Southampton and Dorchester Railway
|Southampton and Dorchester Railway|
The Southampton and Dorchester Railway was an English railway company formed to join the named towns, with hopes of forming part of a route from London to Exeter. It received Parliamentary authority in 1845 and opened in 1847. It was promoted by Charles Castleman of Wimborne, and it became known as Castleman's Corkscrew because of the circuitous route it followed.
Its route in the New Forest was determined by the requirements of the Commissioners of the Forest, and west of Brockenhurst it ran via Ringwood; at that time Bournemouth was not considered an important settlement; Poole was served by a branch to Lower Hamworthy and a ferry crossing.
In the late nineteenth century, a shorter route via Christchurch and Bournemouth was built, and the line between Lymington Junction and Hamworthy Junction was reduced to the status of a local branch line, finally closing in the 1960s. However the end sections, from Southampton to Lymington Junction and from Hamworthy Junction to Dorchester, form part of the important Weymouth to London main line.
The London and Southampton Railway had been promoted with the intention of enabling a connection between the docks at Southampton and the capital. Sensing the opportunity to serve a wider area, that Company changed its name to the London and South Western Railway (LSWR) in 1839, and the Southampton main line was opened by the LSWR on 11 May 1840.
The LSWR wished to expand its network to the west and south-west, but had early on been frustrated by the success of the Great Western Railway (GWR) and its ally, the Bristol and Exeter Railway (B&ER) in extending into the region. Proposals were put forward as early as 1836 but it was not until 1847 that the company connected Salisbury in to its network, and that was a branch from Bishopstoke (Eastleigh), giving a circuitous route from London.
Before that, in 1844, Charles Castleman, a solicitor from Wimborne, had independently proposed a westward line from Southampton via Ringwood to Dorchester, and possibly on via Bridport to Exeter from there. He approached the LSWR with the idea but was rebuffed. However Castleman and his friends developed the scheme quickly, and proposed it as the Southampton and Dorchester Railway. They were moving much more quickly than the LSWR, and Castleman approached the Great Western Railway and received agreement from them to lease the line. This implied that the line would be built on the broad gauge (7 ft 0¼ in, 2,140 mm).
Throughout its early existence, the LSWR had been at pains to secure territory in which it might be the dominant, or only, railway company, and the gauge of the track with which a new line was to be built determined its alliance with the broad gauge interests (the GWR, the B&ER and other associated companies) or railways with the standard gauge (4 ft 8½ in, 1,435 mm). (In this context the latter were usually referred to as narrow gauge railways, and the competitive battles to ensure that new lines were specified to be built to the preferred gauge were referred to as the gauge wars.)
The LSWR were alarmed at this development, as it would bring broad gauge trains into Southampton docks, the heart of territory the LSWR considered its own, and immediately promoted a rival scheme to reach Wimborne from Salisbury, which it had not yet reached. A Board of Trade Commission, informally referred to as the Five Kings, was appointed to determine the relative merits of these schemes and numerous other potentially penetrating routes; at the time it was considered that only one route in any area was supportable. The Five Kings found in favour of certain GWR routes and also the Southampton and Dorchester Railway. At this point the GWR was prepared to sign a territorial agreement (undertaking not to promote lines penetrating area agreed to belong to the other company, and as part of the agreement conceded the lease of the Southampton and Dorchester line to the LSWR.
Accordingly the Southampton and Dorchester Railway got its Act of Parliament on 21 July 1845, with authorised capital of £500,000. The lease to the LSWR was authorised in the Act. A branch from Hamworthy to the ballast quay at Poole was also authorised, and the broad gauge Wilts, Somerset and Weymouth Railway (authorised in the same session of Parliament) could be required to lay narrow gauge rails to give LSWR trains access to Weymouth.
The line was to start from a junction near the LSWR Southampton station (later Southampton Terminus) and curve west through a tunnel; at this point the Act required a station to be built at Bletchydnen Terrace; this became the present-day Southampton station. From there the line was to run westerly, crossing the River Test at Eling, and then run south-west to Brockenhurst. The Commissioner of Woods and Forests intervened in the alignment of the route through the New Forest, and the intended route through Lyndhurst was not permitted, the line making a southward sweep near there. From Brockenhurst the line was to run westward through Ringwood and Wimborne, trending south-west through Broadstone and Wareham, and then west to Dorchester.
The line was planned as part of a through route to Exeter via Bridport, and the Dorchester terminus was aligned so as to enable this. The Poole Ballast Quay was at the eastern extremity of the spit of land south of the channel for Upton Lake.
Proposed extension west from Dorchester
As the Southampton and Dorchester Railway was securing Parliamentary approval, promoters were urging the LSWR to extend to Exeter, even though the LSWR did not reach Salisbury until 1847, and that by a roundabout route through Bishopstoke. The route to be adopted, and how it was to be funded, were the subject of heated and acrimonious argument, and the issue was complicated by the incursion of the broad gauge allies, and by numerous speculative schemes proposed by independent interests.
The Southampton and Dorchester Railway promoters, and many proprietors of the LSWR, wished Exeter to be reached from Dorchester by way of Bridport; the so-called coastal route, which was considered to have easy engineering and to serve considerable population centres. The alternative was the central route from Salisbury by way of Yeovil and Sherborne. The controversy raged for some years; in 1847 the Board of Trade committee ruled in favour of the route from Salisbury via Yeovil. Money was becoming scarce in the aftermath of the railway mania, and this enabled the question to be re-opened. It was not until July 1854 that the matter was settled, in favour of the Salisbury - Yeovil - Sherborne - Exeter line; during all the intervening period the controversy had raged. After all, the Southampton and Dorchester line was not to be extended to Exeter; the legacy was the alignment of the Dorchester station, described above.
Opening and after
On 25 May 1847 a trial train ran from Bletchynden to Dorchester, and the line opened to the public on 1 June 1847. The Bletchynden station was a temporary one because of a legal dispute; the permanent structure came into use in 1850. However on opening day, the section of line from Bletchynden to the LSWR terminus was not open, due to a failure in the intervening tunnel. It was only opened for traffic from the night of 5 and 6 August 1847, although there were passengers on a test train which ran on 29 July 1847.
In the opening year the Company took powers to build a branch to a quay at Eling; this was in fact built later as a freight tramway, opening probably in April 1851.
By Act of 22 July 1848, the Southampton and Dorchester Railway was authorised to be amalgamated with the LSWR, and this took effect on 11 October 1848.
Part of the LSWR
The Wilts, Somerset and Weymouth Railway (WS&WR) opened to Weymouth on 20 January 1857, and according to the terms of the original Acts, they had laid narrow gauge rails to enable LSWR trains access to Weymouth. They had a separate station at Dorchester, and a sharp, single-line, curved connection between the LSWR line and the WS&WR line was built, the boundary being at the midpoint. The curve diverged from the LSWR line a short distance east of their Dorchester station, so that down LSWR trains ran into the terminal platforms; they then reversed to east of the junction, and proceeded forward towards Weymouth. Up LSWR trains passed the point of junction and then reversed into the terminal platform.
The connection was doubled in 1878 and in 1880 a platform was provided on the curve for down trains; they could now run through normally, but up trains continued the reversing movement. This was perpetuated until a normal up platform on the curve was provided as part of the Bournemouth Line Electrification (which provided enhanced non-electrified services to Weymouth).
The Southampton and Dorchester line was doubled in stages by the LSWR: from Southampton to Redbridge was double from the beginning, and from Redbridge to Wimborne was doubled by 1 September 1858, and following pressure from the Board of Trade, the remainder to Dorchester was doubled by 1 August 1863.
Trains from London to Dorchester had to enter the Southampton Terminus station of the original London and Southampton Railway, reversing to continue towards Dorchester. A curve was constructed enabling through running, opening to passengers on 2 August 1858, and on the same day Bletchynden station was renamed Southampton West (or West End).
The Line Today
The line remains open from Southampton to the site of Lymington Junction, a mile west of Brockenhurst, and from Hamworthy Junction to Dorchester.
The line is closed from Lymington Junction to Hamworthy Junction; it closed to passenger traffic on the 4 May 1964, although part of this part of the route was kept open for freight services for some time. Track lifting began on the section between Lymington Junction and Ringwood, being completed in 1965.
The line from Broadstone to Hamworthy Junction was closed to freight in 1966. Freight traffic continued to Ringwood until August 1967 before being truncated yet again, this time back to a military fuel dump at West Moors. Trains continued to serve West Moors until 1974, before being cut back further still to Wimborne. A light freight service and the use of the sidings at Wimborne for stabling of an exhibition train kept the line open for a further 3 years. Finally the remaining stub from Holes Bay Junction to Wimborne was closed in 1977.
Present-day passenger trains between London and Weymouth run from Lymington Junction via Christchurch and Bournemouth on the South Western Main Line. The mileposts along the surviving portions of the Southampton & Dorchester Railway west of Hamworthy Junction are measured from London Waterloo via the direct route through Sway, Bournemouth and Poole. However, bridges on that route section retain their numbering via the Ringwood route from Southampton.
The disused portion between Ringwood and Hamworthy Junction forms the Castleman Trailway.
A report from the Association of Train Operating Companies (ATOC) published in June 2009 recommended the rebuilding of part of the line from Brockenhurst to Ringwood. It looked into the feasibility of reopening disused lines and stations, and concluded that there was a business case for investing £70m in the new link with an hourly service.
- R A Williams, The London & South Western Railway, volume 1, David & Charles, Newton Abbot, 1968, ISBN 0 7153 4188 X
- Williams, volume 1 page 54
- Williams, volume 1, chapter 3
- John Yonge and Gerald Jacobs, (editors), Railway Track Diagrams 5: Southern & TfL, published by Trackmaps, Bradford on Avon, 2008, ISBN 978-0-9549866-4-3
- "Connecting Communities – Expanding Access to the Rail Network" (pdf). ATOC. Retrieved 18 January 2011.
- R V J Butt, The Directory of Railway Stations, Patrick Stephens Ltd, Sparkford, year=1995 ISBN 1-85260-508-1
- J H Lucking, Railways of Dorset, Railway Correspondence and Travel Society, 1968)
- B L Jackson, Castleman's Corkscrew, Oakwood Press, 2007, ISBN 978-0-85361-666-5
- Vic Mitchell and Keith Smith, Branch Lines Around Wimborne, Middleton Press, Midhurst, 1992, ISBN 0-906520-97-5
- Leslie Oppitz, Lost Railways of Dorset, Countryside Books, 2001, ISBN 1853066966