While the Okehampton to Crediton and Exeter section of the Dartmoor Line was refurbished with Government funding and reopened as part of the national network on November 20, the Okehampton to Meldon Quarry section - formerly operated over by stone quarry trains and heritage passenger trains - is currently not being used. However, that part of the line now also belongs to Network Rail, though there are hopes that heritage services may return in the future.
The missing groundframe staff is designed to ensure only one train is on the single track line at one time and is also needed to unlock points.
In a Facebook post for the rail enthusiasts’ group ’The Withered Arm - the Southern Railway lines west of Exeter’, Devon and Cornwall Rail Partnership Officer Richard Burningham wrote: "I am sorry to say that the Okehampton-Meldon ground frame staff disappeared from the ground frame at Okehampton sometime between 8am on Sunday and 8am on Monday. If anyone gets offered this, can they let the BTP (British Transport Police) know please? Ideally it will just be ’found’ and returned to Network Rail."He added a bit more information later, stating: "The ground frame is a mile and a half from Okehampton towards Meldon and evidently the staff was locked in the ground frame as vehicles were going in and out to remove scrap material."There are currently large stacks of old track panels beside the line to Meldon following the installation of replacement rails and sleepers for the line to Exeter's upgrade to daily passenger use. Network Rail now wants to take these old track panels away but they need the key staff to send a freight train up the line to do this.A representative of the OkeRail campaign group also posted on Facebook: "Network Rail have asked me to reach out. The Meldon staff has gone missing. It is probable that someone found it thinking it was old - but it is needed. "Last seen when it was put in the ground frame to unlock the points to allow machines to move back and forth while removing scrap materials between 8am Sunday Morning to 8am Monday morning."If anyone has any information, please message me, I will ensure it’s returned. Thanks."