History

The history of the Sharpness Branch Line, orginally started on the other side of the River Severn with Parliament approving the Lydney & Lydbrook tramway in 1809, to transport coal & minerals from the Forest of Dean down to the port of Lydney. It opened the following year in June 1810 and was renamed the Severn and Wye and Canal Company. For many years horses were used to pull carts along the line, but in 1864 the railway company started to experiment with steam locomotives. Such was it’s success that a number of new locomotives were ordered and by 1868 a board gauge line (7ft 1/4in) was laid alongside, but this was short lived and relaid to standard gauge by 1874. In the following year the first passengers started to be carried on the line from Lydbrook to Lydney.

By the 1870’s interest was growing in linking up the railway lines of the Dean Forest with the mainline from Birmingham to Bristol in order to speed up the transportation of coal from the Forest. As a result work started on the construction of the Severn Railway bridge in 1875 by the Severn Bridge Railway Company with the line from Berkeley Road (on the MR mainline) to Lydney via Sharpness and the Severn Bridge opening on Oct 17 1879. Soon after the two companies amalgamated to form the Severn and Wye and Severn Bridge Railway Company, but this went bnankrupt in 1893.

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Unusally the following year the line was jointly purchased by the Great Western Railway (GWR) and Midland Railway (MR). GWR already owned a lot of the lines in the Forest of Dean and South Wales, which served many local collieries, and the MR owned the Birmingham to Bristol route. At this point the railway was renamed to the Severn and Wye Joint Railway (S&WJR).

 

 

 

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The main revenue for the company was from coal and mineral trains, so that by 1929 a passenger service North of Lydney town was stopped and gradually throughout the 1950’s passenger services on other parts of the S&WJR were discontinued, but the service from Berkeley Road to Lydney via Sharpness continued, until the night of Tue Oct 25th 1960.

 

 

 

severn_bridge_disasterThat night, in thick fog and a high tide, two barges, Arkendale H and Wasdale H missed the entrance to Sharpness Docks and hit column 17 of the bridge. The barges were carrying about 10,000 gallons of petroleum which ignighted, fracturing the gas pipeline on the bridge, resulting in 2 of the 22 spans collapsing on the barges, sadly killing 5 of the crews.

 

 

 

 

As a result of the accident, the passenger service was severed and by 1964 the stations were closed. The bridge itself was never repaied and in 1967 work started on it’s demolition, being completed in 1970 However by the early 1960’s Berkely Power Station came into operation and after the closure of Berkeley Station in 1964, the goods shed was demolished and a gantry crane errected for the transfer of flasks by train.

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