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.

2 thoughts on “a bridge mystery

  1. That’s from the plan published in ‘An Historical Survey of the Somerset & Dorset Railway’, the same book which shows Charlton Marshall Halt on the wrong side of the road bridge! And yes, I’m afraid that I cut corners by not cutting the corners. My carpentry skills are not the best so decided to simplify it a bit….

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