Sharpness Branch Line
|Sharpness Branch Line|
The Sharpness Branch Line was a railway in Gloucestershire, England, built by the Midland Railway (MR) to connect the port of Sharpness to the main Bristol and Gloucester Railway. The line opened for goods traffic in 1875 and to passenger traffic a year later.
The branch line opened on 1 August 1876, and was four miles long and ran from Berkeley Road station, which was the junction with the main line, to Sharpness, with an intervening station to serve the town of Berkeley.
The line's status as a branch was short-lived. In 1879, the Severn Bridge Railway (SBR) opened to connect Sharpness across the Severn Railway Bridge to Lydney and the Forest of Dean on the north bank of the river Severn. Passenger through-services were run between Lydney and Berkeley Road, and the through-line's freight capacity contributed to the further development of Sharpness docks. Sharpness station was re-sited as a through station.
Upon the opening of the SBR on 17 October 1879, it amalgamated with the Severn and Wye Railway to form the Severn and Wye and Severn Bridge Railway. This railway got into financial difficulties in 1883, and on 1 July 1894 was sold to the Great Western Railway (GWR) and the MR, becoming a joint line. The Sharpness branch (totalling 4 miles 54 chains (7.5 km)) was transferred from the MR to the joint committee on the same day.
On 9 March 1908, together with the opening of new connections between the MR and GWR to the south of Yate, a second junction of the Sharpness branch with the main line was provided south of Berkeley Road to enable freight trains from Sharpness Docks to go south towards Bristol; this line, 1 mile 22 chains (2.1 km) in length and known as the Berkeley Loop, was always GWR property.
This state of affairs lasted until October 1960, when an accident involving petroleum barges on the river Severn brought down part of the railway bridge. The bridge was judged to be beyond economic repair, and the Sharpness Branch Line resumed its earlier status as a branch. Passenger services lasted for only four more years, though, being withdrawn in November 1964, and the stations at Sharpness and Berkeley were closed. The line remains open for freight traffic to and from Sharpness Docks, though these services are not frequent.
Sharpness Berkeley Railway Ltd (Company No. 07166656) intends to re-open the line as a heritage railway. It will use the trading names "Berkeley Vale Railway" and "The Beaver Line". Freight trains serving the Berkeley and Oldbury nuclear power stations will continue to be operated by Direct Rail Services. Rolling stock from the Stratford on Avon and Broadway Railway was expected to be used but this plan has been dropped. In March 2011, site clearance at Sharpness was carried out by members of the Proactive Vision community group, which has obtained a lease of part of the line from Network Rail. Tracklaying began in January 2012. Sharpness Berkeley Railway Ltd, Company No. 07166656, was dissolved on 12 June 2012.
On 24 August 2015, a new group announced its intention restore the branch as a heritage railway with the announcement that it had secured a lease on the former diesel shed at Sharpness Docks with the nearby Canal & River Trust.  It currently plans to restore the shed to carry out restorations of its rolling stock before turning to restore Sharpness railway station. It has recently secured its first items of rolling stock from the Gloucestershire Warwickshire Railway.
- LMS Fowler Class 4F 0-6-0 No. 44027. Built in 1924. Undergoing overhaul. The boiler is currently at Sharpess, while the chassis and tender are due to arrive from Toddington in due course.
- LMS diesel shunter 0-6-0DM No. 7069. Built in 1935. Currently undergoing restoration at Sharpness. This was the first locomotive to arrive on site. 
- Oakley 2003, p. 121
- MacDermot 1931, pp. 406,633
- Bradshaw 1910, p. 606
- MacDermot 1931, pp. 404,632
- MacDermot 1931, pp. 442–443,612
- "Bid to reopen Sharpness railway line". This is Gloucestershire. 13 January 2010. Retrieved 2012-01-20.
- Marshall, Clare (8 March 2011). "Sharpness railway project chugging along". Gazette Series. Retrieved 2012-01-20.
- "Work begins on railway line between Sharpness and Oldbury". BBC News Online. 14 January 2012. Retrieved 2012-01-20.
- "Sharpness Engine Shed Opens". http://valeofberkeleyrailway.co.uk. Vale of Berkeley Railway. 24 August 2015. Retrieved 26 September 2015.
- "Engine Shed". http://valeofberkeleyrailway.co.uk. Vale of Berkeley Railway. Retrieved 26 September 2015.
- "First Locomotive arrives at Sharpness". Vale of Berkeley Railway. Retrieved 26 September 2015.
- Bradshaws Railway Guide, April 1910 (1968 reprint ed.). Newton Abbot: David and Charles. ISBN 0-7153-4246-0.
- MacDermot, E.T. (1931). History of the Great Western Railway, vol. II: 1863-1921. Paddington: Great Western Railway.
- Oakley, Mike (2003). Gloucestershire Railway Stations. Wimborne: Dovecote Press. ISBN 1-904349-24-2.