Thursday, 29 June 2017

Blandford's Beautiflul Bridges (1) ...

On A Much Loved Long Lost Line.
Blandford Forum features in the Flanders and Swan nostalgia fest featuring long lost railway stations - although some of their chosen stations never closed and some have re-opened.

No more will I go to Blandford Forum and Mortehoe 
On the slow train from Midsomer Norton and Mumby Road
No churns, no porter, no cat on a seat 
At Chorlton-cum-Hardy or Chester-le-Street
We won't be meeting again 
On the Slow Train

I'll travel no more from Littleton Badsey to Openshaw
At Long Stanton I'll stand well clear of the doors no more
No whitewashed pebbles, no Up and no Down 
From Formby Four Crosses to Dunstable Town
I won't be going again 
On the Slow Train

For those whose geographical knowledge need a little titivate, the little market town is situated a few miles north-west of Bournemouth and Poole.
Blandford has been a fording point since Anglo-Saxon times, when it was recorded as Blaen-y-ford and as Blaneford in the Domesday Book. The name Blandford derives from the Old English blĒ£ge, and probably means ford where gudgeon or blay are found. By the 13th century it had become a market town with a livestock market serving the nearby Blackmore Vale with its many dairy farms. At the start of the 14th century it returned two members of parliament and was also known as Cheping Blandford. The Latin word Forum, meaning market, was recorded in 1540.

Its public transport interest is centred on its railway station on the Somerset and Dorset Joint Railway (S&D). Trains ran from Bath (Somerset) to near Bournemouth (Dorset) and followed a very rambling rural route serving lots of mall but barely profitable communities.
The "Joint" in its title was because the management of the line was shared by the Midland Railway (at Bath) and the London and South Western Railway at its southern end.
The original Blandford station, terminus of the Dorset Central Railway, was south of the River Stour, but three years later, after a merger with The Somerset Central Railway, the line ran through the town and a new, more central station was built.
Here is the station.looking south from atop the footbridge; and below is a fuzzy video clip from the 1960s, looking north with the footbridge in the background.
The station closed together with the rest of the S&D in 1966 and the demolition was filmed.
But the footbridge and the houses next to it still stand.
The station site itself is inevitably a small housing estate.
At the entrance to the little car parking area, the estate designers have left a memory of past ferroequinological glory in the form of a short length of track.
The approaches to town and station from the south were on viaduct ...
... the demolition of which drew crowds of onlookers.
It is hard to understand what made this line so popular with enthusiasts when it was open and, now, when there is very little left to see. But popular it was and still is, with many regretting its passing with a "lump in the throat" passion.

One possible explanation is that, because of the link from the Midlands via Bath, the partly single track line changed its character at weekends. Large numbers of long holiday trains, often double headed ...
... would convey happy holiday makers from the North and the Midlands for their week by the briny. This print from Alan Ward gives something of the atmosphere of the seaside terminus.
It must have been a very impressive sight to see a ten coach "express" powering through Blandford Forum hauled by either a Southern or a Midland "main line" engine.

Yes, maybe that is why the line still evokes such nostalgia.

But there is one other remnant of Blandford's long lost railway that intrigues.

We will explore further tomorrow.

 Next Blandford bridge blog : Friday 30th June 

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