The Forest of Dean Tramways and Railways – An Addendum:

In this addendum to the articles already written about the Forest of Dean, we take a general look at the Forest through the eyes of Humphrey Household. 

While on holiday in the Forest of Dean in September 2021, I picked up a secondhand copy of “Gloucestershire Railways in the Twenties” by Humphrey Household. [1]  It consists of a review of the development of the railways in Gloucestershire supported by a series of photographs which were predominantly taken in the 1920s by Humphrey Household. The photos are a significant resource. The text of the book is well-written. Its final two chapters were of real interest to me.

IMG_20210917_171410913~2

The two chapters are entitled “Leckhampton Quarries” and “The Forest of Dean.” I have covered the first of these two chapters elsewhere. The second provides some interesting comments and photographs relating to the Forest.

Household had been fascinated by the Forest of Dean from an early age but did not start to photograph the Forest railways until the late 1940s. Nevertheless, his photographs from that time are illuminating. The first four photographs show the Lydney docks/canal, one, from April 1948, shows one of the coal shipping hoists on a length of the canal. He notes that the wagon turntable on the rail approach bore the date 1873. (p126) Two photographs (p125) were taken in August 1948 and show, first, the canal entrance and then the inner gates and basin with the Alma of Bristol moored. The fourth photograph is undated but shows the loading of coal and a little of the layout of tracks above the coal hoist.

Household also provides photographs of the route of the Bullo Pill Tramway. He notes that “after leaving the Riverside and passing the Bullo Cross Inn it followed a meandering course close to the contour, sometimes on a low embankment, always maintaining a gentle gradient for horses returning with empty wagons. But between Servernside and the valley of the Bideford Brook which the tramway followed from Lower Soudley through Ruspidge to Cinderford, there lay a ridge which had to be pierced. There had been plenty of canal runnels before then, but that at The Haie, 1,100 yards long, was certainly one of the earliest to be driven for a railway.” (p127). [2]

Household comments that “in 1826 a new company, the Forest of Dean Railway, was formed to take over the tramway and complete the wet dock. … The Bullo line, still remembered as the ‘dramroad’, was remarkably simple in operation. The wagons, carrying a ton or two at a time, proceeded at no ‘faster rate than a Horse could walk’, and when two met, the loaded one had right of way, the other perforce returning to the nearest turnout. Through the tunnel, wherein none might ‘carry or use a lighted torch’, the wagons passed in groups, the driver of the rearmost distinguishing it with the branch of a tree and blowing a horn when he emerged at the further end.” (p127-130)

The operation was straightforward. The new tramway company halved the tolls charged for coal and completed the wet dock, enlarging the wharves at the same time. The use of steam locomotives was considered but rejected because of the alignment of the route and the size of the bore of Hair Hill Tunnel. However the arrival of the broad gauge running from Gloucester to Chepstow in 1851 changed things. The Forest of Dean Railway sold out to the South Wales company and Brunel decided to convert the tramway so as to be able to accept steam locomotives. A series of six photographs taken by Household in April 1952 show different part of the alignment of the Bullo Pill Tramway.

Household also mentions an abortive attempt to construct a third tramway midway between the other two. The intended route ran between Purton Pill and Foxes Bridge (on the Littledean-Coleford road – the B4266). He says that “the prospectus bore the grandiose title of the Purton ‘Steam Carriage Road’. [3] Construction began, and at Viney Hill above Blakeney part of the formation can be seen leading in s south-easterly direction from beside the A48 Lydney road, and nearer Purton there is a completed arch intended to carry the railway over the Blakeney-Purton road.” (p130) Household provides two further photographs (p134) to illustrate the two locations that he mentions. Grace’s Guide provides a photograph of the three-span arched viaduct to which, I think, Household refers. It remains today sitting over the road between Purton and Etloe. [4]

References

  1. Humphrey Household; Gloucestershire Railways in the Twenties; Alan Sutton Publishing Ltd., Gloucester, 1984 (reprinted 1986) ….  the relevant chapter can be found from p124 onwards.
  2. This line and its tunnel are covered in an article which can be found at: https://rogerfarnworth.com/2018/03/13/bullo-pill-and-the-forest-of-dean-tramway
  3. The National Archive holds records associated with this proposed line which can be accessed at Kew. The relevant details can be found on the following links: https://discovery.nationalarchives.gov.uk/details/r/C7435267, accessed on 17th September 2021. https://discovery.nationalarchives.gov.uk/details/r/C7435264, accessed on 17th September 2021. Further details are available on Grace’s Guide, https://www.gracesguide.co.uk/Purton_Steam_Carriage_Road, accessed on 17th September 2021.
  4. https://www.gracesguide.co.uk/File:JD_Purton_2016_01.jpg, accessed on 17th September 2021.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.