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Snailbeach District Railways

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of Oswestry

Snailbeach District Railways was a narrow gauge railway in Shropshire. It was built to carry lead ore from mines in the Stiperstones to Pontesbury where the ore was transshipped to the Great Western Railway's Minsterley branch line. Coal from the Pontesford coal mines travelled in the opposite direction. The line ended at Snailbeach, the location of Shropshire's largest and richest lead mine, though there had been a plan to extend it further, which would have brought it closer to more lead mines. [1]

1873 The company was incorporated. The line is 3.25 miles in length. [2]

The railway opened in 1873 with the unusual gauge of 2 ft 3¾ in (705 mm). In 1923 it was taken over and re-equipped by Holman Fred Stephens. Stephens bought two new Baldwin locomotives from the War Department Light Railways.

When the mines closed the line lost much of its traffic but was rescued by a new traffic flow of stone from Callow Hill Quarry. There was virtually no traffic on the upper part of the line but it remained open as the locomotive shed was at Snailbeach.

In 1947 all three remaining steam locomotives were unusable and the railway was moribund. The locomotives were cut up at Snailbeach in 1950. The lower section was leased by Shropshire County Council who used it to transport road-building materials from Callow Hill Quarry to Pontesbury.

When the last steam locomotive failed, loaded wagons were run from the quarry to Pontesbury by gravity, and then, when enough were ready, hauled back using a Fordson tractor straddling the rails. The railway closed for good in 1959, the last railway equipment being scrapped in 1961. The Talyllyn Railway purchased the remaining track.

The quarry remained open but the railway was lifted and, between Callow Hill and the road bridge at Pontesbury, converted into a road. Shropshire County Council ran their lorries along this road and paid rent to the railway company. As lorries became larger the long single-track road from Callow Lane to the quarry became impractical and was closed. A new access road was built in 1998 from the A488 in Pontesbury to the quarry at Callow Hill, when the quarry was extended and deepened.

Shropshire County Council sold the quarry to Tarmac plc, in 2003 with quarrying permission until 2013.

2006 At this time (late 2006) there is no active work at the quarry and most heavy machinery has been removed.



See Also

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Sources of Information

  1. [1] Wikipedia
  2. The Stock Exchange Year Book 1908