Cleobury Mortimer and Ditton Priors Light Railway

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BSicon exCONTglocal.png 1912 proposed extensions
BSicon DSTlocal.png RNADRoyal Naval Armaments Depot Ditton Priors
BSicon HSTlocal.png Ditton Priors
BSicon ABZrflocal.png Abdon Clee Quarry Railway
BSicon HSTlocal.png Burwarton
BSicon eABZg+llocal.png Proposed Kinlet & Billingsley extn.
BSicon HSTlocal.png Stottesdon
BSicon HSTlocal.png Cleobury Town and Shed
BSicon ABZrglocal.png Tenbury Branch to Bewdley
BSicon BHFlocal.png Cleobury Mortimer
BSicon STRlocal.png Tenbury Branch to Tenbury

The Cleobury Mortimer and Ditton Priors Light Railway (CM&DPLR) opened in 1908. It connected with the Tenbury and Bewdley Railway at Cleobury Mortimer. From there the line ran northwards for 12½ miles via Cleobury Town, Stottesdon and Burwarton to Ditton Priors. It became part of the Great Western Railway in 1922.


The CM&DPLR was built under the Light Railways Act of 1896. An order under the Act was granted in 1901 with construction eventually beginning late in 1906.[1] A goods service began on 19 July 1908, initially using the contractor's locos as the Railway's own locomotives were not delivered until August.[2] The line opened for passenger traffic on 21 November 1908, although for the first six months the line speed was limited to 20mph rather than the 25mph permitted as a light railway while the track bed was allowed to consolidate[1].

Early plans for expansion

The greatest use of the line was for the transport of stone from the granite quarries on Titterstone Clee and Brown Clee which proved profitable from the first years of opening. An early scheme to bring coal traffic to the line was proposed under the title of the Stottesdon, Kinlet and Billingsley Railway; the two last named being Collieries served by the Severn Valley Railway. The Board was also interested in extending the railway northwards from Ditton Priors, with three possible schemes being considered in 1912. These were:

  • An 8 mile connection to the GWRGreat Western Railway’s Severn Valley branch at Bridgnorth.
  • A continuation to join the LNWRLondon & North Western Railway’s Coalport Branch at Coalport.
  • A 6 mile continuation to join the GWRGreat Western Railway’s Much Wenlock branch at Presthope.

Ultimately the First World War brought an end to these plans and none of the schemes went ahead[3]

Traffic statistics

Traffic statistics published by the CM&DPLR prior to amalgamation with the GWRGreat Western Railway included the following information[4]:

Detail 1913 1920
First class passengers 189 36
Third class passengers 13,353 11,048
Cattle 323 121
Calves 31 1
Sheep 2,196 185
Pigs 138 23
Merchandise (tons) 1,333 6,757
Coal, coke and Patent Fuel (tons) 5,582 7,216
Other minerals (tons) 121,045 98,483

Other minerals principally consisted of 'roadstone' from Magpie Quarries on Titterstone Clee and Abdon Quarry on Brown Clee, uses of which included tramways, railway ballast and the construction industries. Merchandise included grain, timber, and even manure.

Decline and closure

Passenger numbers were never great and declined steadily after the First World War. The railway became part of the Great Western Railway on 1 January 1922 as part of the grouping under the Railway Act of 1921.[5] As early as the 1920s some stations had effectively become request stops, and by the 1930s traffic had reduced to two ‘mixed’ trains per day. Passenger services ceased altogether on 24 September 1938.

The line was taken over by the Admiralty a month later, in view of the threat of war. In 1941 the Royal Navy opened a Royal Naval Armaments Depot (RNADRoyal Naval Armaments Depot) at the end of line at RNADRoyal Naval Armaments Depot Ditton Priors, close to Brown Clee Hill. The line therefore remained open for both freight and military traffic, and locomotives using the line were fitted with spark arrestors.

The line became part of BRBritish Rail or British Railways(W) under nationalisation in 1948 and continued in very limited use, sometimes with just one train per week. On 21 May 1955 the Stephenson Railway Society organised a ‘special’ from Birmingham via Kidderminster and Bewdley to Ditton Priors. DeanWilliam Dean, Chief Locomotive Engineer of the Great Western Railway 1877-1902 Goods No 2516 (now preserved at Steam in Swindon) hauled this to Cleobury Mortimer, where 0-6-0PT No 2144 (with spark arrestor) took over using CM&DPLR rolling stock. The ‘special’ travelled as far as Cleobury North Sidings, becoming the only passenger bogie-stock ever on the line.

Ownership of the line passed from BRBritish Rail or British Railways to the Admiralty in May 1957, the occasional haulage by now being provided by the RustonRuston and Hornsby Ltd. of Lincoln, engineer and locomotive manufacturer acquired by English Electric in 1966. Also, Ruston-Bucyrus Ltd established in 1930 and jointly owned by Ruston and Hornsby and Bucyrus-Erie (US) shunters. Navy use of the line continued until 1960, when the railway finally closed (some Admiralty equipment was moved from the Depot by rail thereafter).

The line was considered as a possible candidate for preservation in the early days of the Severn Valley Railway Society, but was deemed unsuitable because of its remoteness and the relatively light axle load limits.

Rolling Stock


When passenger services began in 1908 the Railway had two Manning Wardle 0-6-0 saddle tanks, works numbers 1734 Burwarton and 1735 Cleobury. The railway was absorbed into the GWRGreat Western Railway in May 1922, following which the locomotives were re-numbered as GWRGreat Western Railway 28 and 29; they were later rebuilt as pannier tanks at Swindon in 1930. They remained as the regular engines on the line, although other small GWRGreat Western Railway tank engines would appear on the line from time to time. During operation they were kept at a small shed at Cleobury Town,[6] but were recorded as being at Kidderminster Shed between 1940 and 1945[7]. 28 hauled the last public service train from Ditton Priors to Cleobury Mortimer, formed of vintage stock (see below).

28 was placed into store at Kidderminster in 1949. 29, which acquired the nickname "the Gadget", was fitted with a spark arrester cowl in case working to the Admiralty Depot at Ditton Priors was required, and was then retained at Kidderminster for occasional shunting turns, her former duties having been taken over by Kidderminster-based GWRGreat Western Railway 2021 class locomotives[6], at least four of which (2034, 2051, 2101 and 2144) were also fitted with spark arrestors for this purpose.

The Admiralty Depot only used diesel locomotives. A Planet diesel locomotive is believed to have been used by the RNADRoyal Naval Armaments Depot but its dates of arrival and departure are not known. Later, three 'flameproof' 165hp 0-4-0 diesel locomotives were supplied to RNADRoyal Naval Armaments Depot Ditton Priors by RustonRuston and Hornsby Ltd. of Lincoln, engineer and locomotive manufacturer acquired by English Electric in 1966. Also, Ruston-Bucyrus Ltd established in 1930 and jointly owned by Ruston and Hornsby and Bucyrus-Erie (US) and Hornsby of Lincoln in June 1952 (313390), March 1953 (319286) and May 1955.[8] Locomotives 313390 (DP35) and 319286 are similar to the RustonRuston and Hornsby Ltd. of Lincoln, engineer and locomotive manufacturer acquired by English Electric in 1966. Also, Ruston-Bucyrus Ltd established in 1930 and jointly owned by Ruston and Hornsby and Bucyrus-Erie (US) 165DMs present on the SVRSevern Valley Railway, and survive in preservation.

Coaching stock

Six-wheeled stock was prohibited from the CM&DPLR. The original coaching stock comprised four ex-North London Railway four-wheel coaches, formerly LNWRLondon & North Western Railway numbers 1033, 1034. 1041 and 1043. Following grouping in 1922 these were replaced by GWRGreat Western Railway four-wheeled gas-lit coaches, two with four compartments and two longer 3-compartment brake coaches.[9][10]

Cleobury Mortimer sub-shed

During the Railway's independent operation, the two Cleobury Mortimer locomotives were initially housed in the contractor's shed at Cleobury Town,[2] and subsequently in the Railway's own single-road shed at Cleobury Town. The caption of a picture in "Branch Lines around Cleobury Mortimer" (Mitchell and Smith, 2007) suggests this was built in 1917.[note 1] Simple repairs were carried out there, while major repairs were carried out at the Worcester works of the GWRGreat Western Railway.[11] After the Railway became part of the GWRGreat Western Railway on 1 January 1922, the shed at Cleobury became a sub-shed of Kidderminster Shed. The caption in Mitchell and Smith suggests the Cleobury shed closed in July 1938 (shortly before the end of passenger services), however other sources suggest it remained a sub-shed of Kidderminster until 1962[12].

See also


  1. The Railway opened in 1908; if 1917 is correct, it is not clear whether the contractor's shed was used throughout the period until then.


  1. 1.0 1.1 Price (1995) pp.7-11.
  2. 2.0 2.1 Beddoes & Smith (1995) p. 65.
  3. Price (1995) pp.39-40.
  4. Smith & Beddoes (1980) p. 110.
  5. Price (1995) p.59.
  6. 6.0 6.1 Barfield (1994) pp. 81-89.
  7. Turley (2005) p. 117.
  8. Some Early Lines – Cleobury Mortimer and Ditton Priors Light Railway, 6 November 2010 (a blog) (Retrieved 18 September 2018)
  9. Burton, Anthony and Scott-Morgan, John,'The Light Railways of Britain and Ireland', Moorland Press, 1985
  10. Price (1995), pp. 35-36.
  11. Price (1995) p. 33.
  12. Wikipedia List of British Railways Shed Codes