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.
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.
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.
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
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.
For information on the history
Copyright © Kevin Clapcott
Most recent revision Friday August 10, 2007