Salisbury and Dorset Junction Railway
This article relies largely or entirely on a single source. (July 2010)
|Salisbury and Dorset Junction Railway|
|Continues as||London and South Western Railway|
|Closed||4 May 1964|
|Track gauge||1,435 mm (4 ft 8+1⁄2 in)|
|Salisbury & Dorset Junction Railway|
The Salisbury and Dorset Junction Railway was a railway that ran in the English counties of Wiltshire, Hampshire and Dorset from 1866 until its closure in 1964. Working from Salisbury, trains left the Salisbury to Southampton line at the remote Alderbury Junction. Here there was a signal box, some railway cottages and two platforms on the main line for staff use only. The line ambled south through rural surroundings to meet the Southampton and Dorchester Railway at West Moors. Trains continued through Wimborne to Poole and Bournemouth West.
Initial hopes of cross-country traffic faded and the line carried sparse local produce and passengers until closing, as part of the Beeching Axe, to all traffic on 4 May 1964. The track was lifted the following year.
Local railway developments
A desire to link Salisbury (and beyond Salisbury, Bristol and the Midlands) with the Dorset coast led to two lines being proposed in the mid-1840s, both using a route from Salisbury to Wimborne via Downton and Fordingbridge. The first was the Salisbury & Dorsetshire Railway, announced in 1844, which would have run to Weymouth through Wimborne, Bere and Dorchester. The second, dating from a year later, would have terminated at Poole.
Neither of these lines was built, however over the next 15 years the railway network in the area did develop. To the south the Southampton and Dorchester Railway opened in 1847, being absorbed by the London & South Western Railway in 1848. LSWR trains began running from Dorchester into Weymouth, over the GWR line (which had been built to mixed gauge), in 1857.
To the north the first line to Salisbury was the 1847 LSWR line from Southampton, and the Great Western had reached Salisbury in 1856. A direct line from Salisbury to London began operating in 1854 and the Salisbury and Yeovil Railway (including its extension to Exeter) opened in 1860.
The need for the line
Therefore, from the end of 1860 there were two LSWR-operated east–west mainlines, from London and Southampton to Dorchester and Weymouth and from London to Exeter via Salisbury and Yeovil, and the idea of linking them on a north–south route through Fordingbridge was revived. In addition the Great Western line to Chippenham provided a link to the north. This was broad gauge but would be converted to standard gauge in 1872.
There was also a desire for a line south to Poole and Bournemouth from the Southampton and Dorchester Railway. When that line had been constructed a route had been chosen that bypassed Poole and Bournemouth, instead taking a route through Ringwood and Wimborne. In the 1840s these were deemed to be more important settlements and this route also avoided Poole Harbour. However, by the late 1850s Poole, Bournemouth and Christchurch had all grown rapidly and required a direct rail connection.
Poole was served by a branch line that terminated across the entrance to Holes Bay at Hamworthy, but this was deemed far from satisfactory. A number of different lines from Wimborne or Broadstone to Poole had been proposed but by the 1860s had come to nothing.
Meanwhile, in the east, construction had started on the Ringwood, Christchurch and Bournemouth Railway in 1860. This was a line from the Southampton and Dorchester line at Ringwood, south down the Avon valley to Christchurch, where it would turn west and run to Bournemouth.
A strong desire to be connected to the railway network from the population of towns such as Fordingbridge and Downton also existed. A meeting was held in Salisbury on 20 October 1860 to discuss the latest scheme. This was chaired by the Seventh Earl of Shaftesbury, who lived at Cranborne near Verwood, and a motion was unanimously passed stating:
- “that in the opinion of this meeting it is desirable that a railway should be constructed to connect Salisbury with Wimborne, Poole and the northern parts of Dorset, and that the line now submitted, traversing the valley of the Avon, near Downton and Fordingbridge, and uniting with the [London and] South Western [Railway] on the east side of Wimborne, is satisfactory for the above purpose.”
The Salisbury & Dorset Railway
The proposed line would take a route from Alderbury, to the south east of Salisbury on the Southampton line, through Downton and Fordingbridge, to West Moors, located to the east of Wimborne. Here a spur would connect to the Southampton and Dorchester line. Meanwhile, the line would continue south splitting into two branches. The first would run to a junction with the Ringwood, Christchurch and Bournemouth Railway, while the second would take a direct route to Poole.
Financial problems led to the removal of the southern branches and when ‘The Salisbury, Poole & Dorset Junction Railway Bill’ received Royal Assent on 16 July 1861 it was for the Alderbury-West Moors section only.
Construction of the line
The first sod was cut, using a silver spade, by the Countess Nelson on 3 February 1863 in a field two miles to the north of Downton and close to Trafalgar House, the home of the Earl and Countess Nelson.
The contract was let to a Mr Garrett, however the slow progress of work led to his contract being terminated in September 1865 and re-let to a Henry Jackson. Work then continued at a faster rate and by 6 August 1866 the line was able to be inspected by the Board of Trade's Inspecting Officer, Captain Tyler. He found many defects on that inspection and again on a further inspection in October.
The line eventually opened on 20 December 1866. From the beginning the line was operated by the LSWR under an agreement which gave the Salisbury and Dorset Railway company 55% of the gross receipts.
The final piece of construction to be completed was a station in Alderholt, which opened on 1 January 1876. This followed years of lawsuits between the railway company (who had no desire to build the station) and George Onslow Churchill, a local landowner who had sold land to the company with an agreement that a station would be built. The station was originally called Alderholt, but was renamed Daggens Road five months after it opened to avoid confusion with Aldershot in Hampshire. The spelling changed to Daggons Road in 1903.
The Salisbury & Dorset continued to propose extensions south to provide better links with Poole and/or Bournemouth. In 1878 a bill was placed before Parliament for a ‘Bournemouth Direct Railway’. This included provision for the GWR to be involved in operating the line. This alarmed the LSWR and, despite the bill coming to nothing, they were keen to protect their territory from their great commercial rival. On 31 May 1882, members of the Salisbury and Dorset board met with LSWR directors to discuss amalgamation. This was completed on 20 August 1883.
In 1893 the LSWR completed a direct line from Brockenhurst, in the New Forest, through Christchurch, Bournemouth and Poole, to Hamworthy Junction. This had been built piecemeal over the previous 30 years and relegated the original route of the Southampton and Dorchester between Brockenhurst and Hamworthy to branch line/diversionary route status. As part of this development a line had opened in 1872 from Broadstone to Poole and this allowed trains to run directly from Salisbury to Poole and Bournemouth.
The most serious accident in the history of the line occurred on 3 June 1884 when the 4.33pm Salisbury-Weymouth train detached from the engine and derailed about 1 and a quarter miles south of Downton. 41 people were injured and 4 died. Three of these drowned after a carriage overturned into a drainage ditch. The LSWR Locomotive Superintendent, William Adams, claimed that the crash had been caused by a broken coupling between the leading brake van and the first carriage. However the subsequent Board of Trade inquiry, led by Colonel JH Rich, rejected this theory. Colonel Rich stated that the cause was inferior passenger rolling stock travelling too fast over a track not designed for that speed.
Another accident occurred on 2 November 1904, when the final 13 wagons and two brake vans from a Salisbury bound freight train broke away just south of Downton station. The wagons were stopped by a guard in one of the brake vans but the 7.58pm train from Salisbury crashed into them at 20 mph. Two people were injured, with no fatalities.
Traffic on the line
The local traffic  was bucolic in its nature. During the 40s and 50s[clarification needed] the area was put to wheat production, and agricultural traffic was always a priority with Crane Valley watercress being popular as were strawberries and other soft fruit. Diversionary traffic on the line was heavier than might be expected, and the Pines Express used the line when the 'other' S&D was unable to provide a path.
Other traffic included newspaper trains and pigeon specials (Fordingbridge was a favourite site for release). In addition, there was a large grain warehouse owned by Dukes who eventually took over the station yard after closure. One of the problems endured by the line was a constant shortage of stock, which was exacerbated in the 1950s with the wholesale withdrawal of pre-grouping coaching stock and desperate measures were necessary. Salisbury received an articulated SECR railmotor P+P Isle of Sheppey set after its withdrawal from the Portland branch. This was employed on workmen's specials from Idmiston-Salisbury as well as the Salisbury and Dorset and a well-known photograph shows it entering Fordingbridge with a Salisbury-Bournemouth West local behind a T9.
Most, if not all, of the motive power on local services for the line was the responsibility of Salisbury shed, using T9s, SR Moguls, 700s, Qs, Q1s, Bulleid light Pacifics and in the final years, both BR 4MTs. Until 1959 Salisbury's carriage pilot, a non-auto fitted M7, was rostered on a Sunday-only service.
At the start of the 1950s, the line was almost the exclusive preserve of ex-LSWR motive power: Salisbury L12s, S11s, T9s and 700s. By 1952 there were six passenger trains each way on weekdays; the first was the Salisbury-Weymouth 03:52 which included a newspaper van 01:25 ex-Waterloo. During the 1952 timetable, longer distance trains started to use the line New Milton-Swansea, but by 1953 a Bournemouth West -Cardiff service was hauled by U class 31622 as far as Salisbury and on the same day a New Milton-Swansea train was in charge of BR 4mt 76016. In 1958, the last M7 duty on the line was performed by 30673 but this was a Sunday only service and by 1959 this ceased as an economy measure. It was not unusual to see double-heading on the branch, a particular example being the 07:42 Bournemouth Central-Salisbury but this was only for pathing purposes, the normal train being two coaches. However this particular service also saw the use of ex-SECR L Class 31771 on 21 March 1952, this loco having been transferred from Ashford to Eastleigh. In 1959, more ex-SECR locos displaced by the electrification of the Kent coast started to move westward, E1 Class 31497 became a regular performer on the 07:15 Salisbury-Bournemouth West. Other ex-SECR locos include N class 31835 from Exmouth Junction, transferred to Salisbury in 1964.
When the Railways Act came into force on 1 January 1923 the Salisbury and Dorset line, along with the rest of the LSWR, became part of the Southern Railway. Then, with nationalisation in 1948 it became part of British Railways Southern Region.
Following publication of the Reshaping of British Railways report by Richard Beeching in March 1963, British Railways announced formal proposals to close the line in early summer 1963, claiming it was losing £100 a mile per week.
Salisbury MP John Morrison supported the proposal and Salisbury City Council initially decided not to object to the ending of passenger services; however there was much opposition to the closure. Those objecting included Poole Borough Council, Wimborne & Cranborne Rural District Council, several Parish Councils, the Viscount Cranborne Estates and the National Union of Agricultural & Allied Workers.
On 3 March 1964 it was announced that the closure of the line had been approved by Ernest Marples, the Minister of Transport. The date of the closure was 4 May 1964. Also closed on that day was the original route of the Southampton & Dorchester line from Brockenhurst to Broadstone; the section from Brockenhurst to Ringwood completely and the section from Ringwood to Broadstone to passengers only.
The 4 May was a Monday, and as the line no longer had Sunday services the last trains were on Saturday 2 May.
The line was 18 miles and 41 chains from Alderbury Junction to West Moors junction, and was single track for its entire length with passing loops at some stations. The highest point of the line was just south of Whaddon between Alderbury Junction and Downton, the lowest was West Moors station. The steepest gradients were two stretches at 1 in 75. The first was south of Whaddon as it descended from the highest point of the line; the second was as the line descended from Cranborne Common between Daggons Road and Verwood. West Moors to Alderbury Junction was the "up" direction.
From Salisbury the Southampton line climbs out of the Avon valley until it reaches the site of Alderbury Junction. Here the Salisbury and Dorset line curved off to the right. It crossed the A36, Salisbury to Southampton, road close to Whaddon. It reached its first summit, and the highest point of the line, shortly after, before running south along the west side of the Avon valley high above the river. The line passed through Downton tunnel before starting to descend to the valley floor, passing through Downton station as it did. Once it reached the bottom it crossed the Avon and into Hampshire. The line then ran parallel to the river along its western bank between it and the A338, Salisbury – Ringwood road. It ran through Breamore station before running under the A338 at Burgate. Turning south west it began to climb out of the Avon valley, skirting the north and west of Fordingbridge and passing through Fordingbridge station. The line crossed into Dorset, passed through Daggons Road station and along the northern edge of Cranborne Common. Reaching its second summit, it turned south and entered the Crane valley before descending to Verwood station. Crossing the Crane south of Verwood it ran south to West Moors along the edge of the Dorset heath. At West Moors the line turned west to meet the east–west Southampton and Dorchester Railway.
Stations and other features
The line had five dedicated intermediate stations plus West Moors station at the junction with the Southampton and Dorchester line. All of the intermediate stations except Daggons Road were built with passing loops and two platforms. The station buildings were all brick but were not of a standard design. Apart from Daggons Road and West Moors all signal boxes were LSWR Type 1 boxes.
Alderbury Junction and Downton tunnel
Alderbury Junction was about half a mile from the village of Alderbury. Originally the West Moors line diverged as a double line, becoming single a short distance down the line. The layout was rearranged in 1943 to become a single trailing lead from the down (i.e. Salisbury direction) main line with crossover. An LSWR type 4 signal box was located in the apex of the junction. On the main line, to the west of the junction were Alderbury staff platforms. These were originally built to allow the transfer between West Moors and Southampton trains, but this appears to have stopped by 1881. After this the platforms were used for the families of railway staff, to pick up and drop off permanent way staff and in emergencies such as the failure of a train. Downton tunnel was to the north of Downton, on the descent from Whaddon to Breamore and was a small-bore tunnel, 107 yards long.
Downton station was 3 miles and 70 chains from Alderbury Junction and was located to the north of the eastern end of Downton High Street, the line crossing the road by way of a bridge. The station consisted of a passing loop with up and down platforms plus goods sidings. The main station building was a single storey pitched roof structure with mono-pitch canopy and was located on the up (north bound) platform. The signal box was a LSWR Type 1 box and was at the southern end of the down platform. The signal box was reduced to a ground frame when the station ceased to be a block post on 1 December 1922. A steel girder footbridge was installed in 1902; this was the first of its type on the LSWR. The station master's house was to the south east of the station, close to the signal box. Goods traffic was served with a cattle loading dock on the up side accessed by a lead to the north of the station and a small number of sidings for other goods, also on the up side, and served by a lead to the south of the station. After the station ceased to be a block post the down loop was converted to a siding with catch points installed at both ends. The station site today is a residential development with only the station master's house extant.
Breamore station, 6 miles and 67 chains from Alderbury Junction, was located close to the centre of the village; to its south east on the road from Breamore to Woodgreen. This crossed the line via an over-bridge just to the north of the station. It consisted of a passing loop with two platforms, cattle loading dock, accessed by a lead close to the southern end of the up platform, and a single siding. The station building was located on the up platform and was a brick twin-gabled single storey with mono-pitch canopy. Also on the up platform, in front of the station building, was a 13 lever frame which replaced the original Type 1 signal box on 29 July 1930. The original box was located at the south end of the down platform. At the opposite end of the down platform was a timber waiting shelter. The station master's house was located across the station yard from the main station building. Both the station building and station master's house are extant; the former was restored in the late 2000s.
Fordingbridge was the largest station on the line, with passing loop, two platforms, goods shed and several sidings. It was located 9 miles and 36 chains from Alderbury junction about three quarters of a mile west of the town on the B3078. The road crossed the line via an over-bridge to the north east of the station. The main station building was a substantial two-storey brick building with hipped roof and platform canopy and was located on the down platform. Beyond the southern end of the down platform was the Type 1 signal box. On the opposite, up, platform were a brick waiting room and a small wooden office and across the road from the station is the Railway Hotel, until recently called the Augustus John after a famous local resident. The goods yard had five sidings, all connected to the line via a trailing connection into the down loop. One siding ran into a loading dock while another went into the brick goods shed which was equipped with a 30cwt capacity crane. In the yard were a 5cwt capacity crane in the yard and a number of concrete cattle cake sheds. Apart from the hotel no part of the station remains, the site is now occupied by warehouses.
Daggons Road station
Daggons Road station was located on the Alderholt – Cranborne road, just to the west of Alderholt and 11 miles and 21 chains from Alderbury Junction. Its odd name was acquired from a local farm, the LSWR decided that Alderholt could cause confusion with Aldershot and the only other notable feature was Charing Cross. The road crossed the line by an overbridge to the south west of the station. The station consisted of a single platform on the up side with three sidings and loading dock. One of these, on the down side, was extended and converted into a passing loop in May 1904, but the station was never used as a block post. The station building, which included the station master's house, was a two-storey double gabled brick building with single storey extensions but no canopy. The signal box was a non-standard ground level box with a pointed roof and was located alongside the down loop, opposite the main station building. It was reduced to a ground frame in August 1903. There were two sidings on the up side, one serving a loading dock and one serving the neighbouring brick works. The down siding, converted to passing loop in 1904, served cattle pens and had level access for lorries. Behind the station, sidings served small brickworks and pottery. The main station building is now a private residence, part of a larger residential development.
Verwood station was 14 miles and 38 chains from Alderbury Junction, some way to the west of the village on the B3081. This crossed the line on an over-bridge just to the north of the station. The station consisted of a passing loop with two platforms plus goods facilities. The up platform was used in both directions when the signalbox was closed. When the signalbox was open there were two single line sections West Moors to Verwood and Verwood to Fordingbridge, operated by Tylers No 6 tablets, when shut the two token were locked away behind the lever frame (lever 11 was the section locking lever) and a long section staff was withdrawn for a section from West Moors to Fordingbridge. The main station building was a single-storey, double gabled brick building, with platform canopy, on the up platform. Next to it was the LSWR Type 1 signal box and beyond that a parcels store. On the down platform was a timber shelter. At the southern end of the down platform a ground frame was located, this had to be operated for the passage of all down trains when the signalbox was open, it also was required for access to the sidings. In the station yard was the Albion Hotel. The goods yard was at the southern end of the up platform and consisted of a number of sidings, some serving the nearby brick works. A single siding ran between a cattle loading dock and the up platform. Verwood was the only station, other than Fordingbridge, to be equipped with a loading crane. In the later years that the station was open timber for various railway works was forward to the works after being loaded by the hand crane. The Albion Hotel (now the Albion Inn) and the road bridge are the only remaining structures with the road being rerouted across the station site.
West Moors station
West Moors station was on the Southampton and Dorchester railway, just to the west of the junction with the Salisbury and Dorset line. The station was close to the centre of West Moors on Station Road, which crossed the Southampton and Dorchester line west of the station via a level crossing. The Southampton and Dorchester line was double track and the station had two platforms, loading dock and a number of sidings. The main station building was on the east bound, up, platform and was a two-storey building without a canopy. Next to the station building was a store and beyond that a concrete footbridge. This was installed in 1902 by the Concrete Construction Company. At the end of the up platform, next to the road so it could operate the crossing, was a LSWR Type 3C signal box. On the other side of the road was a two-storey gatekeeper's house. On the down platform was a waiting shelter. There were two goods yards. The first was accessed from the Salisbury line and included a loading bay at the east end of the up platform. The second was on the down side, on the other side of station road and included a loading dock.
There were five manned crossings on the line. These were:
- North Charford – between the Avon crossing and Breamore on minor road off the A338
- South Charford – just to the south of North Charford on another minor road off the A338
- Horton – between Verwood and West Moors
- Revelle's – between Verwood and West Moors
- Newman's Lane – north of West Moors
In addition there were three major unmanned crossings (where engine whistles were required). These were:
- Harding's – 5 miles, 381⁄2 chains from Alderbury Junction
- Coxmead – 7 miles, 341⁄2 chains
- Barton's - 18 miles, 51⁄2 chains
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