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By November 28, 2015 Read More →

FEATURE Whoops! Another train comes to grief in Edwardian Highbridge

Whoops: the Highbridge rail crash of 1914

Oh dear: the Highbridge rail crash of 1914

Railways are back in fashion with stations being reopened, new track laid and even old lines brought back into service.

Back in the 1960s the opposite was true as politicians saw the rise of the motorcar as the future of transport as under successive Governments Lord Beeching slashed branch lines and downgraded the system.

Burnham’s station is unlikely to be reopened Highbridge could be upgraded in the future as more people use it.

Crunch: another rail crash in Highbridge back in 1909

Crunch: another rail crash in Highbridge back in 1909

Robert Thomas the joint author of The Book of Burnham-on-Sea spoke to The Weekly News about aspects of the train service that saw Highbridge station open in 1841 and gradually grow into a focus of two lines. An excursion line to Burnham with another continuing to Glastonbury line and the current North-South from Bristol to Exeter.

Mr Thomas said: “The old excursion platform in Burnham was left standing for a long time until it was redeveloped. In 1962 the passenger service between Highbridge and Burnham was discontinued and the line was finally closed in 1963 with the cessation of goods traffic.”

He said that as school boys he and his friends would catch a free ride on the footplate of the locomotive from Highbridge to Burnham – something that would seem unthinkable today.

Holidays: the excursion train to Burnham-on-Sea in 1955

Holidays: the excursion train to Burnham-on-Sea in 1955

He said: “The Burnham-on-Sea station has gone. It stands where the corner of the Morrisons’ carpark. When they demolished the station they took the signal box and carted it down to Washford at the S&D museum. The Burnham platform never had a hard top. It was edged but the rest of it was grass. It was put in for the benefit of visitors to the town which is why it was called the excursion platform so it could take the extra long trains.”

The excursion trains would carry several hundred people into the town at a time. The visitors would come down from Bristol and London and change at Highbridge which at times was an extremely busy station.

Edwardian England: how things once look on the railways at Highbridge in 1904

Edwardian England: how things once look on the railways at Highbridge in 1904

Train derailments were more common in Edwardian times said Mr Thomas. His photographs of two train crashes at Highbridge still catch the eye – and in particular members of the public caught by the photographer. Nobody is using their mobile phone to grab a selfie with the stricken train but rather stare at the camera in wonderment of the new technology.

Harry Mottram

This article first appeared in the Burnham and Highbridge Weekly News

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