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Shrewsbury and Hereford Railway


Shrewsbury and Hereford Railway

Shrewsbury and Hereford Railway

The Shrewsbury and Hereford Railway was an independently developed English railway, the first to run train services in Herefordshire.

Built between 1850 and 1853, it crossed a number of services by both the Great Western Railway (GWR) and London and North Western Railway (LNWR) companies, became a joint railway from 1862.

Today, the line forms the northern section of Network Rail's Welsh Marches Line, served mainly by Arriva Trains Wales.


In 1846, the British Government approved an Act of Parliament for the construction of the independent Shrewsbury and Hereford Railway Company. Running a length of 50.5 miles (81.3 km), the only stipulation was that it was built to standard gauge.

The company initially appointed the Liberal Member of Parliament for Shrewsbury, Henry Robertson as engineer. Due to financial problems work on the line didn't begin until 1850 when Thomas Brassey was appointed. A well known railway engineer and investor, Brassey agreed to work for no fee, and took a 3.5% share holding in the company. In 1854 the cost was transferred to an 8-year lease, which proved to be very profitable for Brassey.

The first section of the line from Shrewsbury to Ludlow opened on 21 April 1852, as the line south of this point required the construction of the short Ludlow tunnel.

Ludlow to Hereford

The second section through to Hereford posed problems. Firstly, the existing Hereford Barton station of the Newport, Abergavenny and Hereford Railway was not big enough to cope with all four railway companies planning on entering the important market town. Secondly, the entrance route into Hereford from the north required extensive civil engineering.[1]

The resolution was agreement to create a new joint railway station, called Hereford Barrs Court. This would be a joint standard gauge/broad gauge station, sponsored jointly by the standard gauge S&HR, and the GWR sponsored Hereford, Ross and Gloucester Railway. When the Midland Railway sponsored Hereford, Hay and Brecon Railway entered the town, they were given access rights.[1]

In civil engineering preparation for this, and as the only company planning to enter the town from the north, in 1849 the company built a brick works north of Dinmore Hill, which was feed by clay from the earthworks of digging a tunnel south underneath it. In 1852, 2½ years later and having used 3¼ million bricks the tunnel was completed, freight traffic started in July 1852 to provide cash flow. However, construction continued, with the massive earthworks for a cutting to enter Barrs Court started in August 1852.[1]

The plan was to jointly open Barrs Court station between all four railways on 6 December 1853, with what was planned to be Railway Fete. However, the first S&HR passenger service arrived on Saturday 28 October, which carried the chairman Mr Ormsby-Gore and engineer Brassey.[1] As the negotiations and financing of the joint station had taken so long, they arrived at an incomplete facility.[2] The final Victorian Gothic building was designed by R.E. Johnson,[3] which opened after the Railway Fete,[4] reported to be attended by 60,000 people.

Doubling the line

To save construction costs the line was at first built as a single track line, but was constructed with a double track future in mind (the bridges, embankments, etc. being built wide enough for instance). The doubling took place in 1862, with the exception of Dinmore tunnel, which had its second line added 1891-3.[5]


In 1862 the S&HR was jointly leased by the LNWR, the GWR and the West Midland Railway (WMR). By 1871 the WMR had amalgamated with the GWR, so the LNWR and the GWR jointly acquired the S&HR.

When the GWR extended the Oxford, Worcester and Wolverhampton Railway into Hereford with a junction north of Dinmore Hill, pressure increased from the town council on the LNWR to close Hereford Barton station. This it eventually did, and although the site remained open as a goods depot until the Beeching Axe, it has since been redeveloped as a supermarket.[6]

In 1887 the traffic levels on the line were increased by the opening of the Severn Tunnel, with Hereford becoming the first stop after Bristol on the west-north expresses. In May 1892, the conversion of the broad gauge lines to standard gauge to the west of Exeter meant even longer distance through services calling at Barrs Court.

In 1922 the S&HR became a joint GWR/LMS joint railway. After World War II and nationalisation under British Railways, it came under the Western Region. The 1960s Beeching Axe cut many of the previously feeding former GWR and LNWR branch lines, and at one point threatened services through Hereford and hence the entire line. But after the cull of Hereford Barton, the line was saved.[7]


Today the line is still majorly in place as the northern section of Network Rails Welsh Marches Line, served mainly by Arriva Trains Wales.



External links

  • History of the Shrewsbury and Hereford Railway
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