Three Gauges at Burlescombe


The Bristol and Exeter Railway was possibly unique in that it built, owned and operated locomotives of three different gauges. Originally constructed to Brunel's broad gauge of 7ft 0 inch it added a third rail to enable standard gauge trains to be run shortly before it was absorbed by the Great Western Railway in 1876. The Bristol and Exeter Railway Company obtained a lease on the stone quarries at Westleigh in 1873 and two years later it constructed a 3ft gauge railway to connect with its main line at Burlescombe; a distance of some three quarters of a mile.

This picture shows three former Bristol and Exeter Railway locomotives at work at Burlescombe in the late 1880's before the abolition of the broad gauge.

GWR narrow gauge 0-4-0 well tank No 1381 (B&ER No. 112/1874) stands on the transfer dock while GWR standard gauge 0-6-0 No1370 (Sharp, -Stewart &Co. 2534/1875, B&ER No 120) shunts on the up mainline while hauling the 12.55 Tiverton Junction to Taunton Standard Gauge Goods service. On the down line Great Western broad-gauge 2-4-0 No 2017 (B&ER No 5/1871) rushes under the road bridge at the head of the 9.00 Paddington to Penzance Fast Passenger service.

The Broad Gauge lasted on the Great Western Railway until May 1892 and the narrow gauge tramway to Westleigh Quarry was converted to Standard Gauge in 1898. Rail operations on the tramway ceased in 1950 after road haulage took over.

Site reference 009/1
Framed original still available - contact for details