Christmas work party 20th December

We had some welcome sunshine for today’s last work party of the year, well I say ‘work party’ but not much work actually took place…. Instead, the team enjoyed a socially-distanced festive picnic lunch. It was also good to see other local families having their own picnics and drinks on the other tables dotted around the station site. From the platform we had a good view across the Stour Valley which had become flooded after recent heavy rain.

A total of 76 letters were posted in Santa’s Post Box at the station, mainly by children in the Acorn, Ash and Elm classes at Spetisbury Primary School.  Santa (aka Moira) and Santa’s Little Helper (Moira’s neighbour) worked very hard to reply individually to each child and also send small gifts and treats. This has become a Christmas tradition over recent years and we are pleased to support the local community in this way, and to have received such positive feedback from the school, including this post on their Facebook page:

The team would like to wish all its supporters and visitors to the station a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year, and let’s hope 2021 is a better year for everyone. Work parties start again on Sunday 3rd January – click here for a full list of dates. We hope to see you soon!

work party 6th December

It was a cold and frosty start at the station today, only 2c when we arrived, but at least it was sunny after all the rain of yesterday. So we were able to crack on with putting up the traditional festive decorations. Santa’s post box has proven a big hit with local children over the past few years, so we fixed this into position against a backdrop of a winter wonderland. The Christmas tree was dusted off and decorated and yep, you guessed it, Santa has once again got stuck in the booking office chimney!

We also looked at where we might position our reproduction bridge plate. We believe it would have been fixed to the end wall of the bridge parapet on the ‘down’ side of the line so as to be clearly seen by engine crews heading south from Blandford.  However, this part of the bridge is hidden by foliage so we may have to compromise and fix it to another part of the parapet where it will be more prominent. We also noticed that our neighbouring farmer has cut back the hedge bordering the field behind the station, which not only looks much better but will save us a job next year. To round the day off, Kevin made a stop at Charlton Marshall Halt, the next station up the line. We wanted to photograph and measure the interpretation panel there to give us ideas for the ones we want to provide at Spetisbury station in the future.

a bridge mystery

Visitors to the station are likely to pass under or over the old railway bridge, which took the railway over the lane to South Farm and Mapperton. It was built by the Dorset Central Railway around 1858 for their new line between Wimborne and Blandford. Although the line was constructed with only a single track, this bridge (like others on the DCR) was built wide enough should future growth require two sets of rails. The line through Spetisbury was in fact doubled around 1900, when the iron railings atop the parapets were probably added. When the Somerset & Dorset Joint Railway came into effect on 1st November 1875 all bridges and culverts were numbered and often given names, starting with Bridge 1 Red Bridge near Bath Junction at the northern end of the line. Most carried cast iron bridge plates displaying the bridge number to assist in identification. This official Spetisbury station plan dated 1923 shows it numbered as Bridge 215.

But, hold on! The S&DJR Bridge List, reproduced below, shows it as Bridge 213. A bit of a mystery…!

So, which is correct? Mistakes were known to creep into official railway station plans so we are sure it is in fact Bridge 213 Spetisbury Bridge. Bridge 215 Mackerel’s Bridge crosses a private occupation road so cannot be the one at the station. And luckily for us, the actual bridge plate survives today in private ownership.

We have just completed a full size reproduction of this bridge plate which will be fixed in position once the worst of the winter weather has passed. Although it was painted Southern Railway green at some point in its life, we believe such bridge plates were repainted black with white numerals and edging during the 1950s. Our friend Jonathan Edwards advises that “Bridge number plates were placed at the end of the parapet, facing the engine driver as the train approached the bridge. There would have been only one per bridge – i.e., not one in each direction – and would have been on the same side of the track as the mileposts. An extract from the Railway Year Book of 1930 states that the mileposts were on the down side of the line. Therefore the plate for Bridge 213 would have been at the Blandford end of the parapet on the down side”.  

Please note that this bridge is owned and maintained by Dorset Council.