Oswestry, Ellesmere and Whitchurch Railway
The Oswestry, Ellesmere and Whitchurch Railway was a railway line that ran from Oswestry in Shropshire to Whitchurch, Shropshire, via Ellesmere and the Welsh borders. It was a constituent part of the Cambrian Railways.
Proposed to be formed from the amalgamation of a series of local regional railway companies, as a result the new company called Cambrian Railways (CR) proposed to base its headquarters in Oswestry. Using existing Parliamentary Act approval for development of a station, it proposed to build closer to the centre of the town than the existing Great Western Railway (GWR) station, which had opened in 1848. On completion, the CR station would complete the mainline for the London and North Western Railway, from Whitchurch on the Crewe and Shrewsbury Railway, to Welshpool in Mid-Wales.
The first connection to Oswestry was made from the south by the Oswestry and Newtown Railway, which operated its first train on 1 May 1860. After a legal tussle between the two competing companies, LNWR and GWR, Parliament authorised building the CR/LNWR sponsored Oswestry, Ellesmere and Whitchurch Railway to Whitchurch in August 1861, driven by the need to regenerate Ellesmere. However, the proposed route was heavily fought over by land owners, with the eventual tracks running via Fenn's Moss, requiring additional civil engineering, support and drainage to overcome the local bog conditions. On 25 July 1864 the CR was formally created, allowing the first CR train to the run from Whitchurch into Oswestry two days later on 27 July 1864. A year later the coast lines joined the CR too. On grouping in 1923, Cambrian Railways became part of the Great Western Railway.
Welshampton rail crash
A long excursion train of mixed Cambrian Railways and Lancashire and Yorkshire Railway stock was returning from Barmouth to Lancashire. Organised by the United Sunday Schools of Royton, 320 passengers were in 15 carriages pulled by two locomotives. Earlier in the day a Cambrian guard had complained of the rough-riding of a small 4-wheeled L&Y brake van, which on the return journey was at the front of the train.
Leaving Barmouth at 18:00, at about 22:20 one of the engines and 13 of the coaches left the rails 154 yards (141 m) east of Welshampton station. Nine passengers were killed in what was the first fatal accident on the line since it was built, while two other passengers and a railway employee died later from injuries.
Although the initial investigation centred on the first carriage to leave the rails, a L&YR third-class brake coach, the enquiry concluded though that the speed of the train was too high considering the state of the track which had many sleepers in need of replacement, also too light a rail for high speed running. The Cambrian Railway disputed the findings and maintained that the L&Y vehicle was to blame
In 1963 under British Railways, the line was reallocated to became part of the London Midland Region. In the review under the Beeching Axe the Cambrian Railway mainline was decreed surplus to demands, and hence scheduled for closure. On 18 January 1965, passenger services to Welshpool and Whitchurch finished, and the line closed. Freight services continued to run on the Oswestry section until 1971.
Whitchurch survives on the northern section, now but a two-platform halt compared to its previous junction guise.
Only Oswestry railway station survives on the southern section, with Cambrian Heritage Railways working on a heritage railway scheme to revive services from Gobowen to the new Penygarreg Lane Halt, and at some point ownards to Welshpool.
The middle section is now part of the Fenn's, Whixall and Bettisfield Mosses National Nature Reserve.
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- "Railway accident, 1897". Ingenious. Retrieved 6 May 2008.
- "Accident at Welshampton on 11th June 1897". The Railways Archive. Retrieved 25 January 2008.
- "Cambrian Railways works". discovershropshire.org.uk. Retrieved 2012-02-05.