Forest of Dean Branch Timeline - Railways of the Forest of Dean

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Forest of Dean Branch Timeline
June 1809
An Act of Parliament results in the formation of the Bullo Pill Railway of company, which has been constructing a tramway from Bullo Pill to Cinderford since 1797.

March 1814
The tramroad extension to Churchway comes into use, over a year later than scheduled

May 1826
The tramway is sold and and an Act of Parliament forms the Forest of Dean Railway Company. The tramway would be in use for another 25 years, but as time passes, it becomes less suited to the needs of its users.

1845
The South Wales Railway Act authorises a broad gauge line as far as Chepstow from West Wales. A proposal to extend the line along the west bank of the River Severn to meet with the Gloucester and Dean Forest Railway is considered

1846
Extensions are authorised which will ultimately link the SWR and G&DF at Awre.

November 1849
The FODR is bought by the SWR.

September 1851
The SWR opens between Gloucester and Chepstow. Conversion of the FODR to broad gauge is begun in the same year.

July 1854
The line is opened as a branch of the SWR. At this point it is handling freight only.

December 1854
Consideration is given to a passenger station at Churchway, but it will be 50 years before the line gains a passenger service.

Autumn 1863
A serious accident at Shakemantle results in a restriction of 45 wagons per load on the line.

1870 - 1880
A line is constructed from Whimsey to Micheldean Road on the Hereford, Ross and Gloucester Railway. This is intended as a northern outlet to South Wales, but the Severn & Wye's Lydbrook branch is finished first, even before work starts on the new extension. Despite being surplus to requirements, the extension is built with the GWR ultimately financing the venture. However, the line is never used; the exact reason for this is not recorded, but it is theorised that further expenditure at Micheldean Road would have been required. A small section is opened in 1885, but the rest remains domant.
In 1877, Soudley Ironworks closes, resulting in a drop in freight along the branch.

May 1872
The SWR converts to standard gauge. The FoD branch is converted at this time.

November 1884
A new goods shed at Whimsey is opened and is renamed "Cinderford". The old Cinderford facilities become "Ruspidge"

1894
Cinderford Ironworks is blown out, resulting in another drop in freight.

July 1906
The advent of steam railmotors, as well as the downturn in freight, leads the GWR to reconsider passenger services on the branch from Newnham to Cinderford. Proposals are put forward for a service between Cinderford and Newnham (including an extension to the S&W's new station at Cinderford) and to make use of the dormant line from Cinderford to Micheldean Road.

November 1906
Construction begins on the branch's passenger stations and halts.

August 1907
Passenger services from Newnham to Steam Mills Halt are introduced

November 1907
Passenger services are extended to Drybrook Halt

April 1908
The FoD branch extension into the S&W's Cinderford Station is opened for passengers. With the FoD branch route to Gloucester being shorter, this proves detrimental to S&W passenger services; however, the FoD branch continues to use Whimsey for Cinderford goods services. Bilson Halt is closed for public use.

November 1908
Platform modifications at several stations are authorised.

September 1910
Auto-trailer working on the line is authorised.

1913/14
The new colliery at Staple Edge, Eastern United, begins to achieve large outputs, which the branch is able to take advantage of.

March 1914
A fairly serious accident occurs at Bilson involving an Auto-trailer; fortunately with no fatalities.

1917
The unused section from Drybrook Halt to Micheldean Road is lifted.

April 1917
Ruddle Road Halt is closed. It is removed in June 1920

March 1918
Some passenger services along the branch are withdrawn. Bilson Halt is re-opened.

1928
A quarry north of Drybrook is opened resulting in the reinstatement of the line from there to Drybrook Halt. However, traffic expectations are not reached.
The increases in freight on the branch are starting to cause problems at around this time.

July 1930
Passenger services between Cinderford and Drybrook Halt are withdrawn.

1932
Extra loops are provided at Bullo to ease the traffic congestion.

1932-1937
Storage at Bullo continues to be a problem. New sidings at Northern United Colliery in 1937 do alleviate the problem somewhat.

August 1933
Bullo Cross Halt is damaged by fire.

June 1939
Another section of the line to Micheldean Road is ultilised as Hawthorns Tunnel becomes an explosives store.

June 1940
Lightmoor Colliery closes. At around this time, plans are proposed for a new industrial estate at Cinderford that will be served by the branch. Ironically the plans take another 40 years to be implemented, by which point the branch has been closed.

March 1947
The hard winter causes severe disruption on the line.

1948 - 1949
The Drybrook branch is threatened with closure, but the arrival of bitumen manufacturers Berry Wiggins into the area gives this section a reprieve.

September 1950
The future of the line north of Whimsey is reviewed when a road widening scheme means that new level crossing gates are required at Steam Mills. It is decided to close this section of line.

December 1951
The Severn and Wye line into Cinderford is closed. The FoD branch is now the only rail link to Cinderford.

December 1952
The closure of the line north of Whimsey is implemented.

April 1958
Demolition work on the Drybrook branch is reported as complete. The bridges on the S&W Cinderford Extension were removed around this time in order to allow access for cranes.

November 1958
The decline in passenger services is complete as passenger services on the branch are withdrawn. Removal of the halts takes place quickly.

January 1959
Eastern United Colliery closes; the Forest of Dean coal mining industry is now in terminal decline.

October 1964
The rail bridge on the A48 at Bullo is struck by a lorry. Despite the opportunity presented to close the branch, repairs are swiftly undertaken and the branch re-opens quickly.

December 1965
Northern United Colliery closes, and consequently so does the Churchway branch. The last steam workings on the branch.occur.

1966-1967
Cinderford is closed to goods and parcels traffic. This leaves Berry Wiggins as the only major user of the branch and after they relocate to Lydney, there is no further use for the branch.

August 1967
The FoD branch closes. The line is lifted by the end of 1969.
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