Wrington Vale Light Railway
|Wrington Vale Light Railway|
The Wrington Vale Light Railway was a railway from Congresbury on the Cheddar Valley line to Blagdon, and serving villages in the Yeo Valley, North Somerset. Construction of the line started in 1897 and it opened in 1901.
Initially trains generally ran from Yatton, the junction for the main line between Bristol and Exeter, and traversed 1.8 miles of the Cheddar Valley line (the Yatton to Witham route (via Cheddar and Wells) that had opened in 1869).
The junction for the light railway was at Congresbury, where the station was given a second platform when the Wrington line opened. There were four other stations at Wrington, Langford, Burrington and the terminus at Blagdon.
When the line first opened in 1901, there were four trips a day each way between Blagdon and Yatton; one trip each way was a mixed passenger and goods service. The first train out of Blagdon in the morning went only as far as Congresbury, and returned to Blagdon from there. Other trains ran through from or to Yatton. In 1910, there were five trains a day in each direction on weekdays only. Until 1915, there was a late trip on Saturdays from Blagdon to Yatton and return.
In 1919, the service was reduced to three trains a day each way, but the fourth trip was re-instated in 1921. In 1926, this was increased again to five trips a day, to compete with the Bristol Tramways and Carriage Company's buses. However, this was not successful, and the service returned to the original four trips a day in 1927 until closure to passenger traffic in 1931, and goods traffic in 1950.
Construction and traffic
The railway's primary purpose was to bring construction materials for the building of the Blagdon Lake reservoir. Construction of the line overran cost and time forecasts. It was constructed and owned by the Great Western Railway. The GWR used it to trial various innovative schemes to reduce the cost of lightly used passenger services, such as the push-pull system, where driver's controls are provided in a trailer coach, enabling the locomotive to propel its train, eliminating the need for the engine to run round at the end of a run, and so cutting costs.
Milk traffic was a considerable source of business on the line.
The first attempt to build a railway line in this part of North Somerset took place in 1882, when an Act was obtained incorporating the Radstock, Wrington & Congresbury Junction Railway. However, sufficient capital could not be raised, and the company was dissolved in 1886.
In 1896, an application was made for a Light Railway Order under the Light Railways Act 1896 for railway from Congresbury to Blagdon, with a short branch to Blagdon Waterworks. The statutory enquiry was held on 20 May 1897. There were no objections, and the scheme was supported by the Bristol Waterworks Company, who were about to start constructing a reservoir and pumping station at Blagdon. The Great Western Railway undertook to finance, construct and operate the line.
The Order was confirmed on 18 March 1898, and the line opened to traffic on 4 December 1901.
The railway carried passengers for 30 years until 1931. Passenger traffic was vulnerable to competition from buses and of the stations on the line, only Wrington was conveniently situated for the village it purported to serve.
Freight service continued along the length of the line until 1950, when the section between Wrington and Blagdon was closed fully. Freight services continued from Congresbury to Wrington until June 1963; Congresbury itself retained passenger services until later in 1963, when it closed with the rest of the Yatton to Witham line.
After trains were withdrawn the track was lifted and station buildings either demolished or left for derelict. The only buildings on the line to have survived until the present day are Blagdon station, which is now part of a private residence, and the stationmaster's house at Burrington, although it has been much extended.
A scheme was considered in the 1970s to install a short section of narrow-gauge track near Congresbury as a tourist attraction, however this did not come to be. Apart from this no attempt has yet been made to rebuild all or part of the railway. There are several obstacles if the railway were to be rebuilt. There has been some development on the trackbed at Wrington, and Burrington cutting has been filled in, but otherwise the trackbed is still intact. The other obstacle is the current residential occupation of Blagdon Station.
The Strawberry Line Association and Sustrans have aspirations for a cycle route on the trackbed. North Somerset council has marked the former railway as a future key cycle route in the local plan. The cycle route would connect with the Strawberry Line railway walk at Congresbury and a future route to Clevedon at Yatton station.
- Yorke, Stan (2007). Lost railways of Somerset. Newbury: Countryside Books. pp. 78–82. ISBN 978-1-84674-057-2.
- "Railway Magazine", November 1959
- "A Selection of Great Western Stations". The Great Western Archive. Retrieved 2009-04-03.
- "History of Blagdon". Bristol Water. Retrieved 2009-04-03.
- Maggs, Colin G (2004). Wrington Vale Light Railway. Oakwood Press. ISBN 978-0-85361-620-7.
- 1910 Bradshaw's Railway Guide
- Somerset Railway Stations by Mike Oakley, Dovecote Press, 2002