A special work party was held on Monday 14th August when members of the team installed two replica running in boards on site. Until the station closed in 1956, large timber boards such as these would have been located one on each platform, clearly visible to passengers as the train ran in to the station. Thanks to a grant from Spetisbury Parish Council, we have been able to construct and paint these boards and provide concrete to secure them firmly into place in the approximate position as the originals. Firstly the ‘up’ platform (trains for Blandford and north to Bath) sign was located, then the ‘down’ platform (trains for Poole and Bournemouth) sign. For the latter, we made use of an old and still very firm railway concrete fence post to secure one of the wooden sign posts to. All they need now is a final coat of paint to finish them off. They really help make the station come alive again, and we hope to provide other authentic looking station signage in the future.
We have just taken delivery, hot off the press, of a stock of this reprinted booklet all about the Somerset & Dorset railway – known to its admirers as the Swift & Delightful (and its critics as the Slow & Dirty). This informative publication provides an introduction to the once important S&D, a brief history, a descriptive trip along the line and the work of the Somerset & Dorset Railway Trust, as well as colour and black & white photographs. A bargain at £2.50, we shall be selling copies at our station work parties and other events.
Earlier in the year we hosted two community work parties to clear vegetation from the access ramp onto the North Dorset Trailway at Spetisbury station. You might be wondering what has happened since. Well, here’s the story.
Spetisbury station is situated in an elevated position and access is only possible up a long flight of steps, or up a steep inclined footpath. The Spetisbury Station Project has been campaigning landowner Dorset County Council to improve the angle of the ramp, making it more suitable for all users of the Trailway including wheelchairs, prams and horses. Before the council could obtain quotes from contractors to undertake this work, vegetation had to be cleared from the sides of the ramp. We hosted two work parties at the beginning of the year when local volunteers turned out to clear this vegetation. The council then brought in a contractor to quote for the groundwork, but unfortunately the quote was double the budget for this work set aside by the council. No further progress was made, and the vegetation has started to take hold once again. We appreciate that council budgets are being cut back, but we feel that improved access onto the Trailway will encourage more people to use it. With the support of the local community, we therefore plan to petition Dorset County Council to look at ways of completing this work in the near future.
On Sunday 11th June we took part in Spetisbury Open Gardens, one of ten locations in the village open to the public. Thanks to some fine weather, there was a steady stream of visitors during the day which raised awareness of the work the Spetisbury Station Project is doing. We set up an exhibition tent on the ‘up platform’ (trains for Blandford and further north) where we provided refreshments, sales items and a display of artefacts found at the station site. On the ‘down’ platform (trains for Poole and Bournemouth) we displayed one of the two replica running in boards which have been funded by Spetisbury Parish Council. In the near future these large timber signs will be fixed to posts on each platform in the approximate position of the originals. The team also finished off a children’s ‘Pines Express’ log train for the ‘down’ platform. This has been made using left over logs following recent tree clearance near the station bridge by Dorset County Council.
The Somerset & Dorset Joint Railway was formed on 1st November 1875, following the merger of the Dorset Central Railway and Somerset Central Railway some years earlier. The new company decided on a shade of dark blue, known as Prussian Blue, for its locomotives and carriages, and this must have looked wonderful, especially with the staff uniform of dark green corduroy. This colour scheme had been introduced by 1900 but unfortunately it was rather short-lived, as from 1st January 1923 Britain’s independent railway companies were grouped into the ‘Big Four’ and the S&DJR fell into the hands of the Southern Railway and London, Midland & Scottish Railway. From the following year goods engines began to be painted black, and passenger engines soon followed suit. Carriages were repainted standard Southern Railway green, so the trains must have looked rather less colourful. Although we cannot appreciate the splendour of S&DJR Prussian Blue trains through black & white photographs, thankfully the colour scheme lives on in this little 0-4-0 tank engine ‘Kilmersdon’ and an original S&DJR first class six-wheeled coach on the West Somerset Railway. They can been seen at theSomerset & Dorset Railway Trustat Washford station. ‘Kilmersdon’ was built by Peckett of Bristol in 1929. It is not an original S&DJR locomotive and never actually carried the Prussian Blue livery during its working life, but it did work in Somerset at the Kilmersdon Colliery near Radstock. Coach number 4 was built at the S&DJR’s Highbridge works in 1886, and has recently been beautifully restored.
So we can only imagine how delightful this train would have looked approaching Spetisbury circa 1900, with locomotive and carriages all in Prussian Blue!
Unfortunately we have to report more vandalism up at the station site. Sometime between Saturday 3rd and Monday 5th June, a table was deliberately smashed on one of the platforms. If anyone spots any damage on site, or notices anyone acting suspiciously, please contact Moira on 07761 383563 or the police 101 non-emergency number. Thank you.
For the past five years, since the Spetisbury Station Project started, we have been piecing together historical photos, plans and information about the station and the trains that ran through it. It is always interesting when new facts come to light, and we are grateful to Chris Osment for sharing the information below, and to Russ Garner for providing information on locomotives and train services.
This 0-4-4 tank locomotive has been identified as number 10, working the 4.13pm slow passenger train from Templecombe (which left Bath at 1.45pm) on 15th July 1893. It was built by the Avonside Engine Company of Bristol in 1877 and is shown approaching Spetisbury station on the single track line from Blandford. We have learned that some dates quoted have to be taken with a pinch of salt, but we know that this photo must have been taken after the brick ladies’ waiting room was added in 1888, but before 1900 when the station was rebuilt with double track. So a date of 1893 seems correct.
Another 0-4-4 tank locomotive, this time working the 7am slow passenger train from Bath, in the late spring of either 1899 or 1900. This loco might well be number 53, built by the Vulcan Foundry in 1884, but this fact cannot be verified at present. Work began to widen the trackbed between Blandford and Bailey Gate in 1899 for double track, and the fresh chalk earthworks show that this work is well under way. Double track operation through Spetisbury began on 29th April 1901, with the station being rebuilt with a second platform, a new station building and signal box.
This early disc and crossbar signal was photographed at Spetisbury in the 1890’s. It is in the clear position indicating trains could proceed. If the red disc was turned through a right angle so the crossbar faced the train, this was an indication to stop. This signal stood just north of the station, where the track entered a cutting. The chain and wire leading off to the right would have connected to levers on the platform, from where the station staff operated the signals. During track doubling 1899-1901, this signal and the other disc and crossbar signal at Spetisbury were replaced with newer signalling and a purpose-built signal box.
This Somerset & Dorset Joint Railway signalling diagram for Spetisbury is stamped 22nd July 1901, Engineer’s Office, Glastonbury. It also bears a stamp from the London & South Western Railway Chief Signal Superintendent’s Office at Eastleigh. A signal box controlling new signalling and crossover points at Spetisbury came into use with double track operation during 1901.
A good turnout of passers-by this morning, but rain stopped play just after lunchtime. The rain is actually quite welcome (well, it is a Bank Holiday weekend after all….) as it has been dry for so long and everything is in need of a good soaking! Also our water butts needed refilling, as there is no available mains water supply on site. Amongst the visitors were two guys who stopped for teas on their long cycle ride from Shillingstone to Swanage. One small job for today was replacing the nylon cord on our horse hitching post, as some kind person has decided to cut the old one for some unknown reason. Otherwise we finished grading the embankment behind the ‘up’ platform, and determining the position of the two replica running-in boards which are nearing completion off site. These should be moved on site in the near future.
Easter Sunday was very busy at the station. A couple of local residents who have adopted a flower bed were up on site carefully tending their plots, and these are starting to look great. We have several other flower beds awaiting adoption, if you are interested in helping out please call Moira on 0776 1383563. The team were also busy landscaping the area near the road bridge. Recent tree felling undertaken by Dorset County Council has resulted in this area looking a little bare, so we have planted some shrubs to fill it up a bit.
Spring was definitely in the air today with some warm sunshine for the workers and visitors to enjoy. We were delighted to have been presented with a new bench generously provided by Blandford & District Lions, and brought up to the station today by Veronica, Nigel and Tony. This replaces the bench sadly vandalised last year and which had been originally donated by a local resident, Roy Guscott. Roy, now in his 80’s, is a frequent visitor to the station with his dog but finds any great distance a bit of a struggle, so he kindly provided the bench to give a nice resting place on his daily walks. Blandford & District Lions were keen to help replace the bench, and the concrete base to which it is firmly fixed was provided by the Spetisbury Station Project team. For more information about the Lions, please email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 0845 8332742.
There are now five local ladies and gentleman who have adopted flower beds at the station, and they are doing a marvellous job in helping make the site look its best for all visitors. If you are interested in helping out, please call Moira on 0776 1383563