Forest of Dean Central Branch
The Forest of Dean Central Branch Line had been a major omission from this site since its inception; the reason being that its
somewhat brief life has meant that I've not been able to find out much about it until relatively recently. At the
time of its conception in the mid-1800s, the middle of the Forest of Dean was not rail-served and the idea behind the railway was
a branch from Awre Junction, just east of Blakeney, to Foxes Bridge Colliery, west of Cinderford (there had been an attempt to build
a railway from Foxes Bridge Colliery to Purton in the early 1830s, but the plans met with major opposition from various parties and
Parliament refused to authorise the line, although some construction work was done). The line was opened to New Fancy
Colliery on the 25th May, 1868, but in 1872 the Severn and Wye opened their Mineral Loop from Whitecroft to Drybrook Road, which
now served Foxes Bridge Colliery and rendered the extension of the Central Branch surplus to requirements; worse still, the Severn
and Wye also put a connection into New Fancy, and rail traffic used this line instead. The Central Branch was now no longer
needed; 1878 saw the line cut back to Howbeach Sidings (serving Howbeach Colliery) and by 1921 back again to Blakeney.
The line closed completely in 1959, but by this point had not seen any real traffic for a decade.
The only station on the line
was at Blakeney, and this was goods-only. Passengers had to travel two miles to Severn Bridge Junction, and on poor roads
Like the Forest of Dean Branch north of Drybrook, the Forest of Dean Central Branch is an example of a railway
that started out as a good idea, but became a victim of circumstances, perhaps an example of the downside of the Victorian "Railway
Mania". It's possible that if it had arrived earlier, it might have been more successful; who knows. Today,
some traces of the railway can be seen next to the Blakeney to Parkend Road.
The diagram below shows the (very) approximate
route of the Forest of Dean Central Branch. At the moment, the mapping past Blakeney is really only an "educated
guess"; other than my 1919 map of the Forest of Dean (by which point the railway was more or less out of use past Blakeney) I only
have snippets of maps to work from, and a century of forest growth has masked a lot of the trackbed. As usual, no right
of public access is inferred by this map (although some sections round Mallards Pike appear to be accessible).