For a short period the line earned a modest return for shareholders, but for most of its life the L&B made a loss. In 1923 the L&B was taken over by the Southern Railway, and eventually closed in September 1935.
The L&B used only coal-fired steam motive power. In 1896, the Hunslet Engine Company submitted two designs (a 2-4-2T and a 4-4-0T), but eventually an order was placed for three 2-6-2Ts from Manning Wardle & Co of Leeds. The locos were named after local rivers: Yeo, Exe, and Taw. These were supplemented by a 2-4-2T, Lyn, built by the Baldwin Locomotive Works of Philadelphia, USA, as the Company realised that three locos would be insufficient. Baldwin was selected as they could deliver the loco — based largely on standard components — more quickly than domestic suppliers, who had a backlog of orders, caused by a national engineering dispute over the 8 hour working day resulting in a lock-out by employers from July 1897 and January 1898. Consequently a performance specification was issued to Baldwins and an acceptable tender figure of £1,375 for the construction was issued and accepted in April 1898. Design work began on 5th May 1898 and the final drawing is dated 25th May 1898 — a most impressive output indeed. The locomotive was built and first steamed at the BLW works in July 1898.
In 1923 the L&B was absorbed into the Southern Railway, and began an upgrade programme. All stock was repainted in Southern Maunsell livery, and track and buildings were improved. A fifth locomotive, LEW was purchased in 1925, built to an improved design based on the original Manning Wardles.
The 15,965th Baldwin locomotive built, LYN featured outside bar frames typical of American 2-4-2s of the period. The sand domes positioned to each side of the steam dome are also typical of American loco design. LYN was the only L&B engine to have a fully enclosed cab. Although the design was unique to this engine, many of the components were standard units from the Baldwin catalogue, and two similar locos, although slightly larger, were built at around the same time, for the Victoria Railway in Australia. (For more information on the statistics of LYN and the nAs, see the design page) Based on the design of these two locos, 15 others were built locally, and although the Baldwin originals didn't survive, some of the class are still in regular use today. LYN was the only American-built locomotive built for the Southern Railway, although others saw mainline service forty years later, during the Second World War.
A number of modifications were made to LYN over her life including the fitting of coal rails to the bunker, changes to the smokebox door and re-boilering in 1907.
Re-painted in standard Lynton & Barnstaple livery, LYN ran in this form until the railway was taken over by the Southern Railway in 1923. During her time in Southern ownership she saw changes to her name plates, chimney and numerous other details as well, of course, the adoption of a new livery.
The Lynton & Barnstaple Railway ran its last train on the 29th September, 1935 and LYN, along with YEO, EXE, and TAW were sadly reduced to scrap at Pilton yard. LEW survived the blowtorches, and used to dismantle the track, before being shipped to South America and an uncertain fate. Lyn was sold to J.Cashmore Ltd for £50 and broken-up almost immediately on site; only a headlamp and a water gauge protector survived the scrapman.