History

The Somerset & Dorset Railway was the result of the amalgamation of the Somerset Central, and The Dorset Central Railways on the 1st of September 1862.

The Somerset Central Railway laid a single broad gauge line between Highbridge and Glastonbury, following the route of the Glastonbury Canal. This line opened on the 28th of August 1854, being worked by the Bristol and Exeter Railway. An extension from Highbridge to Burnham Pier was opened in May 1858, and in March of the following year the line was extended between Glastonbury and the cathedral city of Wells. In February 1862 the line was opened between Glastonbury and Cole.

The Dorset Central Railway was worked by the London & South Western Railway, mainly because of this, the track was laid to 'narrow gauge', as opposed to the SCR's 'broad gauge' system, with the L&SWR taking 60% of the gross receipts, with stock provided by the Somerset Central Railway.

The line opened between Wimborne and Blandford on the 1st of November 1860, and between Templecombe and Cole on the 3rd of February 1862, where the line linked up with the Somerset Central Railway's broad gauge system, this having had a third rail added to allow through running of 'narrow gauge' trains.

When the Somerset Central and Dorset Central Railways decided to amalgamate, they had a problem. Do they convert the existing broad gauge SCR rails to 'narrow gauge', or, as the SCR had already done, lay a third rail to allow 'mixed' gauge running. It was decided on the grounds of cost and convenience to opt for converting the SCR tracks to narrow gauge.

The new company - The Somerset And Dorset Railway Company, inherited approximately 50 miles of track from its parent companies. Approximately 16 miles of track was still under construction between Templecombe and Blandford.
It was not until the end of August 1863 that this final length of track was completed to link the two former companies lines together. Because of the co-operation of the London and South Western Railway allowing the S&D to work over its track between Wimborne and Poole, The Somerset And Dorset now created a 'Coast to Coast' link from Burnham, on the Bristol Channel in the north, to Poole on the English Channel in the south.
At this stage of its development, the S&D had 62 miles of track between Burnham and Wimborne, with a further 5.5 miles over the Glastonbury to Wells branch (Opened under the previous Somerset Central Railway on the 15th March 1859).

In 1870, plans were drawn up to build an extension of the line between Evercreech and the Midland Railway at Bath. Work on this line started in 1872, and it was on the 20th July 1874 that the Evercreech to Bath Junction section was opened, 26 miles in length, and costing £400,000. This single track line linked the S&D to both the L&SWR and the Midland Railway, effectively creating a direct link between Bath and the Midlands with the south coast.
When this extension was opened, the route between Bath and Bournemouth became the 'main line', with the Evercreech Junction (as it became known) to Burnham section becoming a 'branch'.

By this time in the companies history, it was finding itself getting deeper and deeper into financial difficulty. The company had to raise money to run & maintain the line. The S&D decided to seek acquisition by one or more of the larger rail companies. The G.W.R. were approached, as were the L&SWR, who in turn got together with the Midland Railway to make an offer to the troubled S&D.
After talks between the L&SWR and Midland Railway, in August 1875 the line became a 'Joint' line from the 1st of November 1875 with an act of Parliament confirming the agreement on the 13th of July 1876, with the L&SWR and Midland Railway having equal obligations and entitlements under the lease. £133,000 was also made available for the purchase of new rolling stock etc. The company then became known as 'The Somerset And Dorset Joint Railway'.

73019 climbing Corfe Mullen BankBy the 1880s traffic through to Bournemouth was rising fast, and the reversal at Wimborne was seen as a major problem. A three mile cut off line was authorised to be built between Corfe Mullen and Broadstone. The line was built allowing for the later widening to double track, but this was never laid. From Corfe Mullen the line climbed for about two miles at 1 in 80 before descending down towards Broadstone. This section of line was to shorten the journey between Bath and Bournemouth by nearly three miles, with an obvious saving in time and inconvenience, to both passengers and the company.
The line was first used on the 14th of December 1885, with all through trains and freight workings to Bournemouth & Poole using it. Local passenger services however, still used the line to Wimborne until the 11th of July 1920, with milk trains continuing to use the old Wimborne line until the 28th of February 1932, and other freight trains the 17th of July 1933.

The section of line between Evercreech Junction and Templecombe was doubled in 1884, along with the section between Midford and Radstock, with the Radstock to Binegar and Evercreech Junction to Evercreech New sections of line being doubled in 1885/86. Shortly after this in 1888 followed the Shepton Mallet to Evercreech New section.

The 21st of July 1890 saw the opening of the short branch between Edington Road Station (This was re-named to Edington Junction) and Bridgwater. This seven mile line was built by the Bridgwater Railway Company, and was authorised as far back as August 1882. This extension brought the total mileage of the Somerset & Dorset system up to 102 miles in length.

The Binegar to Shepton Mallet section was doubled by 1892, with the Blandford to Corfe Mullen section being doubled by 1905. This only left three sections of main line single track remaining, these were between Bath Junction and Midford, Templecombe and Blandford, and Corfe Mullen Junction to Broadstone and Wimborne. These sections remained single line.

Click here For information on the history
and restoration of Bath Green Park Station.

 

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