Tag Archives: Branch Lines

Some Early Lines – Wivenhoe and Brightlingsea Railway

Some Early Lines

Wivenhoe and Brightlingsea Railwaywivenhoe show picture  (438)

An old” J ” Class Loco on the Wivenhoe to Brightlingsea run, Bill Sadler who runs the secondhand shop in station Rd. used to be Fireman on these Loco’s.

I was told that a commuter coming home from london to Brightlingsea, fell asleep and when the train slowed down to go over the iron bridge at Alresford Creek, he thought he had arrived at Brightlingsea. He opened the door to step out in the dark and fell headlong into the creek, he was rescued and lived to tell the tale.


 Brightlingsea railway station was located in Brightlingsea, Essex. It was on the single track branch line of the Wivenhoe and Brightlingsea Railway which opened in 1866 and closed in 1964.


The station building was located on the southern side of Lower Park Road where the town’s community centre now sits.

The station and line was built by The Wivenhoe & Brightlingsea Railway company. This been incorporated in 1861 to build a line from Wivenhoe to Brightlingsea which opened on 17 April 1866. The company was a separate, but associated, company to the Tendring Hundred Railway which had built the line from Colchester to Wivenhoe. The GER soon negotiated to buy both the Tendring Hundred Railway and the Clacton-on-Sea Railway, and both became part of the GER on 1 July 1883. The Wivenhoe & Brightlingsea was absorbed by the GER on 9 June 1893.

The line was temporarily closed on 1 February 1953 following severe flood damage but was not reopened until 7 December that year.


The service was identified for closure the Beeching Report of 1963 and was eventually axed in 1964. This was supposedly prompted by the high costs of maintaining the railway swing bridge over Alresford Creek, which was necessary to allow boat traffic to the many sand and gravel pits in the area.

The station building stayed in place for four years after the railway’s closure until it was damaged by fire in 1968. The building was finally demolished in November 1969.wivenhoeforum.co.ukWivenhoe forum pic

“Wivenhoe Station, taken around the late ’50s, early ’60s. The sign on the Clacton platform reads Wivenhoe and Rowhedge, Junction for Brightlingsea.”

 Remains of railway

The visible relics of the railway’s presence today are the Railway public house and micro-brewery, and the old embankment which is now a footpath. It is possible to walk along virtually the whole length of the former route from very near the site of the old station in Brightlingsea along the old embankment to the site of the former swing bridge. This makes for a pleasant, scenic walk alongside the River Colne with its the ecologically interesting salt marsh environment.

The nearest railway station is now at Alresford.

Some Early Lines – Plus a museum item

Some Early Lines

Plus a museum item

1863 SignAmongst the items still in the stores is this station nameplate from Radstock on the Great Western Railway (not the Somerset & Dorset).  Here is some information about its earlier location

Bristol and North Somerset Railway

The Bristol and North Somerset Railway was a railway line in the West of England that connected Bristol with towns in the Somerset coalfield. The line ran almost due south from Bristol and was 16 miles long.

The main railway

The line was opened in 1873 between Bristol and Radstock, where it joined with an earlier freight only line from Frome to Radstock that had been built in 1854 as part of the Wilts, Somerset and Weymouth Railway. Through services between Bristol and Frome began two years later, in 1875, at which point the line was formally taken into ownership by the Great Western Railway, which had absorbed the WS&WR in 1850.

4656 RadstockPhil C.Ford – Radstock stn 4656

 The Last Train to Frome ran on Sad Saturday

With a huff and a puff and a nostalgic whistle, The Last Train on the old North Somerset branch line chugged out of Temple Meads Station on Saturday. Groups of train-lovers leaned out of every carriage window, some waving, some looking sad, some apprehensive, and some just excited.

The ancient engine – British Railways 5532 – wobbled slightly as it neared the platform end, chuffed billows of steam, recovered breath and settled down for the journey to Frome. ‘Keep right on to the end of the line’ it seemed to say. ‘Keep right on, Keep right on’ – as it had done for many a year.

It was Sad Saturday for the 110 train enthusiasts aboard, for it saw the end of another branch line – Bristol – Radstock – Frome. To many enthusiasts the end of a branch line is a tragedy. Too many are folding, they say. They look upon the Diabolical Diesel with animosity. This was a route that began in 1873 and for Driver F. Herring, who has driven on it for more than 40 years, it was an even more sad occasion.


Polishing a gleam into the green engine, Driver Herring of Avenue Road, Frome, declared: “It’s a shame. I wish it didn’t have to happen, but there it is. Modern times. After 40 years on the line you’re bound to feel sad, aren’t you?”

Mr Herring who is going on to the Cheddar Valley line, picked up a polishing rag, climbed into the cab with his fireman, Mr E Edwards of Butts Hill, Frome, and let off steam.

Two minutes to go … one … zero … and engine 5532 pulled out of the station dead on time. Driver Herring put on a brave face, smiled and gave a wave. The old train called at Brislington, Whitchurch, Pensford, Clutton, Hallatrow, Farrington Gurney, Midsomer Norton, Radstock, Mells Road and Frome.



Why do train-lovers turn up on such occasions? What prompts their boyish interest in locomotives?

Mr H. B. Warburton, vice-Chairman of Bristol and district branch Railway Correspondence and Travel Society told me: “All our members go on branch line engines within reasonable distance of Bristol. They go on the last train mainly for sentimental reasons, and of course we all like travelling on trains.” “The train will stop at all stations down the line,” he said, dragging me into the refreshment room to escape the noisy steaming of engine 5532. “ The train will be about half an hour late. We get off at stations to take last photographs”. He added sadly “ If any line closes we all feel a nostalgia. Let’s say we like to be in at the kill”.


Radstock Rly Stn GeoRadstock Railway Station

© Copyright Tudor Williams and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence.

Some Early Lines – The Southwold Railway.

Another line that closed a long time ago but with hope for the future!

From The Mercian July 1969

Forgotten Byways

The Southwold Railway

This 3 foot gauge line formerly connected the town of Southwold to the Great Eastern Railway main line at Halesworth, and was opened in 1879 for traffic.  The line was 8¾ miles in length with three intermediate stations at Walberswick, Blythburgh and Wenhaston.Walberswick Station 1926

Wenhaston Station site – Ashley Dace

Blythburgh Station site looking north-west to Halesworth – Ben Brooksbank

Goods traffic had to be transferred from standard gauge wagons to those of the Southwold at Halesworth.Halesworth

Motive power on the line was provided by three locomotives supplied by Messrs. Sharp Stewart Ltd. of Glasgow.  These were No.1 Southwold, No.2 Halesworth and No.3 Blyth.  Principal dimensions were: Cylinders 14” x 8”, pressure 140lbs. per sq in, heating surface 189 sq ft.

Nos. 2 & 3 were 2-4-0 tanks and No.1 0-6-2 tank.Loco No.1 Southwold Railway Trust

The company owned a mixed selection of passenger stock, some of which looked almost American in outline with end doorways.  Most were supplied by the Bristol Wagon Company.  The goods wagons were mainly four wheeled and were purchased from the Midland Carriage & Wagon Co. Ltd., or from Thos. Moy Ltd., of Peterborough.

Throughout its existence the company struggled to keep its head above water but like other contemporise it soon succumbed, in 1929, to the scrap dealers and very little now remains.A few items remain of the line:

  • Southwold Station site now has a Police Station and a Fire Station on the site
  • The swing bridge has been replaced by a footbridge on the same site
  • Walberswick Station building base has been uncovered and a seat is on the site
  • Blythburgh Station goods shed is still there, although fading fast
  • Wenhaston station site is completely overgrown
  • Halesworth Station site is now a housing estate
  • One of the two goods vans survived and is at the East Anglian transport Museum at Carlton Colville, near Lowestoft
  • There are small sections of track visible in various places along the line, which is easily walkable from Blythburgh to Southwold

Proposed re-establishment of the line

The Southwold Railway Society, formed in 1994, continues to investigate the possibility of re-instating all or part of the line. An initial proposal to reopen the line along the original route was abandoned after a public consultation process. A planning application for a new line, that followed the original route from Halesworth to Blythburgh and then ran north of the River Blyth to Southwold, was rejected by Suffolk Coastal and Waveney District Councils in 2007. Subsequently the society considered a smaller restoration project.

The latest plan is to create a railway steam park, featuring a track loop with engine shed and cafe facilities. In Feb 2009 planning application for the Southwold Railway Steam Park was approved.Southwold Pier

For more information go to:


Some Early Lines – Cromford & High Peak Railway


The Cromford and High Peak Railway (C&HPR) in Derbyshire, England, was completed in 1831, to carry minerals and goods between the Cromford Canal at Cromford Wharf and the Peak Forest Canal at Whaley Bridge.Origins
The Peak District of Derbyshire has always posed problems for travel, but from 1800 when the Peak Forest Canal was built, an alternative to the long route through the Trent and Mersey Canal was sought, not only for minerals and finished goods to Manchester, but raw cotton for the East Midlands textile industry.

Finally Josias Jessop, the son of William Jessop was asked to survey the route. He, his father and their former partner Benjamin Outram had gained wide experience in building tramways where conditions were unsuitable for canals, and that is what he suggested. Even so, as almost the first long distance line at thirty three miles, it was a bold venture. Moreover, to its summit at Ladmanlow, it would climb a thousand feet from Cromford, making it one of the highest lines ever built in Britain, before or since.
In 1825 the Act of Parliament was obtained for a “railway or tramroad” to be propelled by “stationary or locomotive steam engines,” which was remarkably prescient, considering few people considered steam locomotives to be feasible, and George Stephenson’s Stockton and Darlington Railway was barely open in far-away County Durham.
The first part of the line from Cromford Wharf, on the Cromford Canal, to Hurdlow opened in 1830. From the canal it climbed over a thousand feet in five miles (over 330 m in 8 km), through four inclines ranging from 1 in 14 to 1 in 8 – Cromford, Sheep Pasture, Middleton and Hopton, above Wirksworth.

The line then proceeded up the relatively gentle Hurdlow incline at 1 in 16 . The second half from Hurdlow to Whaley Bridge opened in 1832 descending through four more inclines, the steepest being 1 in 7. The highest part of the line was at Ladmanlow, a height of 1,266 feet (386 m). For comparison, the present day highest summit in England is Ais Gill at 1,169 feet (356 m) on the Settle-Carlisle line.
The railway was laid using so-called “fishbelly” rails supported on stone blocks, as was common in those days, rather than timber sleepers, since it would be powered by horses on the flat sections. On the nine inclined planes, stationary steam engines would be used, apart from the last incline into Whaley Bridge, which was counterbalanced and worked by a horse-gin. The engines, rails and other ironwork were provided by the Butterley Company. It would take around two days to complete the 33 miles (53 km) journey. Luckily it was laid to the Stephenson gauge of 4ft 8½ inch, rather than Outram’s usual 4 ft 2 in.
While its function was to provide a shorter route for Derbyshire coal than the Trent and Mersey Canal, it figured largely in early East Midlands railway schemes because it was seen as offering a path into Manchester for proposed lines from London. However, the unsuitability of cable railways for passengers became clear within a few years.
Across the plateau, since the line had been built on the canal principle of following contours, there were many tight curves, which in later years, were to hamper operations. Not only did the C&HPR have the steepest adhesion worked incline of any line in the country, the 1 in 14 of Hopton, it also had the sharpest curve, 55 yards (50 m) radius through eighty degrees at Gotham.
The line was isolated until 1853 when, in an effort to improve traffic, a connection was made with the Manchester, Buxton, Matlock and Midlands Junction Railway at High Peak Junction just north of Whatstandwell. In 1857 the northern end was connected to the Stockport, Disley and Whaley Bridge Railway. Around this time, the people of Wirksworth were agitating for a line and an incline was built between the two. However, the Midland Railway began surveying a line from Duffield in 1862 and it was never used.
The C&HPR was leased by the London and North Western Railway in 1862, being taken over fully in 1887. By 1890 permission had been obtained to connect the line directly to Buxton by building a new line from Harpur Hill the two or three miles (3–5 km) into the town centre, thus frustrating the Midland Railway’s plans for a route to Manchester.
The old north end of the line from Ladmanlow (a short distance from Harpur Hill) to Whaley Bridge via the Goyt Valley was largely abandoned in 1892, though the track bed is still visible in many places and one incline forms part of a public road.
Then, built by the LNWR, the branch line to Ashbourne was opened in 1899. This utilized the section of the C&HP line from Buxton as far as Parsley Hay, from where a single line ran south to Ashbourne, where it connected with the North Staffordshire Railway. The formation was constructed to allow for double tracking if necessary, but this never happened

The railway’s first steam locomotive arrived in 1841 in the shape of Peak, built by Robert Stephenson and Company. By 1860 the line had six more locomotives gradually displacing the horses. These locomotives were hauled up and down the inclines along with their trains with the cables, which initially had been hemp, replacing the earlier chains, but by then were of steel.
In 1855 an Act of Parliament authorised the carriage of passengers. However the one train per day each ways did little to produce extra revenue and, when a passenger was killed in 1877, the service was discontinued. The line’s prosperity depended on that of the canals it connected but, by the 1830s, they were in decline. This was, to a degree, offset by the increase in the trade for limestone from the quarries.
There were, in fact, very few accidents. In 1857, the Cromford and Sheep Pasture inclines had been merged into one, and in 1888, a brake van parted from the train near the summit. Gathering speed, it was unable to round the curve into Cromford Wharf. It passed over both the canal and the double track railway line, and landed in a field. A catch pit was therefore installed near the bottom. This can still be seen from the A6 with a (more recent) wrecked wagon still in it.
The most serious accident occurred in 1937. The line was fairly level on the approach to the Hopton Incline and it was the custom to gain speed for the uphill gradient. There was a shallow curve immediately before and on this occasion the locomotive spread the track, rolled over and down the embankment with four wagons. The driver was killed and thereafter a speed limit of 40 mph was strictly enforced.

The Sidings
The railway served dozens of small sidings. Towards the Cromford end of the line, between Sheep Pasture Top and Friden there were over 15 sidings, mostly grouped between Sheep Pasture and Longcliffe, primarily serving quarries. One was built in 1883 from Steeplehouse to serve the Middleton Quarry north of Wirksworth. The branch closed in 1967 but the trackbed was later used for the 18 in (457 mm) Steeple Grange Light Railway in 1985.
Towards the Whaley Bridge end of the line, another plethora of sidings lay between Dowlow Halt and Ladmanlow, mostly serving quarries and limeworks. This included some dozen sidings which lay in the short section between Harpur Hill and Old Harpur.

Traffic – by now almost exclusively from local quarries – was slowly decreasing during the Beeching era, the first section of the line being closed in 1963. This was the rope worked 1 in 8 Middleton Incline. The rest of the line was fully closed in spring 1967, including the 1 in 8 Sheep Pasture Incline and the Hopton Incline.

Some Early Lines – Leadhills and Wanlockhead Light Railway

While browsing through the ‘Mercian’ magazine of September 1969 I came across this article about the Leadhills & Wanlockhead Light Railway under the heading of ‘Forgotten Byways’.  It seemed to be a good candidate for posting, and having reproduced it I thought that I would check its whereabouts on Google.  That was a surprise – although the line had closed to passengers in 1938, in 1983 a Society was formed to operate a narrow gauge railway on the old trackbed – so here is the story to date, including photographs from their website, which is well worth a visit!

Forgotten Byways

Leadhills and Wanlockhead Light Railway

In October 1901 the first 5¾ mile section of the above line was opened from Elvanfoot on the Caledonian main line to the mining community at Leadhills.  The track, which was single line followed the lie of the surrounding country with several places crossing the existing highway on the level.  Leadhills is one of the highest inhabited places in this part of Scotland and in some places gradients as steep as 1 in 40 were common.  There were no platforms provided at the stopping places nor was the line fenced in for considerable distances. S. McFarlane

There were two bridges on the branch and an eight arch concrete viaduct over the Rispin Cleuch, and in places there were some severe curves on the branch.  The second section on to Wanlockhead was opened in 1903.

Motive power and rolling stock was provided by the Caledonian Company in the shape of a diminutive Drummond 0-4-4T locomotive fitted with cow-catchers, and an assortment of four and six wheeled carriages which were adapted with three continuous footboards and extended handrails for the convenience of passengers boarding and alighting at rail level.  A fairly modest service of over three passenger trains each way per day was instituted and for a while the volume of traffic both passenger and goods was sufficient to make a small profit.  However, like similar isolated branch lines the coming of the car and motorbus spelt doom and it was not long before these competitors were felt.  Attempts were made to rejuvenate the branch but it soon succumbed to closure in 1938.A. Ireland

The Leadhills & Wanlockhead Railway Society was formed in 1983 to construct and operate a 2ft gauge tourist railway between two villages on the old standard gauge trackbed. Track laying commenced in 1986 with the station at Leadhills being built from scratch. A limited service began in 1988 over a 1/4 mile of track and has been improving steadily ever since, it has now reached the border with Lanarkshire and Dumfries & Galloway, negotiations are at present under way to extend the track into Wanlockhead and build a station complete with run round loop, with the acquisition of more locomotives and coaches the shed at Leadhills is becoming quite full. A Hudswell Clark 68hp ex. mines locomotive was recently restored at Anniesland College of Further Education in Glasgow as part of a training scheme and will be brought into service soon.

Clyde and Passenger Train, departing Leadhills,  summer 2004 (Photograph A. Ireland)

For further information visit: http://www.leadhillsrailway.co.uk

If you should be on holiday in the area it’s the

Teddy Bears’ Picnic Weekend 31st July, 1st August 2010

See their website for details.

Pic by Elliot Simpson.

Some Early Lines – The Leek & Manifold Valley Light Railway

Google Maps – the Leek & Manifold Railway ran roughly from C to B

The Leek and Manifold Valley Light Railway (L&MVLR) was a narrow gauge railway in Staffordshire, Great Britain which operated between 1904 and 1934. When in operation, the line mainly carried milk from dairies in the region, acting as a feeder to the standard gauge system. It also provided passenger services to the small villages and beauty spots along its route. The line was built to a gauge of 2 ft 6 in (762 mm) and to the light rail standards provided by the Light Railways Act 1896 to reduce construction costs.

Authorised in 1898, this was the narrow gauge section of the Leek Light Railways. The railway ran for 30 years, from 1904 to 1934. Its engineer was Everard Calthrop, a leading advocate of narrow gauge railways and builder of the Barsi Light Railway in India. A private concern, it was run by the North Staffordshire Railway on a percentage basis, but it later came under the control of the London, Midland & Scottish Railway in 1923.

The line was constructed to a high standard, Calthrop applying lessons learned on his other railways. Rail used was 35 lb/yard (17.28kg/m), and the quality of trackwork is reflected in the fact that no re-laying was ever necessary.

The line was a single line, and most services (which began from Hulme End, where the locomotive sheds were) only involved the use of one engine in steam. There was passing loop at Wetton Mill, but it was never used as such.

At Waterhouses the timetable allowed for connections from Leek.

Trains ran at a maximum speed of 15 miles per hour (24.1 km/h), and most halts were run on a request basis. More than this, the train would also often stop to pick up passengers at other places on the lineside footpath, if requested. Timetables mostly show single journey times of 50 minutes (with some showing an hour).

Most outbound freight consisted of milk, in both churns and bulk tankers, and the products of the dairy goods factory at Ecton. In all, some 300 milk churns were handled daily at Waterhouses, and from 1919 a daily milk train ran from Waterhouses to London specifically for this traffic. Latterly milk tanks were used, carried on the transporter wagons. Passenger traffic was minimal – the settlements were mostly some distance from the line – except on Bank Holidays when all the line’s rolling stock was used to run frequent services to handle the crowds.

There was some talk of extending the line northwards, whereby Hulme End (and its engine shed) would become the half-way point of the line, but this never materialised.


In 1932 the Express Dairy closed its Ecton Creamery, concentrating on its new Rowsley Dairy, and re-routing some milk collection to road transport. The loss of this milk trade removed most of the goods traffic from the line. Furthermore, the developing motor bus services served the villages much better, these settlements being largely on the hills, and often some distance from the line itself. The railway closed briefly in consequence, to re-open briefly in 1933, but closed finally to all traffic on Monday March 10, 1934.

J.B.Earle was cut up at Crewe, whilst E.R. Calthrop was used in the track-removal train, which worked south from Hulme End, before being itself cut up at Waterhouses. All that remains of the engines are 3 name plates.

Had the line survived until the 1950s, it is possible that it might have been saved by a preservation society, as happened with some other lines during that decade.Trackbed  – pic by Laurence Hodgkinson

Some Early Lines – The Corris Railway

Some Early Lines

Google Maps – Corris is at point A, the railway ran from north of that point to Machynlleth and originally to Derwenlas.

The Corris Railway is a narrow gauge preserved railway based in Corris on the border between Gwynedd and Powys in Mid-Wales. The line opened in 1859, and originally ran from Machynlleth north to Corris and on to Aberllefenni. Branches served the slate quarries at Corris Uchaf, Aberllefenni, the isolated quarries around Ratgoed and quarries along the length of the Dulas Valley

The railway closed in 1948, but a preservation society was formed in 1966, initially opening a museum; a short section of line between Corris and Maespoeth was re-opened to passengers in 2002. The railway now operates as a tourist attraction.  A new steam locomotive was built for the railway, which was delivered in 2005. The two surviving locomotives, plus some of the original rolling stock, are preserved on the nearby Talyllyn Railway.

The gauge of the railway is 2 ft 3 in (686 mm).



The Corris Railway

I paid my only – to date – visit to this railway in around 1976/77, when I think there was only the museum open.  Although I spent a fair amount of time in Mid-Wales over the next 25 years or so my interest in heritage lines had not been ignited at that time, so another visit was just one of those things which did not happen.  Nowadays, in retirement, a great deal of my spare time is spent on museum stuff for our local heritage line, but I have always followed news about the Corris Railway with interest.

I came across a magazine with an article about the Cannock Chase Railway and found a paragraph about the Corris Railway – including a few photographs. I shall repeat the paragraph here:

From ‘The Railway Magazine’

November/December 1948

Price  2/-  (10p)

The Corris Railway

When we closed for press with our September-October issue, the fate of the Corris Railway was in some doubt, for, although the ‘Montgomery County Times’ of July 31 had definitely announced its closure to all traffic, the Western Region was unable to confirm this officially.  Actually, the statement appears to be premature, but on August 24, the Liverpool DailyPost’ stated that the line had been closed on the previous day.  Even this closure has not been confirmed officially, mainly, we understand, because of uncertainty as to what ‘closure’ means.  The last goods train ran on August 20, since when traffic has been suspended, and is unlikely to be resumed.  Part of the line has suffered from flood damage, and costly repairs would be necessary to restore traffic.  When the Corris Railway was opened in 1859 as a horse tramroad, it extended from the slate quarries to the shores of the River Dovey.  When the Cambrian Railways were built in the neighbourhood in 1863, trans-shipment arrangements were made at Machynlleth, and the portion of the Corris Railway thence to the river at Derwenlas was abandoned.