Ballast and sub-soil has been washed from under the tracks and part of the adjacent road, Riviera Terrace, has collapsed, cutting off access to four properties.Residents were evacuated at 23.00 last night.The one cheerful part of this story is the "down by" locution. The waves have been powerful enough to have destroyed seaside houses in Dawlish, displacing people. A BBC News Magazine Monitor article refers to the segment as "the UK's most celebrated stretch of railway."
Earlier this week, debris on the line from the storms had led to a suspension of services between Exeter and Newton Abbot, and the cancellation of the FGW sleeper service between Penzance and Paddington.
However, there was been a worsening of conditions overnight with the hole appearing in the sea wall near the station and First Great Western decided today to suspend all services between Exeter and Penzance.
Down by Dawlish station, fencing and railings have been uprooted and the station platform has been damaged too.
Driving conditions on the road are equally challenging due to flooding, and there is no replacement road transport. In Dawlish, a number of houses have been evacuated.
Dawlish station overlooks the beach, while Teignmouth's station is only a short walk from the sea. Millions of holidaymakers will have been enthralled at the sight, as the twin-track railway swings past Langstone Rock (west of Dawlish Warren station), and hugs the shore at Dawlish, with the English Channel stretching out as far as the eye can see.The Great Western Railway received Parliamentary authority late in the 1930s to build an inland line. World War II got in the way, and the nationalised railway didn't have the money. The plans may still be shovel-ready. That means the last piece of my a-building layout representing a railroad line as-is could become yet another tribute to what once was.
That's the two through lines and two platform lines at Dawlish Warren, the small goods yard (yes, with provision for the camping coaches), and you're looking up toward Cockwood Harbour and Starcross. Behind will be Langstone Rock and some of the cliffs.
On the footpath that also forms part of the wall, people will merrily wave as the trains pass. Below, many will be basking in the sun, within feet of a fast-moving train. Brunel claimed the stretch of line would cost no more to maintain than anywhere else in the UK. But back in 2009, Network Rail told me: "Mile for mile it is the most expensive piece of railway in the UK." There are five tunnels on the section, which sees trains run along the wall until they reach Teignmouth, where the line then sweeps inland along the banks of the River Teign.I'm working on modifying the traditional model railroad fascia board to include that footpath integral to the sea wall.
And there is more to the line than the sea. The iconic red sandstone cliffs that tower over the line, the picturesque seaside town of Dawlish and the lush greenery above the tunnels all add to the magic of this stretch.