Tag Archives: Lyme Regis Branch

Some Early Lines – The Lyme Regis Branch

Some Early Lines

The Lyme Regis Branch Line

 The Lyme Regis branch line was a branch line off the West of England Main Line in the south west of England, opened on 24 August 1903. It ran from Axminster in East Devon, via the hamlet of Combpyne and through the village of Uplyme where the line crossed a large bridge known as “The Cannington Viaduct” and crossed the Devon county border to the Dorset port and seaside resort of Lyme Regis.PicAndy Fish – Cannington viaduct, near Uplyme, showing concrete reinforcing arch after subsidence

The Axminster and Lyme Regis Light Railway

Several attempts were made during the Victorian era to connect the seaside resort of Lyme Regis with the main line of the London & South Western Railway at Axminster. In August 1871 the Lyme Regis Railway Corporation gained parliamentary approval, and on 29 September 1874 a local public holiday was declared to celebrate the cutting of the first sod for the new line. However, funds were not forthcoming, and the powers were allowed to lapse in 1876.

Despite petitions and approaches made to the L&SWR, it was not until 15 June 1899 that the Light Railway Commissioners finally granted powers to the Axminster and Lyme Regis Light Railway for construction of the line.

The line was constructed by the independent engineer and promoter Arthur C Pain. Work began on 19 June 1900, but the difficult terrain and delays caused by bad weather meant that three years passed before the 6¾ miles branch was completed. A Board of Trade inspection arranged for 18 May 1903 had to be postponed because heavy rains had caused damage to the Cannington Viaduct.

The line finally opened on 24 August 1903. A special train carrying local dignitaries and 200 lucky schoolchildren left Lyme Regis at 12.25 p.m.

Working the line

There were significant twists and gradients, such that the L&SWR, which from July 1906 took over and operated the line, had significant difficulty finding suitable locomotives. Eventually the Adams ‘Radial’ Tank 4-4-2T locomotive was identified as capable of negotiating the route, three being assigned to the line from their normal suburban duties. They worked the branch on rotation almost uniquely until its closure, outlasting the rest of their class significantly, and ensuring one (number 30583) was preserved in service, currently on the “Bluebell Line” in Sussex, and another as a static exhibit in the national collection. This situation has parallels with the Bodmin & Wadebridge Railway, both having developed a following because of the attractive, older locomotives working the scenic routes.A famous Dorset branch line (Though its mainline connection, at Axminster, was actually in Devon) served Lyme Regis.  Opened as an independent concern in 1903 after a lengthy gestation period, it was soon in difficulties and in 1906 was absorbed by the LSWR.  It closed in November, 1965, but not before it had made its name among enthusiasts as one of the last habitats of that late Victorian classic, the Adams radial tank locomotive.  Paul Atterbury.


This branch line was closed on the 29 November 1965, as part of the ‘Beeching Axe’, a period of numerous line closures following the Beeching Report, which identified unprofitable routes on the network, and resulted in their closure. Whilst the line was exceptionally busy with tourists and holidaymakers in summer, this could not sustain it for the rest of the year, particularly with ever increasing car ownership.30583, built in 1885, arrives at Lyme Regis with the branch train from Axminster on 10th June 1957.   The branch line closed long ago, but 30583 lives on at the Bluebell Railway in Sussex.  robertdarlaston.co.uk

Lyme Regis station has been dismantled and reconstructed at New Alresford, on the Watercress Line, in Hampshire. The Cannington Viaduct is a Grade II listed structure. Although subject to subsidence after its construction it still stands, notable for the significant masonry reinforcement within one of the arches giving it a distinctive silhouette.Bridge over a farm access on the old Lyme Regis branch line.      

  © Copyright Sarah Charlesworth and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence   

Steam Locomotives of a Leisurely Era – Adams 4-4-2T LSWR

Steam Locomotives of a Leisurely Era

1882 – London & South Western Railway

 Adams 4-4-2Ts

30582 – P.B.Whitehouse

Seventy one of these engines were constructed by W.Adams between 1882 and 1885 for suburban work in the London area.  They were built by Beyer Peacock & Co., Robert Stephenson & Co., Dubs & Co., and Neilson & Co.

The 1884 and 1885 series were slightly larger than the original thirty engines, their water capacity being increased from 1,000 gallons to 1,200 gallons.  The original series was completely devoid of side water tanks, the water being carried partly in a well tank and partly in the bunker below the coal.  Even in the later engines only very small side tanks were provided over the rear driving wheels.  Nearly all were gradually relegated to the duplicate list as 0415, etc., although a few of the last built, such as No.523, were scrapped before being duplicated.  Large numbers were taken out of service in 1916 when electrification of the LSWR suburban service began, but owing to war conditions they were not broken up and remained in Eastleigh yard in varying stages of decay for several years.  No.0424 went to the Government in 1916 for war service and No.0488 was also sold out of service, being later acquired by the East Kent Railway in 1919 as their No.5.30584 Ivo Peters

By 1928 only two remained in possession of the Southern railway, namely Nos. 0125 and 0520.  These were specially retained for working the Lyme Regis branch, which abounds in sharp curves, and for which, even till 1959, no other engines had been found as suitable as these old-timers, with their flexible wheelbases, although other types had been tried.  I course of time it was found that two engines were hardly adequate for maintaining the service, as if one was away in shops it left only one to carry on, with no spare in case of breakdown.  Fortunately the East Kent engine was still in existence and the Southern were able to buy it back in 1946, when it was restored to the fold under its original number increased by 3000, as 3488 (0125 and 0520 having in the meantime become 3125 and 1520).

One or two of the class were fitted with Drummond boilers in later LSWR days, and there are at present four boilers – two Drummond and two Adams – in use (1959), which are changed from time to time among the three surviving engines.

On Nationalisation in 1948 the three engines became BR 30582-4 and late in 1959 still continued to work the Lyme Regis branch turn about a week at a time, the other two being kept in Exmouth Junction shed.  Probably their days are numbered, as no doubt eventually diesel railcars will take on the working of the branch.No.0422, one of the earlier engines, as running in 1922, the only alteration being the provision of a Drummond chimney in place of the Adams stove-pipe. H.C.Casserley

Dimensions:  Driving wheels – 5’ 7”,  Bogie wheels – 3’ 0”,  Trailing wheels – 3’ 0” (3’ 6” on the later 1884-5 engines),  Cylinders – 17½”x 24”,  Pressure – 160 lbs.,  Tractive effort – 14920 lbs.,  LSWR and SR classification – K,  BR classification – 1P 30583 John Bradbeer semgonline.com