RAILWAY AND TUNNELS
The coming of the railway in 1846 was not greeted by
the fishing community with any great enthusiasm as they anticipated the
loss of much of the beach and the obliteration of Boat, Coryton and
Shell coves. Their concerns led to a change to the plans so that the
railway was to be constructed inside the existing short sea wall, built
by the parish authorities in 1837, by introducing tunnels and by cutting
back the cliffs. In the event cutting
back was used only at the Langstone rock and along the cliff towards
this rock, reducing the height of the cliff and pushing Ladies Mile a
few yards inland.
Five tunnels were cut along this length. From Dawlish they are: Kennaway,
Coryton, Phillott, Clerk and Parson. In order to protect trains from
rock falls, Parsonís Tunnel was extended by 147 yards at the east end.
In total there are more than 1200 yards of tunnel.
Even though the tunnels were built, much of the beach was lost including
the large shingle ridge which the fishermen had used to haul their boats
to safety. It was intended that all communications between the beach and
shore should be preserved by means of slipways to allow boats, seine
nets, bathing machines and goods traffic to be moved from the exposed
beach over level crossings. In the event none were built probably
because the adoption of the atmospheric system of propulsion involved
huge pipe lines which would obstruct the crossings. A subway was built
near Kennaway tunnel but flooded and was replaced about 1879 by an iron
footbridge which was useless to the fishermen. A walkway along the sea
front was to be built for public use and to protect the railway but this
was not completed until 1902 at the cost of a further 18 feet of beach,
and has proved vulnerable to storms.
In1905, the tunnels were widened to allow two lines to pass through.