Station Name: RADIPOLE
|Location:||On the south side of Spa Road|
|Company on opening:||Great Western Railway|
|Date closed to passengers:||31.12.1983|
|Date closed completely:||31.12.1983|
|Company on closing:||British Rail (Southern Region)|
Demolished - all evidence of the halt has gone at track level although the access gate on Spa Road is extant, as is the path to the down platform.
|OS Grid Ref:||SY674811|
|Date of visit:||March 1983 & 24.11.2012|
Notes: Radipole Halt was opened by the GWR on 1 July 1905 to serve the northern suburbs of Weymouth which were developing at that time. It was part of a scheme by the railway company to counter road competition, particularly from Weymouth's buses. It was initially served by local rail-motors on the Weymouth to Dorchester South line and the Abbotsbury branch
It was sited in a deep cutting to the south of Spa Road bridge and comprised two timber platforms, each with a standard GWR pagoda waiting shelter in the centre. Access was by steeply inclined ramps to the north end of the platforms from Spa Road. There was also a ramp to the south end of the up platform from a footpath running along the top of the cutting behind Kings Road; this path was later taken out of use.
After closure of the Abbotsbury branch in 1962, Radipole Halt was still served by local trains between Weymouth and Dorchester South,and some main line services between Bristol Temple Meads and Weymouth also stopped: most of these services started at Westbury, Yeovil (Pen Mill) or Maiden Newton. The 1962 Bradshaw shows 18 daily down trains (the last calling just after midnight) but only two on Sundays, one late afternoon and the other mid evening. In the up direction there were also 18 weekday trains with three on Sundays, one mid afternoon and two in the evening.
BRIEF HISTORY OF THE ABBOTSBURY RAILWAY
The Great Western Railway opened a mixed gauge line to Weymouth on 20 January 1857; this allowed trains from both Paddington (broad gauge) and Waterloo (standard gauge) to operate a service into the town. The Weymouth & Portland Railway Act was passed in 1862 authorising the extension of this line to Weymouth Quay; services would be provided jointly by the GWR and LSWR, and a freight-only line from Weymouth to Portland would be constructed which was operated solely by the GWR. Both lines opened on 16 October 1865.
In 1872, a six-mile branch from the Weymouth line at Upwey to the village of Abbotsbury was proposed. Abbotsbury was established in the eleventh century on the site of an existing religious community. It would have been one of the most important villages in the county, with the settlement laid out around a wide market area. After the decline of its monastery, Abbotsbury became the quiet village it is today. It is set amongst the hills behind Chesil Beach and the lagoon known as the Fleet, and is known worldwide for its Swannery and the Sub-tropical Gardens; the swan sanctuary is over 600 years old.
The reason for promoting the line was primarily for freight, anticipating the commercial development of shale oil deposits and stone at Portesham, as well as iron ore at Abbotsbury which would be shipped to South Wales for processing. It was also suggested that the branch could be extended westwards to Axminster and Chard Junction, providing a direct line to Weymouth from the west for cross-channel traffic. A Bill was put before Parliament, but was withdrawn in 1873 as a result of staunch opposition by a prominent local landowner. A second Bill was prepared and went before Parliament during the 1876/77 session. This time the Bill was successful, and the Abbotsbury Railway Company was incorporated under the Abbotsbury Railway Act on 6 August 1877 to construct various railway lines to and from Abbotsbury.
Construction was slower than had been hoped owing to the difficulty in raising promised capital. This caused problems with the contractors, Monk and Edwards of Chester, and all work stopped in 1881 forcing the company to apply to Parliament for an extension of time; they also sought powers to make small changes to the route at Upwey and Portesham after a speculator bought land on the original route and then demanded extortionate terms. Parliamentary approval was received on 19 May 1882.
In February 1883 the local company reached an agreement with the GWR to work and maintain the line on its completion. After new contractors Green and Burleigh had been appointed, work restarted in October that year. This was not the end of the line’s difficulties, however, as the contractors were declared bankrupt at the end of 1884. The established consulting civil engineer George Barclay Bruce was given the job of finishing the line. Bruce had an excellent reputation as a railway engineer: he worked for many railway companies in Britain, Europe, Asia and South America and was knighted in 1888. The GWR advanced £10,000 towards the cost of completion and appointed a director to the Abbotsbury board. The branch station buildings were constructed by sub-contractor Edwin Snook of Upwey.
On 2 October 1885 progress in construction was sufficient to allow a trial trip to operate on the line for directors and shareholders. Colonel Rich inspected the line for the Board of Trade on 28 October 1885 and found it satisfactory. Therefore, after eight years, the short branch finally opened to freight and passenger traffic on 9 November 1885, but with little ceremony. Because the station at Upwey Junction was incomplete, a horse-drawn carriage conveyed passengers between Upwey station on the Abbotsbury branch and the original Upwey station on the Dorchester line, half-a-mile north of Upwey Junction. This arrangement continued until Upwey Junction opened on 19 April 1886, replacing the original station. Intermediate stations were at Broadway and Upwey, and a single-road engine shed was provided at the Abbotsbury terminus for the branch locomotive. From the start the line operated under 'one engine in steam'. The 1887 Bradshaw shows five up trains and five down trains with an additional evening service in each direction on Wednesday, and two trains in each direction on Sundays.
An incline was constructed at Portesham to link local quarries on the hill near the Hardy Monument. Once the line had opened it was quickly apparent that the expectations for it could not be fulfilled. There was only a little shale oil and it was not of a quality worth extracting; the iron ore was confined to one small area with no more to be found, and the stone at Portesham had no chance of competing with the extensive quarries at Portland. The extension was soon found to be impractical and once it was established that the line was not going to bring wealth to the area, it settled down to handle purely local traffic, with brisk passenger business at holiday times. On Easter Monday 1886, such was the demand that a double-headed eighteen-coach train ran from the branch to Weymouth in the afternoon. In summer months Abbotsbury Swannery attracted many visitors who reached it by rail.
In August 1896 the company was vested in the Great Western Railway by virtue of the Great Western Railway (Additional Powers) Act of 7 August 1896. The engine shed at Abbotsbury was closed at the end of September 1894, shortly before the line was absorbed by the GWR. By the turn of the century the Sunday service had been withdrawn but it was reinstated in 1905 only to be withdrawn again a few years later. It was again reinstated in 1933, lasting until at least 1938. The 1902 Bradshaw shows five trains in each direction on weekdays. As with many branch lines, more convenient road transport and the introduction of motor cars and rural bus services would eventually lead to an irreversible decline in passenger numbers.
There was a reduction in services during WW1, initially down to four trains a day, but in 1917 this was further reduced to three. With the high demand for oil during the war there was renewed interest in the shale oil deposits. A siding was laid at Corton (near Portesham) to allow the shale to be loaded onto wagons by German prisoners of war, who were brought each day from their camp near Dorchester. In January 1918 there was a proposal to close the line and lift the rails for re-use in France, but this never happened. The Corton shale siding was out of use by September 1921. After the war the branch settled back to a quieter existence with diminishing passenger revenue after the war as the popularity of motor cars increased. This decline continued when a local bus service was established in 1925.
By 1949 road transport had lured most of the passengers from the Abbotsbury branch, with an average of approximately five passengers on each of the winter trains, and between eight and nine on the trains in summer. In 1950 seven up and seven down trains operated, with an additional Saturday service in both directions. The 10.25am and 1.40pm Saturday-only trains from Abbotsbury ran into Melcombe Regis instead of Weymouth and then continued to Easton.
The Easton branch was particularly vulnerable to bus competition as it was paralleled by a main road for most of the way to Portland. Apart from the Bridport - West Bay route, the Easton branch was the first Dorset line to close to passenger traffic (on 3 March 1952) but it was retained for goods traffic. The Abbotsbury branch was also vulnerable to competition from buses, the more so because of the indirectness of a journey to Weymouth and the inconvenient siting of the station at Abbotsbury, some distance short of the village. A further disincentive to use the trains was that they made leisurely progress along the line, limited to 40mph, but with a 25mph restriction west of Portesham and 10mph ¼-mile east of Abbotsbury.
West of Upwey, the track was lifted in 1955. The last passenger train to travel on any part of the Abbotsbury branch was the REC ‘South Dorset Rail Tour’ on 7 June 1958 which visited Upwey goods depot. The line to Upwey closed to goods traffic on 1 January 1962, and the remaining track was lifted in 1965. Radipole (The ‘Halt’ suffix was dropped in 1969) on the main line remained open until 31 December 1983 when the cost of repairs to the platform could not be justified.
Today just over a mile of the Abbotsbury branch can be walked, from the western edge of Portesham to the site of Abbotsbury station.
Further reading :
|Last updated: Monday, 22-May-2017 11:59:04 BST||
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