The Branch Line Society

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The Weymouth Walkabout
Saturday 23rd March 2019

Report by Neil Greenwood.


During the 1½ hour break on our 'Marching Crompton II' railtour in Weymouth, before the return to Crewe, Tom Gilby kindly led a conducted walk for 17 tour participants along the route of the Weymouth Tramway from Weymouth Jn, close to the existing station down to the former Weymouth Quay station, about a mile in distance.


The only inaccessible part of the whole route is the first few hundred yards from Weymouth Jn to the B3155 level crossing.
[© Neil Greenwood, 2019]


The only inaccessible part of the whole route is the first few hundred yards from Weymouth Jn to the B3155 level crossing, still available as an Engineer's Sidings and occasionally used. Then the whole route is easily walkable. As if to reaffirm that this line is not passable, the colour light signal at the far end shows a definitive red aspect. Looking the other way in the direction of the Quay the track can clearly be seen embedded in the tarmac. Not an easy job to lift it should that ever be deemed necessary. Indeed an article in the 'Dorset Echo' of 11 Feb, 2019 cited lifting it would cost many millions as the sleepers are buried under the road surface. Removing the track would have to be subject to further consultation and negotiation with the highways authority and the government would have to agree to close the line. [Its current status is out of use permanently, but not 'closed'.]

The Weymouth Quay branch OG 16 Oct 1865 and 24 years later OP 4 Aug 1889. As freight traffic grew, several sidings and loops were added to the main line to serve harbour side businesses. Town Bridge was rebuilt in 1930 and the tramway initially routed through the northern arch. Between 1938/1939 the tight curve between the Backwater and harbour was replaced by a new curve on a recently filled in section of the quayside and the line was moved to the outer arch of the bridge, where it remains now.

The track layout at the Quay station was gradually increased from a single track, to a double-track layout up to 1961, and finally a three-track arrangement until the end of regular traffic, but from 1973 in a truncated layout. Regular goods traffic ceased in 1972, but fuel oil was transported to a facility at the pier until 1983. Our Society took 33108 down the branch on 29 Nov 1986 with 'The Intrinsic Treacle Eater' tour. Regular passenger services ceased in 1987 when the South Western main line to Weymouth was electrified with third rail. There were some experiments in 1997 with a flywheel vehicle but this did not result in permanent traffic on the line. Notable tours towards the end include four Hertfordshire Railtours shuttles from Weymouth Town to Quay on 3 Apr 1993 using 33109.


No 2 in the sequence along the branch from the junction to Quay
[© Neil Greenwood, 2019]


On Wednesdays from 14 Jul until 25 Aug 1993 a regular Class 37 hauled 12.45 Weymouth Quay to Yeovil Pen Mill train, marketed as 'The Paradise Flyer' [don't ask!], used the loco and stock off the 09.00 Bristol to Weymouth. This returned to Weymouth Town for its booked 16.30 working to Bristol.


No 3 in the sequence along the branch from the junction to Quay
[© Neil Greenwood, 2019]




No 4 in the sequence along the branch from the junction to Quay
[© Neil Greenwood, 2019]


A 6 Nov 1993 Pathfinder tour from Manchester to Weymouth Quay, the 'Itchen Piddle' took 37405 down the branch. There can't have been many occasions a Class 37 ran on the Quay line, which in the diesel era saw a limited diet of, initially, Class 03 shunters and latterly Class 33s. Perhaps the most interesting run occurred on a glorious 5 Jun 1994; 33116 took a special from Waterloo to Weymouth Quay and during the run down the branch a British Airways Concorde performed a low level fly by [did it have a pilot engine?]. Now that's something you don't see every day! The curtain fell on the branch on 2 May 1999 when Pathfinder ran a morning and afternoon train from Yeovil to Weymouth Quay 'the Wey-Fare'. The honour of hauling the last train down the branch fell to 73138 and 73106.


No 5 in the sequence along the branch from the junction to Quay
[© Neil Greenwood, 2019]




No 6 in the sequence along the branch from the junction to Quay
[© Neil Greenwood, 2019]




A reminder of just how big and daunting a train is at ground level. (August 1977)
[© Ian Mortimer 1977]




Approaching Quay station, looking back towards the town the remains of the cargo stage at Custom House Quay can be seen. A loop, where the cars are parked, once enabled the transfer of goods between rail and ship.
[© Neil Greenwood, 2019]


Approaching Quay station, looking back towards the town the remains of the cargo stage at Custom House Quay can be seen. A loop, where the cars are parked, once enabled the transfer of goods between rail and ship.


The same location with that loop, disused but in situ, August 1977 and The Channel Island Boat train passing. Note the complex pointwork bottom left
[© Ian Mortimer 1977]




The tramway formerly split into three tracks at the station, looking back towards the junction.
[© Neil Greenwood, 2019]




Looking in the other direction, the remaining platform; ferries used to load on the right.
[© Neil Greenwood, 2019]




Weymouth Quay station is now very run down
[© Neil Greenwood, 2019]


Weymouth Quay station is now very run down. So what of the future for this unique line? The Campaign for Better Transport has listed the line as a 'Priority 2' project which identifies its reinstatement as feasible but requires further development or changed circumstances to enable this to progress. There is no mention of how such a scheme for Weymouth could be revived or funded or whether it would involve a regular service linking with the main line or, as previously explored, a railcar ferrying passengers along the harbour line as a tourist attraction. The line has been at the centre of controversy over the years and has been blamed for causing multiple accidents. The reality is that reviving a train service along the branch looks unlikely any time soon. Many thanks to Tom Gilby for arranging and leading this most interesting and opportune fixture while the Society was in town.


August 1977 again, the Channel Island Boat train was an impressive length; 10-12 coaches. Four years earlier on a 2-week All Line Rover (£32) your BLN Editor realised, for the first time, at Weymouth Quay that it was important to be at the 'right' end of such a long train.
[© Ian Mortimer 1977]

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