Rails & Ales on the South Devon Railway, Friday 28th to Monday 31st August

This coming August bank holiday weekend sees the scenic South Devon Railway (SDR) once more host its now well-established, 21st annual ‘Rails and Ales’ gala. Popular with both railway enthusiasts and fans of real ale and traditional cider alike, the four-day event features a mix of classic trains, including both steam and heritage diesel locomotives, plus an impressive drink festival serving a big range of traditional ales and ciders.

Entry to the festival is free, which has been recognised officially by the local branch of CAMRA (Campaign for Real Ale), and will offer around 65 ales and traditional ciders from both local and national brewers, complete with beer prices being held again at the rate of £3.00 a pint and £1.50 a half!

SDR trains will run every 45 minutes throughout each of the days with a mix of steam and diesel power, with late ‘auto’ steam trains on Friday, Saturday and Sunday timed to connect where possible with services from Totnes main line station.

As in previous years, the real ale festival will be held at picturesque Staverton Station and is again being run by the SDR-based Devon Diesel Society (DDS) to raise funds which help maintain the Society’s three vintage diesel locomotives, including the ongoing restoration to working order of the 117 ton giant, Class 50 No. D402.

Open from 11.00 each day until 23.00, except on Monday when it closes at 18.00, the festival is based in an award-winning, purpose-built bar facility created in a former goods shed at the station by the DDS in early 2012. Additional outdoor and indoor seating is also available.

Some of the ales and ciders have colourful and unusual names which all adds to the fun atmosphere of the festival, and a full list of the final selection will be posted on-line mid week on the SDR and DDS websites. Staverton’s own station group will be selling a range of non-alcoholic drinks, pasties and other light refreshments throughout each day in their impressive, newly refurbished buffet coach.

And on Saturday and Sunday evening, there will also be a BBQ in the adjacent station yard from @18.00 until 20.30, and the Worcester Loco Society will have Pimms on sale in their branded tent in the main station yard during daylight hours on Saturday, Sunday and Monday. Sunday night also sees the ever popular ‘just-for-fun’ quiz starting around 20.00.

SDR spokesman Dick Wood comments: “The nostalgic atmosphere of an unspoilt country branch-line station in a tranquil rural location, mixed together with the classic combination of heritage steam and diesel trains passing by and good quality ales and ciders has proven to be an excellent recipe in recent years.

“The size and popularity of the festival has grown considerably year on year, and we expect to be serving around 65 different ales and ciders this time. There will be many styles and different tasting drinks to enjoy, with something for everyone, and we’re encouraging people to come to the event by train. And, as our visitors sit back and enjoy a pint or two, they can relax in the knowledge they are also helping preserve various items of historic rolling stock and buildings for future generations to see and enjoy.”    

Whilst additional parking is being provided at Staverton, this is still limited and visitors are advised to travel by the frequent SDR train services to the festival. There is a large free car park at Buckfastleigh, which is situated just off the main A38 Devon Expressway, whilst at Totnes there are good connections with mainline trains and local bus services.

Trains will operate to an intensive timetable on all four days, with additional trains running well into the evening. The first departure each day from Buckfastleigh is at 10.00, and from Totnes at 10.42. There will be a mixture of steam and diesel hauled services throughout the four-day event, with many services being steam hauled except on the Saturday when the heritage diesel fleet sees more intensive use. 

In addition to the festival, all the usual SDR attractions will be open, including the museum at Buckfastleigh where the last original broad gauge locomotive, Tiny, is displayed.                                                                                 

The SDR’s workshop viewing gallery will be open, and the recently re-opened miniature railway is expected to be running on Saturday, Sunday and Monday. Gifts and souvenirs can be obtained from Expressway Models, and an extensive range of good local food and soft drinks can be obtained from the adjacent Refreshment Rooms.

Standard SDR rail fares apply on each day where a full line ticket allows unlimited travel on the day of purchase but, in addition, special great value combined tickets that include entry to Dartmoor Otters & Buckfast Butterflies, and / or Totnes Rare Breed Farm are also available. Entry to the real ale festival at Staverton is free.

Timetable details for the whole event can be seen on the SDR’s website at http://www.southdevonrailway.co.uk and social media feeds on Twitter and Facebook, plus other linked sites to the SDR.



Some photos of the event in previous years are attached for your use, courtesy of SDR Photographer in Residence Sarah Anne Harvey. For further information about the Rails and Ales event and to arrange any preview pix or filming, please contact event co-ordinators Andy Matthews on 07747 530644 or Jon Morton on 07799 068450.

Press Release prepared and issued on behalf of the South Devon Railway by Dick Wood, available on mobile 07711 552947 or by e-mail.