Heritage Locations

Haytor Granite Tramway

A unique granite-railed tramway built in 1820 to carry Haytor granite, which was of fine grain and high quality, down from the heights of Dartmoor to the Stover Canal.


Period of construction:
1800 - 1849

Transport Trust plaque:

Transport Mode:

Haytor Vale, Dartmoor, Devon

TQ13 9XP

Nearest Town:
Newton Abbot

Heritage Centre:

The granite from the quarries near Haytor Rock was transported some 10 miles (16 km) horizontally and 1,300 feet (400 m) vertically to the basin of the Stover Canal by a remarkable plateway, of a type unique in SW Britain. This line, built in 1820 without an Act of Parliament, was a flanged way, where the guiding flanges that kept the wagons on the rails were integral with the rails.

The unique feature of the Haytor line was that the rails or tramplates were hewn from irregular blocks of solid granite laid directly on the ground. The gauge of the track was 4 ft 3 in (1.3 m), and at turnouts (points) the wheels were guided by wooden 'point tongues' of oak, pivoted on the granite-block rails. In the upward direction, the empty trams were pulled to the quarries by teams of horses; the loaded trams were run downhill by gravity to the Stover Canal basin at Ventiford, Teigngrace.

The gradients were such that no single part of the line required more horses to be added as 'assisting engines'. A siding at Manaton Road may have been used to allow trains to pass. The Stover Canal had been built by James Templer in 1770 for the clay traffic and was extended to Teigngrace by James in 1820. From here the granite was carried by canal boat to the New Quay at Teignmouth for export by ship, the quay having been built in 1827 for the purpose, making midstream trans-shipment no longer necessary. Stover house, the canal and the tramway were sold to Edward Adolphus Seymour, the eleventh Duke of Somerset, in 1829.

The wooden flat-topped waggons had iron flangeless wheels and ran in trains of usually twelve waggons drawn by some 18 horses in single file, in front for the upward journey and at the rear for the downward. The vehicles were probably adapted road waggons and were some 13 ft long, with a wheelbase of 10 ft (3.0 m). The wheels were 2 ft (0.61 m) in diameter with a 3-inch (76 mm) tread, and were loose on the axles.

Accidents were not uncommon as the only braking was provided by the horses and long wooden poles forced against the wheels. Early accounts refer to the 'rail-road' without always commenting on its 'granite' nature as any form of rail-road was a rarity at the time. Ironically, iron mines were operational locally. The short cast iron rails of the time were very prone to breaking and the granite was an ideal substitute.

Owing to the nature of the 'rails' large parts of the old tramway still exist, especially in the area below Haytor itself. Of particular interest are the complex points from which trucks were directed down different lines of the tramway, originally with a movable 'iron shoe' portion to direct the trains. Parts of the old track are now to be found in hedges, walls, bridges and gardens. The granite rails had 'L' shaped grooves with the flanges on the inside and ran a parallel course, whilst some of the points were large blocks of solid granite.

The gauge of track was at the flanges 4.25 ft (1.30 m) and overall 5.5 ft (1.7 m), with the inside of blocks 3 ft (0.91 m). It was officially set at 4.25 ft (1.30 m) but varied a little outwith the points as the gauge was held only by the weight and size of the granite setts. The sets were 15 in wide, the inside kerbs being 2 or 3 in high[3]. The rail granite setts were between 4 and 8 ft long, curves being achieved by laying a series of short 'rails' on the inside of the curves. The iron wheels soon wore the straight granite flanges to shape on the curves.


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Opening Times:

Unrestricted, but access by foot.

How To Find:
By road: The Templer Way is a route which follows as closely as possible the route of the Haytor Granite Tramway and the Stover Canal between Haytor and Newton Abbot. It then follows the old exporting route for the granite down to the New Quay in Teignmouth docks. A good place to see the track is where it crosses a minor road which leads to Manaton, just off the Haytor to Bovey Tracey road. The upper section has been designated an Ancient Monument.


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