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The Brunel pumping station at Starcross


A rare survival of a building designed by the great engineer, the pumping house was to have provided the power for Brunel's South Devon Atmospheric Railway. Trains drawn along by a piston in a tube laid between the rails.Air was evacuated from the tube by a system of pumping stations along the route from Exeter to Plymouth. There were to have been eight pumping stations in all. The Totnes pumping station was never fitted out with a steam engine, though boilers were installed. The line functioned atmospherically between Exeter and Newton Abbott between 1846-48. However, serious problems befell the project due to air leaks, water getting into the pipes and faults with equipment. It was abandoned and replaced by locomotive power and the South Devon Railway became part of the Great Western Railway in 1878. The building became part of a milk processing factory in 1934, a use that continued until 2007.

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