All Aboard the Engine

Railwaycollapse at Dawlish

Railwaycollapse at Dawlish

Continuing the walk along the sea-front we follow the route of Brunel’s railway opened in 1846 and still running today, the only rail link into West Devon and Cornwall.

In February this year, massive storms battered the railway destroying the line at Dawlish and creating a huge landslip on the cliff below Woodlands Avenue, Teignmouth.

The result was the closure of the line for two months whilst 300 Network Rail engineers, known locally as the ‘orange army’, battled for over two months to overcome every obstacle ‘thrown at it by Mother Nature’.

Cliff slide Teignmouth

Cliff slide Teignmouth

On Friday 4th April the line was finally re-opened though completion of all the necessary repair work is likely to run well into 2015.

South Devon Singers were invited to take part in the celebrations of the official opening ceremony.  One of their members, Rachel Shearmur, wrote some clever lyrics to be set to the tune of Casey Jones to mark the events of the previous months and to pay tribute to the ‘Orange Army’ who had become a regular feature in Dawlish and Teignmouth.

Thanks to Rachel and the South Devon Singers for permission to reproduce that song here.

All Aboard the Engine!
(sung to the tune of “Casey Jones”)
(Rachael Shearmur, 2014)

Come, all you rounders if you want to hear
A story about some famous brave engineers
They worked all night and they worked all day
To mend the sea wall and restore the Dawlish Railway.
On a wild wet day in early twenty fourteen
The wind whipped the waves to heights not before seen
They tore at the rocks and they tore at the stones
And left the rail track suspended like a bare backbone.

Whistle blows – all aboard the engine!
There she goes! The guard has waved his hand.
Whistle blows – all aboard the engine!
And she takes her first great journey between sea and land.

The sea wall was breached and eighty metres were gone
The parapet was damaged all the way along
From Sprey Point to Smugglers’ Cove so ballast was torn
From its bed beneath the sleepers on that fateful morn.
A makeshift sea wall was soon put in place
Rubble-filled containers in the now empty space
But the sea was so ferocious it still wanted to win
And so peeled back their lids just like a sardine-tin.

As the weather calmed, so the work could begin.
Five thousand tonnes of concrete had to be brought in
Men in yellow, men in orange all around
As they fought to recover all the sea-claimed ground.
Two hundred men by day, one hundred by night
Clearing, cutting, heaving, hauling to beat the might
Of the tides whose angry tendrils had torn away
At the coast-hugging track of Brunel’s railway.

Just two months on from all the wind and the rain
The Dawlish line was opened up again
To shouts and cheers and cries of loud “Hurray!”
As trains could once more speed along Great Western Railway.
People came from far and people came from wide
On that early April day no-one was left inside
As they gathered around to give three big cheers
For the work of all the famous bold and brave engineers.


Want to know more? Check out:

Youtube performance …..
South Devon Singers …..
History of Railway …..



One thought on “All Aboard the Engine

  1. Pingback: Isambard Kingdom Brunel | Teignmouth in Verse

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