The railway station at Shillingstone, on the Somerset and Dorset Joint Railway (S&DJR), was a small station built to the north east of the mile-long village of Shillingstone (formerly known as Shilling Okeford), between Sturminster Newton and Blandford Forum stations.
Shillingstone Station was built and opened by The Dorset Central Railway (DCR) - one of the forerunners of the S&DJR - on 31st August 1863 and survived until 1966, when it fell victim to the infamous Dr. Beeching’s cutback of the railway network.
It has two platforms, the main brick built station buildings were situated on the up (north-bound) platform, which was the shorter of the two, and had a substantial wooden awning over the platform. The much longer down platform had no buildings on it apart from a small, simple, but attractive wooden shelter. During its original working life, lighting was provided by oil lamps, there being no electricity supply. Overlooked by the ancient hill-fort of Hambledon Hill, with the River Stour meandering by in the foreground, Shillingstone was probably the most picturesque station on the Somerset and Dorset Railway.
As was common on the railways in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, the station boasted a beautiful, compact garden with greenhouse, which were tended and cared for by the station staff. The Somerset & Dorset Joint Railway staff took great pride in their workplace. Seeds were propagated in the greenhouse, which provided the plant stock for the station’s flower beds and borders.
The station was important as a passing place on a stretch of single line – the longest such passing loop on the section between Templecombe and Blandford. There was a small goods yard to the north of the station, on the up side, with a cattle dock, a small goods shed, and a 5-ton crane. There was also a siding at the end of the passing loop on the down side, just to the south of the station which could accommodate a 14 coach train. The yard, the siding and the passing loop were controlled from a signal box at the north end of the up platform.
Shillingstone Station has played host to both King and poet in its 103 year history. King Edward VII, who visited on several occasions, alighted here on his way to stay with Lord and Lady Wolverton at nearby Iwerne Minster House. It was as a result of the King’s visits that the station acquired its ornate canopy, unusual for such a small station but considered necessary to protect the royal guest from inclement weather. With the outbreak of World War I, the poet Rupert Brooke joined the Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve and was stationed nearby at Blandford Camp. From there, he and his battalion marched to Shillingstone Station where they boarded a train to Avonmouth and then on to a troop ship bound for Gallipoli. As history records, he never returned.
This is the last surviving station built by The Dorset Central Railway, so it is vital this remarkable building is preserved, for both architectural and historic reasons. Since 2001, enthusiasts have been working to re-open the station as a heritage railway attraction. The main building has been renovated and opened to the public as a museum, shop and refreshment room. The volunteers of The Shillingstone Railway Project have continued work over the years and are currently extending the rail track to create the downline back through the station (a passing loop).
Recent excavation works have revealed a number of railway-related objects – bolts, fixings and so on, but perhaps the most interesting ‘find’ was a metal barrow wheel. Although it has not been possible to date this precisely, it may even have been buried there since the time the line was constructed in the 1860s, making it at least 150 years old. Another treasure for the station museum.
It is the aim of the project to have the ‘Magic Runaround’ - a loop of track with points to allow flexible movement of rolling stock - and finally, to recreate a working railway at the site, laid and in operation by the Spring of 2016, the 50th anniversary of that fateful time in 1966 when Dr. Beeching’s axe fell upon the Bournemouth to Bath line and the S&D passed into history.
It is well worth a visit to the station to observe the restoration and to see the current works taking place. The station is currently only open on Saturdays and Sundays (10.00am - 4.00pm), however it can be viewed at all times from the down platform, part of the North Dorset Trailway.
Shillingstone Station can be approached from either the North Dorset Trailway (which runs along the down platform), footpath from Shillingstone village and Holy Rood Church, or from the permitted footpath in St. Patricks Industrial Estate, Station Road. The station also has its own car park (via the industrial estate) but this is only accessible when the station is open at weekends.
UPDATE: A new parking area is now available at N50° 54.413 W002° 15.240 for the North Dorset Trailway and Shillingstone Station.
This is a traditional cache hidden at the given co-ordinates.
The cache is a small clip lock box in a camo bag
~ Please replace carefully ~
This cache belongs to the SideTracked series
More information can be found at the SideTracked website