Set in the area of the south west coast of England known as the English Riviera, due to its mild climate and sandy beaches, this picturesque line opened in May 1846, with a single track broad gauge line transporting holidaymakers from the city of Exeter to the Torbay resorts of Devon. By the end of the same year, the line had been extended to Newton Abbot, and two years later to Torquay – the current Torre station. It was not until 1859 that the Dartmouth and Torbay Railway linked the line from Torre to Paignton.
The 28 mile (45km) line was originally built to Isambard Kingdom Brunel’s broad gauge structure (2,140mm / 7ft 1/4in), a familiar sight on the Great Western Railway network at the time, and was designed for atmospheric power, although this lasted for less than a year from September 1847 - several pump houses can still be seen along the line, acting as reminders of this ill-fated system. The line was eventually converted to standard gauge in May 1892 and later widened to double tracks over the subsequent years.