The first railway in Dorset was not a steam operated line, but one worked by horses and gravity, totransport Portland stone from the quarries to the sea. However, the first true main line in the county was the Southampton & Dorchester which opened on 1 June 1847 followed by the Wilts, Somerset & Weymouth Railway (WSWR) which reached Weymouth on 20 January 1857. The Southampton & Dorchester Railway had running power over the line between Dorchester and Weymouth and opened to Weymouth in 1857. The Salisbury & Yeovil Railway opened to Gillingham in 1859, and to Yeovil and onwards to Exeter in 1860. The Dorset Central Railway was inaugurated between Wimborne and Blandford in November 1860 and northwards to Cole in 1862 where it linked with the Somerset Central Railway, the two companies uniting as the Somerset & Dorset Railway. The extension to Bath opened on 20 July 1874 creating a new main line. Thus was established the pattern of four main lines in Dorset: two running approximately east to west and two north to south. From these main lines, branches were created to serve places off a main line such as
to Lyme Regis, Bridport, Abbotsbury, Portland and Swanage. For decades these branch lines flourished, but eventually the more convenient internal-combustion engined vehicles rendered these branches uneconomic and they were closed around the time of the 1963 Beeching Report.
Colin Maggs, the renowned expert on railway history, tells the fascinating tale of the railways and the impact they had on the lives of everyone in the county. The nostalgic branch lines with their small local trains and the main lines with their thundering expresses, are all part of a rich heritage which is explored in an expert text and in more than two hundred evocative images to present an absorbing view of Dorset’s recent past.