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Weston, Clevedon and Portishead Railway

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of Lower Queens Road, Clevedon

The Weston, Clevedon and Portishead Railway was conceived and built initially as a tramway to link the three small North Somerset coastal towns of Weston-super-Mare, Clevedon and Portishead in the 1880s. [1]

It was a quaint and colourful standard gauge light railway which operated on a shoestring. It was 13.8 miles long with 19 stations or halts most of which had a small shelter and no platform. The line ran through beautiful quiet and level countryside. Most of the locomotives and rolling stock were bought second-hand from various sources, making a very motley collection.

1895 The company was incorporated.

1897 The section from Weston-super-Mare to Clevedon opened in 1897, and the extension to Portishead in 1907. The railway was built with economy in mind and there were no major station buildings or bridges. After years of financial struggle, the line closed on May 18, 1940.

The WC&PR was originally proposed as a standard gauge tramway in 1884 by the Weston-Super-Mare, Clevedon and Portishead Tramways Company to link the three small coastal towns. The line was planned to run on the street along the Boulevard in Weston-super-Mare and from there off-road apart from numerous road crossings all of which were to be on the level. An Act of Parliament to authorise the construction of the railway was passed on Aug 6, 1885.

Building of the Weston-super-Mare to Clevedon section of the railway began in 1887 but due to various legal and financial problems, progress was very slow, and the time limit of the Act expired requiring further Acts to be passed in July 25, 1890 and December 1891. Due to these delays some of the track had to be re-laid before the line opened because sleepers had rotted. The track along the Boulevard in Weston-super-Mare was taken up before the line opened due to complaints from the council. The section finally opened on December 1, 1897. Two years after the opening, the tramway was designated a light railway and the name was changed to the Weston, Clevedon & Portishead Light Railway Company.

1899 The extension to Portishead had been planned from the beginning, but financial constraints delayed its construction. It required another Act of Parliament, which was passed in Aug 1899, There were many objections to the proposed extension, one of which was that the line was to run through the streets in Clevedon. These objections were overcome, but a man with a flag had to lead trains across the street at 4 mph.

1907 The extension to Portishead was built as a light railway and opened on August 7, 1907.

1908 A traffic agreement has been entered into with the Great Western Railway. [2]

Links to the Great Western Railway were provided at Clevedon and Portishead , and in 1915 a short branch to a wharf on the River Yeo was built. Sidings served three stone quarries in the Gordano Valley.

1909 The finances of the railway were always precarious becoming serious by 1905. It entered receivership in 1909 and was in decline up to the outbreak of World War II, not helped by the increase in road traffic. It had relied on the transport of stone from the Black Rock quarries and the decline in this business made things worse. The railway spent 31 of its 43 years in the hands of receivers.

1911 Holman Fred Stephens took over the running of the WC&PR in 1911. He was known as the "Light Railway King" because he ran a number of similar railways, and though he got the costs under control, the financial situation remained poor. After his death in 1931 W. H. Austen followed him as manager until the railway closed.

1940 Due to an ever-worsening financial state, the Company applied for a Court order to close the line and the last train ran on May 18, 1940. The Great Western Railway purchased the line (but not the land) to use it for storage, and for a short time up to 200 coal wagons were stored on the line. It was decided to remove the track for use in the war effort, and it was cleared between October 1942 and late 1943. The legality of the ownership of the land was a long-running issue that was never properly resolved.

See Also

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Sources of Information

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