Chapter 4 – Page 6

“We’re removing trees, he does a lot less damage than a digger.” he said.

“Wow… can I watch?” I asked.

John Williams was removing Sitka Spruce from the woodland to increase it’s biodiversity and then he was going to use it in his new biomass boiler.

“We’ll have to use a lot more of these horses, as fossil fuels decline with peak oil.” John told me.

The shire horse was lead across a tiny stream, with the harness bar and chain trailing afterwards. Then the pulling harness chain was wrapped around a log. The horse stamped quickly back across the stream and pulled uphill with big lunging strides (I quickly got out the way). It’s head nodded forward with each step and it’s mane swung round its face. John walked (or lept) along behind next to the log, using long reins.

Headed north I passed through a railway yard, then on it’s edge I noticed some information signs next to the footpath, something about the history of the railway. A footbridge over the river was just ahead of me and I was keen to move on. Then I saw something that made me stop.

It was the large cube of a crushed car. Written in neat type on an official looking museum sign was the label.


Hang on a minute,” I thought, “what is this place?” I turned around to head back into  the railway yard, in search of the author of the dark humour.

The railway man looked at me with reserve and doubt and shared a look with his friend. My large hat, walking trousers tucked into my socks and large backpack may have spoken before I did.

“I saw the crushed car and I wanted to ask you about this place. I’m doing a walk visiting environmental places.”

The doubt remained, but he paused what he was doing.

Slowly over the next half an hour it became clear that not only was Colin deeply committed to public railway for the good of society and the environment but he was deeply hurt by the way it was rotting away.

“They closed down 400 miles and 200 station!” Colin exclaimed in pain. “And not because they weren’t profitable. Because of a government choice. Some lines are still 80 or 90% intact.”

The Exeter and Teign Valley Railway is in fact, not a museum, or a live railway yard. It is currently a railway reconstruction. The life’s work of Colin Burges, who has restored the track, the carriages and gathered all the equipment.

When Colin was seventeen he began to restore a railway line. Cajoling and badgering the owners of the sections of land to allow him to extend it. But when he could go no further he abandoned the project and in 1984, he began instead, the restoration of the station at Christow, turning it from a plant covered area with a couple of bits of concrete to a station with track, carriages and platforms. A small carriage also provides rides for children around the track.

The information room at the station included maps of the old rail system, a bewildering range of equipment and artifacts in every nook. Outside, a black barrel has been labelled with information about peak oil.

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