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Lyme Regis Branch Line

It used to be possible to travel from Lyme Regis to London (Waterloo) directly by train. True, it would probably have meant sitting in a single Lyme Regis carriage which had to be attached to a London bound train at Axminster. The six and a half-mile branch line between Lyme Regis and Axminster opened in 1903 and there had even been plans for an onwards rail line to be built to Bridport. Lyme Regis station was in the north of the town as the descent down towards the sea was too step for a conventional railway.

It was a difficult, steeply graded and sharply curved route with a concrete viaduct being built at Cannington. Problems in construction delayed the opening of the line requiring the railway company to put in place a horse bus connection between Lyme Regis and Axminster. On the opening day, a special train left Lyme Regis carrying not only dignitaries but also 200 local children. Mr C D Ley, a railway booking clerk from Poole, was appointed  as Lyme Regis’ first station master.

The Lyme Regis Branch Line had one intermediate station at Combpyne where the single line had a passing loop. The station house had neither electricity nor running water and water was delivered from Lyme Regis by train in 5 gallon churns. Combpyne had a camping coach that could be hired. Maximum speed between Axminster and the seaside destination was only 25 mph.

With the introduction of a bus service from Lyme Regis to Axminster and Bridport and increases in car ownership, rail passenger numbers fell. Sadly, the Lyme Regis Branch Line closed on 29th November 1965. By this time, the only worthwhile traffic was on a Summer Saturday and the road to Axminster was shorter than the railway. Freight trains had ceased a few months earlier.

A wooden building from Lyme Regis station still survives at Alresford station on the ‘Watercress Line’ in Hampshire. One of the veteran type of steam locomotives that served for many years on the Lyme Regis Branch Line was acquired by the Bluebell Railway.


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