Despite the name, this isn’t in Bideford, but across the river in East the Water. The North Devon Railway Company arrived in East the Water in 1855 from Barnstaple, carrying both freight and passengers. The line was extended south to Great Torrington a few years later. The building of Landcross Bridge a few miles upstream from Bideford shifted the river’s deep-water channel from the eastern side of the river to its western side. This led to a decline in the quays at East the Water.
Passenger services finished in 1965 as part of the Beeching cuts, although freight traffic continued until 1982. The track was lifted and the trackbed bought by Devon County Council as part of the Tarka Trail. The Bideford Heritage Railway Society were formed with plans to reopen the station and part of the line. They collected some rolling stock and a small diesel locomotive and operated a service over a short distance of track until the loco was vandalised and services stopped.
A replica signal box, painted in Southern Railway colours of green and cream, has been built which is open to the public with signal levers and a token machine.
A Mark 1 carriage is now a small tea room (see separate review), selling very good home made cakes. Next to it is a parcels and miscellaneous van which has a small exhibition about the railway with a replica of a Southern Railway booking office, complete with a rack of tickets and date stamping machine.
A small guards van and diesel loco are awaiting restoration.
The attractive stone station buildings are owned by the Royal Hotel and not open.
Bideford Station is also a good starting point for walking along the Tarka Trail. This is a well made path for both cycles and walkers, along the side of the Torridge estuary. There are good views across the salt marsh and mud flats to Bideford.
Bideford is a very good example of a small country station which has been lovingly preserved by enthusiastic volunteers. The site is accessible anytime but opening very much depends on the availability of volunteers. Tea on the train is open weekends and school holidays from Easter until October and other buildings are usually open then. Do call in and support them.