The Seaton Tramway
The Seaton Electric Tramway is one of Britain's most popular leisure-themed transport systems.
Located in south-east Devon and just a few miles from the also popular Pecorama http://www.pecorama.info/ the Seaton Tramway re-uses much of the former mainline railway branch along the River Axe estuary between Seaton Junction & the village of Seaton. It operates a fleet of 'smaller sized' trams which run on track that is just 2'9" (approx 84 cms) wide. Most of the three mile long route is single track, although there are half a dozen or so passing places - some of which are at stations. At the southern end of the line (between Seaton station and the Riverside Workshop) the line features some sharp curves which are effectively blind bends, so it emulates some single-track mainline railways and uses a 'staff & token' system whereby trams are only allowed to travel along this section of track if the tram driver is in possession of a physical device (ie: a token).
The route passes through two nature reserves and in addition to being popular with tourists & visitors to the area special services are run so that ornithologists can enjoy their hobby too.
The tramway has its genesis in a miniature 15" (approx 38 cms) tram which the tramway's founder (the late Claude Lane) built in 1949 and was used at garden fetes. This was very popular and eventually became a mile-long (approx 1.6km) 2' (approx 61 cms) gauge tramway based in Eastbourne. However the line was so popular that it was felt that a new larger home was needed and in 1969 it relocated to the former mainline railway branch to Seaton in Devon which had been closed in 1966. At the same time the track gauge was widened slightly and the trams modified to suit. It reopened at its new home in 1970 and in 1980 was extended to the present-day northern terminus at Colyton. The images seen here only show it as it is now, in Devon.
The trams are electrified at 120 volts dc from four feeder stations. Because the tramway's founder previously owned a factory which built battery electric vehicles (such as milk floats) so the tramway benefits from his technical expertise and includes a battery power supply system which can act as a short term backup in case of mains (national grid) power failure.
With rising sea levels in mind it is to be hoped that the riverside nature of this tramway does not become the cause of its demise / need to relocate yet again.
These images show some of the route and most of the tramcars.
They were sourced over several summertime visits (in the 1990's and 2000's) and with a mixture of digital and 35mm film cameras.
One of the film cameras used takes images in 'stretch' or 'panoramic' format, which explains the format of some of the images seen here.
When the weather permits there is no finer way to travel than on the upper deck of an open top tram, however the fleet includes some fully-enclosed tramcars for those days when the weather is less favourable.
The Seaton Tramway is easiest to reach by private car, although there are some local bus services which serve the area too. For special events there is sometimes a special bus link with Axminster railway station, which has direct trains from London. The bus carries passengers to the northern terminus station (Colyton), which explains why there is a Routemaster bus partially seen in this image.
Clear line ahead. Lets Go!
Is there enough space for one more inside?
The Stations (Tram Stops)
Seaton Electric Tramway trams at the Edwardian-style Seaton Station, which is at the southern end of the line.
The open top tram on the right is at the alighting point for arriving passengers whilst departing passengers are boarding the red single decker seen outside the terminal building.
'The tram is now ready for boarding'. Despite being in Britain the passengers still form a disorderly scrum rather than an orderly queue. Tickets are usually checked as passengers board.
Seaton station features a long covered waiting area for queuing passengers - although when this image was taken they had all boarded tram No. 2 and were awaiting the commencement of their journey.
Tram No. 9 on an extra working arrives at Seaton, as seen from the top deck of a tram that is waiting for it to pass so that it can depart.
A 'reversed' version of the above view of a tram arriving at Seaton.
Having arrived at Seaton station passengers start to disembark from tram No. 4, which has been styled to look like a Blackpool Boat.
A 'reversed' version of the above view as seen whilst the driver turns the trolleypole - under the watchful eye of some (not so) secret admirers.
An older view of Seaton station 'as it was' before the Edwardian station building had been constructed.
The tramway includes one intermediate station, this being Colyford Junction in the village of Colyford. Immediately to the north of this station there is a level crossing over a busy local road - this is explored in greater detail further down this page.
A short walk away from Colyford Junction used to be the Old Colyford Filling Station Museum which was a former filling station that had been converted into a museum dedicated to motoring memories.
Unfortunately this museum has now closed and the exhibits were sold at auction.
The northern terminus is at Colyton station, which is a former mainline railway station that was closed in 1966 and has now been adapted for use by the tramway. This view shows the main entrance.
This is the first view arriving tram passengers see of the station.
The adaption for the tramway included retaining the former railway station platform - which is now used as an outside seating area for the restaurant - and installation of twin tracks for the tramway. Here blue liveried tramcar number 9 on an extra (and empty) working straight from the depôt passes through the station towards the passenger set down / pick up area.
On a warm summer's afternoon it can be very pleasant to sit outdoors listening to a live band. This view was taken looking north.
After passing the station platform the trams pass a delightful lawned area before arriving at the unloading point.
A second view of this lawned area, it is to be hoped that the people who live here like trams!
The line ends at a simple stub terminus. On the right can be seen a queue waiting to board a tram back towards Seaton.
Passengers boarding tram number 10 for their return journey to Seaton.
Some of the trams are relatively modern builds which have been styled to look somewhat like trams from various systems around Britain, whilst others are historic vehicles which have been modified to work on this tramway's 2ft 9in (approx 84 cms) track gauge.
Tram No. 2, seen here leaving Colyton on a southbound journey, dates from 1964 when the Seaton tramway was still in Eastbourne (Sussex). It is based on the London Metropolitan Tramways type A design and despite being a double decker seats just 35 passengers.
Tram No. 4 seen here with passengers embarking at Seaton station prior to another cruise is a Blackpool-style open boat which dates from 1961 and features 20 Glasgow Standard single seats.
The trams at Seaton generally use recovered controllers which originally came from scrapped trams which used to operate in various towns and cities in Britain - or Lisbon in Portugal. The controller seen here is fitted on tram No. 4 and a Dick Kerr DB1 K33E which originated from Ex Darwen, Llandudno, Colwyn Bay (North Wales).
Tram No. 6 dates from 1954. Originally a Llandudno & Colwyn Bay-style single deck toastrack style tram it has since been rebuilt to look similar to an ex-Bournemouth open top tram of the Llandudno & Colwyn Bay system. It seats 39 passengers.
Tram No. 7, seen here on a northbound working passing the car park near to Seaton station, dates from 1958 and is a Llandudno & Colwyn Bay Bay-style open topper. It seats 37 passengers.
Tram No. 8, seen here at Seaton station, dates from 1968 and is a Llandudno & Colwyn Bay Bay-style open topper. It seats 43 passengers. In 2008 it was painted bright pink in connection with a breast cancer awareness promotion.
Image & license: Sarah Smith / Geograph Project CC BY-SA 2.0 http://www.geograph.org.uk/photo/867379
A side view of tram No. 8 (also at seen at Seaton station), showing its 'toastrack' style seating.
The 'toastrack' seating design features seats which are closely spaced full width benches. The only ways to move forwards or backwards within the tramcar are by either climbing over the seats or alighting from the tram and re-boarding elsewhere along the tram's side.
Tram No. 9, is one of a number of trams which were designed in-house and include a wheelchair accessible centre section on the lower deck. Built in 2002 this tram was based on design elements from Plymouth and Blackburn tramcars. It seats 56 passengers and is in the unique three-tone blue livery of the Glasgow Corporation Tramways experimental tramcar No. 1005 of 1947. Several images showing the complete tram can be seen elsewhere on this page.
On one side Tram No. 9 carries this plaque.
The lower deck also includes two fully enclosed sections which feature upholstered longitudinal seating.
Tram No. 10, seen here at Seaton station's unloading point, is nearly identical to tram number No. 9 seen above except that is in the more traditional green / orange / cream Glasgow livery.
Standing on the top deck of tram No. 10 looking down at the space restricted twisting stairway which is typical of double deck trams of 'yesteryear' and even of many present-day double-deck bus designs.
A study of tram No. 10's end platform showing the driver's position and the stairway. Note the lack of seating for the tram driver. At one time it was expected that tram drivers would stand whilst driving the tram, however nowadays modern tram designs allow the driver to be seated whilst driving. As some other images show, here on the Seaton tramway the drivers might use a portable stool type seat.
Tram No. 11, seen here arriving at Seaton station is another of the trams which were designed in-house and include a wheelchair accessible centre section on the lower deck. Built in 2005 this tram is more or less identical to Nos. 9 and 10. It is in an all-over livery of cream with gold lining which seven trams used on a specific '1st class' route in Liverpool between 1914 and 1923.
Tram No. 12 (with the driver reversing the trolleypole) was originally built as a single decker but in its current open top double deck form looks somewhat like a former London Feltham tram. It dates from 1966 and seats 50 passengers. Tram No. 16 is former Bournemouth Tramways car 106 of 1921 which in 1992 was converted to a single deck saloon. It seats 27 passengers, which will include some of the people seen here boarding at Seaton station.
A side elevation of tramcar No. 12.
After being rebuilt from a single deck tram but before it looked like a London tram No. 12 looked somewhat like a Liverpool Green Goddess. This view was taken at Colyton station's boarding point.
Tram No. 17 dates from 1988 and was designed to look similar to a Manx Electric Railways tramcar. Despite being a single decker its 'toastrack' seating design gives it a relatively high seating capacity of 48 passengers. Some of the seats are removable and in conjunction with a special loading platform at Seaton this makes the tram wheelchair accessible.
What it is like to be on an open top double decker when passing another open top double decker...
All the open top double deck trams which were travelled on feature wooden slatted reversible seating, as seen here.
Because of a lack of suitable illustrations the following trams are missing from the above listing, although some are glimpsed in other images on this page. Just by chance they are all single deckers.
As the numerical sequence has some gaps so there are no trams numbered 1, 3, 5, 9, 13, 15, and 18.
The Level Crossing
Next to the intermediate station (Colyford Junction) there is a level crossing over a busy local road (the A3052). A special feature is the twin overhead power supply wires over the level crossing - to avoid possible delays to road traffic caused by a dewirement where the route splits for a passing loop immediately to the south of the crossing so the overhead wires for the opposite directions of travel continue over the crossing.
The level crossing is protected by wig-wag flashing lights and an audible alert.
The level crossing is activated on a 'by request' basis by the tram drivers.
The trolleybus-style twin overhead power supply wires are very easy to see in this view which was taken on a southbound tram, which means that Colyford Junction station is on the other side of the crossing.
The trolleybus-style twin overhead power supply wires extend a short way to the north of the level crossing - in this view the wooden 'sawtooth' anti-trespass protection 'flooring' which abuts the level crossing is also visible as is that the trolleypole of well loaded tram southbound No.9 is about to reach where the overhead wire divides into two.
This distance view shows the Blackpool 'Boat' style tram tram (No. 4) crossing the level crossing. The road sign is correct for an ungated crossing which has traditional railway-style 'wig wag' lights, but it is questionable how the image of a steam engine can be correct for electric trams!
On the right just about visible are some of the pub's outside seating.
Above is a "YouTube" video of tram No. 12 crossing the level crossing. Click the image to see the video, clicking the symbol to the right of the speaker icon will show the video in 'full screen' mode.
The video can also be seen on the "YouTube" website - the url is http://youtube.com/watch?v=cyoh_KxzUeg by following this link it will also be possible to find links to several other people's videos of the tramway.
Snapshots Along The Route
At the southern end of the line (between Seaton station and the Riverside Workshop) the line features some sharp curves which are effectively blind bends, so it emulates some single-track mainline railways and uses a 'staff & token' system whereby trams are only allowed to travel along this section of track if the tram driver is in possession of a physical device (ie: a token).
The Riverside Workshop is not open to visitors, although thanks to the wonders of computer technology it has been possible to significantly brighten parts of this image to allow a surreptitious peek inside.
On a late evening working tram No. 8 passes in front of the Riverside Workshop.
The (very) late evening summer sun casts long shadows over the River Axe. My shadow can be seen on the tram's top deck!
Across the River Axe can be seen the village of Axemouth and St Michaels Church.
Axemouth is a pretty village. It is also on the main road to Seaton, although a gap in the traffic was waited for before taking this photograph. No doubt in 'olden times' the waterway seen between the houses on the left and the roadway would have been used as both a source of water - and as a sewer.
Carrying what looks like a full compliment of passengers Seaton Tram No. 8 wearing its bright pink Breast Cancer Awareness livery is seen on a northbound working from the other side of the River Axe.
Clear line ahead.
A reminder of the days when this was the route of a mainline railway.
One of the many passing points.
Twitchers paradise - the tramline passes several hides which allow ornithologists to enjoy their hobby without disturbing the birds they have come to see.
The view from the top deck of a passing tram shows tramcars No. 17 (which features toastrack style seating) and No. 12, when it was in the guise of a Liverpool Green Goddess. It is assumed that one of these trams was 'in trouble' and the other one had come to its rescue - this would explain why they are both empty and have trolleypoles facing opposite directions.
Only part of the route is alongside the river, elsewhere it passes through lush countryside.
The joys of a telephoto lens - normally two trams travelling in opposite directions approaching each other on a single track section of line could be a problem... however between us is an unseen passing loop!
A system map / information poster. The writing is legible on the largest version of this image. Click here to see the largest version of this image in a new window. Note that it is 1000 pixels wide and just under 460kb in file size. Some web browsers will require that you expand the image to see it full size.
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This page last updated 1st May 2017 (The Motoring Memories museum is now closed).