PLANS that could once again see trains puffing their way along the Torridge Valley are taking shape in Torrington. Tarka Valley Railway Group, to be launched this weekend, wants to run a working steam railway attraction on a short stretch of track from th

PLANS that could once again see trains puffing their way along the Torridge Valley are taking shape in Torrington.Tarka Valley Railway Group, to be launched this weekend, wants to run a working steam railway attraction on a short stretch of track from the former Torrington Station, now The Puffing Billy restaurant.But there are hopes that this modest move could, in a changing environmental and financial climate, lead to the return of a full railway service to the railhead in Barnstaple. The group has made a submission to Torridge District Council in the hope that it will include investigation of a restored rail line in its long-term strategy plans.Group chairman Phil Simkin of The Puffing Billy said: "The line from Barnstaple to Torrington was engineered to a high standard and the track bed has been preserved generally intact, largely thanks to the presence of the Tarka Trail cycle and walking path. "Although there are certain engineering problems to be overcome further along the line, the establishment of an operating steam railway alongside the Tarka Trail is perfectly feasible. "Given co-operation and mutual respect between the various parties concerned, there are no practical reasons why the sound of steam could not be heard echoing along the Torridge valley once again."SidingsPlanning permission had already been granted to add a further 120 feet of track to the platform end of the old station and to construct a fence separating the track from the Tarka Trail footpath and cycleway, he said. The next stage would be to seek planning permission later this year to extend the line to just past the first bridge out of the station and to lay two "sidings" on the up side of the platform. This would provide sufficient length of track to start a heritage railway running short train rides."Now that 21st century thinking is becoming more appreciative of the benefits of railways, the re-opening of the line in the Bideford direction and the return of trains to Torrington is at last a practical proposition, which can brings benefits to the local community," Mr Simkin said."With goodwill and support this exciting project can become a reality, "Long term hopes for the establishment of a full passenger and freight route were obviously beyond the small group. That would be an enterprise costing many millions of pounds and would be a matter for district and county authorities and the Government, he said. But they believed it could be possible and would be supportive of any such move, which would be a great benefit to the economy of North Devon. The new Tarka Valley Railway Group will be officially launched at a rail gala at the former Torrington Station on Saturday and Sunday .