In the far west, Britain’s West Country has many areas no longer served by the national railway system … but it was not always so! In the Victorian era two major railway companies battled one another in an ongoing fight for supremacy in Devon and Cornwall - a war which resulted in most parts of the South West having trains running directly to or from London until Dr. Beeching wielded his axe and closed many of the lines.
The jewels in the West Country crown, over which the London & South Western Railway and the Great Western Railway fought tooth and nail, were the steam packet ports of Falmouth and Plymouth. This programme traces the epic struggles of the rival companies to secure access to these ports, which were pivotal in the other massive race of the era - the great ocean liners that crossed the Atlantic to America and the rest of the world. International travellers could save a whole day by alighting at the first port of call in the United Kingdom and taking a train to London …. and the competing railways vied for this valuable traffic. In the early Edwardian era the transatlantic boat train rivalry was at its height, culminating in a tragedy at Salisbury in which 28 people died.
Using rare archive footage from the heyday of steam this programme traces the history of these two railways and tells this intriguing story - including double-dealing and chicanery in the early Victorian era and the famous Gauge Wars between the GWR's Broad Gauge and the LSWR's standard gauge. We see the "Kings" of the Great Western and its "Cornish Riviera Express" and the Bulleids of the Southern and its "ACE" amongst a great variety of locomotives and trains of the combatants which were the front-line troops in the ongoing saga of the "West Country Railwars".
Produced by - Unique Transport
Running time - 58 minutes approx
Footage: DVD PAL - Colour original archive
Released - October 2021