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Sharpness branch line

Sharpness branch line
For canal icons used below, please refer to waterways legend instead.

Dean Forest Railway
(To Parkend)
Severn Bridge
Gloucester–Newport line
Severn Railway Bridge over River Severn
(Dismantled 1970)
Swing bridge over Gloucester and Sharpness Canal
Locks onto River Severn
(closed 1964)
Sharpness Docks
New Docks Branch
Locks onto River Severn
(closed 1964)
Cross Country Route
Berkeley Road
(closed 1965)
Berkeley Loop
Cross Country Route
(To Bristol)
The freight-only line to Sharpness

The Sharpness branch line is a railway in Gloucestershire, England, built by the Midland Railway (MR) to connect the port of Sharpness to the main Bristol and Gloucester Railway. The line opened for goods traffic in 1875 and to passenger traffic a year later.[1] Passenger services were withdrawn in November 1964, but the line remains open for freight traffic to and from Sharpness Docks.


The branch line opened on 1 August 1876,[2] and was four miles long and ran from Berkeley Road station, which was the junction with the main line, to Sharpness, with an intervening station to serve the town of Berkeley.[3]

The line's status as a branch was short-lived. In 1879, the Severn Bridge Railway (SBR) opened to connect Sharpness across the Severn Railway Bridge to Lydney and the Forest of Dean on the north bank of the river Severn. Passenger through-services were run between Lydney and Berkeley Road, and the through-line's freight capacity contributed to the further development of Sharpness docks. Sharpness station was re-sited as a through station.

Upon the opening of the SBR on 17 October 1879, it amalgamated with the Severn and Wye Railway to form the Severn and Wye and Severn Bridge Railway.[4] This railway got into financial difficulties in 1883, and on 1 July 1894 was sold to the Great Western Railway (GWR) and the MR, becoming a joint line. The Sharpness branch (totalling 4 miles 54 chains (7.5 km)) was transferred from the MR to the joint committee on the same day.[2]

On 9 March 1908, together with the opening of new connections between the MR and GWR to the south of Yate, a second junction of the Sharpness branch with the main line was provided south of Berkeley Road to enable freight trains from Sharpness Docks to go south towards Bristol; this line, 1 mile 22 chains (2.1 km) in length and known as the Berkeley loop, was always GWR property.[5]

This state of affairs lasted until October 1960, when an accident involving petroleum barges on the river Severn brought down part of the railway bridge. The bridge was judged to be beyond economic repair, and the Sharpness branch line resumed its earlier status as a branch. Passenger services lasted for only four more years, though, being withdrawn in November 1964, and the stations at Sharpness and Berkeley were closed. The line remains open for freight traffic to and from Sharpness Docks, though these services are not frequent.

Re-opening proposalEdit

First attemptEdit

Sharpness Berkeley Railway Ltd (Company No. 07166656)[6] intended to re-open the line as a heritage railway,[citation needed] using the trading names "Berkeley Vale Railway" and "The Beaver Line".[7] Freight trains serving the Berkeley and Oldbury nuclear power stations would continue to be operated by Direct Rail Services.[citation needed] Rolling stock from the Stratford on Avon and Broadway Railway was expected to be used but this plan had been dropped.[citation needed] In March 2011, site clearance at Sharpness was carried out by members of the Proactive Vision community group, which had obtained a lease of part of the line from Network Rail.[8] Tracklaying began in January 2012.[9] Sharpness Berkeley Railway Ltd, Company No. 07166656, was dissolved on 12 June 2012.[10]

Second attemptEdit

On 24 August 2015, a new group announced its intention to restore the branch as a heritage railway, along with the announcement that it had secured a lease on the former diesel shed at Sharpness Docks with the nearby Canal & River Trust. [11] It currently plans to restore the shed to carry out restorations of its rolling stock before turning to restore Sharpness railway station. It has recently secured its first items of rolling stock from the Gloucestershire Warwickshire Railway. During 2017 an ecology survey was carried out and an initial planning application made to Stroud District Council.[12]

October 2019 announcementEdit

On 22 October 2019, Stroud District Council announced a draft plan to build a railway station in Sharpness, to support housebuilding plans. [13]

Rolling stockEdit

Steam locomotivesEdit

Diesel locomotivesEdit

  • LMS diesel shunter 0-6-0DM No. 7069. Built in 1935. Currently undergoing restoration at Sharpness. This was the first locomotive to arrive on site.[17]
  • British Rail Class 03 0-6-0DM No. D2069. Built in 1959. Arrived at Sharpness from Toddington in December 2015 and currently undergoing overhaul.[18]
  • British Rail Class 14 0-6-0DH No. D9553. Built in 1965. Arrived at Sharpness in January 2016 and currently stored awaiting restoration.[19]
  • Thomas Hill Vanguard 4wDH No. TH184V 'British Gypsum No. 2'. Built in 1967. Arrived at Sharpness in February 2016. The loco is currently in operational condition, having been repainted since its arrival on site.[20]


  1. ^ Oakley 2003, p. 121
  2. ^ a b MacDermot 1931, pp. 406,633
  3. ^ Bradshaw 1910, p. 606
  4. ^ MacDermot 1931, pp. 404,632
  5. ^ MacDermot 1931, pp. 442–443,612
  6. ^ "WebCHeck - Select and Access Company Information". Retrieved 20 April 2018.
  7. ^ "Bid to reopen Sharpness railway line". This is Gloucestershire. 13 January 2010. Retrieved 2012-01-20.
  8. ^ Marshall, Clare (8 March 2011). "Sharpness railway project chugging along". Gazette Series. Retrieved 2012-01-20.
  9. ^ "Work begins on railway line between Sharpness and Oldbury". BBC News Online. 14 January 2012. Retrieved 2012-01-20.
  10. ^ "WebCHeck - Select and Access Company Information". Retrieved 20 April 2018.
  11. ^ "Sharpness Engine Shed Opens". Vale of Berkeley Railway. 24 August 2015. Retrieved 26 September 2015. External link in |website= (help)
  12. ^
  13. ^
  14. ^ "Engine Shed". Vale of Berkeley Railway. Retrieved 26 September 2015. External link in |website= (help)
  15. ^ "Kingmoor Black 5 moves to Sharpness". Black 5 44901 Company. Retrieved 11 December 2015.
  16. ^ "Austerity No 15 Arrives". Vale of Berkeley Railway. 3 September 2016. Retrieved 27 September 2016.
  17. ^ "First Locomotive arrives at Sharpness". Vale of Berkeley Railway. Retrieved 26 September 2015.
  18. ^ "03 Shunter Arrives for Finishing". Vale of Berkeley Railway. Retrieved 11 December 2015.
  19. ^ "New Year's Latest Arrival". Vale of Berkeley Railway. Retrieved 9 January 2016.
  20. ^ "British Gypsum No 2". Vale of Berkeley Railway. Retrieved 10 February 2016.


  • Bradshaws Railway Guide, April 1910 (1968 reprint ed.). Newton Abbot: David and Charles. ISBN 0-7153-4246-0.
  • MacDermot, E.T. (1931). History of the Great Western Railway, vol. II: 1863-1921. Paddington: Great Western Railway.
  • Oakley, Mike (2003). Gloucestershire Railway Stations. Wimborne: Dovecote Press. ISBN 1-904349-24-2.

External linksEdit