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, England. Construction of the line started in 1897 and it opened in 1901. Never more than a purely local line, it closed to passengers in 1931, and completely in 1963.
The first attempt to build a railway line in this part of North Somerset took place in 1882, when an Act was obtained (on 18 August) incorporating the Radstock, Wrington & Congresbury Junction Railway, which was to run from Farrington Gurney on the Bristol and North Somerset Railway to Congresbury through Wrington. However sufficient capital could not be raised, and the company was dissolved in 1886.
The Light Railways Act of 1896 was passed with the intention of enabling low-cost local railways to be built, and a line from Blagdon to Congresbury was promoted. At this time the Bristol Waterworks Company were building a reservoir at Blagdon,[note 1] and they supported the scheme. The Great Western Railway (GWR) agreed to finance the scheme and to manage the actual construction.
A public inquiry was held on 20 May 1897; the line was supported by Bristol Waterworks Company. The Order was confirmed on 18 March 1898, and the Great Western Railway were authorised to finance, construct an work the line.
Lt Col Yorke inspected the line on 28 November 1901, and as he found it satisfactory, the line opened to traffic on 4 December 1901. It was 6 miles 41 chains (10.5 km) long and there were stations at Wrington, Langford, Burrington and Blagdon.
Gradients were severe: leaving Blagdon the line fell at 1 in 75 and then rose at the same gradient, followed by a further downward gradient of 1 in 75. There was then a local summit at Burrington, falling from Langford at 1 in 50. From Wrington to Congresbury the line was broadly level, although with short sections rising at 1 in 70 and falling at 1 in 60. At Blagdon there was a spur siding diverging to the right on the approach, serving the Yeo Pumping Station.
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. The motor trolley system of maintenance was also adopted. The GWR 101 Class experimental oil-fired locomotive of 1901 was also designed for use on this line, but issues with the technology prevented it coming into service.
Milk traffic was a considerable source of business on the line.
The junction for the light railway was at Congresbury, where a second platform and much extended track and signalling were provided.
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.
With light loadings, the service was reduced to three trains a day each way in 1919, but the fourth trip was re-instated in 1921. Railmotors were considered at this time in an effort to match operating costs to income, but the gradients on the line prevented railmotors from operating successfully, and they were not used.
In 1926, the service was increased again to five trips a day, to respond to competition from 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 from 14 September 1931.
In 1926 also the General Strike took place. Nestlé were managing milk flows from the area at the time, and arranged road lorry collections for the milk traffic. When the strike ended, much of this business stayed on road.
Freight service continued along the length of the line until 1 November 1950, when the section between Wrington and Blagdon was closed fully. Coal traffic continued to Wrington until 6 June 1963, and the line closed completely on 10 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 unoccupied. The only buildings on the line to have survived until the present day are at Blagdon station, which is now part of a private residence, and the stationmaster's house at Burrington, although it has been much extended.
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. Much of the planned route between Blagdon and Wrington is in private ownership which presents an obstacle for the route as, apart from the technical issue of who owns which bit of land, there’s a shortage of public money to buy real estate.
- Parliamentary approval had been obtained in 1888 and work started in 1891; the reservoir started to fill in 1899 and was ready in 1903. Four compound beam engines were responsible for the pumping until April 1949 when they were replaced with electric pumps. Source= Maggs.
- Colin G Maggs, Wrington Vale Light Railway, Oakwood Press, Usk, 2004, ISBN 978-0-85361-620-7
- Derek Phillips, Steaming Through the Cheddar Valley, Oxford Publishing Co., Hersham, 2001, ISBN 0 86093 551 5
- "Railway Magazine", November 1959
- E T MacDermot, History of the Great Western Railway, volume II, published by the Great Western Railway, London, 1932
- "History of Blagdon". Bristol Water. Retrieved 2009-04-03.
- Yorke, Stan (2007). Lost railways of Somerset. Newbury: Countryside Books. pp. 78–82. ISBN 978-1-84674-057-2.
- "A Selection of Great Western Stations". The Great Western Archive. Retrieved 2009-04-03.
- Mottram, Harry. "Feature. How far can the Strawberry Line go?". Strawberry Line Times. Retrieved 2014-04-11.
- 1910 Bradshaw's Railway Guide
- Somerset Railway Stations by Mike Oakley, Dovecote Press, 2002