John Speller's Web Pages Chard Branch (B&ER)

John Speller's Web Pages - GWR Broad Gauge - B&ER

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The 12-mile Chard Railway from Creech Junction near Taunton to Chard, much of it built over the former Chard Canal, was promoted by the Bristol & Exeter Railway and opened on on 11 September 1866. It connected at the joint station with the L&SWR's branch from Chard Town to Chard Junction on their main line, and a new joint station was built at Chard Central. The Taunton to Chard branch was built on the broad gauge, so the joint station originally had both broad and narrow gauges. Taunton - Chard branch was converted to narrow gauge on 19 July 1891, by which time it was the last broad gauge branch east of Exeter, since the Great Western feared that the L&SWR would gain running rights into Taunton and wanted to keep the line broad gauge to make this as difficult as possible. There were intermediate stations at Thorne (Thornfalcon), Hatch (Hatch Beauchamp), and Ilminster. An additional stop was later added at Donyatt Halt. There was also a siding at the paper mill at Creech Junction, and a daily broad gauge goods train was run from Taunton to serve it, in addition to the daily passenger and goods trains which ran over the whole branch. By 1917 relations with the L&SWR had improved sufficiently that the two companies agreed that henceforth the GWR should operate both the LS&W and GW Chard branches from Chard Junction to Taunton. By Nationalization, however, the line had declined dramatically, and it closed temporarily during the fuel crisis of 1951. Though it reopened after a few weeks, the line's days were numbered, and even before the Beeching Axe it, together with the Yeovil Branch, was slated for closure. Passenger service ceased on 10 September 1962, and freight service on the GW branch on 6 July 1964. Closure of the L&SW branch to freight followed on 3 October 1966 and the lines were lifted in December 1967. It is a pity that British Railways did not look at the Yeovil and Chard Branches in a wider context, since though neither branch was viable by itself, there might have been a case to be made for a service via the Chard branches via the Southern main line to Yeovil Junction and Sherborne. Might not a Taunton - Ilminster - Chard Central - Chard Junction - Crewkerne - Yeovil Junction - Sherborne service have proved very useful?
Chard joint station with its fine overall roof
The cutting at Thornfalcon on the Chard branch during construction in 1865. Photograph by Edward Jeboult
Viaduct carrying the Chard Branch over the River Tone near Creech St. Michael where it left the main line. Photograph courtesy of Wikipedia Commons
In around 1890 a Chard branch train waits in the Chard bay at Taunton behind a "Hawthorn" Class 2-4-0, while an express headed by a "Rover" prepares to leave from the up main platform. Note the distinctive B&ER branch starter signal
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