Five forgotten British railway lines and the abandoned train stations left behind

Five forgotten British railway lines and the abandoned train stations left behind


Britain once possessed one of the most intensive rail networks in the world, which by the outbreak of the First World War had reached a peak of 23,440 route miles. However, in the years that followed, nationalisation and the newly-formed British Transport Commission brought about significant closures. When Dr Richard Beeching’s 1963 report The Reshaping of British Railways was published, a further 4,500 route miles, 2,500 stations and 67,000 jobs were lost. But what happened to the station buildings of these long forgotten railway lines that were once the epicentre of rural life in Britain?

From platforms hidden in undergrowth to restored signal boxes, award-winning cafes and visitor centres, read on to discover the history of five abandoned railway lines in the UK and learn how their station remains have been preserved all of these years later.


Chippenham to Calne

Closed 20 September 1965

The Calne Railway Company was born in 1863 as a 5¼-mile broad-gauge single-track railway. Traffic remained buoyant on the profitable line until after the Second World War but the rot set in during the 1950s with increasing competition from road transport and, despite dieselisation of passenger services as early as 1958, traffic continued to dwindle. Today, the trackbed is utilised as a footpath and cycleway known as the Chippenham to Calne Railway Path. It offers a fantastic walk for ramblers who can meander the course of the old railway line through the idyllic countryside, while spotting remains of the original rail crossings on route.


Bath Green Park to Bournemouth

Closed 7 March 1966

The Somerset & Dorset Railway (S&DR) was formed in 1862 by the amalgamation of the Somerset Central Railway and the Dorset Central Railway – but the S&DJR was living on borrowed time due to its poor financial position. Train services were reduced and eventually the line was closed in March 1966. Today, there is much activity along the line. Bath Green Park station with its overall roof survives as a car park and covered space for events and markets. Midsomer Norton station has been restored by the Somerset & Dorset Railway Heritage Trust who are also re-laying track southwards towards Masbury. The 27-arch Charlton Viaduct now forms a backdrop to Kilver Court Gardens in Shepton Mallet. And at Shillingstone, the station has been restored and is open to the public.


Stoke Canon (Exeter) to Morebath Junction via Tiverton

Closed 7 October 1963

The 19½-mile Exe Valley line between Morebath Junction, on the Devon & Somerset Railway’s Taunton to Barnstaple line, and Stoke Canon, on the GWR’s mainline north of Exeter, was built in two sections. The northerly section between Tiverton and Morebath was opened by the Tiverton & North Devon Railway in 1884. The southerly section from Stoke Canon to Tiverton was built by the GWR and opened in 1885. Complete closure came in 1963 although the short branch line from Tiverton Junction to Tiverton lasted another year. The station building and goods shed at Cadeleigh & Bickleigh is now the home of the Devon Railway Centre, a very popular family attraction. Grown ups and little ones alike can enjoy the model railway and model village as well as a ride on the miniature railway and narrow gauge railway.


Newport (IOW) to Freshwater

Closed 21 September 1953

Initially worked by the Isle of Wight Central Railway (IoWCR), the Freshwater, Yarmouth & Newport Railway (FY&NR) opened to goods in 1888 and to passengers the following year. In 1913, IOWCR took over the running of its own line but soon went bankrupt. Despite this setback the railway continued to operate independently until it was absorbed by the newly formed Southern Railway (SR) in 1923. The early post-war austerity years brought the nationalisation of Britain’s railways and the line was closed completely in 1953. Since closure a 2-mile section of the railway route between Freshwater and Yarmouth has been reopened as a footpath and cycleway. The station building and platform survive at Yarmouth and have been transformed into an award-winning restaurant called Off The Rails.


Aintree Central to Southport Lord Street

Closed 7 January 1952

This 14-mile double-track railway was built by the Southport & Cheshire Lines Railway and opened in 1884. The line was worked by the Cheshire Lines Committee (CLC) and it remained independent until Nationalisation in 1948. Closure came in 1952 but the track was only lifted in 1960. Today the trackbed forms part of the long-distance Trans Pennine Trail to Hornsea in East Yorkshire and Lord Street station is now a Travelodge hotel.


This article is written by September Withers, a freelance travel copywriter and marketing copywriter with a love of the British countryside.


Covering the period from 1948 to 1996, The Times End of the Line chronologically traces the history of more than 400 long forgotten railway lines, region by region, from their opening to closure and a few cases to reopening. This book by Julian Holland is publishing on October 13.