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South West Arts Projects Overview > Devon Libraries

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Devon’s Brunel Journey

Devon Library and Information Services (DLIS) is one of the largest shire county public library authorities in the UK and is now part of the Environment, Economy and Culture Directorate of the County Council.

Creating Devon’s Brunel Journey has given the DLIS an opportunity to emphasise “cultural tourism”, one of their strategic goals. The project came about through the personal enthusiasm of individual members of staff including Ian Maxted, County Local Studies Librarian at the time, who devised the original idea, along with support from Sherryl Healey, Railway Studies Librarian, and Kelvin Crook, a local library manager with a wide knowledge of railways.

The Library Service’s management of the Railway Studies collection at Newton Abbot Library is believed to be the largest railway library collection in any public library, and the most important outside of the York National Railway Museum. The availability of HLF funding as part of the Brunel celebrations was an opportunity to promote and exploit the rich resources both of this collection and the Westcountry Studies Library at Exeter by producing an interactive booklet.

What the book does

The Devon’s Brunel Journey booklet is both an historical guide for people travelling the route of Brunel's Exeter to Plymouth line to discover the rich local history and original structures and features en route, and a heritage guide to encourage visits to Devon's present railway centres. Free stickers depicting etched views of locations along the line can be collected at key points to keep within the booklet as a personal record of the journey.

Aim of the project

The appeal of Devon’s Brunel Journey is to anyone visiting the area as well as to local historians and railway enthusiasts. To that end the project has aimed to:

• encourage people to engage with the past in an enjoyable, informed and interactive way
• p
romote interest in heritage and local history of national importance
be a stepping-off point for anyone who would like to explore and learn more about the inspiration and impact of Brunel


Although the publication of Devon’s Brunel Journey has been solely by Devon County Council through the Library Service, the regional emphasis has built on the good will and response of a range of partners, including:

• local (independent) museums
tourist information centres and city guides e.g. Exeter Redcoats
• t
rail visitor centres e.g. Bicton, Seaton Tramway, Dart Valley steam railway
• c
orresponding library and leisure services in Plymouth and Torbay
• m
ajor tourist attractions
• b