Sturminster Newton Station
Sturminster Newton railway station was located between Stalbridge and Shillingstone stations on the Somerset and Dorset Joint Railway (S&DJR). One of the most important towns along the route, the station was opened on 31st August 1863, creating a ‘coast to coast’ link from Burnham, on the Bristol Channel in the north, to Poole on the English Channel in the south.
A passing place on a largely single-track line, the station had two platforms with shelters. The platforms were staggered slightly, with an unusual ‘dip’ halfway along the up platform. This was to enable passengers and staff to cross over to the end of the down platform opposite on a wooden level crossing, as there was no footbridge provided. The main station buildings were located on the up platform, a wooden shelter with a small canopy being provided on the down platform. Behind the down platform was an extensive goods yard consisting of many sidings and associated buildings, including cattle dock, pig pens, stables, goods shed and offices. The whole area was controlled from a wooden signal box containing 16 levers at the eastern end of the up platform.
The goods yard also gave milk trains access to the private sidings of the local creamery. Started in 1913 by local farmers to produce cheddar cheese and pasteurized milk, it was taken over by the Milk Marketing Board in 1937. Milk trains ceased, after 53 years, in 1966 on closure of the line, with the creamery remaining in operation, producing famous award winning cheeses, until 2000, when it was closed by its successor, Dairy Crest.
The Somerset & Dorset Joint Railway – almost always referred to as "the S&D" – was possibly one of the most interesting railway lines in the country and viewed by many to be the finest. With its rather torturous route, the line had everything; beautiful scenery, deep cuttings, tight curves, numerous tunnels and steep gradients. The line also seemed to have a certain charm all of its own and a certain amount of ‘friendly rivalry’ existed between stations, with most of them along the line all trying to have the best kept station and gardens.
From its initial forming, the line existed through some troubled times, particularly in the early years, including two world wars. Even when the line was absorbed into the British Railways nationalisation scheme in 1948, when the London Midland Region operated the line with the Southern Region supervising, the line still held its own character, right up until final closure as part of the famous 'Beeching Axe' in 1966.
It was never a high speed line, its winter business was carrying freight and local passenger traffic over the Mendips. But, in 1874, an extension was opened from Evercreech Junction to link with the Midland Railway at Bath, opening up a through route from the North and Midlands to the South Coast. In the summer season, the S&D came into its own carrying a service of long-distance Saturday holiday trains from northern towns to Bournemouth. It was often known by its affectionate nickname of “the Slow and Dirty”, or sometimes “the Slow and Doubtful”, but it always commanded a considerable loyalty from railway enthusiasts.
The fame of the Somerset & Dorset line reached its peak in the first years of the 1960s; the main line was still active, carrying local passenger trains and a daily long-distance train, The Pines Express, from Manchester to Bournemouth West. Local freight on the route survived in adequate volumes, although the Somerset coalfield was largely exhausted and coal traffic had dwindled. The route remained steam-worked almost entirely until closure on 6th March 1966 and was widely mourned.
The closure of the station at Sturminster Newton marked the end of 103 years of rail travel in the market town. Demolished in the 1970s, the area is now a car park and the only remaining building on the site of the station and goods yard is a former grain store, now used as a carpet retail outlet. Immediately south of the station, the track-bed of the Somerset and Dorset Railway has been reborn as the North Dorset Trailway, which runs along the route of the old railway line and provides a link to many of North Dorset's towns and villages. With views of two iron-age forts – Hambledon Hill and Hod Hill – and the meandering River Stour, this multi-use bridleway is popular with families, walkers, cyclists and horse-riders and, as it has been constructed to mobility specifications, it is accessible to wheelchairs and for parents with pushchairs.
The Sturminster Newton Museum holds a working model of Sturminster Newton station and the surrounding area before the railway was closed. There are also historic photographs and artefacts from the Somerset & Dorset Joint Railway on display.
Memories of the town’s railway heritage have since been revived in Sturminster Newton. The very deep cutting between the Bath Road and Station Road railway bridges, north of the station, was eventually filled in following the line’s closure and levelled to form the town’s commemorative Railway Garden. In 1992, a pair of commemorative gates, with the name of the company which operated the railway, was placed at the entrance to the gardens. The blue plaque on the left gate post, placed by the S&DJR Trust, is dedicated to the engines and men of the railway. Information boards and a section of the railway’s original track is also on display as a nostalgic feature. The Railway Garden was rededicated at a ceremony held in 2010, on the 44th anniversary of the date that the last timetabled train ran on the S&D in 1966.
A simple multi-cache…
Answers to the questions can be found on the information boards in the Railway Gardens.
Question 1: How many stations were there on the line between Sturminster Newton
and Blandford Forum? A
Question 2: When was the direct link through Broadstone to Poole completed? BCDE
Question 3: How many feet below the Railway Garden was the railway cutting? FG
Question 4: How far apart were the rails? H feet J½ inches
N 50° 55. (D-A) (C-H) (B+F)
W 002° 18. (C-E) (J-H) (F+G)
Checksum for last co-ordinates = 24
The final location is a short distance away and can be found outside of the Railway Gardens
The cache is a small magnetic container
Please replace carefully out of sight
This cache belongs to the SideTracked series
More information can be found at the SideTracked website