enclosed saloons for rainy days. Likewise, the
Tram Stop Restaurant at Colyton has tables indoors and outdoors so you can have a
great day out, rain or shine. If you are visiting Devon, don’t miss the chance to
travel on this unique line.
Attractions and Facilities
Seaton - Town centre with shops, cafés, restaurants and pubs (some shops observe
half day closing on Thursday and Saturday afternoons), one mile long beach, Tourist
Information Center, large pay and display car park, toilets.
Colyford - White Hart Inn (adjacent to tram stop), motor museum housed in the old
filling station where TE Lawrence (of Arabia) was a regular customer prior to his
fatal motorcycle crash in 1935.
Colyton - Original branch line station houses souvenir/gift shop and Tram Stop Restaurant,
Town centre with winding streets, shops and pubs (10-minute walk from the station,
some shops observe half-day closing on Wednesday afternoon), limited parking, toilets.
Lyme Bay Winery shop near Whitford is approx 1½ miles away.
Trams run every day from April to October and every weekend in November, December,
late February and March. Frequency is every 20 minutes in Spring and Summer and every
30 minutes in Autumn and Winter. Refer to the Seaton Tramway website for timetable
(see link below).
Passengers are required to alight from the tram on arrival at Seaton and Colyton
therefore, the recommended minimum time for a return tram trip is 2 hours. Longer
should be allowed at peak periods or if you wish to break your journey. On busy days,
some trams may run full from Seaton & Colyton, resulting in delays at Colyford.
No.2 - Metropolitan Tramways-style open topper (built 1964)
No.4 Blackpool-style open boat (built 1961)
No.6 Llandudno & Colwyn Bay-style open topper (built 1954 39)
No.7 Llandudno & Colwyn Bay-style open topper (built 1958)
No.8 Llandudno & Colwyn Bay-style open topper (built 1968)
No.9 Based on design elements from Plymouth and Blackburn tramcars (built 2002)
No.10 Based on design elements from Plymouth and Blackburn tramcars (built 2002)
No.11 Based on design elements from Plymouth and Blackburn tramcars (built 2005)
No.12 Freestyle open topper (built 1966)
No.14 Ex-Metropolitan Tramways car 94. Now a single deck saloon (built 1904, converted
No.16 Ex-Bournemouth Tramways car 106. Now a single deck saloon (built 1921, converted
No.17 Manx Electric Railways-style (built 1988)
No.19 Ex-Exeter Tramways car 19. Now a single deck saloon (built 1906, converted 1998)
No.02 Freestyle Works Car (built 1952)
The history of the Seaton Tramway is an amalgamation of the Seaton and Beer Railway
and the Lancaster Electrical Company in Barnet, North London, which built battery
electric vehicles such as milk floats.
1868 - The Seaton and Beer Railway opened. It ran along the Axe Valley from Seaton
Junction (formerly Colyton for Seaton and then Colyton Junction) near Shute on the
London and South western Railway (LSWR) to Seaton with intermediate stations at Colyton
1885 - Seaton and Beer Railway taken over by the London and South Western Railway
1923 - Grouping; LSWR became part of the Southern Railway.
1948 - Nationalisation; Seaton Branch became part of British Railways Western Region.
1949 - The Lancaster Electrical Company’s owner, Claude Willington Lane, who had
a passion for trams, had his factory construct a 15” gauge tram based on Llandudno
& Colwyn Bay car no. 23. To recoup some of the costs he ran it at fetes and similar
local events and To his surprise, it was very popular.
1951 - Claude Lane ran the 15” gauge tram for a full season at St Leonards
1952 - 15” gauge trams run at Rhyl for five seasons.
1953 - Claude Lane formed Modern Electric Tramways Co. and negotiated a lease on
a permanent site with Eastbourne Council.
1954 - The first 2ft gauge tram, car 6, a Llandudno & Colwyn Bay style open topper
was built. The wider gauge allowed for larger trams that could transport adults in
reasonable comfort. This is the oldest tram in service today.
1956 - The 2ft gauge Eastbourne Electric Tramway opened and was a success, so the
Rhyl operation ceased at the end of the season to concentrate the fleet in one place.
1957 onwards - Further trams were added to the fleet and the smaller ex 15 inch gauge
trams were sold off.
1963 - Dr Beeching’s report The Reshaping of British Railways was published, Seaton
Junction and the Seaton branch were earmarked for closure.
Mid 1960s - Another move was on the cards when the tramway’s tenure became threatened
by the growth of the town’s road system. Two new cars were built in the latter half
of the 1960s to larger proportions in readiness for a wider gauge of 2’ 9”.
1966 - Seaton Junction and the Seaton branch closed. Claude Lane entered into negotiations
with British Railways to purchase the three mile section from Seaton to Coliton.
The sale was dependant upon the granting of a Transfer Order and a Light Railway
Order. A Public Enquiry was set up and heard concerns about noise and spoiling the
natural beauty of the Axe Valley but it was contended that the tramway would be an
1969 - Final permission granted to proceed with the Seaton Tramway. The Eastbourne
Tramway closed at the end of the season and the entire system had to be dismantled,
moved to Seaton and partially reconstructed to 2’ 9” gauge before the end of the
1970 - Just two people, Claude Lane and his assistant Allan Gardner, each driving
a lorry made some 36 journeys transporting equipment to it’s new home. Track was
laid northwards from the newly built riverside depot ready to run the first battery
powered trams to Bobsworth Bridge (named after the one shilling fare that year) in
1971 - By the beginning of the season, track was laid to Colyford and the remaining
trams were re-gauged. Just before the service resumed Claude Lane suffered a heart
attack and died. It was decided to see the project through to completion as he would
have wanted, Allan Gardner took over as Managing Director and took on three new members
of staff. The project continued with the help of volunteers.
1973 - Electrification completed using equipment from the Bradford trolleybus system.
1975 - Seaton town centre extension opened. Colyford level crossing converted from
standard gauge with grooved tram rail from the defunct Sheffield tram system.
1978 - Track laid to Colyton but damaged by flooding north of Colyford. The building
of flood defences delayed opening of the line to Colyton.
1980 - Colyton extension opened.
1992 - New Georgian style terminus at Seaton opened.
1998 - Riverside Depot extension opened.
2000 onwards - Colyton station beautifully refurbished including new canopies and
railings and the track area has been paved to give it more of a tramway appearance.