Wadebridge railway station
|Pre-grouping||Bodmin and Wadebridge Railway
London and South Western Railway
Western Region of British Railways
|4 July 1834||Opened|
|3 September 1888||Rebuilt|
|30 January 1967||Closed to passengers|
|2 September 1978||Closed to freight|
|Disused railway stations in the United Kingdom|
|Closed railway stations in Britain
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|UK Railways portal|
Wadebridge railway station was on the Bodmin and Wadebridge Railway. It opened in 1834 to transport goods between the market town of Wadebridge, the limit of navigation on the River Camel, and inland farming and mining areas. The railway was built to take stone from local quarries such as the De Lank Quarries on Bodmin Moor towards the coast, as well as sand dredged from the River Camel and landed at the quays in Wadebridge inland to be used to improve the heavy local soil. The station is situated just upstream of Wadebridge bridge and almost next to the tidal River Camel; a fact that prompted the former Poet Laureate John Betjeman to write in his autobiography "On Wadebridge station what a breath of sea scented the Camel Valley! Cornish air, soft Cornish rains, and silence after steam".
The original station in Wadebridge was built on a triangle of land bounded by the River Camel, the Polmorla brook, and what is now The Platt. The single platform and engine shed were on the town side of the line, which continued across Molesworth Street to serve the quays immediately downstream of Wadebridge bridge. Towards Bodmin, the railway ran along the valley floor, leaving the town environs past Guineaport quay, and then hugging the south side of the Camel valley. This station remained in use until 3 September 1888 when the railway closed so that the track, still laid on the granite blocks used in its construction in 1834, could be relaid using the more usual transverse wooden sleepers.
Rebuilding and extension
On 1 June 1895 the Bodmin and Wadebridge was linked to the London and South Western Railway's North Cornwall Line which stretched away through the sparsely populated countryside of North Cornwall to Launceston and Okehampton, diverging from the Bodmin line at Wadebridge Junction at a point 48 chains east of Wadebridge station near the confluence of the River Allen and River Camel. At this time a new station was built slightly nearer to Bodmin, separated from the central portion of Wadebridge town by the Polmorla brook. The single long platform contained the buildings that still exist: a one-storey station building incorporating a ticket office and waiting rooms, and a tall goods shed which was near enough to the rather squat station building to dominate it in height. In addition, a signal box was built immediately beyond the end of the platform.
In 1899 construction works commenced on the westward extension of the North Cornwall Line towards Padstow via the salt marsh and the tidal Camel estuary to the port of Padstow. In order to accommodate the extra traffic anticipated, an island platform 105 yards (96 m) in length was added between the existing platform and the engine shed, both sides of which were in use as platforms 2 and 3; the original platform being Platform 1. Access to this new island platform was gained by a wooden lattice footbridge situated towards the Down (Padstow) end of the station. A waiting room and a generous canopy were also installed. The works also involved considerable re-arrangement of the track layout and signalling, with the original goods connection over Molesworth Street, using the existing level crossing, to the quay being upgraded to a passenger line. The original signalbox was closed and replaced by two new signalboxes, "Wadebridge East" and "Wadebridge West". The first passenger train to use this stretch ran on 27 March 1899.
In 1907 major alterations were made to Wadebridge station. The line towards Bodmin, up to this date single track, was doubled as far as the divergence of the North Cornwall Line from the Bodmin line, and soon after this the points at Wadebridge Junction were removed and the signalbox at that location closed. This meant that the two lines going in the Up direction from Wadebridge (towards Launceston and Bodmin respectively) were actually two parallel single-track lines once the points at Wadebridge East Signal Box had been passed. This was sited adjacent to the farm crossing that allowed access to Jubilee meadow, the field which separated the station from the river. At this time further lines were installed to the engine shed and the sand dock were also installed, the latter allowing access to the sand dock without having to use the lifting bridge which had been a hindrance as it was not strong enough to take the weight of a locomotive.
From this date changes were few. The wooden LSWR pattern footbridge was replaced by a utilitarian pre-cast concrete model of Southern Railway design during the 1920s and the signalling was replaced in late 1931. Platform 1 was extended by some yards in the direction of Bodmin, a noticeable feature as the extension was higher than the original platform and of brick construction rather than local stone. An annex to the goods shed was built in 1941 out of concrete blocks, taking most of the space between the original goods shed and the station building, although the end of the extension was latterly open after a shunting accident demolished a large portion of the end wall. The date of installation of the turntable is unclear, but by 1930 a 50 feet (15 m) turntable was in existence behind the engine shed; a larger turntable was never installed and engines such as the West Country pacifics had to run down to Padstow where a 70 feet (21 m) turntable was provided.
The North Cornwall line closed on 1 October 1966 and Wadebridge station, along with the line from Bodmin, closed to passengers on 30 January 1967. The line to Padstow remained for a quarter of a mile beyond the level crossing to allow access to the lines serving the quays on the river, but the remainder of the track to Padstow, and the whole of the line to Okehampton, were lifted. Even the quay lines did not last long, with the ancillary sidings being removed in November 1971 and the quay lines themselves in April 1973, the line then being terminated short of the level crossing at Molesworth Street. In keeping with its reduced status, the buildings on the island platform and the engine shed were demolished in the years after closure with the remains of the concrete footbridge being dumped unceremoniously in the turntable pit.
Wadebridge continued in use for freight until 1978, particularly sending out powdered slate from Delabole quarry for which a vacuum system was installed to load Presflo wagons. The last loco-hauled passenger train, a 12-coach special from the midlands hauled by Class 25 number 25 080, ran on 30 September 1978; a DMU shuttle from Bodmin, organised for charity, was the last passenger train of all on 17 December 1978.
The site today
The main station building, granite with slate tiles, still stands as the Betjeman Centre. Similarly the original part of the goods shed is in use as a youth club. A road, Southern Way, runs along the old trackbed where the main platform was. The engine shed area is now a housing estate, and the sand dock is now a Co-op store although the road access still uses the railway bridge over the Polmorla Brook with the original railings still extant; Standing on this bridge looking towards the river Camel, the location of the railway siding giving access to the old sand dock can still be discerned although the bridge itself is long gone.
On the Padstow side of Wadebridge bridge a road occupies the space previously occupied by both the railway trackbed and an adjacent lane, but the lines which curved away from this towards the quays along the river cannot now be discerned. Once the limit of development on the riverside is reached the old trackbed, in the form of the Camel Trail, becomes visible again.
Efforts are being made to return trains to the Bodmin and Wadebridge railway line by extending the Bodmin and Wenford Railway from the current end of the running line at Boscarne Junction to a proposed new station at Wadebridge, situated just beyond Guineaport. This would mean moving the Camel Trail to make way for the railway, and has been a topic of hot debate locally.
|Preceding station||Heritage railways||Following station|
|Terminus||Bodmin and Wenford Railway
(Proposed RailTrail extension)
|St Kew Highway||British Rail Western Region
North Cornwall Line
|Terminus||British Rail Western Region
Bodmin and Wadebridge Railway
|Terminus||London and South Western Railway
Bodmin and Wadebridge Railway
References and sources
- Betjeman, John (2007). Summoned by Bells. London: John Murray (Publishers) Ltd. p. 29. ISBN 978-0-7195-2220-8.
- Pryer, G.A.; Bowring, G.J. (1980). An Historical Survey of Selected Southern Stations: Volume One. Oxford: Oxford Publishing Company. p. 119. ISBN 0-86093-016-5.
- Bodmin and Wenford Railway website[not in citation given]
- Cooke, R.A. (1977). Track Layout diagrams of the GWR. and BR (WR) Section 11 East Cornwall.
- Fairclough, Anthony (1970). The Story of Cornwall's Railways. Tor Mark Press.
- Fairclough, Anthony; Wills, Alan (1979). Bodmin and Wadebridge 1834 - 1978. Truro: Bradford Barton. ISBN 0 85153 343 4.
- Mitchell, David (1993). British Railways Past and Present 17; Cornwall. Past and Present Publishing. ISBN 1-85895-060-0.
- Mitchell, Vic; Smith, Keith (1995). Branch line to Padstow. Middleton Press. ISBN 1-873793-54-5.