Shillinsgstone is a village in North Dorset, not far from my brother’s home. He and li’l sis’ are still exploring the area, so when I visited recently, it featured a trip to Shillingstone Railway.
The S&DR was an amalgamation of two railway companies joining. No trains ran between Blandford Forum and Templcombe, which was remedied by the new railway company. Shillingstone was one of the stations on the new line. And it was one of the many victims of the cuts by Dr Beeching, thus it closed in 1966.
Shillingstone is no longer a working station. It was originally opened in 1863, pretty much in the height of the railways in this country, operated by The Somerset and Dorset Railway (S&DR). Much the same as now, there were lots of different railway companies across the country at that time.
As a child who grew up with a railway line at the back or our garden and who used to run up to the bridge to watch the trains going through, I was too young to understand about the ‘Beeching cuts’ that I heard my parents talking about.
Beeching was, for a short time, chairman of British Railways. (By this time, all those independent railway companies had been acquired by the government and nationalised in 1947, after a couple of earlier temporary nationalisations.)
In the early 1960s, he wrote a report – The Reshaping of British Railways – commonly known as the Beeching Report. To be fair, Beeching was under a lot of pressure to make the railways more efficient, which was the rationale behind his report. Cutting a long story short, the report resulted in the removal of over 4,000 miles of track from our railways. A further 2,000 were removed by the end of the 1960s. It seems crazy knowing the effect it would have on people living in remote areas. And now we have our current concerns about climate change…
Facts about Shillingstone Station
- It is the last remaining station that was built to a Dorset Central Railway design (DCR was one of the companies that amalgamated to become S&DR).
- Edward VII, while he was still the Prince of Wales, visited the station in October 1899.
- The poet Rupert Brooke joined the Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve at the outbreak of WWI. He and his unit marched to Shillingstone Station where they boarded the train that eventually took them off to Gallipoli and to meet his death.
- As you will see from my photograph, the view from the station is fabulous.
What the future holds
The station is now owned by North Dorset Railway, who is restoring the station to the way it was back in the 1950s and 1960s. They have already renovated some of the buildings to include a café, a museum and a shop.
At the time of our visit, they were laying tracks and they are undertaking other restoration work, so hopefully we will soon see a service running. A range of events are regularly run at the station. For more information, check out the website:
It seems a shame that, even with so many small companies restoring railways like this, including my favourite Bluebell Railway, that it is unlikely that they will ever become the national network that they once were. Still, who knows what might happen….
© Susan Shirley 2019