Time travel on the Seaton Tramway
The Seaton Tramway opened in its present location in 1970 and runs about a dozen trams. The day we visited there seemed to be four working.
Trams were originally horse-drawn and they run on rails. In cities these rails are often sunk into the roads. They’ve been in use since 1832 when they appeared in New York. By about 1900 they began to have electric motors, supplied by overhead cables. The Seaton trams are replicas of vehicles used in different parts of England.
Dogs are allowed on the Seaton Tramway but they also have to stay on the lower level. The dogs that we saw were really enjoying themselves as they felt the wind in their faces when the trams started to move.
I felt the Seaton Tramway was a little on the pricey side, although there are special rates for families and senior citizens. However, the ride along the Axe valley makes it well worth the cost. You can see a lot of birds along this stretch of water, particularly if the tide is out.
We got on at Colyton, having travelled from the town centre on the Wagon Wanderer. At the station there is a good shop, a reasonably priced café and toilets if you need them. If you don’t want to use the Wagon or it’s a day when it’s not working then it’s a ¾ mile level walk between the town and the tram station.
The first stop from Colyton is Colyford and you can choose whether to get off and visit the Colyford Motor Museum or stay on the tram until you get to the terminus at Seaton.
There’s an excellent pub at Colyford, the White Hart where you can enjoy a drink, a snack or full lunch and evening menus. We didn’t go into the pub on this visit but walked a short distance up the road to the Motor Museum. There is no path for about 150 yards and the road is busy, so take care, especially if you have young children.
When we’d finished at the museum we walked back down to the tram station and waited for the next tram to Seaton. The trams have to cross the main Lyme Regis to Exeter road to get to the station. There are no gates on the crossing, so the driver has to stop the tram, get out and use a key to make the crossing warning lights work. He then gets a signal and is allowed to proceed with caution across the road. An automatic switch between the rails turns the lights off when the tram has cleared the road.
At Seaton there is a large pay and display car park, so if you’re not familiar with the area this would be a good place to start your Seaton Tramway trip from as the station is right next to the car park. There’s a smaller shop here but the selection of gifts and souvenirs didn’t seem to be as extensive as the choice available in Colyton.
The station is only a very short walk from the shopping centre and the beach. The day that we went was a blustery August day, so we sat on the beach and ate our lunch but were extremely glad that we had coats on.
On our return journey we waited in a passing loop for a tram coming in the opposite direction. It took a little longer than normal because the tram coming the other way was having problems with its motor so we had an extra opportunity to enjoy the wildlife on the estuary while we waited for the problem to be sorted out. We saw several egrets, a flock of redshanks and a curlew along with assorted seagulls, mostly black headed gulls.
At certain times of year, when there’s plenty of bird life on the estuary, the Seaton Tramway run special bird watching trams and allows visitors to enjoy the spectacular views of the waders.
The Seaton Tramway company was originally part of the Lancaster Electrical Company of Barnet who made battery electric vehicles. The owner was Claude Lane, whose hobby was building miniature 15-inch gauge trams. He exhibited these at various fetes, shows and community events. In 1954 this portable system became the Eastbourne Tramway but by the mid 1960s the site was too small, so Claude Lane started to look for other sites for his trams.
In 1868 the Seaton and Beer Railway Company had opened a branch line to carry stone from the quarry onto the main Waterloo line. After changing hands a few times, This line was eventually closed in 1969 as a result of the Beeching Report.
This was perfect timing for Claude Lane, who gradually moved all the trams from Eastbourne to Seaton. The first section of the tramway opened in August 1970 and the final extension to Colyton was opened in 1980. Claude Lane died in 1971 but the tramway continues to thrive thanks to the hard work and dedication of the volunteers who run it and the many visitors who flock to enjoy the Seaton Tramway.
Cottage Holiday Guide