Some Early Lines – The Bishop’s Castle Railway

Some Early Lines

The Bishop’s Castle RailwayRemains of Bishop’s Castle Station and Goods Yard

View approximately NE, towards Lydham North, from site of terminus of Bishop’s Castle Railway, which had already been closed over 16 years before on 20/4/35. The survival of any remains of this strange, independent branch line from Craven Arms with its reversal at Lydham North, was remarkable. (Apologies for the rather inferior photograph – and for a little uncertainty of the precise location, as it is not on any map I have).

  © Copyright Ben Brooksbank and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence.

The Bishop’s Castle railway was never a financial success. It was not unusual for little railways to be built speculatively and many went bust all over the country. This particular line, however, was remarkable for its tenacity in the face of impossible economic odds. It ran for seventy years, of which it spent sixty nine in the hands of the receivers.Old trackbed and A489 north of Plowden, Shropshire

This is the track bed of the Bishop’s Castle Railway, which started four regular services per day in each direction between Bishop’s Castle and Craven Arms on 1st February 1866. The fastest journey took 30 minutes for the 9.5 mile journey. Most trains took up the 50 minutes – a grand speed of 12 miles per hour. The railway was bankrupt by January 1867, and remained in receivership for another 68 years.

  © Copyright Roger Kidd and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence.

The original plan was to build a line from Craven Arms to Montgomery, eventually linking to mid-Wales and Shrewsbury, with a branch line from Lydham to Bishop’s Castle. The money ran out half way, so the scheme only ever reached Lydham with engines reversing direction to complete the journey to Bishop’s Castle.A train on the Bishop’s Castle in 1932, during the last few years of its existence.  The engine, Carlisle, built by Kitson & Co. in 1867 (Works No. 1421) which had worked most of the traffic since 1895, relieved by a GWR 0-4-2T purchased in 1905.  It will be noted that it had acquired certain Swindon characteristics such as the chimney and safety valve cover.  H.C.Casserley.

The route joined the main Shrewsbury to Hereford line at Craven Arms and wound for ten and a half miles along the beautiful Onny valley through Stretford, Horderley, Plowden and Eaton. It played a vital role in the lives of the cattle market, the gas works, traders and townsfolk alike, yet never made any money. Even in those pre-nostalgic days, visitors enthused over the line, and staff willingly worked for less than the union rates to keep it running. Such was the affection the railway generated. It struggled on defiantly until finally closing in 1935.The Bishop’s Castle Railway rolling stock came from such far away places as the Hull & Barnsley, the Brecon & Merthyr, and the London & South Western.  Two elderly engines worked the line until its final closure, an 0-6-0 ‘Carlisle’ built by Kitson in 1868 and a Great Western 0-4-2 tank, built in 1869.  The final demolition train was worked by ‘Carlisle’.  J.H.L.Adams

Enthusiasm for the line persists to this day and sections of the old embankments, bridges and station buildings can still be seen along the A489 road between Craven Arms and Lydham. The memory of the line is kept very much alive by the Bishop’s Castle Railway Society who have preserved many artefacts and photographs which are on permanent display at the Bishop’s Castle Railway and Transport Museum in High Street.‘Carlisle’

This engine was built by Kitson & Co. in 1867, and in its earlier years was used by various contractors engaged in building new railways in the north of England.  In the 1880s it was employed on the Bletchley-Roade widening of the LNWR and the new line thence to Northampton.  It came into the hands of the Bishop’s castle Railway in 1895.  The loco stayed with its new owners to the end of that railway’s existence, which came in 1937.  It was used in the final demolition of the line, and then cut up.  It had been latterly been repaired by the GWR at Wolverhampton, which explains the Great Western chimney.  Up to 1924 it had run with a four-wheel tender.

Driving wheels – 4’ 6”,  Cylinders – 16”x24”,  Pressure 120lbs.


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