The Forest of Dean Central Railway
This short railway line was operated by the Great Western Railway (GWR) to serve collieries in the heart of the Forest of Dean in Gloucestershire. From its opening in 1868, the line was operated by the GWR and run by the Central Company until 1923. The GWR took over the line in 1923 and ran it until its closure in 1949. It ran from Awre Junction through Blakeney and on into the forest with the intention of reaching Foxes Bridge Colliery. In fact the line only travelled as far as the New Fancy colliery. It served several mines and quarries along its route as well as the corn mills in Blakeney.
Plans for a railway in the heart of the forest were first drawn up in 1826, but it took until 1868 for the Forest of Dean Central Line to open. A branch line to the New Fancy Colliery followed in 1869. A junction with the main Gloucester to Newport Line was formed at Awre, although the original plan was to open the line to a new dock at Brimspill on the River Severn. The railway never reached the river. It was built initially to serve the Howbeach Collieryt and then ultimately to reach the Foxes Bridge Colliery and in anticipation of its arrival, the formation there was fenced and a bridge built for the Severn & Wye Railway’s Mineral Loop, but in the end, no track was laid north of the link to the New Fancy Colliery.
Decline and closure
The long delay from 1826 to 1868 was probably the ultimate cause of the railway’s failure to achieve success. The opening of the Severn & Wye Railway in the 1870s resulted in much of the coal traffic for which the Forest of Dean Central Railway was built being lost to the new company. By 1875 the section to the central mines and the New Fancy Colliery was first neglected and then abandoned. In 1921 virtually all of the traffic north of Blakeney ceased. Although for a time the GWR continued to run some services north of Blakeney, those ceased in 1932.
Some lengths of the formation remain, as do some of the structures. Part of the Blakeney Viaduct is still extant as is the Blackpool Bridge.
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