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The History of the Tarka Line Jazz Train

This event is hugely popular and now in its 12th year. Steve and the All Star Jazz Band started this tradition with the rail authority to promote the use of train travel and live jazz.

Steve is the face of the Tarka Line Jazz Train and the picture seen on our home page (commissioned by the rail authority and taken by Jan Gent of Jingle Jangle Design) is being used nationally as its promotional image. It was created in 2003 with a special train pulling out of Barnstaple railway station and arriving at the Mare and Foal public house in Yeoford. The idea was that the band would play acoustically on the platform as jazz revellers arrived. Once on board they could listen to the band travelling to the destination, where band and jazzers would be met by a hotel representative and guided to and from the hotel/public house.

Little did we know our first Tarka Line jazz promotion in 2003 had Lucy Pinney on board from the Sunday Times newspaper. She introduced herself during our break and said she was doing a review of the event and sure enough in the following week's edition of the Sunday Times newspaper 15/03/2003 we had a very positive write up. A summary can be seen below and the full article can be seen on the Sunday Times website.

A year later on the 9th of June saw another historic moment for the Steve Tucker All Stars and the rail authority. Booking office phones were going mad all afternoon with prospective All Star fans wanting to book tickets for the evening Tarka Line Jazz Train event. The platform in Barnstaple was filling up so much with jazzers that extra carriages/units had to be ordered from HQ to cope with the large number of passengers. A very successful and safe evening was had and a picture was taken for national press release on Eggesford station on the return journey. We enclose a copy and a press write up is on the band section on the band website.
Eggesford Station Platform - waiting for the Jazz Train
Another Steve Tucker All Star Jazz Band Tarka Line jazz train event was to become a very moving emotional evening, the evening of the 8th of July 2005. The band were scheduled to perform on the jazz train from Barnstaple on the 08/07/05, the world awoke on the 07/07/05 to see and hear of the horrific news of a co-ordinated suicide attack on London`s public train transport system during the rush hour killing 56 people and injuring 700. Was this the right time to be blasting out rousing happy jazz tunes on a train ?

The phone at the band's office was hot with press and jazz fans wanting to know if the event was going to take place. It was a very tough decision to call and the general decision was life must carry on and we all must not let this terrible act of defiance affect the future. The band played but toned down the act and performance with foot-tapping bluesey numbers and stirring gospel anthems.

Due to the huge popularity over the years of the Tarka Line Jazz Train Steve and the boys have arranged this event to be staged every last Sunday of the month all year round. The rail authority arrange seasonal Friday night events where bands still play on the train, but the All Stars, due to the growth of popularity and size of the band, piano arrangements and vocals etc, now arrange and welcome train travellers at the very picturesque Fox And Hounds Country Hotel in Eggesford Devon for a traditional Sunday lunch.

The Steve Tucker All Star Jazz Band 2010 Tarka Line Jazz Train times from Barnstaple, North Devon leave at 11.10 arriving at Eggesford at 11.42, or 13.19 arriving at venue 13.46. Return train times from Eggesford back to Barnstaple are 14.40 arriving 15.10, or a later departure of 16.40 then back in at 17.10. Train times from Exeter Central are 11.37 arriving at Eggesford at 12.37, and back to Exeter from Eggesford departing at 15.43 or 17.49. There will be a representative from the band at the venue reminding you of your departure times. It is worth checking train times as sometimes they do change:

This is a very popular event and booking a table reservation for Sunday lunch is strongly advisable please telephone the venue on 01769 580345 or visit their website:

Please click on the following link for
2014 Tarka Jazz Train Times

How Many People Can You Get Onto Eggesford Platform?

On 9th June this was put to the test, as the long line of people walked from the Fox and Hounds Hotel after a good evening listening to the Steve Tucker All Stars jazz band. They crammed onto the platform at Eggesford waiting for the last train back to Barnstaple. The answer to the question is nearly 200 people, for when the train arrived a count was made on the train and it was just over 200 people which would have included the passengers that were already on the train.

Don't panic - there were not 200 people crammed on a 153 or even a 150 - we were supplied with two 150s (four units). It was arranged earlier in the evening for the extra units because of the large number on the train heading to the Fox and Hounds Hotel. This was one of our most successful music trains taking place on the Tarka Line to date.

Further details about the music trains from the Devon and Cornwall Rail Partnership on 01752 233094.

Paul Rendell
Music Train Events Organizer

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The Times (Saturday March 15th 2003), Lucy Pinney
"'Here's a number that will have you dancing in the aisles' said Angus Thomson of the Steve Tucker All Star Jazz Band, lifting his cornet to his lips. 'It's called Five Foot Two, Eyes of Blue'. Around us commuters looked startled at having their homeward journey invaded. We were on the first music train to run this year on the Tarka Line in North Devon. Over the next couple of months bands will be climbing on board at different stations, riding with travellers to a nearby pub, and then serenading them home again."
Trips organised by the Devon and Cornwall Rail Partnership

Travelling to a Sweet Jazz Melody, Adam Wilshaw, 18 May 2006 (Western Morning News, The North Devon Journal)
They played on the train, they played in the pub, and they played on the way home - being followed by a swinging jazz quintet is certainly a surreal experience. And on a gentle Friday evening in North Devon in May, the Rail Ale Jazz Trail experience was a welcome and unusual proposition.
When the diesel engine fired into life, there was a snap on the snare and we were off. The music started swinging as soon as the 18.08 Barnstaple to Exeter train pulled away from the platform. A downpour and a few rumbles of thunder marked the end of a sticky afternoon, and as the carriages rattled along, woodland and gleaming pasture peeled away.
The five members of the Steve Tucker All Star Jazz Band, who played impeccably while standing at the end of one compartment, were sweating in their cool black outfits as they filled the summer air with the tunes of a long-gone era. The drum, cymbal and double-bass provided the driving beat, the electric-guitar twanged through a tiny amplifier, the trumpet wailed through a muffler, and the clarinet drove the melody. By the time we got to Eggesford, we had heard half-a-dozen lively numbers.
It must have been strange for any casual traveller, perhaps on a trip to Exeter, to find themselves captive on this bucolic jazz train. And the demeanour of one or two commuters seemed to suggest they had heard it all before.
Clouds of mist were blowing through the trees as we stepped out onto a tiny platform. We walked up the road to the Fox and Hounds, a large country hotel which serves outstanding beer. The band, by now proven to be one of the hardest working in the land, dashed from station to bar and set up their gear. They were augmented by an electric organ, saxophone and microphone, and after a quick refresher, were dazzling the audience again with their jumping jazz and blues. The songs ranged from trad-jazz to classic show-tunes and standards such as Blue Moon and When You're Smiling.
After the final song of the pub set drifted into the ether and the almost limitless energy of the musicians was almost spent, it was time to catch the train home. The night was cool and filled with the scents of the rainy woodland as a party of revellers, many less sober than on the outward journey, made their way back to the platform. And the band played on, all the way back to Barnstaple, with no let up in vigour, quality of playing or infectious enthusiasm.
The striking difference compared to the outward journey was the train windows which, thanks to the black sky, had become mirrors rather than framed scenes of verdant countryside: it was possible to see three jazz quintets at once.
With a bit of imagination, a few ales - and a steam locomotive - it could have been 1925.


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