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Alderbury & Whaddon

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Alderbury Junction and the Railway

 

Several rail routes to Salisbury were considered between 1837 and 1844 when a branch from the London to Southampton main line was authorised. It was to run from Bishopstoke (Eastleigh) to Milford through Alderbury and was owned by the London and South Western Railway. An industrial estate off Tollgate Road is on the site of the Milford terminus.

 

When opened in 1847, first to freight, then to passengers, the branch ran close to the route of the old Salisbury to Southampton Canal from Alderbury to the River Test, then on to Romsey and Eastleigh. The first 22 wagons to enter Salisbury station carried coal for the needy. The train was described in the Salisbury and Winchester Journal as ‘an engine scampering along dragging after it twenty or thirty wagons’. At this time, trains to London ran from Salisbury, past Alderbury and via Eastleigh to Nine Elms. Down trains from London to Salisbury ran five times per day and up trains four times daily. As well as the London trains there were also six trains per day to and from Gosport, making 21 passenger trains alone passing through Alderbury.

 

There was never a station at Alderbury, either on the main line or the branch line, although there was a small ‘halt’ on the main line for railway employees and their families to board trains for Salisbury. However an Alderbury resident had the distinction of being the first passenger. The line had been constructed from Romsey as far as Alderbury and the railway’s chief engineer, accompanied by the contractors, boarded an inspection train at Romsey for Alderbury where the official party adjourned to Phillip’s Hotel for lunch. (this hotel has not been identified at the present time but does not appear to have been either the Green Dragon or the Three Crowns as both held those names prior to 1846). Mr. Buckell, a Salisbury dental surgeon who lived in Alderbury, had been treating some patients in Romsey and managed to get a ride on this train. The Salisbury Journal also records that for the return journey some Alderbury residents begged an ‘experimental trip’ as far as Grimstead. Reluctantly this was agreed to but to their dismay the train did not stop at Grimstead, continuing to Romsey where the unfortunates were left to plod the eight miles back to Alderbury, the victims of what the Journal later described as a ‘droll practical joke’.

 

In 1866 Salisbury and Dorset Junction Company opened a branch line from Alderbury to West Moors. This joined the Castleman Line, named after a Wimborne solicitor who promoted it, and dubbed the ‘corkscrew’. The Alderbury to West Moors link made it possible for passengers to travel from London to Dorchester and Weymouth via Salisbury, cutting out Southampton. Furthermore, it was expected that imported goods from Poole would be transferred inland; people from the hinterland south of Salisbury with their produce would use it to reach the market, and watering places on the south coast would become accessible to more people. There were four trains each day but only third class carriages were available between Wimborne and Salisbury. Was this some comment on those who used the line?

 

The branch was closed on 4 May 1964, at the time when Dr Beeching was closing many rural lines. The alignment of the junction had been altered in 1943 and the junction was removed altogether in August 1970. The signal box to the south-east of the junction was closed four months later. The abandoned line to West Moors crossed part of the old canal near the village school in Firs Road, crossed the road by a bridge near the present post office, then ran between Matrons College Farm and The Three Crowns on its way to Downton. It can be seen as a white chalk scar when looking west from Witherington Down. The route used today to reach Southampton by train from Salisbury is the same as that which brought the first trains to Salisbury in 1847.

 

You can read more about the West Moors branch line in:  Woods, T. (2005). The Branch that Served Three Counties – West Moors Branch. Railway Bylines, Volume 10, issue 10, pp470-483.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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(courtesy Edwin Wilmhurst)

 

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Alderbury Junction

(courtesy Edwin Wilmhurst)

 

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Dismantling the railway bridge at Whaddon