Branksome & Swanage Light Railway was a proposal to build a 13 miles line from the County Gates through Branksome Park to Canford Cliffs. From there it would travel to Sandbanks and then to the entrance to Poole Harbour. This would be crossed by a transporter bridge so that the line could make its way onto Swanage.
Promoters of the Scheme argued that it would open up the health giving opportunities of the Isle of Purbeck to Bournemouth & Poole residents as well as making Swanage less isolated. A representative of the promoters was reported as saying that they wanted a pretty route because they ‘did not want to flood Branksome Park with rif-raf!’
A suspended gondola would carry the tram cars across the water at a height of 90 metres so as not to interfere with shipping. There are similar transporter bridges built in both Newport and Middlesbrough. The intended drive system would have used electric motors under the gondola to draw the platform across the harbour mouth by grabbing a tethered chain – in a way not dissimilar to a chain link ferry.
The company planned to raise £266,000 to finance the project to include £30,000 to build the transporter bridge. Annual revenue of £36,000 was projected to yield an £18,100 net profit. Electricity would be provided by the Bournemouth Electricity Supply Company. The service would run for 18 hours every day and cover 700,000 miles every year. Fares would be set at one old penny per mile together with four old pennies (about 2p) to cross the bridge.
Unfortunately for the promoters, the Scheme met widespread opposition to include Bournemouth & Poole Corporations, the Poole Harbour Commissioners, Branksome Park Estate, London & South Western Railway, the Bankes Estate and Wareham & Purbeck Rural District Council. Poole Council had met in December 1905 and had concluded that the proposed Branksome & Swanage Light Railway Scheme offered absolutely no benefit to the town. They feared the potential interference with shipping into and out of Poole and did not want the developers to acquire land that could in future be used for better purposes.
With such overwhelming local opposition, the Light Railway Commissioners felt , whose role was to evaluate the proposal, they had to reject it so the bridge was never built.
However, one can but speculate how different Sandbanks and the Isle of Purbeck would be today if the Branksome & Swanage Light Railway transporter bridge had been built.
(Sources: 1906 copies of Western Gazette & Bournemouth Graphic.)
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