• 1854 : Meetings in Blandford and Poole were held to form the Dorset Central Railway.
  • 29th July 1856 : An Act of Incorporation authorised the construction of a new 10 mile single track railway linking the London & South Western Railway station at Wimborne with Blandford, at an estimated cost of £128,000.
  • 13th November 1856 : The first sod of earth was cut in a ceremony at Blandford St Mary by Lady Smith of the nearby Down House. The expenses of the ceremony amounted to £224 13s 2d, including £71 for wine – clearly everyone enjoyed themselves a great deal!
  • 10th August 1857 : An Act of Parliament authorised the DCR to build an extension from Blandford through to Cole in Somerset, to connect with the Somerset Central Railway which ran from Burnham-on-Sea on the Bristol Channel to Glastonbury.
  • 3rd November 1857 : It was reported in the press “The navvies employed on the first section of the Dorset Central Railway, extending from Wimborne to Blandford, on making a deep cutting in Castle-hill, on one side of the road leading through the village of Spettisbury, disinterred on Monday, the 19th ult., a large quantity of human bones, among which were as many as 70 skulls. The whole of the bones were detached, and when found presented a crushed and broken appearance. In one of the skulls was discovered a spear head firmly fixed, the shaft having been evidently broken off before the body was interred; various weapon of war, such as swords, daggers, spear heads, with ornamental buckles and other fastenings for the dress, and a brass boiler-shaped vessel, evidently used for culinary purposes, exhibiting superior workmanship, were found with the human remains. The probability is that the disturbed burial place was a large grave, in which the bodies of the slain were hurriedly and promiscuously deposited with the fragments of the weapons of war they had used in the fight. No doubt can be entertained but that the spot where the remains were discovered formed part, 1,600 or 1,700 years since, of a Roman encampment, surrounded by earthen outworks, and was probably occupied at the time the Romans advanced from the western coast into the heart of the country.  The weapons of war and other ancient curiosities found have been compared with those of known Roman character, and correspond in every essential particular. The whole of the remains have been carefully preserved by Mr. Davis, the contractor of the railway, who appears to feel much gratification in exhibiting them to those who are curious to examine them”.
  • 31st October 1860 : At noon a special train double-headed by two London & South Western Railway tank locomotives left the original Poole station, located in Lower Hamworthy. At Wimborne the train reversed and awaited the arrival of a train from London (Waterloo) conveying L&SWR officials before departing at 12.55, the first public train to traverse the Dorset Central Railway from Wimborne to Blandford. The event was reported in the Western Flying Post on 6th November 1860 “On Wednesday last the inhabitants of Blandford and its vicinity celebrated the opening of the first section of the Dorset Central Railway line between Blandford and Wimborne. The day proving exceedingly fine the fondest anticipations were realised. The bells at 10 o’clock in the morning rung a merry peal, and continued at intervals the whole of the day. At 12 o’clock the majority of the tradesmen closed their shops until four in the afternoon. A procession was formed in the market place at noon which consisted of the Rifle Band, the 8th Dorchester Rifles, the Sergeant at Mace, the Worshipful the Mayor and the Corporation of the town; then followed many of the inhabitants, Mr. Perry’s Grammar School, the National and Infant Schools and the British School. The procession marched to Blandford St Mary to welcome the arrival of the first train into the town. The embankments on either side of the line for several hundred yards beyond the station were completely lined with spectators who were anxiously looking for the train. The number present was estimated at not less than 2,500. During the half hour which elapsed previous to the entrance of the train, the children of the different schools were supplied with a bun each, and no doubt they enjoyed themselves far more than those who had nothing to occupy their attention during the half hour. At last the long looked for engine appeared in sight, covered with mottoes, such as “Success to the Dorset Central Railway,” which was the signal for a loud cheer, which rent the air. The Directors were received by the Mayor and Corporation with greetings of pleasure and the procession proceeded to the town. At the luncheon several excellent speeches were made to a crowded audience. A ball was given at the Corn Exchange in the evening, commencing at 9 o’clock. Mr R. Eyers’s band was in attendance. The hall was filled, and dancing continued until four in the morning.”
  • 1st November 1860 : The line opened to passengers, worked by the L&SWR under a five year agreement for 60% of gross receipts. There were two intermediate stations, at Sturminster Marshall and Spetisbury. At first trains terminated at a temporary station at Blandford St Mary, adjacent to Ward’s Drove, due to delays in crossing the River Stour into Blandford itself. Although temporary, the station was provided with a booking office, goods shed and engine shed, as well as a turntable. According to the Sherborne Journal, the station was ‘unpretentious, and unsuitable for anything but the brief use which all Blandford residents must fervently wish’. A day’s work for engines and carriages was seven round trips totalling 140 miles.
  • 1st September 1862 : The Dorset Central Railway amalgamated with the Somerset Central Railway, the new company becoming known as the Somerset & Dorset Railway. The two independent railways were each extended and met at Cole in Somerset.  Estimated costs to build the new line between Blandford and Cole were £9,000 per mile. The DCR built new stations at Blandford, Shillingstone, Sturminster Newton, Stalbridge, Henstridge, Templecombe, Wincanton and Cole.
  • 31st August 1863 : The S&DR was opened throughout from Burnham-on-Sea to Poole. Shipping services also ran from Cardiff to Burnham-on-Sea, and from Poole to the French port of Cherbourg. The temporary station at Blandford St Mary was closed at this time, and was later removed. Sturminster Marshall was renamed Bailey Gate to avoid confusion with the new station at Sturminster Newton.
  • 20th July 1874 : At Evercreech Junction a new extension opened northwards to Bath over the Mendip Hills. This line passed through the Somerset coalfield, which became a major source of revenue. The S&DR was now an important railway linking the south coast and Bath with connections to the Midlands and further north. The original line from Evercreech to Burnham-on-Sea became known as ‘the branch’. Other branch lines ran to Bridgwater and Wells in Somerset.

  • 1st November 1875 : The S&DR was taken over by the Midland Railway and London & South Western Railway, to become the Somerset & Dorset Joint Railway.
  • 28th October 1876 : It was reported in the Blandford Express “On Tuesday afternoon a somewhat serious accident occurred to the train from Bath, which is due to leave Blandford at 2.36pm. The axle and other parts of the iron-work of the van next the engine broke, causing two wheels to leave the metals near Charlton Barrow. Fortunately, the guard and engine-driver both saw the danger, and the train was brought to a standstill on the embankment near the Endowed School in this village without doing any further damage than tearing up the permanent way for about 100 yards. The engine did not leave the rails, neither did any of the carriages. The passengers were somewhat shaken, but did not receive any further injury.  The engine was as soon as possible detached from the van, and proceeded to the station, where a telegram was despatched to Blandford for assistance.  A gang of men was soon on the spot, fires were lighted by the side of the line, and the line was clear for traffic shortly after nine o’clock. The passengers by the disabled train were conveyed by a relief train to Wimborne at about six o’clock“.
  • December 1895 : A direct line from Bailey Gate to Broadstone was opened enabling S&DJR trains to reach Poole and Bournemouth without having to reverse at Wimborne.
  • 29th April 1901 : Double track between Bailey Gate and Blandford was brought into use.
  • 1905  : A signal box was opened at Corfe Mullen Junction, which became the junction of the Wimborne and Broadstone lines.
  • 1919 : A United Dairies factory opened at Bailey Gate which despatched large quantities of milk by rail to London, at first via Wimborne but later via Templecombe.
  • 1st January 1923 : Britain’s railway were grouped into ‘The Big Four’ companies. The S&DJR fell into the hands of the Southern Railway and London Midland & Scottish Railway.
  • 5th July 1928 : New halts were opened at Corfe Mullen, Charlton Marshall and Stourpaine & Durweston. Additional rail motor services were also introduced between Templecombe and Bournemouth to compete with new bus services.
  • 17th July 1933 : S&DJR trains ceased to run to Wimborne. The original DCR route between to Wimborne was taken up the following year, although a mile of track between Corfe Mullen Junction and Carter’s clay siding was kept open for goods trains.
  • 13th August 1934 : Spetisbury station was downgraded to an unstaffed halt.
  • 1st January 1948 : The railways were nationalised. The former DCR route came under the control of the Southern Region of British Railways.
  • 17th September 1956 : The halts at Corfe Mullen, Spetisbury, Charlton Marshall and Stourpaine & Durweston were all closed.
  • 1958 : The Western Region of British Railways gained control over the majority of the Somerset & Dorset line. A gradual run down of the system began, with through passenger and goods trains re-routed over other lines.
  • 6th March 1966 : The entire Somerset & Dorset railway was closed, the largest victim of the infamous Beeching cuts. The Broadstone to Blandford section was kept open for freight traffic.
  • 6th January 1969 : The Broadstone to Blandford section was closed to all traffic. Track lifting began at Blandford later that year, and was completed as far as Broadstone by October 1970.

the Dorset Central Railway today

Much of the route of the Dorset Central Railway can still be traced, including numerous bridges under and over the old line. Nothing remains of either Wimborne station or the junction with the DCR, however the former engine drivers’ lodging house on Oakley Lane survives. The A31 road out towards Corfe Mullen covers much of the trackbed, but the Corfe Mullen level crossing keeper’s cottage still stands although extended to form a private residence. Nothing remains of Bailey Gate station as the site is now an industrial estate. Happily, both platforms and the station building foundations survive at Spetisbury, where the Spetisbury Station Project is preserving the site. The two concrete platforms which formed Charlton Marshall Halt remain intact. Heading towards Blandford, flood arches stand as a reminder of the viaduct which carried the line over the River Stour. There are still traces of the railway at the site of Blandford station, including the former station master’s house. The single concrete platform survives at Stourpaine & Durweston Halt, although on private land. The halt’s running in board is preserved in Durweston village. The Shillingstone Railway Project is working at Shillingstone station, where the platforms and station building remain intact. Track has been laid here and the signal box and other buildings reconstructed. Nothing remains of Sturminster Newton station, however the flood arches of the River Stour viaduct still stand just north of the town. Much of the trackbed between Spetisbury and Sturminster Newton now forms the North Dorset Trailway, open for walkers and cyclists. There is no trace of Stalbridge station, or Henstridge station just across the border in Somerset. Just south of Templecombe, the narrow gauge Gartell Light Railway operates over a part of the trackbed near the site of the Common Lane level crossing. Templecombe itself was once an important railway junction, and today still has an operational station on the Salisbury to Exeter line. Other traces of its railway heritage have gone, although it is thought some original DCR buildings are still in existence within an industrial area. Nothing remains of Wincanton station, but at Cole the former station building and station master’s house have been converted into private residences. Cole was the most northerly station on the Dorset Central Railway, where it joined the Somerset Central Railway.

plan of Wimborne Junction, with line to Blandford on the left
plan of Wimborne Junction, with line to Blandford on the left