Slow and dirty line loved by all

Swindon Advertiser: Slow and dirty line loved by all Slow and dirty line loved by all

My Uncle Bob was called up for National Service not long after the Second World War ended and had to report to Blandford Camp, in Dorset.

As he was living in St Helen's in the north west this meant a train journey to the camp.

He travelled from Manchester (London Road) Piccadilly to Bournemouth. In those days Bournemouth was in Hampshire and the train he travelled on went through Bath.

Part of the route he travelled on was the Somerset and Dorset Joint Railway known as the S&D – referred to affectionately by many travellers as Slow and Dirty.

At that time the railway was owned by the London Midland & Scottish Railway with a station in Green Park, Bath. Northern people would travel down in the summer season to Bournemouth on express service trains.

The best known express train was the Pines Express.

The route had a summit at Masbury of 811 ft, which is quite steep for a steam locomotive and the Pines Express required “banking” – being assisted from the rear by another locomotive – to push it up the embankment.

Many trains were also double headed – two steam locos coupled together.

Behind Green Park Station (Queens Square) was the Midland Yard with sidings and loco shed.

It had been the target of a bombing raid in the Second World War and 400 bombs missed it and fell on nearby Oldfield Park killing many people that night.

I worked for Stothert and Pitt in Bath who had acquired the Old Midland Yard in about 1970 and was used for structural building and to store materials.

I worked with many ex-railwayman in Stothert’s and they all had great tales to tell of their time on the S&DR.

Like all railwaymen they almost never acknowledged that BR existed!

In the 1980s Sainsbury’s supermarket acquired the yard and station for their new superstore.

Norris Kiddle, 68, who lives in Toothill, worked on the S&D and has built his own model railway layout.

Norris joined the S&D in 1960 just as it began to come to prominence as a line under threat of closure.

Norris was a shunter at Templecombe, this is where the S&D crossed the Salisbury and Yeovil Railway, later operated by the London South Western Railway and finally Southern Region BR. Templecombe was a small community, but this was quite an important junction and over the years it was remodelled and realigned more than once.

Norris as a shunter here had a problem when one day a rake of 12 coaches ran away from him in wet and blustery conditions.

Norris had to attend an “interview” with a railways inspector and was sent to Wincanton as a Porter Shunter.

But it suited Norris as it was his home. He soon got over this little setback to his career and was promoted up to subganger on the permanent way.

His father was also a member of the permanent way crew.

At that time there was much media interest in the S&D as it was to be a victim of the “Beeching Axe” and documentary films were being made by BBC and Sir John Betjeman and other TV channels to save it.

All this fell on the deaf ears of Transport Secretary Barbara Castle and the line had virtually closed by 1967.

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