A heritage railway at Torrington has launched a £50,000 appeal to bring phase one of its extension programme to fruition.

Tarka Valley Railway at the Puffing Billy, Torrington Station. Picture: Tarka Valley Railway Tarka Valley Railway at the Puffing Billy, Torrington Station. Picture: Tarka Valley Railway

Tarka Valley Railway at Torrington station by the Puffing Billy wants to raise the money to buy a right-handed point - used to change track direction - to create a siding leading off the main line.

The original railway closed in 1984 after more than a century, but the dream from the preservation group is to reopen it in the direction of Bideford.

The group says progress on the site has been remarkable after it was able to lease land beside the Tarka Trail from Devon County Council.

Four panels of track have been added, and a new pedestrian level crossing installed, permitting the public to cross to the Tarka Trail.

Tarka Valley Railway at the Puffing Billy, Torrington Station. Picture: Tarka Valley Railway Tarka Valley Railway at the Puffing Billy, Torrington Station. Picture: Tarka Valley Railway

An emergency vehicle crossing has also been installed and the railway is now been securely fenced off from the trail.

There is urgency to the new fundraising appeal and it is hoped enough money to order the new point will be raised before the end of the year, with work anticipated to be completed by Easter 2020.

The point would allow the operational part of the line to be extended to the next overbridge.

The rail and sleepers needed are already on site awaiting installation and this would enable the railway volunteers to shunt vehicles around.

Tarka Valley Railway at the Puffing Billy, Torrington Station. Picture: Tarka Valley Railway Tarka Valley Railway at the Puffing Billy, Torrington Station. Picture: Tarka Valley Railway

The result would be that a short passenger service would be possible.

A railway spokesman said: "Visitors to Torrington Station will have seen a great improvement in the site in the last 12 months and this appeal will help to improve overall facilities as well.

"It has taken years of planning but at last we are on our way. We have huge potential here, our eventual long term aim being to reopen the line as far as Bideford, some five miles along the glorious Devon countryside.

"The line, once a route for the Atlantic Coast Express, and closed as part of the Beeching plan, has already seen an increase in visitor numbers over the last few years."

Volunteers meet at the railway every Thursday to carry out work. Find out more on the Tarka Valley Railway CIO Facebook page.

If you'd like to support the appeal, cheques can be made out to Tarka Valley Railway, sent to Tarka Valley Railway CIO, Torrington Station, Devon EX38 8JD, or by internet to Barclays Bank, sort code 20-04-59, account no 33321045 quoting 'King Point Appeal'.