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7 November 2014
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About Herefordshire

Steam train at Bromyard station

Westwards from Worcester - part three

by Leslie Oppitz
The complicated history of the branch line from Worcester to Bromyard.

Leslie Oppitz

Leslie Oppitz lives near Welshpool in Wales and is author to numerous railway books

One of his latest publications is 'Lost Railways of Herefordshire & Worcestershire' which is available price £9.95 at all good bookshops

Coach at Fencote station
Coach at Fencote station

Rowden Mill has its own railway carriage with an interesting history.

Fencote station
Fencote station

In November 1987 it was withdrawn at Gateshead and a year later it was acquired for use at Rowden Mill.

It is currently painted 'mid-brunswick green' as D2371 and is fully operational and dual braked.

In a nearby siding stands a coach which was originally built in 1936 as kitchen car M30088 for the Coronation Scot.

In 1958 it was converted into Inspection Saloon TDM 395279 when it was known as the "movement manager's saloon".

It was subsequently pensioned off for use as a TOPS training coach at Luton.

In 1985 it was moved to Rowden Mill where it was tastefully modified to provide self-catering accommodation for holidays.

It is no wonder that in March 1989 Rowden Mill received the British Rail Award in the Ian Allan Railway Heritage Awards for the Best Renovated Non-Working station.

In 1997 Rowden Mill celebrated its centenary by publishing a booklet on the line as well as providing an open weekend with GWR Tank locomotive no 1450 on site for the weekend.

Fencote station

Just under 2½ miles away (or at one time nine minutes by train) can be found Fencote, another splendidly restored station.

Like Rowden Mill it is situated in an isolated area and it is hard to believe that either station ever had more than a few passengers at one time.

Fencote is another strictly private property but visitors would be welcome where prior permission has been received.

This is a two platform station with the waiting rooms, parcels office, ticket office and even an old pillar box still intact.

Since the author's first visit to Fencote in 1989 much additional work has been completed.

The permanent way, by the up platform, has been relaid, head-shunt and stop blocks completed and foot crossings have been installed.

In addition the signal box has been made operational with a 23 lever frame installed with six already working and more waiting connection.

An LMS Inspection Saloon, PMW 45044, stands at the up platform and has been converted to a Camping Coach. The coach was acquired from the GWR Staff Association at Dawlish Warren.

Runaway train

From the late 1940s there is a tale that there was an alarming incident when a coal truck was being shunted from Fencote's yard to the ‘down' platform.

Unfortunately it was not known that the wagon's parking brake was defective and, since the station stood at the highest point on the branch (685 ft above sea level), the wagon continued on its way.

Signalmen along the line were alerted and, after gathering speed down a falling gradient of 1 in 30, it passed through Steens Bridge (2½ miles on) at around 60 mph!

It was decided to set the line so the wagon would run into the Leominster engine shed siding and stand back and wait.

The wagon duly arrived, smashed the stop blocks, demolished itself scattering the coal down a bank.

Steens Bridge station has given way to a small housing estate built on the site with semi-detached bungalows built along what was the platform edge.

A bridge over the A44 Leominster road has been demolished. Beyond Stoke Prior Halt the track curved sharply northwards to run parallel for over a mile to the Shrewsbury & Hereford line.

The trackbed along this latter stretch has become part of today's A49 Leominster bypass.

Passing as it did through delightful and unpopulated countryside, one had the feeling that this was a line that was doomed to failure before it really started.

last updated: 18/06/08
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