Today, the TamarValley is recognised as an area of natural beauty The Southern railway also appreciated this when in 1935 along with the other main line Railway Companies introduced holiday camping coaches. That year the Southern selected eight sites for these coaches, two sites being in the TamarValley, Dartmoor area. One coach was based at Gunnislake and one at Brentor. This was quickly followed by one at Bere Ferrers. The pre war coaches had six sleeping berths, they were lit by oil lamps, an oil stove was provided for cooking. Water had to be obtained from the station and the station's toilets had to be used. The cost per week out of season was £2.10s peak season being £3.10s. holiday makers also had to travel by train to the camping coaches. At Gunnislake the coach was berthed in the long road opposite the subway approach road. All coaches were protected by a sleeper and two Red Flags.
Camping coach S24S at Bere Ferrers
The coaches became popular and in 1936 more coaches were introduced at sites in the south west. Gunnislake, Brentor and Bere Ferrers continued as sites until the end of the 1939 season. Due to the outbreak of war, the coaches were discontinued. Camping Coaches were in some cases converted to Ambulance Coaches, many were used in May and June 1940 during the Dunkirk evacuation. The Southern Railway bore the brunt of this evacuation, which it did with great credit.
Camping coach S25S at Bere Ferrers
After the war the coaches were not reintroduced until 1954 and in this area only Bere Ferrers was now to have coaches. John Snell the booking clerk at Bere Alston received grocery orders from the holiday makers. Mr Hughes, the baker at Bere Alston, would be contacted with the order. Mr Hughes would then make the delivery to the holiday makers at Bere Ferrers. The situation was soon to change, however. With the Beeching report, Railways were to be run down and, as people became better off, they started to look for more up-market holidays. 1964 saw the last year of the Railway Camping coach and that form of holiday passed into history.
At Bere Ferrers, note the addition of the curved handle
Typical layout of LSWR pre WW11 camping coaches
All holiday camping coaches were furnished and fully equipped for a party of 4 to 6 people. The inclusive charge per week in 1939 was:-
April, May, June, October Type A 60/- Type B 50/-
July, August, September Type A 80/- Type B 70/-
Both type A & B would accommodate six persons but Type A was a larger vehicle with the advantage of additional space. The fittings and equipment were similar in both types. These charges included the use of all bed and table linen and a complete compliment of cutlery and crockery.
Other than the actual rental the only condition was that the tenants must purchase in advance not less than an equivalent of four adult cheap ‘Monthly Return’ tickets from London or from their home station to the site where the coach was berthed. You could travel by any train and everything was ready on arrival.
Pre war the Gunnislake coach was a Type A, and the Bere Ferrers coach was a Type B.
The inventory for each camping coach is listed below