North Somerset is rich in the remains of its heritage, a heritage which includes lead and coal mining,
stone quarrying, iron works and the cloth industry. The canals, tramways and railways were built to transport
the raw and finished materials, including the vast output from the 25 collieries that were directly connected
to the railway.
The 5.5 mile section of the line from Hapsford Junction to Radstock has become disused following the closure
in July 1988 of the Marcroft Wagon Repair Works at Radstock. The section from Hapsford Junction to Frome is
still in use for quarry traffic.
BRIEF HISTORY OF THE LINE
The Somerset Coalfield contained just under 80 collieries. Clearly this required many transport facilites -
the first being the Somerset Coal Canal, built in 1798. This was followed by more canals and aqueducts. After
the railways began their development around the country, and notably the Great Western Railway between Bristol
and Bath (opened 1840), the railways seemed a perfect method of transportation for the coal that was extracted
from the collieries.
The Wilts Somerset and Weymouth Railway (WS&WR) reached Frome in 1850; it was taken over by the Great Western
Railway (GWR) after falling into financial difficulty. The broad gauge Frome to Radstock branch was completed on
14th November 1854; it was a single freight line carrying minerals only.
Approximately half way between Frome and Radstock railway is the Mells Road site. Here there were two branches:
the line was connected to the Newbury Railway that served Mells, Newbury, Vobster and Mackintosh collieries. It
was joined in 1857 and some of this line still remains today. The second branch was a standard gauge line
connected Bilboa quarry. At Newbury Colliery there were coal ovens and a tramway connected Newbury colliery to
Vobster Quarry. Vobster quarry had a lime kiln that was last used in the early 1900s.
In 1873 a standard gauge line opened from Radstock to Bristol, by the GWR. In 11 days in June 1874 the GWR
converted the Radstock to Frome section from broad gauge to standard gauge. This was followed on 5th July 1875
by the first direct passenger service from Bristol to Frome via Radstock - up until this point the Radstock to
Frome section had remained freight only.
The Whatley quarry extension was added in 1894, followed by a new route in 1974. This was to enable main line
locomotives to reach the quarry, this involved adding two tunnels and a bridge across Mells River and is still
in use today.
There were two branches at Clutton to collieries. In total, 25 collieries were connected directly to the line,
and there were 5 inclines (four at Radstock: Kilmersdon, Huish, Writhlington and Wellsway; and the fifth was at
Pensford Colliery). Four stone quarries were connected to the railway, plus a gasworks and ironworks at Frome.
There was also a tile works at Mells Road, and Marcroft's Wagon Repair Works at Radstock.
Other freight was also transported in great amounts on the line. A sample is that 32,539 churns of Milk
were dispatched from Mells Road in 1911.
The through services from Bristol to Frome via Radstock ceased on 2nd November 1959, but the line was retained
for other uses, mostly freight. The line north of Radstock to Bristol was closed around 1968. Radstock and the
line south to Frome remained in use for traffic from the pits. The last coal train left Radstock on 16th November
1973, from Writhlington Pit. The line remained open, however, for access to the wagon repair works, until it closed in June 1988.
At Hallatrow there was a branch to Camerton, opened 1882, and later extended in 1907 from Dunkerton to Limpley
Stoke. Through passenger services from Hallatrow operated from 1910 to 1915. It was not a success, but was tried
again in 1923, which sadly only lasted for two years. The line remained open for Goods traffic until 15th Febuary
1951. This section of the line was famous for the filming of the 1952 Ealing comedy The Titfield Thunderbolt.
The total length of the Bristol to Frome line was 24 miles, compromising 16 miles from Bristol to Radstock, and 8 miles from Radstock to Frome.
The stations on the full route were:
Bristol Temple Meads > Brislington > Whitchurch Halt > Pensford > Clutton > Hallatrow > Farrington Gurney
> Midsomer Norton & Welton > Radstock > Mells Road > Frome