SEmG

Somerset & Dorset Joint Railway

Another not strictly "Southern" line, but definitely within the "Southern" scope as the Somerset & Dorset Joint Railway was, from 1875, jointly leased by the LSWR and the Midland Railway, subsequently the Southern Railway and the LMS and then operated by the Southern Region of British Railways.

The line served a sparsly populated and rural area along its 71½ miles of main line from Bath to Broadstone, then over LSWR metals to Bournemouth West, with branch lines to Bridgwater, Burnham and Wells. The main line was notorious for its steep gradients, long stretches of single line and tortuous route as it crossed the Mendip Hills, so was often the scene of some serious double-heading, thereby increasing the line's operating costs. It was, no doubt, these facts that helped earn it the nick-name of "Slow and Dirty"! In contrast, the line to Burnham-on-Sea was of quite the opposite character as it headed more or less in a straight line across the Somerset Levels. The S&D's best known train was "The Pines Express" which traversed the route from Bournemouth via Bath Green Park to Birmingham, Manchester, Liverpool and Sheffield. The origins of this train go back to 1910 when the Midland, LNWR and LSWR introduced a Manchester - Bournemouth Express in direct competition with a joint GWR/LSWR Birkenhead to Bournemouth express which travelled via Oxford. The LSWR had a finger in both pies! Originally known unofficially as "The Diner" the train was officially named "The Pines Express" in 1927.

 
34064 Bulleid Battle of Britain locomotive 34064 Fighter Command at Wimborne on 30th October 1962. In the latter years the Bulleid Light Pacifics were regular performers on the S&D route as far as Bath Green Park.

photograph by Peter Richards

 
53808, one of the Robert Stephenson and Co S&D 7Fs at Evercreech Junction, 30th October 1962. Used mainly for goods traffic, they could be seen on passenger duties at busy times. (No, that's not a hole for the key below the '5'!)

photograph by Peter Richards

53808
 
Motive power north of Bath was provided by the Midland company, and south by the Southern although, of course, there could be quite a lot of overlapping of territory, especially when Midland engines piloted Southern ones south of Bath. In later years the route became the stomping ground of Bulleid Pacifics, BR Standard 4s, 5s and 9Fs (from 1960, which could handle eleven coach trains unaided) though the most famous locos of the route were the S&D 7Fs. Six of these engines were built in 1914 by the Midland Railway, especially for the S&D, to a Fowler design. Then, in 1925, five more were built by Robert Stephenson and Co. They were to be found, in the main, on the southern part of the line between Bath and Bournemouth, mainly on goods trains but with the occasional passenger working.
 
44558 LMS 4F class 0-6-0 44558 at Bath Green Park on 30th October 1962. These locos were usually used on goods traffic, but at busy times would pilot passenger trains and could sometimes be seen working in pairs on passenger trains. Midland locos working south of Bath were supposed to return there the same day.

photograph by Peter Richards

 
After nationalisation the line was handed to the Southern Region, though the Midland Region provided the majority of the motive power. From 1958 the line was placed under the control of the Western Region (which had already been commercially responsible for a large part of the route since 1950) and this is when it all started to go downhill. In 1962 the announcement was made that all through services would be routed away from the S&D, leaving the line as little more than a local route with the through traffic going via Oxford. Moreover, with their hands now also on the North Cornwall goods traffic, the Western Region diverted that away from the S&D too. It is, perhaps, apt that the last up Pines Express over the S&D route was worked by the last steam locomotive built by BR, Class 9F 92220 Evening Star.
 
Another view of 53808 at Evercreech Junction on 30th October 1962. When working a passenger duty the maximum load for these locos was a very reasonable ten coaches, only one fewer than the considerably more powerful 9Fs!

photograph by Peter Richards

53808
 
In the not uncommon manner of these things, the Western Region took a census of passenger traffic during the school holidays, when that traffic was considerably less! These events, coupled with the rundown of the Somerset coalfields, the need for expensive double-heading and the extra manpower required led to the inevitable, and the line closed throughout in 1966. The line did have a small stay of execution when the bus operator who had applied to run the replacement bus service changed his mind and withdrew his application. This reprieve, however, only lasted a couple of months.

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This page was last updated 21 June 2005

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