Description of the line

Bath to Templecombe section

Bath to Bath Jcn Signal Box - Multiple/Double Line
Bath Jcn Signal Box to Midford - Single Line
Midford to Radstock - Line doubled 1894
Radstock to Binegar - Line doubled 1896
Binegar to Shepton Mallet - Line doubled 1892
Shepton Mallet to Evercreech New - Line doubled 1888
Evercreech New to Evercreech Jcn - Line doubled 1886
Evercreech Jcn to Templecombe - Line doubled 1884

The line is 'up' to Bath

Bath (Queen Square) station, which formed the northern starting point of Somerset & Dorset trains, was a small terminus of fairly conventional type, having two platform roads and two central carriage lines, with an arched glass roof covering the whole width of the station for about half the length of the platforms. These were on the short side for a station of such relative importance, with the northern side accommodating eight bogie coaches and locomotive, and southern side one coach more. The platforms were interchangeable for arrival or departure, but through expresses to or from the S&D line normally used the southern side.

Immediately after leaving the station, the River Avon was crossed by a substantial girder bridge, and the train passed formerly independent Midland and S&D engine sheds and the Bath goods yard and sidings. At Bath Junction, 41 chains from Bath station, the S&D Line trains left the L.M.S. Bath to Mangotsfield section for The Somerset and Dorset line proper, the Junction signal box being in the ‘V’ formed by the two routes. From the junction up to milepost 2 (at the north end of Combe Down tunnel) was the first of several gruelling climbs, mostly at 1 in 50, as the line made a wide sweep round the outskirts of Bath and crossed over the Paddington to Bristol main line of the G.W.R.

All freight trains were normally banked at the rear from Bath Junction up to Combe Down tunnel, and in order to protect the bank engine a special 'Bath Bank Engine Staff' was issued to the bank engine driver at Bath Junction signal box. (This is in addition, of course, to the electric tablet carried by the train engine for the Bath Junction to Midford section.) The bank engine returned to Bath Junction as soon as the brake van of the train which it has been assisting had entered the tunnel. It was also the duty of the bank engine to work the two goods sidings connected with the main line between Bath Junction and Combe Down tunnel. On these trips, wagons were propelled in the direction of Midford, and the driver obtained both the keys of the sidings and the 'bank engine staff ' before leaving Bath Junction. The block instruments at both Bath Junction and Midford were so arranged that a second tablet for the section cannot be drawn out until both the Bath Junction to Midford tablet and the bank engine staff had been replaced.

Through Combe Down tunnel there was a steep drop, mostly at 1 in 100, down to Midford. The station had a single platform, and the double track began at the Radstock end of the viaduct, of eight masonry and brick arches with a total length of 168 yards, which carried the line over the Midford Brook, the old Somerset Coal Canal to Limpley Stoke, and the Camerton to Limpley Stoke branch of the G.W.R.

Sharply undulating gradients and almost continuous reverse curves now led through a pleasantly wooded vale past Wellow and then Shoscombe & Single Hill Halt and onto Radstock. The severity of the curvature, which called for the installation at frequent intervals of flange-oilers, was a legacy from the old Somerset Coal Canal Tramway.

North of Radstock, the first collieries were met near Writhlington signal box. Radstock station was built on a sharp curve, with the G.W.R. station adjacent on the east side. The two lines ran parallel for a quarter of a mile south of Radstock, after which the G.W.R. line passed under the Somerset & Dorset by means of the 93 yard, five arch North Somerset Viaduct.

The train then started the 7 mile climb from Radstock to the summit level of the Line, which was at 811 feet above sea level between Binegar and Masbury. Although it included a fair proportion of 1 in 50, this ascent of the northern face of the Mendips was nevertheless easier than that from the Evercreech direction, which included about 5 miles at 1 in 50.
In fine weather there was some superb scenery to be viewed from the train on this section, particularly in the vicinity of Shepton Mallet, on the up side looking westward across the Glastonbury plain to the Polden Hills and the Bristol Channel. From the railwayman's point of view this section of the line was both sinuous and exposed.

Through Midsomer Norton and Chilcompton stations, at each of which short branches led off to nearby collieries, the line followed its curving and upward course. There was a short tunnel of 65 yards between these stations. Beyond Chilcompton, stone quarrying was encountered at Moorewood sidings, while between Binegar (the next station) and Masbury, a 'bank engine staff’, similar in principle to that already mentioned as being used between Bath Junction and Combe Down tunnel, was employed to enable bank engines to return direct to Binegar on the down line after assisting down freight trains to the summit. Masbury was the highest station on the line.

After descending swiftly, the train then passed Winsor Hill siding signal box, unusually situated between the up and down lines close to the twin tunnels of the same name. Adjacent to this were some quarry sidings. Owing to an arch in the down line becoming unsafe this line was closed and single-line working was in force from the 8th of February to the 4th of March 1947, when it was reopened with speed restrictions until the resumption of normal working on the 13th of October that year. Trouble of a more serious nature had been met the year previously at the Charlton Viaduct, Shepton Mallet, which is the longest (317 yards. overall) on the Bath extension. Two of the 27 arches collapsed on the down side of the viaduct, but were renewed in time for double line working to be resumed on the 1st of August 1946. There were in all, seven viaducts of 93 yards or greater overall length on the Bath extension line, of which the highest was the six-arch Bath Road Viaduct, Shepton Mallet, with a maximum height of 62ft. to the underside of the arch, the span of the largest arch being 50ft. Like the tunnels, these viaducts were constructed originally (mostly in brick and masonry) to take a single line of track, and when the line was widened parallel structures were erected alongside.

There was no connection at Shepton Mallet with the old East Somerset line (Witham to Wells) of the G.W.R. which crossed over the S&D on the south side of the latter's station, close to a spot known as 'Cannards Grave', from a mythical giant supposed to have been buried there. This vicinity was notorious for snow drifts which formed there in severe weather.

A winding descent over open hillside led down to Evercreech New station, which was considerably nearer to the village of Evercreech than the older Evercreech Junction station. The old Somerset Central line from Burnham and Glastonbury came in on the up side at Evercreech Junction North box, the Junction station being about a quarter of a mile further south. There were only two platforms at Evercreech Junction, and the unusual width between them was a reminder that from Glastonbury to Cole space was originally provided for a double broad gauge track. Really heavy grades ended at Evercreech, but climbing on a minor scale was resumed to a summit at Wincanton. The line then gradually descended, and 3 miles later arrived at Templecombe.

Templecombe was the most important interchange point between Bath and Poole. The S&D station was a simple affair, consisting of a single platform on the up side of the line located in a cutting between a road bridge and the bridge carrying the L&SWR main line.
Immediately after departing Templecombe, the line passed under the L&SWR main line a little to the east of the L&SWR station, which still exists today and has been on the same site ever since the opening of the Salisbury & Yeovil Railway between Gillingham and Sherborne on the 7th of May 1860.


Copyright © Kevin Clapcott
Most recent revision Friday August 10, 2007