Weymouth Harbour Tramway
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Weymouth Harbour Tramway

Coordinates: 50°36?53?N 2°27?22?W / 50.614675°N 2.456166°W / 50.614675; -2.456166

The tramway in use in 1981
Near the former cargo loading stage, 2005
The Tramway 1938 curve

The Weymouth Harbour Tramway (also known as the Quay Branch or Harbour Line) is a disused heavy rail line running entirely on the streets of Weymouth, Dorset, England from a junction to the north of Weymouth station to Weymouth Quay station at Weymouth Harbour. Built in 1865, it was last used for timetabled British Rail services in 1987. Its last-ever services were special trains on 1 April 1995 and 2 May 1999.

History

Opened in 1865 by the Great Western Railway, the harbour tramway runs from a junction beyond the main station, through the streets adjacent to the Backwater and the harbour, to the quay. Passenger trains began in 1889, transporting travellers to Channel Island ferries.

As freight traffic grew, several sidings and loops were added to the main line to serve harbourside businesses. The Town Bridge was rebuilt in 1930, and the tramway initially routed through the northern arch. Between 1938 and 1939 the tight curve between the Backwater and harbour was supplanted by a new curve on a newly-infilled section of the quayside and the tramway was relocated to the outer arch of the bridge, where it remains today.

The track layout at the station was gradually increased from a single track, to a double-track layout up to 1961, and finally a three-track arrangement which persisted till the end of regular traffic, albeit in a truncated layout from 1973. Regular goods traffic ceased in 1972, although fuel oil was transported to a facility at the pier until 1983. Regular passenger services ceased in 1987 when the South Western main line into Weymouth was provided with third rail electrification, which is incompatible with street running.

There were some experiments in 1997 with a flywheel powered vehicle (see Parry People Movers), but this did not result in permanent traffic on the tramway. The last known use of the branch was on 2 May 1999 for a special Pathfinder Tours charter.[1]

Operations

Trains operating over public thoroughfare tramway without escort are required to be fitted with warning equipment for the general public.

During operation of services by British Rail Class 33 locomotives, two warning units were built and housed in a cabinet at the track side entrance to the tramway at the throat of Weymouth yard. This equipment comprised a yellow box which fitted on a lamp bracket on the cab front, and had an amber rotating beacon and bell which served to warn thoroughfare users. The bell did not ring continuously but could be controlled by the train driver. Each member of Class 33/1 and all TC stock had a small socket where the bell/beacon units plugged in to draw power from the train systems. Trains for the quay would halt at the station throat, the warning equipment attached and then tested by the train guard. In addition, trains on the tramway were "walked" by railway staff with flags, clearing the route of people and badly parked cars all the way between the points at which the tramway reverted to conventional track at the quay station and road crossing into Weymouth yard. On arrival at the quay terminus the guard would move the warning equipment to the other end of the train in readiness for the return journey.

21st century

The tramway still exists, in fairly good condition. In January 2009 it was reported that Weymouth and Portland Borough Council wished to remove the tramway, and that Network Rail had confirmed it had no wish for its retention.[2] In February 2009, the council agreed to purchase the line from Network Rail for £50,000, prior to a final decision on its future.[3] However it was reported in July 2014 that the sale of the line never went through and a campaign started to reopen the tram route claiming it would help with tourism and reduce car usage in the town. In August 2015 a report appeared in the Dorset Echo saying that a petition online had been set up to reopen the line and is still an active movement as of September 2017.[4] In February 2016 the council bid for the tramway to be put into a permanent out-of-use status, however Network Rail have yet to make this change.[5]

In January 2019, Campaign for Better Transport released a report identifying the line was listed as Priority 2 for reopening. Priority 2 is for those lines which require further development or a change in circumstances (such as housing developments).[6]

Domesday Project

The branch was included in the 1986 BBC Domesday Project; 25 years later it has been revisited and is incorporated into the reborn, online project.[7]

Gallery

References

  1. ^ Six Bells Junction, Way-Farer Railtour, 2 May 1999.
  2. ^ "Olympic train line may be lost". BBC News. 30 January 2009. Retrieved 2009.
  3. ^ "Train line taken over by council". BBC News. 3 February 2009. Retrieved 2009.
  4. ^ "All Aboard! Teen's Bid to Revive Tram". Dorset Echo. 1 August 2015. Retrieved 2015.
  5. ^ "Picture Gallery: Weymouth Tramway to be put into permanent out-of-use status". Dorset Echo. Retrieved 2016.
  6. ^ [1] p.42
  7. ^ "Revisiting the old Weymouth Quay railway". BBC News. 16 May 2011. Retrieved 2011.

Bibliography

See also

External links

Video


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