The earliest plan for connecting Salisbury to the burgeoning railway network was drawn up by George Stephenson in 1837 with a proposed line from Basingstoke to just east of Taunton on the Bristol and Exeter Railway, by way of Salisbury and Yeovil. As with many railway schemes, this one came to nought but other schemes quickly followed, the first to bear fruit being a branch line from Bishopstoke (now Eastleigh) to Salisbury, built by the L&SWR, with the first train (a newspaper train) arriving at the terminus at Milton, south east of the city, on 21st January 1847. A broad gauge line promoted by the Wiltshire, Somerset and Weymouth Railway had come to a halt at Warminster in 1851 and would have stayed there were it not for great pressure being brought to bear on the GWR (owners of the WS&WR) to complete the line as far as Salisbury, which they did in June 1856 when they opened it to a terminus in Fisherton Street. Meanwhile the L&SWR was very slowly progressing towards Salisbury with a branch line from Basingstoke, initially opened as a single line due to difficulties in completing the full line within the timescale laid down. Opening on 1st May 1857, this line ran to Milford Junction, from where trains set back into the terminal station. Work continued with building the line through Salisbury and on towards Yeovil with the first through station opening at Fisherton on 2nd May 1859, the same day as trains started running as far west as Gillingham, and replacing the Milford terminus which was downgraded to a goods depot.

Salisbury Nameboard

The greeting modern-day travellers have at Salisbury station.

photograph by Tony Bush

Another railway, opened in 1859, was the grand sounding Salisbury Market House Railway that was promoted by the Salisbury Railway and Markey House Company. Originally conceived as a tramway, in the event this short line was built as a traditional railway to avoid street congestion. Remaining stubbornly independent, the company wanted the L&SWR to lay broad gauge rails through its station so that the Market line could connect with the GWR at its Fisherton terminus. This the L&SWR refused to do but did agree to leave sufficient room under the main line "for an arch proper for the broad gauge". This, though, was never constructed. The line was worked by the L&SWR and its successors, but was not included in the nationalisation of the railways in 1948, so remained independent for the whole of its life, which ended in 1964.


The outside of the 1902 Salisbury station as it was on 10th January 1976.

photograph by Dave Mant

When the main line to Exeter was opened throughout on 19th July 1860 it was hindered by two restrictions - the first due to much of it being single track and the second due to a badly structured station at Salisbury (Fisherton). This had a single platform, some 800 feet long, which had to accommodate both up and down trains. This situation was exacerbated due to the method of working adopted - trains would arrive in a "ticket platform", well outside the station, and wait for a path to the platform. A practice that did not endear itself to passengers!

Salisbury Map

The main line was doubled by 1870, but the problem of the station at Salisbury still remained. Expansion as the L&WSR would have liked was not possible as, due to the siting, it would encroach on the GWR's line and terminus at a time when the GWR and the L&SWR were on less than friendly terms due to the L&SWR's "ganging up" with the Midland Railway to out-manouevre the GWR and obtain ownership of the S&DJR! The answer was to build an entirely new up station east of the existing one, which then became the down station. Each had its own buildings and they were connected by a footpath and subway. The new station, with a platform some 683 feet long, opened on 19th August 1878. Fortunately relations between the GWR and the L&SWR eventually improved to the point when, in 1902, a new four platform station was opened on the Fisherton site, three of these platforms on land obtained by means of a land exchange with the GWR and by re-siting of the L&SWR engine shed. GWR trains were then allowed access to the through station by means of a double junction. This new station was badly damaged on the night of 30th June 1906 as a result of the accident involving the Ocean Liner Express, caused in some small part by the curvature of the station which had been necessitated when finding a route around the existing GWR terminus!

To a large extent the station and its environs was now as it would remain until rationalisation after the end of steam. Today there is no sign of the former GWR station (which closed on 12th September 1932), which is now the site of a SWT traincare depot. The steam infrastructure, of course, was demolished a couple of years after the demise of Southern steam in 1967. The trackwork has been rationalised slightly through the station, has been removed completely (bar a down bay) from the down side and radically reduced to the west of the station.

M7 class Nº30033 was the Salisbury station pilot on 3rd March 1962 and is seen here alongside the East Signalbox. The photographer is the proud owner of the smokebox plate from this loco which was purchased at an Eastleigh works open day for what is now a very small sum!

photograph by Dave Mant

30033 at Salisbury
30033 number plate The smokebox number from the above locomotive.

photograph by Dave Mant

A view taken between the coal stage on the right and the shed on the left on 23rd January 1966. The locomotive in store is BR Standard Class 4 Nº75066. Facing is the combined water tower, dormitory and stores building.

Photograph by Dave Mant

Salisbury Shed A view of Salisbury locomotive shed on 30th January 1966. Steam outnumbers diesel - but not for long!

photograph by Dave Mant

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