Wyre Forest Line

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Bridge piers of the Wyre Forest Line in the River Severn

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

Map

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 and Ditton Priors Light Railway
BSicon HST.svg Wyre Forest
BSicon hKRZWae.svg Dowles Bridge
BSicon ABZg+l.svg Bewdley Jct North (Severn Valley Line from Bridgnorth)
BSicon BHF.svg Bewdley


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&HRShrewsbury and Hereford Railway at Woofferton, a distance of just over 5 miles. Although the Tenbury Railway was a separate company, the line was worked by the S&HRShrewsbury and Hereford Railway when first opened.

In July 1862, the S&HRShrewsbury and Hereford Railway (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 in 1860. Construction took place between 1861 and 1864, with the line opening in August of that year. 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 Woofferton to be paid for by the GWRGreat Western Railway. 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 Railway. 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'.

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 Loop' 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.

The Wyre Forest Line closed in various stages. The old Tenbury Railway (Woofferton to Tenbury) was first to close in July 1961, after which only one passenger train ran from Kidderminster to Tenbury each day. Passenger services ceased a year later on 1 August 1962. 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.

Stations

Woofferton

Woofferton Station, now closed (Wikimedia Commons)

Woofferton was initially a station on the Shrewsbury and Hereford Railway (S&HRShrewsbury and Hereford Railway), later becoming a junction station with the Wyre Forest Line from Bewdley. The station name boards carried the name “Woofferton Junction” [1], 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&HRShrewsbury and Hereford Railway 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 which connected Welsh reservoirs to the West Midlands.


Sources

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. Branch Lines around Cleobury Mortimer, Mitchell and Smith (2007)

See also

Tenbury Branch

Links

Video of a railcar on the Wyre Forest Line on YouTube