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Local History

You are in: Dorset > History > Local History > Dorset's lost railways

The old railway bridge Hardy used to use

A long abandoned railway bridge

Dorset's lost railways

It's 45 years since the infamous Beeching Report, which began a huge reduction in Britain's railway network. Dorset lost miles of track and many stations in what became known as 'Beeching's Axe'.

It's 45 years since Dr Beeching's government report, The Reshaping of Britain's Railways, which saw a huge reduction in the country's rail network.

Britain's railway system was run by the state, and it needed to cut the railway's running costs.

Weymouth & Portland aerial photo

Weymouth & Portland aerial photo

Beeching's recommendations, said to be 'modernisation', saw a third of the network closed - 5,000 miles of track and 2,000 stations.

Dorset lost out significantly - many stations and several stretches of line were marked for closure.

Among others, stations such as Wimborne and Blandford - as part of The Somerset and Dorset Joint Railway line - were lost, stations in west Dorset, such as Lyme Regis, were closed, and services between Weymouth and Portland were removed.

Nature trails

Parts of the old rail route between Weymouth and Portland have now found a new use as a nature walk, the Rodwell Trail.

Similarly, Dorset Countryside has an ongoing project in the North Dorset Trailway, which runs along the old Somerset and Dorset Joint Railway line.

There are currently five sections to visit, in places such as Stalbridge, Sturminster Newton and Blandford, with further sections of the Trailway to follow.

Bridport Railway

The 'Heart of Wessex' line, which runs from Bristol to Weymouth, once had a branch line called the Bridport Railway.

Beginning at Maiden Newton station, it went to Bridport, with stops at Toller and Powerstock inbetween.

Beeching's 1965 report indicated the line should close but it actually continued operating until 1975.

Swanage Railway and Corfe Castle

The Swanage Railway and Corfe Castle

Wareham to Swanage

Although not mentioned in Beeching's report, the line from Wareham to Swanage was closed and track removed in the early 1970s.

The track has now been reinstated, and part of the line operates as a heritage steam railway and is a popular tourist attraction.

With the full track in place, enthusiasts hope regular passenger services from Wareham to Swanage will one day resume.

Dorset's closed stations

If you have any stories or photos that you would like to share with us, please e-mail the BBC Dorset website, or leave a comment below.

last updated: 26/11/2009 at 15:00
created: 29/09/2008

Have Your Say

What do you remember about Dorset's lost railways? Please also leave an email address (which won't be published).

The BBC reserves the right to edit comments submitted.

ed jabbari
it is very nice

derek.maple_row@btopenworld.com
Have you forgotten the railway at Shillingstone?. Have a visit to the station and see what the North Dorset Railway Trust are achieving.

Linda Springett
What do you remember about Dorset's lost railways? That is a very good question, one of which I am unfortunately unable to answer in a positive way due to Mr Beeching's decision to close them! I did'nt move to Dorset till 2002, but as a child I spent most of my holiday's in and around Weymouth. The only memory I have of riding a train on one of the now closed tracks, was the Weymouth Harbour tramway on my way to the Sealink ferry that was to take me to Jersey. It is a crying shame, that in this day and age, when we are being told to use public transport to reduce carbon emissions that these once glorious railways are no longer in use. Not only would it drastically reduce the enviromental impact we are imparting on the county, it would also solve a lot of the traffic congestion that contributes to the problem. And what an adventure the tourists would have travelling through the picturesque Dorset countryside. It would no doubt be a holiday that would not be forgotten for many years. And just think of the revenue that Weymouth and Portland Council could make if the tracks between Weymouth and Portland were re-instated, and especially so now that Weymouth and Portland are staging the sailing olympics in 2012!

Matthew Arnold
I work for the council in north dorset and we have several sections of old railway line that are both wildlife havens and commuter routes. The North dorset Trailway will eventually run from Bristol to Poole along the old Somerset and Dorset Joint Railway Line. We are currently working on the sections running from Sturminster Newton to Stalbridge and Shillingstone to Blandford.

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