Tag Archives: Craven Arms

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.

Chasewater Railway Museum June 1965 Bits & Pieces 29

More taken from the Mercian June 1965, Vol.4 No.3

Renowned Branch Lines

By Trer Pol & Pen

The Much Wenlock Branch

On Saturday, 21st July 1962, there closed to passengers yet another of GWR’s once numerous branch lines, that from Wellington to Much Wenlock.  Just over a year alter it was closed to all traffic and is now practically all lifted.Wellington Station – Roger Shenton

The line originally ran through to Craven Arms and was opened in five sections. 

Leaving Craven Arms station

Steam train tour leaves station on sharp North to East curve at Craven Arms

© Copyright Raymond Knapman and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence

The section from Wellington to Coalbrookdale was opened on 1st July 1857, and was worked fro just four years by the Coalbrookdale Iron Company

Coalbrookdale Station

This is where the platform would have been. The line now carries only coal for the Ironbridge Gorge Power Station

© Copyright Mike White and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence

which was absorbed by the GWR in 1892.  There had been a line to Coalbrookdale since 1st July 1854 running from the Shrewsbury and Birmingham main line west of Shifnal. 

Buildwas Junction

The next section, from Buildwas to Much Wenlock was opened on 1st February 1862, the same day as the Severn Valley line from Shrewsbury to Hartlebury, and worked by the Much Wenlock and Severn Junction Railway Company which was taken over by the GWR in 1896.  The Wenlock line continued to run as a branch of the Severn valley line until1st November 1864 when the Coalbrookdale to Buildwas section was opened, making through running between Wellington and Much Wenlock possible.

The next part to open was from Wenlock to Presthope on 5th December 1864 along the picturesque Wenlock Edge, to join the Shrewsbury and Hereford line at Marsh Farm Junction just north of Craven Arms.  Much Wenlock was provided with a tiny engine shed which housed a steam railcar for some years.  Other forms of motive power that have worked over the line include various types of GWR 2-6-2 tanks, 57xx and 64xx pannier tanks, Ivatt and Standard2-6-2 tanks and until closure of the line, single unit railcars.  An auto train with engine number 6421 ran for some months in 1961-62 but was soon withdrawn.

Longville Station

This former station on the line from Craven Arms to Buildwas via Much Wenlock has been tastefully converted into a private residence while keeping a railway theme.

© Copyright David Stowell and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence

The first closure came on 31st December 1951, when the section south of Much Wenlock lost its passenger services and was closed completely south of Longville.  The line from Much Wenlock to Longville continued to carry a daily goods train until about 1960 when it was running ’as required’.  The beginning of the end came on 21st July 1962 when the last passenger train ran from Wellington to Much Wenlock, this town having reached its centenary by just over five months.  Shortly afterwards, the points were removed at the junction with the main line at Ketley Bank, and the line down to Lightmoor junction was worked as required via Madeley. 

Lightmoor Junction

The left fork here has been taken up. Further north, along its line, is the Horsehay Steam Trust. The right fork leads to Madeley Junction, a real junction this time, on the Wolverhampton to Shrewsbury line. Only goods trains, long lines of coal trucks heading to & from the Ironbridge Gorge Power Station pass along this line now.

© Copyright Mike White and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence

On 30th November 1963, the section from Buildwas Junction to Longville was shut for all traffic in conjunction with the Severn Valley line.  This was to enable the entire lay-out and station at Buildwas to be completely demolished to make way for the CEGBs new power station to occupy the site. 

Buildwas coal-fired power station and River Severn

Originally based on local coal and the River Severn for cooling – coal now imported. An eyesore at the mouth of the Ironbridge Gorge.

© Copyright Bob Bowyer and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence

This will give a new lease of life to the line between Madeley Junction and Buildwas as all the coal for this power station will come in over this route on the ‘merry-go-round’ principle.

All the stations and halts on the line are still standing (June 1965) in some form.  At Much Wenlock, the station house is still inhabited and the engine shed complete with a short length of track.  The entire track between Buildwas and Marsh Farm Junction is now lifted.Former Station from the Much Wenlock Information & Visitor Guide