Rolling Stock Research for Ashburton

The biggest problem I face in building my new layout is that I don't have forever to do it. Consequently, I need to take every opportunity to utilise whatever I can acquire readymade or ready to run. One would have thought that rolling stock would not be a problem. Ashburton was synonymous with 14xx tanks with autocoaches and 45xx prairie tanks. All of which are or will be available ready to run from Dapol and Lionheart each in a multitude of liveries. To make life difficult there were numerous changes in locomotive allocations and types and liveries of coaches in the short period of time post nationalisation when passenger services were operated, just 10 years.

In an attempt to get a full picture of events I have drawn up the following timeline from available photographs and text in books and from the internet.

Ashburton Branch Timeline



  • First confirmed date of 48xx 0-4-2T no.4870 on the branch 30 August. 4870 later numbered 1470 found general use on the branch on both passenger and goods until final closure in 1962 (ref.2).


  • Railways nationalised 1 January.
  • First repaints of auto coaches in crimson and cream.


  • 44xx 2-6-2T no.4405 was the regular goods engine until withdrawn in 1955 (ref.1). Occasionally used on passenger trains. Always ran chimney towards Ashburton. Livery always black with early logo.


  • Region wide directive from Riddles that auto coaches to be painted crimson. Existing to remain in crimson and cream until repainted. New builds to be painted in plain crimson.
  • 14xx 0-4-2T no.1439 photographed on the branch 18 September, with W31 stabled in the dock (ref.1).


  • 44xx 2-6-2T no.4405 withdrawn and replaced by 16xx 0-6-0PT no.1608. Straight tank class 45xx 2-6-2T's were also used (text ref.5). There is no photographic evidence of 1608 on the branch.


  • Region wide auto coaches to be painted in plain maroon.
  • 14xx 0-4-2T no.1470 with autocoach W192 at Buckfastleigh (ref.2).


  • Autocoach W244W photographed at Ashburton 20 April 1957 (ref.7).
  • Autocoach photographed on 29 May in plain maroon livery.
  • 14xx 0-4-2T no.1427 photographed on the branch on 2 July 1957 and an autocoach in crimson stabled in the dock siding. (ref.5). Livery uncertain. Might be lined green.
  • Two conventional coaches in use by the autumn.


  • 14xx 0-4-2T no.1427 phographed at Totnes 1958 with a brake composite (ref.2).
  • W222W at Ashburton in July (text ref.5).
  • 14xx 0-4-2T no.1427 phographed in July at Ashburton with W2754W stabled in the dock siding (ref.5).
  • 14xx 0-4-2T no.1472 photographed in lined green livery with early logo with a 2-coach train (
  • Passenger services finish 1 November.


  • Region wide from mid-year auto coaches painted in lined maroon. None to be seen on the Ashburton Branch now goods only.
  • During the goods only period 14xx 0-4-2T no.1470 was photographed in lined green livery with late logo. The loco now ran chimney towards Ashburton.
  • During this period there are a number of undated photographs of 45xx 2-6-2T no.4555 working on the branch running with chimney towards Ashburton. Livery uncertain. 4555 was eventually painted in lined green with late logo but the date cannot be confirmed.


  • 45xx 2-6-2T no.4567 worked a brake van special 8 September (ref.2 & 4).
  • Line closed to all traffic 10 September.

Locos confirmed by photographs to have worked on the line are: 1427, 1439, 1470, 1472 (internet), 4405 and 4555, 4567 (ref.2 & 4).

1470 was the regular engine while 1466 was the standby loco and 1427 the reserve (ref.3). Other locos known to have worked on the line included 1427, 1429,and 1439 (text ref.1). No photos to confirm 1608 worked the branch only one taken at Dainton (ref.4)

Auto coaches confirmed by photographs: W31 (ref.1), W192 (ref.2), W222W (text ref.5), W244W (ref.7).

Conventional coaches confirmed by photographs are: W6277W (ref. 6277 was one of a loosely paired B-set with W6276W but I cannot find a photo to confirm identity of 6276 at Ashburton. W6277W was a non-corridor brake composite and W2754W was a Hawksworth non-corridor brake third built in May 1952. W6277W was painted in maroon while W2754W was painted in crimson (ref.3).


Ref. 1 - Book "Great Western Branch Line Termini" Vol.2 by Paul Karau
Ref. 2 - Book "Branch Line to Ashburton" by Vic Mitchell and Keith Smith
Ref. 3 - Booklet "The Dart Valley Railway" published Ian Allan 1967
Ref. 4 - Book "Steam in Devon" by Peter Gray
Ref. 5 - Book "Steam on West Country Branch Lines" by Peter Gray
Ref. 6 - Book "Peter Gray's West Country Railways"
Ref. 7 - Book "Great Western Branch Lines 1955 - 1965" by C.J.Gammell

Evaluating the Information Available

The first major decision I have to make is whether to model pre-war or post-nationalisation periods. Dapol produce a very tempting model of an autocoach in GWR colours with the panelling fully lined out.

Above: GWR Autocoach by Dapol available from Hattons

However, this is a trap for the unwary. The 14xx class locomotives were not introduced until 1932 while the GWR had ceased painting coaches in this style around 1928. So one cannot pair a 14xx with an autocoach in this livery, unless it is in a well weathered condition. There are very few photographs taken pre-war. Those which were taken are mostly poor quality views of 517 Class 0-4-2T's which preceded the 14xx Class. The huge volume of photographs and information available for the post-war era makes modelling this period a far easier prospect. However, in the post-war period there is another trap to be wary of. Certainly, the regular goods engine was 45xx Class 2-6-2T No.4405 but this locomotive was withdrawn in 1955 to be replaced by 16xx 0-6-0PT No.1608. From 1955 until the goods only period there is no photographic evidence of a Class 45xx prairie working on the branch. However, Peter Gray notes that occasionally 45xx's with straight tanks were to be seen. During the goods only period there are a number of undated photographs of 4555.

Above: Class 45xx 2-6-2T by Lionheart available from Hattons

If I wish to run a 45xx praire on my layout in the passenger era it will have to be no.4405 and the layout will need to be dated before 1955 when it was withdrawn.

Auto coaches were first repainted in crimson and cream. In 1952 Riddles issued a directive to the Western Region that the livery of auto coaches was to be all over crimson in compliance with the standard BR practice. The first photographic evidence of a BR built auto coach on the branch is dated 18 September 1952 (in crimson and cream livery). The change to all over maroon came in 1956 after the departure of 4405.

Decision Time!

In consideration of the information available it would seem advantageous to set the date of my layout to 1955. The regular branch loco would be 1470. If I wanted a second loco to add interest 1466 would be the standby. 45xx 2-6-2T no.4405 would still be running (just) and 16xx 0-6-0PT no.1608 might put in an appearance. All would be in black with early logo.

Above: Class 14xx 0-4-2T by Dapol available from Hattons

The choice of a 1955 date would enable me to run all types of auto coach in either crimson and cream or all crimson liveries.

Above: Autocoach in crimson by Dapol available from Hattons

As the change to maroon occurred in 1956 it would not be an unreasonable stretch to run an autocoach in that livery.

Above: Class 14xx 0-4-2T in lined green livery with late logo by Dapol available from Hattons

The Dapol 14xx in lined green livery looks very tempting as does the 45xx. Possibly it might make an interesting change to have a goods only running session occasionally.

Above: Class 45xx 2-6-2T in lined green livery by Lionheart available from Hattons

Paul Plowman
Revised 13 February 2021

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