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Leominster and Kington Railway

 

Leominster and Kington Railway

Leominster and Kington Railway was one of four branches which served the Welsh Marches border town of Kington, Herefordshire.

Opened in August 1857, its peak was during World War II, when it served two US Army hospitals. Declining after the war due to competition from buses, it closed to passengers in 1955, and to freight from 1964.

Today, a 1-mile (1.6 km) section is preserved at Titley Junction railway station.

Construction

Proposed in 1853, the company was formed by William Bateman-Hanbury, 2nd Baron Bateman of Shobdon Court. It received Royal Assent as a broad gauge line in July 1854, subject to provision for a junction with the standard gauge Kington and Eardisley Railway be provided.

On 14 November 1854, the company agreed the offer of Thomas Brassey and William Field to construct the line for £70,000. Further, they would work from opening and pay the shareholders a 4% dividend per annum. Engineered by David Wylie of Shrewsbury, Lady Bateman cut the first sod at Kington, with a silver spade into a special built barrow that can be seen preserved today at the Leominster Folk Museum. Section from the Leominster railway station of the Shrewsbury and Hereford Railway to Pembridge, opened for goods traffic on 18 October 1855, at a cost of £7,000 per mile.

But, with additional costs, the company was struggling, and in April 1856 Brassey and Field, who held £20,000 or one quarter of the company's stock, advanced the company £10,000 at 5%. The second section from Pembridge to Kington opened in August 1857. There were no tunnels or viaducts on the entire single-track line of 13 miles 25 chains (21.4 km) in length, which had cost £80,000 to construct.

Inspected by Colonel Yolland for the Board of Trade on 22 July 1857, a certificate authorising the opening was withheld because a level crossing had been built at Pembridge instead of the overbridge authorised by the Act of Parliament.

Operations

Eventually, it was agreed to open the line under a temporary order, subject to retrospective application and government approval of the level crossing. The line opened on Tuesday, 28 July 1857, with a train consisting of 32 coaches and two engines travelling from the joint GWR/LNWR station at Leominster to Kington, stopping briefly at all stations along the line. When they reached Kington, the directors retired to the Oxford Arms Hotel, where with 300 guests then Rear Admiral Sir Thomas Hastings CB presided over lunch. The return journey was completed with dinner for the same 300 guests at the Royal Oak Hotel, Leominster, presided over by Lord Bateman. Bateman remained chairman for 22 years, and had a private station built at Ox House.

In 1862, the line was leased to the West Midland Railway, which taken over by the Great Western Railway, amalgamated the line on 1 July 1898. This meant that by 1874 a journey from Kington to Leominster took 40 minutes, to Hereford 1 hour 20 minutes, and to Shrewsbury 3 hours and 30 minutes.

As the line was rural, and based in the Welsh Marches farm district, the main revenue was earned from transporting goods to the various markets. Sheep and cattle which had been driven to Kington on the various drovers trails, were now transported to their original destination of Hereford by train. Often on market days, seven or eight cattle trucks were attached to the Hereford-bound passenger service, specifically for bull transportation.

Titley Junction was the busiest intermediate station on the line with up to 30 trains a day passing through. It was the connection point for the LK&R with the Kington and Eardisley Railway south to the Hay Railway, and the L&KR's own line to Presteigne.

After completion of this extension, the K&ER extended north from Kington to a small station at New Radnor, in the hope of completing a cross-Wales mainline to Aberystwyth, but this never happened.[1]

Kington & Presteigne Railway

The Kington & Presteigne Railway opened on 9 September 1875. Commencing at Titley Junction, it passed through Leen farm, to Staunton-on-Arrow, in front of the Rodd farm via Corton into Presteigne.[2][3] By 1929 it was possible to join one of the three steam trains a day - each way - and make the 6 hour journey to London. The passenger service on this line ended in 1951, but a freight service continued to run every other day until the line was finally closed for good in 1961.[4]

World War II

Main article: RAF Shobdon

With need for new hospital capacity out of the reach of Nazi Luftwaffe bombers, the British government looked at sites in the Welsh Marches, which had the convenience of being accessible.

A hospital camp was built by the British Army at Hergest, which later acted as a clearing point for two general hospitals built by the US Army in 1943. The first dedicated hospital train arrived shortly after the Battle of Dunkirk in 1940. After the US Army Artillery arrived in late 1943, the camp had received 11 hospital trains for one hospital, carrying up to 300 patients per train. Between 4 January and 28 April 1945, the other hospital had received 10 trains and admitted 2,413 patients. All the hospital trains arrived from Southampton.

The camp was developed as RAF Shobdon, a glider training camp for both the Normandy and Arnhem campaigns.

Closure

After the war, the line struggled to compete with local bus companies, who used cheaply sold former military buses. When the last passenger train ran from Leominster at 8.25 pm on 5 February 1955, only 13 employees were engaged on the entire line. Driven by Mr E Chapman of Leominster, the same 70 people made the return journey some 10 minutes later from Kington, where a black flag was hung. The line remained open to carry freight until finally closing in 1964.

Kingfisher Line

A 1-mile (1.6 km) section was reopened in 2005 at the site of the former Titley Junction station. Known as the Kingfisher Line, it is privately owned and is open to the public only by prior arrangement.[5]

References

External links

  • History of the Leominster and Kington Railway
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