Highworth branch line

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Highworth branch line
66086 Highworth Branch.jpg
A train at the start of the now-overgrown branch line
Type Heavy rail
Opened 9 May 1883 (1883-05-09)
  • 2 March 1953 (1953-03-02) (passengers)
  • 1962 (goods)
Line length 5 miles (8.0 km)
Highworth branch line
5-48 Highworth
4-32 Hannington
Cricklade Road
3-18 Stanton
1-24 Stratton
Industrial estate
Vickers branch’
Kingsdown Road Junction
Great Western main line
0-00 Highworth Junction
Golden Valley line
Great Western main line
Highworth station in 1950
Rail Tour at Highworth in 1954

The Highworth branch line was a short railway branch line to the northeast of Swindon, England. It was most successful as a goods line, particularly during wartime when it linked the Great Western Main Line to factories around the town. A small vestigial part of the line exists for this purpose.


The line branched off the Great Western Main Line east of Swindon railway station. It ran northeast, with stations at Stratton, Hannington and Highworth, 5 miles (8.0 km) away.[1]


There had been demands for railway access from Highworth throughout the mid-19th century. It had been on one of the proposed routes of the Great Western Main Line before it was rerouted south to Swindon. In 1873, the Highworth Light Railway was established to build the line, which was given parliamentary approval on 21 June 1875. Bad weather delayed the start of construction, which did not happen until 6 March 1879.[2]

The Highworth branch line operated a service for paying passengers from 9 May 1883.[3] It became popular as a goods line in the early 20th century as numerous industrial estates were established to the west of it at Stratton, including the Brunner Mond munitions factory in 1916.[4] It became an important route during World War II, when a spur was built to provide access to the Vickers-Armstrongs aircraft factory.[2]

The line was not commercially successful as a passenger route. Following nationalisation, services were proposed to be withdrawn by British Railways in 1952, including the closure of Hannington and Stanton stations, though the goods service would remain open.[5] The passenger service closed on 2 March 1953, while good services from Highworth to Kingsdown Road continued to run until 3 August 1962. The Vickers-Armstrongs branch remains open as a goods line.[2] It now provides access to the BMW car factory.[6]



  1. ^ Wiltshire XV (various) (Map). Ordnance Survey 6 inch / mile. 1950. 
  2. ^ a b c "Highworth Light Railway". Highworth Historical Society. Retrieved 2 September 2016. 
  3. ^ Vaughan 2015, p. 93.
  4. ^ Stratton & Trinder 2000, p. 209.
  5. ^ "Proposal to withdraw passenger service from Swindon to Highworth branch line and close Hannington and Stanton stations for all traffic, Wiltshire; Western Region". The National Archives. 1952. (Subscription required (help)). 
  6. ^ "BMW Plant Swindon". Google Maps. Retrieved 2 September 2016.