John Speller's Web Pages Warminster

John Speller's Web Pages - GWR Broad Gauge

Warminster (pop. 6,285 in 1851) was the only town of any significance between Westbury (Wilts.) and Salisbury on the Great Western Railway's Salisbury Branch. This was part of the Wilts, Somerset & Weymouth line, which ran from Thingley Junction near Chippenham on the Great Western main line to Weymouth, with branches to Salisbury and Bridport. The 4 mile 73 chain broad gauge line from Westbury to Warminster opened on 9 September 1851, and the remaining 19 miles 50 chains to Salisbury on 30 June 1856. Five years seems a long time to build 15 miles of railway, and indeed it took the threat of a legal suit by the Mayor and Corporation of Salisbury to persuade the GWR to finish it at all. The line was converted to narrow gauge on 18-22 June 1874.

Two passenger engines and one goods engine were stationed at Salisbury for working the branch. Two of the photographs on this page show goods engine "Nemesis" of Gooch's 0-6-0 "Ariadne" Class at Warminster at the end of the broad gauge in June 1874, possibly on the last day of broad gauge working. Sir Daniel Gooch must been having a bad hair day in January 1855, when he (or was it the Directors?) chose to give to the nineteenth of his "Swindon Sixth Lot Goods" Class 0-6-0 locomotives the depressing name of "Nemesis." The true nemesis of "Nemesis" came, however, when the locomotive was scrapped in December 1877. From its appearance, the locomotive seems to be dressed in the "Pea-Green" livery -- that is the livery that preceded the familiar GWR livery of Brunswick Green lined out in Black and Orange. This was holly green lined with pea green, which in Victorian times meant the color of dried peas.

The Salisbury branch was originally single-tracked, but the whole line was doubled in 1901. These days the Salisbury Branch provides an important link between Portsmouth and the former Great Western lines to the West of England. Every time I travel on the GWR main line from Paddington to Taunton via the Westbury cut-off and see the bridge carrying the Salisbury Branch passing over the line, I wonder why nobody has ever installed a spur allowing Salisbury trains to pass westward onto the Great Western main line without having to reverse at Westbury. Passengers for the Dorchester and Weymouth line could change at Castle Cary.
Warminster Station in early broad gauge days, c. 1860
Another view of 0-6-0 "Nemesis" at Warminster at the end of the Broad Gauge.
Gooch "Ariadne" or "Standard Goods" Class 0-6-0 "Nemesis" at Warminster at the very end of the Broad Gauge in June 1874
The exterior of Warminster station in early narrow gauge days, c.1880
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