Forest of Dean Branch Timeline
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.
The tramroad extension to Churchway comes into use, over a year later than scheduled
The tramway is sold 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.
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
Extensions are authorised which will ultimately link the SWR and G&DF at Awre.
The FODR is bought by the SWR.
The SWR opens between Gloucester and Chepstow. Conversion of the FODR to broad gauge is begun in the same year.
The line is opened as a branch of the SWR. At this point it is handling freight only.
Consideration is given to a passenger station at Churchway, but it will be 50 years before the line gains a passenger service.
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 dormant.
In 1877, Soudley Ironworks closes, resulting in a drop in freight along the branch.
The SWR converts to standard gauge. The FoD branch is converted at this time.
A new goods shed at Whimsey is opened and is renamed "Cinderford". The old Cinderford facilities become "Ruspidge"
Cinderford Ironworks is blown out, resulting in another drop in freight.
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.
Construction begins on the branch's passenger stations and halts.
Passenger services from Newnham to Steam Mills Halt are introduced
Passenger services are extended to Drybrook Halt
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.
Platform modifications at several stations are authorised.
Auto-trailer working on the line is authorised.
The new colliery at Staple Edge, Eastern United, begins to achieve large outputs, which the branch is able to take advantage of.
A fairly serious accident occurs at Bilson involving an Auto-trailer, fortunately with no fatalities.
The unused section from Drybrook Halt to Micheldean Road is lifted.
Ruddle Road Halt is closed. It is removed in June 1920
Some passenger services along the branch are withdrawn. Bilson Halt is re-opened.
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.
Passenger services between Cinderford and Drybrook Halt are withdrawn.
Extra loops are provided at Bullo to ease the traffic congestion.
Storage at Bullo continues to be a problem. New sidings at Northern United Colliery in 1937 do alleviate the problem somewhat.
Bullo Cross Halt is damaged by fire.
Another section of the line to Micheldean Road is utilised as Hawthorns Tunnel becomes an explosives store.
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.
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.
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.
The Severn and Wye line into Cinderford is closed. The FoD branch is now the only rail link to Cinderford.
The closure of the line north of Whimsey is implemented.
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.
The decline in passenger services is complete as passenger services on the branch are withdrawn. Removal of the halts takes place quickly.
Eastern United Colliery closes; the Forest of Dean coal mining industry is now in terminal decline.
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.
Northern United Colliery closes, and consequently so does the Churchway branch. The last steam workings on the branch occur.
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.
The FoD branch closes. The line is lifted by the end of 1969.