Wyre Forest Line

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Bridge piers of the Wyre Forest Line in the River Severn

BSicon HST.svg Woofferton
BSicon ABZgl.svg Woofferton Jct (To Ludlow)
BSicon HST.svg Easton Court
BSicon HST.svg Tenbury Wells
BSicon HST.svg Newnham Bridge
BSicon HST.svg Neen Sollars
BSicon HST.svg Cleobury Mortimer
BSicon ABZgl.svg Cleobury Mortimer & Ditton Priors Light R'way
BSicon HST.svg Wyre Forest
BSicon hKRZWae.svg Dowles Bridge
BSicon ABZg+l.svg Bewdley Jct North (Severn Valley to Bridgnorth)
BSicon BHF.svg Bewdley


The ‘Wyre Forest Line’ formed a connection between the SVRSevern Valley RailwaySVRA:Severn Valley Railway AssociationSVRS:Severn Valley Railway Society at Bewdley and the Shrewsbury and Hereford Railway (S&HR) at Woofferton. The route encompassed two railways, the Tenbury Railway and the Tenbury & Bewdley Railway.

Early history of the Tenbury Railway

The Tenbury Railway was opened in August 1861 and formed a short branch line connecting Tenbury to the S&HR at Woofferton, a distance of just over 5 miles. Although the Tenbury Railway was a separate company, the line was worked by the S&HR when first opened.

In July 1862, the S&HR (including the Tenbury Railway) was jointly leased by the LNWRLondon & North Western Railway, the GWRGreat Western Railway and the West Midland Railway (WMR). Working of traffic on the Tenbury Railway was taken over by the LNWRLondon & North Western Railway on behalf of the joint companies.

Early history of the Tenbury & Bewdley Railway

Construction of the Tenbury & Bewdley Railway was authorised by an Act of Parliament which received Royal Assent on 3 July 1860. Construction began on 3 January 1861, with the line opening on 13 August 1864. Prior to opening, the report of the Board of Trade Inspector, Capt. Tyler, stated:

The line is a continuation of the branch line from Woofferton to Tenbury. It is 15 miles long to the West Midland section of the GWRGreat Western Railway at Bewdley. The line is single and worked by the train staff system. The ruling gradient is 1-17 and the sharpest curve is 12 chainsAs a unit of measurement, 22 yards or 1/80th of a mile radius. Permanent way is double headed rail in lengths of 21ft and 24ft, 75lbs to the yard in weight. Chairs are cast iron, 25lbs in weight secured by iron spikes to transverse sleepers. Sleepers are half round timber measuring 9ft by 10ins by 5ins. There are 10 bridges over and 18 under, variously treated in brick, iron and timber, the largest span being 60ft.
There is a viaduct over the Severn of 3 openings each of 70ft carried by wrought iron lattice girders on masonry piers and abutments. All the bridges and viaducts have been carefully and substantially constructed but there has been slight movement in places in brickwork and should be watched, but should not give any rise for apprehension. In some of the smaller bridges the permanent way is carried on wooden cross beams which is an inferior system and must be watched and will require more careful maintenance than the larger bridges.

The West Midlands Railway, which was to have operated the Tenbury and Bewdley Railway, was absorbed into the GWRGreat Western Railway before the line opened, and thus the line was worked from opening by the GWRGreat Western Railway.

The completed line

In this photoshop 'colourised' image, an ex-GWRGreat Western Railway railcar runs through the Wyre Forest on a typical branch line service

Following the completion of the Tenbury & Bewdley Railway in 1864, the GWRGreat Western Railway took over the working of traffic over the Tenbury Railway section on behalf of the joint companies, with the LNWRLondon & North Western Railway also having running powers. As part of this process, the GWRGreat Western Railway telegraph system was extended to Woofferton; also the LNWRLondon & North Western Railway agreed to a turntable being installed at Tenbury to be paid for by the GWRGreat Western Railway. This turntable was moved from Bewdley and re-erected in the goods yard at Tenbury. (Some confusion has occurred in the past, as there was a small wagon turntable at Woofferton in it's early days.). The completed line ran north from the GWRGreat Western Railway station at Bewdley on a single line track alongside the Severn Valley Line for a distance of about a mile before diverging to the west to cross the river Severn at Dowles Bridge (the viaduct referred to by Capt. Tyler), the remains of which are visible from trains on the SVRSevern Valley RailwaySVRA:Severn Valley Railway AssociationSVRS:Severn Valley Railway Society. The abutments where the line passed over what is now the B4194 remain in-situ. The line continued to Woofferton via Wyre Forest, Cleobury Mortimer, Neen Sollars, Newnham Bridge, Tenbury (later renamed Tenbury Wells) and Easton Court.

The route acquired a number of names. A platform sign at Woofferton station referred to 'The Bewdley Branch', while passengers at Bewdley could take 'The Tenbury Branch'. Informally the route was often referred to as 'The Wyre Forest Line' or 'The Tenbury Line'. The Engineer's Line References were TBY for 'Tenbury & Bewdley' and WTW for 'Woofferton and Tenbury Wells', while the 1905 Ordnance Survey map describes it as the 'GW&L&NW Joint Railway - Woofferton & Tenbury' and the 'GWRGreat Western Railway - Tenbury & Bewdley Branch' [1]

One purpose of the Tenbury & Bewdley Railway was for freight traffic to gain access to the expanding markets of the West Midlands. However at the time of opening, this journey would require traveling to the SVRs southern terminus at Hartlebury, with a reversal to reach the West Midlands via Kidderminster. This was hampered by a lack of siding space at Hartlebury and resulted in frequent delays, leading to construction of the 'Kidderminster Loop Line' from Bewdley to Kidderminster. After the GWRGreat Western Railway built 'The Loop', the majority of services from Stourbridge and Kidderminster to Bewdley continued on the Wyre Forest Line.

In January 1869, ownership of the Tenbury Railway was transferred jointly to the LNWRLondon & North Western Railway and GWRGreat Western Railway. It nominally remained an independent company until nationalisation in January 1948. The Tenbury & Bewdley Railway ceased to exist as a separate company when ownership was transferred to the GWRGreat Western Railway in February 1870. Both the GWRGreat Western Railway and the Tenbury Railway became part of British Railways Western Region after nationalisation.

In 1908 the Cleobury Mortimer and Ditton Priors Light Railway opened. This connected with the Tenbury & Bewdley Railway at Cleobury Mortimer and ran as a spur for 12½ miles to Ditton Priors.

A Shropshire Lad

The line makes a brief reference in A.E. Houseman's A Shropshire Lad:

As through the wild green hills of Wyre
The train ran, changing sky and shire,
And far behind, a fading crest,
Low in the forsaken west
Sank the high-reared head of Clee,
My hand lay empty on my knee.[1]

Stations

Woofferton

Woofferton Station, now closed (Wikimedia Commons)

Woofferton was initially a station on the Shrewsbury and Hereford Railway (S&HR), later becoming a junction station with the Wyre Forest Line from Bewdley. The station name boards carried the name “Woofferton Junction” [2], although timetables and tickets used the shortened name.

The station had two main line platforms, connected by a footbridge situated between the station building (nearest in the first photo above) and goods shed. It also had a bay platform used by the branch line trains and accessed via two diamond crossings over the main line. There were also a number of sidings. The signal box (SB in the OS Map of 1888-1913) stood in the junction of the S&HR line to the north and the “Bewdley Branch” to the east.

Easton Court

Easton Court was a small single-platform station. It opened with the Tenbury Railway in 1861, but closed in October 1862 due to lack of use. It reopened in April 1865, 8 months after the though connection between Woofferton and Bewdley was established.

For a time the station name board also referred to “Little Hereford”, although this was not used on timetables.

The station became unstaffed after September 1954, and closed with the line from Tenbury Wells to Woofferton July 1961.

Tenbury Wells

A postcard depicting Tenbury Wells station, circa 1916

Tenbury station, renamed Tenbury Wells in 1912, was named after the spa town, but was in fact situated in nearby parish of Burford.

The station was initially the terminus of the Tenbury Railway from Woofferton, opened in August 1861, becoming the end-on junction of two separate railways when the Tenbury & Bewdley Railway opened in 1864. Despite the Wyre Forest Line thereafter being worked throughout by the GWRGreat Western Railway, the line was still worked in two halves. Although there were through services between Bewdley and Woofferton, some local services ran only between Tenbury Wells and Woofferton, while some services from Bewdley terminated at Tenbury Wells rather than running through. At the Bewdley end, many trains continued to Kidderminster.

The station had two platforms, a number of sidings and in its early years, a turntable, still visible on the OS Map of 1888-1913. It had two signal boxes until the 1920s, when the LNWRLondon & North Western Railway-built West signal box closed.

Newnham Bridge

Newnham Bridge opened with the Tenbury and Bewdley Railway in 1864. The station had a siding which could act as a passing loop, but only a single platform for passengers. A signal box was originally provided, but later replaced by three ground frames. The GWR Working Timetables included the following operating instruction: When necessary, a train (not conveying passengers) may be placed in the sidings at Foley Park and Newnham Bridge for another train to pass in the same or opposite direction.

The layout of the station was also unusual in that the main station building was situated at rail level. From there, passengers had to use a barrow crossing to reach the platform via the loop and running line. Despite these arrangements, Newnham Bridge could be a busy station, particularly when fruit was in season.

Neen Sollars

Neen Sollars station began with a single platform. A second staggered platform, linked by a board crossing, was added in 1878, together with a signal box. The station served a small village and was little used; only 2,539 passenger tickets were issued in 1933. The 1878 platform was taken out of use and the signal box closed in August 1954; the station then became an unmanned stop in July 1961. Passenger services on the line ceased the following year.

A picture of the station may be found on Ernie's Railway Archive.

Cleobury Mortimer

Cleobury Mortimer Station, now closed (Wikimedia Commons)

Cleobury Mortimer was a crossing station with two platforms, a goods yard and goods shed and a cattle pen. The OS Map of 1888-1913 shows the layout before the building of the Cleobury Mortimer and Ditton Priors Light Railway which opened in 1908 and can be seen branching away to the north-west on the later 1937-1961 series map. At that time a 65 lever frame replaced the original 27 lever frame in the signal box. South-west of the goods yard was a private siding which served nearby Bayton Colliery between 1913 and 1923.

Wyre Forest

Wyre Forest was a single-platform station which opened on 1 June 1869, five years after the line on which it stood. It also had a small goods siding. Set in the forest after which it was named, goods traffic from the late 19th century included timber from the local area. In 1896 the station was also used to deliver the pipes for the local section of the Elan Valley Aqueduct.

Accidents

On Saturday 24 January 1959 the 7.58 am autotrain, departing Tenbury Wells for Ludlow propelled by 0-4-2T No 1445, collided with the buffer stops in Tenbury Yard. In the darkness the train crew did not notice that the turnout points from the UpIn reference to the direction of travel means towards the major terminus (i.e. towards Kidderminster on the present day SVR) platform to the main running line were frozen in the wrong position by ice, and the signalman was unable to alert them in time. The only passenger aboard was shaken but unhurt; he continued his journey by bus after receiving a refund of his train fare.[3]

Closure

In November 1960 British Railways published a proposal to close the entire line between Woofferton and Bewdley.[4] The West Midland Transport Users Consultative Committee met in March 1961 to discuss the closure. Many representations were made on the hardships that closure would cause, particularly for school children who made use of the the line. A compromise was reached whereby the old Tenbury Railway (Woofferton to Tenbury Wells) would close with effect from Monday 31 July 1961, but one passenger train each way would continue between Kidderminster and Tenbury Wells for a trial period of one year.[5]

The last through passenger service between Bewdley and Woofferton was the 7.50 pm return working to Kidderminster on 28 July 1961.[6] The 'special', which was hauled by GWRGreat Western Railway 2-6-2T No 6144, can be seen at the beginning of this film by 'Cam' Camwell on BFIPlayer.

The steam hauled "school childen's train" service duly began on Monday 31 July 1961, notwithstanding that this was the school holiday period. It left Tenbury Wells at 7.55 am with the return working leaving Kidderminster at 4.10 pm. Over the next year BRBritish Rail or British Railways allowed the service to run as 'mixed' if required, and also advertised cheap day excursions to Birmingham. However the one year trial was not deemed a success and BRBritish Rail or British Railways successfully proposed a full closure from 1 August 1962. The last steam-hauled service to return to Tenbury Wells ran on 31 July 1962 and comprised two coaches hauled by ex-GWRGreat Western Railway 0-6-0PT No 3619.[7]

The daily Stourbridge - Tenbury goods service ended in January 1964, with all traffic ceasing in April 1965.

At that time, the line between Bewdley and Cleobury Mortimer was considered as a possible candidate for preservation in the early days of the Severn Valley Railway Society. However continued use of Bewdley Station by BRBritish Rail or British Railways meant this was not possible. Much of the line was demolished shortly thereafter, with Dowles Bridge being dismantled in March 1966.

Use by the present day SVRSevern Valley RailwaySVRA:Severn Valley Railway AssociationSVRS:Severn Valley Railway Society

Immediately north of Bewdley, approximately 450 yards of the former line remains in use by the SVRSevern Valley RailwaySVRA:Severn Valley Railway AssociationSVRS:Severn Valley Railway Society as a siding, ending at the Foot crossing off Northwood Lane. On occasional Gala days a DMUDiesel Multiple Unit shuttle service has been arranged to allow the public to ride on this short section of track.

Continuing northwards, the trackbed remains in place although no track is laid. Shortly before Dowles Bridge, the level of the Tenbury and Bewdley railway falls below that of the Severn Valley Railway. A retaining wall was built between the two lines, now referred to as the Tenbury Wall.

See also

Tenbury Branch

References

The Tenbury & Bewdley Railway, Keith Beddoes and William H Smith (1995)
The Severn Valley Railway, John Marshall (1989)
Lost Railways of Shropshire, Leslie Oppitz (2004)

  1. Houseman, A.E., As through the wild green hills of Wyre, A Shropshire Lad XXXVII, The Housman Society website (Retrieved 14 October 2018)
  2. Branch Lines around Cleobury Mortimer, Mitchell and Smith (2007)
  3. Beddoes & Smith (1995) p. 179.
  4. Magner (1997) p. 16.
  5. Beddoes & Smith (1995) p. 190.
  6. Beddoes & Smith (1995) p. 190.
  7. Beddoes & Smith (1995) pp. 192-193.

Links

Video of a railcar on the Wyre Forest Line on YouTube