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Leominster station copyright L. Oppitz
The Lost Railway
by Leslie Oppitz
Started in the 19th century railway boom, the line linking Worcester to Leominster took 30 years to build.
In 1929 Stoke Prior Halt was opened between Leominster and Steens Bridge, and in 1932 three trains were running on Sundays between Worcester and Bromyard. The line was generally worked by class 517 0-4-2T locomotives with 0-6-0STs used for freight. In later years more modern locomotives were introduced, and on occasions a diesel railcar was used.
Towards the end of the line's life, trains were often running empty yet there were frequent exceptions to this, when special trains were run for hop-pickers. These usually came from Birmingham or the Black Country and for this purpose special stock was used, described as 'third class coaches of the oldest type'.
When rural motor bus services began the line was doomed, although it was to be many years before it totally closed. The first section to go was the Leominster to Bromyard stretch, which closed completely on 15th September 1952.
Afterwards the stretch was used for six years to store some 600 condemned wagons. The last recorded train between Leominster and Bromyard ran on 26th April 1958 hauled by an ex-GWR class 45XX 2-6-2T no 4571 - six years after closure!
The Bromyard to Worcester section lasted longer, with the Bromyard to Bransford Road junction section closing to all traffic on September 7th 1964.
Touring the line from Worcester towards Leominster many reminders could be found. At Leigh Court the shell of the original station building was still there. It was derelict and covered with ivy, rowan and holly.
Situated close to the river Teme, a notice on a gate showed the site to be owned by various Angling Clubs. Visitors were asked to keep out although this hardly seemed necessary since the crumbling platform edge was lined with bee-hives!
Rowden station copyright Leslie Oppitz
In 1957 the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh visited Worcester and the Royal Train, drawn by two Castle class locomotives, was stabled at Leigh Court.
Afterwards the driver of the leading locomotive related that when approaching Leigh Court a horse was reported loose on the line. Detonators had been placed on the track – believed to have been the first time detonators were put in front of a Royal Train.
Before reaching Knightwick there were two short viaducts at Hayley Dingle and Broad Dingle. Knightwick station building, well to the south of the village, became a private residence known as The Heights.
Suckley station became a private residence, and at Bromyard the site became an industrial estate. It is from the entrance to this estate that in 1968 the 2 ft gauge Bromyard and Linton Light Railway laid its track. Today the Light Railway is no longer there. The track is still in situ and there are hopes that one day trains might return.
Travelling on westwards, Rowden Mill station proved an enthusiast's delight. The station, unstaffed from September 1949, closed to regular passenger services on 15th September 1952. After many years of neglect, a remarkable transformation began in 1984 when the site was acquired by its present owner.
Although today a strictly private residence, restoration work by the whole family since that time has truly recaptured the past. At the single platform stands fully restored GWR Inspection Saloon no W80976.
Platform seats carry the familiar GWR signs and an advertisement on the fencing reminds visitors that ‘Val peppermints 1d aid digestion and safeguard against colds'.
Another tells that 'Sunlight Soap' is made by 'Soap Makers to Her Majesty the Queen'. A hut marked 'Rowden Mill East Ground Frame' stands by sections of track. An ex-BR Diesel shunter adds realism to the scene. Built originally at Swindon in 1958, it was delivered to Cambridge as no 92. It became BR stock in July 1967 as D2371 and was re-numbered 03371 in February 1974.
last updated: 14/02/2008 at 14:24
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