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History

In 1860, tradesmen of Bishop's Castle met at an inn in Craven Arms to discuss the formation of a railway to link Bishop's Castle with Craven Arms. The line from Bishop's Castle was to run to Lydham Heath, which would be the junction of Craven Arms - Bishop's Castle line with a line to Montgomery to connect with the Cambrian Railway near Montgomery Station with a short spur running up to Montgomery Town. It was also proposed to form a branch line from Chirbury to Minsterley but due to financial difficulties these two sections were never built.
The Act of Parliament for the construction of the line was obtained in 1861; the company then proceeded to appoint the well known Railway Contractor, Mr Savin, to build the line. Work started but did not proceed very well and it was decided to file a Bill of Chancery against Mr Savin to the amount of £20,500 that had been advanced to him in pursuance of the agreement. The Bishop's Castle Railway Company won and then proceeded to appoint a local contractor, a Mr H Morris from Plowden, to build the line. This he did and to a high level of workmanship, constructing the line and all bridges to accommodate double track if needed at a later date.
By October 1865 the line was completed and ready for operation subject to receiving approval from the Board of Trade. The line opened for traffic on October 24th 1865 without having completed an inspection by a government inspector and without the required approval being granted. Approval was eventually obtained subject to a number of conditions and the company continued in operation.
It was not long before the line was in trouble as the money had run out preventing the construction of the line to Montgomery. On January 23rd 1867, a sale by auction of property belonging to the company was held at the George Hotel in Shrewsbury. The catalogue included two locomotives and all the rolling stock. the rolling stock was purchased by the Midland Wagon Co. who had works in Shrewsbury and had built much of the stock. It was they who, with the debenture holders, appointed a Receiver to run the concern. The Bishop's Castle Railway Company remained in receivership for 69 years and 2 months until it closed in1935.
The Receiver had, by 1935, decided that the line was not paying and so it was time to call it a day. There was not enough money to cover expenses and the defence fund that had been set up was exhausted. Operations were suspended on Saturday, April 26th 1935. All goods waiting transit were cleared with a large amount of round timber included. There were two timber cranes at Bishop's Castle; one at Plowden and the company's mobile crane was used at Lydham Heath. This work took a month to complete and the line fell into a state of slumber for approximately six months before demolition commenced at Bishop's Castle.
A small staff of of five, ex- Bishop's Castle, railwaymen carried out the demolition work using the loco Carlisle with No.1 (Tankie) having been put into a siding at Plowden to await cutting up. The final demolition train left the line at Stretford Bridge Junction on Sunday 21st February 1937. Carlisle was cut up at Craven Arms two weeks later. All the scrap metal was purchased by Rollanson & Co. with most of the rails finding their way to Birkenhead where they were used by the Cammel Laird ship yard in the construction of HMS Prince of Wales, a battleship that had distinguished service in WWII before being sunk off Malaya by a Japanese torpedo aircraft on December 10th, 1941.

Extract from "A Tale Of Two Houses"

We were given permission by Lady More to reprint an extract from the book " A Tale of Two Houses" which was published by Sir Jasper More in 1978.

" Then back to the station, to rescue the luggage, and to the train destined to become so familiar, standing in the bay. "Passengers are requested not to throw out of the window anything likely to injure men working on the line", said a notice in the compartment. Above the seats would be photographs of strange mysterious places; Kenilworth, Llandrindod Wells, The Mumbles. The whistle would blow and Aunt Dorothy would wave goodbye. We were on our way.

Past Condover, past Dorrington, past Leebotwood and then the climb up into the South Shropshire Hills, once seen never forgotten. Our excitement would rise: soon we knew the names; on the left the Lawley and Caradoc, on the right the Longmynd, and in two minutes we would be drawing up at the nerve centre Church Stretton. Then down the hill to Marshbrook, and the great event of the day, the station at Craven Arms. Once we decanted ourselves and our luggage, we rushed over the bridge, and there standing in the bay was our special favourite, the Bishop's Castle train.

The Bishop's Castle train, even to our youthful eyes, was not like other trains. It was not even like other railways, for it was a railway on its own, the Bishop's Castle Railway. It had started - so we came to learn - in the 1860's and partly under More auspices, with the double purpose of providing rail connection between our local town of Bishop's Castle and the outside world. As happened not infrequently where the More family was concerned, the money ran out, the first object was abandoned and the enterprise focused on Bishop's Castle. It was nine miles of single track with five intermediate stations. The landowners had not been paid, the company went bankrupt and thereafter spent the rest of its corporate life in Chancery. Occasionally landowners would get restive, and men would be employed to interrupt the service by removing the rails. The company would retaliate with a double gang, one gang to decoy the landlords' men to drinks in the nearest pub, the other to put back the rails to let the train through. Eventually this was thought to be precarious and the landowners were bought out by the Bishop's Castle Railway Defence Trust to which my father had to contribute five hundred pounds.

There were two engines, 'Carlisle' and 'No. 1', and we would look eagerly to see which was heading the train today. 'No 1' was small, but 'Carlisle', built in 1865, was a largish engine with tender and we soon got to know that Whitaker would let us onto the footplate. (Once, in the 1914-18 War we did the footplate journey in the company of eighteen very large Australian soldiers). Mademoiselle and the luggage would have to find a carriage. As the carriages were successively condemned, the 'receiver', who ran the railway, would buy up job lots and you never knew if you would be travelling in something from the Brecon & Merthyr, the London & South Western, or the Cockermouth Keswick & Penrith. The whistle would go, Whitaker would show us how to swing over the regulator and we would be away.

The first station, Stretford Bridge Junction, was one of our favourites. It had no station nameplate, just a platform with two metal advertisements for Mazawattee Tea and Bibby's Foods, and it could only be approached by trespassing across a farmer's field. Horderley, Plowden and Eaton were grander, each with a red brick station house. We would begin to thread our way up the railway's magical valley with sonorous rumbling as we negotiated bridge after bridge over the River Onny.

At Plowden was a road bridge built of transverse timbers with gaps in between; it was here, on one of our journeys, that we sighted a cow with all four legs fallen through the gaps and its horns waving over the line; Cadwallader (the guard) had had to pull it by the horns with main force while the station master sat on its head and Whitaker slowly drew the coaches past. Eaton had no stationmaster but was looked after by Mrs Bason, a station mistress of character who, if there were no waiting passengers, would signal the train through at walking pace. Newspapers and packets would be thrown out by Cadwallader onto the platform while any more fragile parcels would be carefully lobbed into Mrs Bason's out-stretched skirt. The next station would be Lydham Heath.
From Eaton onwards we finished the magical valley and launched into an expanse of open country, beyond which we would see the Linley skyline. Excitement mounted; the hills we got to know so well; on the left Heathmynd, then Rhadley and Linley Hill; and then on the right the dramatic landmark of the Beech Avenue curling over the top of Norbury. Somewhere short of these hills was our destination, the Cottage.

Lydham Heath was as far as the railway had managed to get on its way to Wales. It now formed a terminus and for the final two miles to Bishop's Castle the train had to reverse. This meant all trains had to stop and, as Lydham Heath was our station, this was all to the good. It consisted of a short platform, a tin shack, and a set of buffers up against the hedge, which bordered the main road. This was the branch line station from which, in time long past, my grandfather's forgotten London guests had had to be retrieved. There was no house in sight; no form of transport; indeed hardly any road traffic. In railway terms there were awkwardnesses; all trains had to include goods and cattle as well as passengers; sometimes it would be the cattle rather than the passengers who finished up opposite the Lydham Heath platform; and in my grandmother's day, Cadwallader had had on occasions to shout in broadest Shropshire to the driver; 'hitch up the train a bit, Harry. Mrs More canna' get in'. But none of these problems were ours. For there waiting on the platform, would be our ever-reliable guide, philosopher and friend, Sam Davies.

The important part of Sam's equipment today would be the wheelbarrow. While Whitaker was manoeuvring 'Carlisle' to the far end of the train for the last two miles to Bishop's Castle, Sam would be loading the luggage. The luggage made a sort of mountain in the barrow, and some of it would have to be lashed to the sides with ropes. A farewell wave to Whitaker and off we would all set, pacing the wheelbarrow with Sam."