The first railway in Dorset was not a steam operated
line, but one worked by horses and gravity, to
transport Portland stone from the quarries to the sea.
However, the first true main line in the county was
the Southampton & Dorchester which opened on
1 June 1847 followed by the Wilts, Somerset
& Weymouth Railway (WSWR) which reached
Weymouth on 20 January 1857. The Southampton &
Dorchester Railway had running power over the line
between Dorchester and Weymouth and opened to
Weymouth in 1857. The Salisbury & Yeovil Railway
opened to Gillingham in 1859, and to Yeovil and
onwards to Exeter in 1860. The Dorset Central
Railway was inaugurated between Wimborne and
Blandford in November 1860 and northwards to
Cole in 1862 where it linked with the Somerset
Central Railway, the two companies uniting as the
Somerset & Dorset Railway. The extension to Bath
opened on 20 July 1874 creating a new main line.
Thus was established the pattern of four main lines in
Dorset: two running approximately east to west and
two north to south. From these main lines, branches
were created to serve places off a main line such as
to Lyme Regis, Bridport, Abbotsbury, Portland and
Swanage. For decades these branch lines flourished,
but eventually the more convenient internal-combustion
engined vehicles rendered these branches
uneconomic and they were closed around the time
of the 1963 Beeching Report.
Colin Maggs, the renowned expert on railway history,
tells the fascinating tale of the railways and the impact
they had on the lives of everyone in the county. The
nostalgic branch lines with their small local trains and
the main lines with their thundering expresses, are all
part of a rich heritage which is explored in an expert
text and in more than two hundred evocative images
to present an absorbing view of Dorset’s recent past.
Colin G Maggs has published more than
70 books to date, has written countless
magazine and newspaper articles and
has appeared frequently on radio and
television. Mr Maggs was awarded the
MBE in 1993 for services to railway
history and was awarded an honorary
MA by the University of Bath in 1995.
Imprint: Halsgrove. ISBN 978 1 871164 66 4, hardback, 297x210mm, 160 pages. Published June 2009.