Bridport Railway

Bridport Railway

The Bridport Railway was a standard gauge branch line that operated in the county of Dorset in England. Starting at its junction with the Wilts, Somerset and Weymouth Railway line at Maiden Newton, the line ran to the town of Bridport and for a period on to West Bay, also known as Bridport Harbour.

After the idea of a Bridport line was raised in the early nineteenth century the reluctance of the main line companies to build the line resulted in a syndicate of Bridport people deciding in 1854 to build it themselves. At first it was built to the broad gauge and operated by the Great Western Railway, opening on 12th November 1857. The line was subsequently taken fully into that company and operated as a branch from the junction to West Bay, a name given to Bridport Harbour to promote it as a resort due to the harbour trade having fallen while the railway was planned and built.Initially the line had an intermediate station at Powerstock, variously called Poorstock. Later a station was added at Toller.

The line, the last in Dorset constructed to the broad gauge, was converted to standard gauge in June 1874.

During the First World War the West Bay extension was closed as an austerity measure. It re-opened at the end of the war but lost its passenger service in 1930 when the GWR decided that the hoped for resort would never arrive. The goods service continued until 1962 when it was withdrawn and the tracks lifted south of Bridport station. Then in 1965 the goods service was withdrawn from the entire branch and at about the same time steam traction was withdrawn. This left the line as a siding from Maiden Newton operated in the main by a single car Diesel Multiple Unit, usually a Class 122 or similar. The line was marked for closure in the Beeching Report but the narrow roads of the area and a subsidy from Dorset County Council kept it running. Having survived attempts at closure the line finally succumbed in May 1975, perhaps the last closure directly linked to the Beeching report (but see the branch from Alston to Haltwhistle which was closed in 1976). A replacement bus service was operated at first by Pearce's of Cattistock [] , but the operator changed with local authority contract. The track was lifted during the autumn of 1975 and little trace of it remains in some places.

The Line Today

The station building from Bridport was moved to Beer Heights Light Railway near Seaton in Devon, and the station building from Toller is now in the same county as the building at Totnes(Littlehempston) on the South Devon Railway [] . After many years as the office of a boatyard the station building at West Bay has had its appearance restored and houses an information office. There is a short length of track. [] Ironically this means that the first station on the line to close is the only one left with track. The station building at Powerstock has been a private bungalow since well before the closure of the line and the site of East Street disappeared under Bridport's ring road some years ago. The junction station at Maiden Newton remains open to trains on the Heart of Wessex Line. Part of the railway line can be walked and cycled on, from Maiden Newton Station for about half a mile, and parts of the old line past Toller Porcorum. Sustrans have funding to use the old line as a cycle path from Maiden Newton to Bridport, they are currently negotiating with landowners for access.


* Railways of Dorset J.H.Lucking Railway Correspondence and Travel Society 1968 (no ISBN)

* Powerstock Station - All Change, Diana P. Read, 1996, ISBN 0 9527522 0 4 (tells the history of the Bridport Branch line and in particular the history and people associated with Powerstock Station)

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