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Mark Chorley was inspecting a bridge at Paignton station when he heard the news on February 4 that a storm at Dawlish was causing problems.
He was surprised, because he was working in short sleeves at the time. Paignton is only 11 miles from Dawlish as the crow flies, yet back at Dawlish the storm was raging, and staff at the Devon station were battling the elements. But then they often do.
Amid safety concerns, Network Rail made the decision to suspend trains, because of the weather. A First Great Western empty coaching stock move was the last to pass through that day. Unbeknown to everyone, it would be the last FGW train for two months.
Dawlish station is perched above the south Devon beach in a picture postcard setting, but it is totally exposed to the elements. The staff who work at the station have to contend with this, but are used to it.
That day, however, was described as “like being bombarded from a ship attack”, such was the ferocity of the weather. The Down platform was largely destroyed by waves, with most of it ending up on the track.
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