A photograph of Dursley Railway Station, taken in the late 1960s
Dursley Railway Station in the late 1960s

A Brief History of Dursley Railway (1854-1970)

by Peter Morris

Dursley is a small market town located in the Cotswold Hills of South Gloucestershire, South-West England. Today, it is a quiet suburban off-shoot of its near city neighbours Gloucester and Bristol but, for over two centuries, it was an independent township with its own rural customs, rich community celebrations and highly successful woollen trade.

With the coming of the railways to Bristol and Birmingham in the 1820s, the town’s dominance in the cloth industry began to wane as other towns and cities in Britain were able to take advantage of a rail connection, allowing them to operate with lower overheads as raw materials became cheaper to import. 

At the risk of losing their livelihoods, mill-owners and businessmen around Dursley — a town somewhat isolated in the initial 1840’s railway gold-rush — decided to bring their own rail connection from the main Bristol to Gloucester route directly into the heart of the community. 

Initial Problems

The four-mile route was surveyed and planned in 1854 and opened to the public in September 1856. 

Initially, it was a privately run affair, having been financed entirely from public subscription; however, within a year, the line fell into trading difficulties and the Midland Railway Company — who had already lent a large amount of money to the Dursleyians to fund its construction costs — bought the railway, its line and infrastructure outright. 

For the following hundred years, the line was run by a variety of national railway companies. As government policy towards the railways changed and smaller companies were acquired, merged or outright taken over by larger ones, the Dursley Railway was run by the Midland Railway; The London, Midland & Scottish Railway company; and then the Western Region of British Railways — each of who brought their own rather distinctive influence on how the line was administered. 

Latter Years

As freight and passenger traffic dried up under the national shift to road transport, the Dursley branch struggled to survive. Eventually, in the merge that occurred a few years prior to the implementation of the Beeching Cuts in 1963/4, the branch closed to passenger-traffic. Freight services to the world-renowned R A Lister factory in the heart of Dursley continued until July 1970. 

The line’s fate was finally sealed when the only road bridge on the line was hit by a lorry and damaged beyond repair.

Modern Remains

Today, few signs that the railway ever existed can be seen — just a few remains of its infrastructure hidden in the encroaching undergrowth. 

However,  the line and its little black locos are still fondly remembered by locals who once relied upon the railway to get around and to explore the wider world. 

Find out more…

The Dursley Railway by Peter Morris book cover

To discover more about the in-depth history of this fascinating little Cotswold Branchline, buy the author’s book The Dursley Railway: The Life and Times of a Cotswold Branchline (1854–1970).

The Dursley Railway is now available in both Paperback and Hardcover from Amazon!

About the Author

Photo of Author Peter Morris

Peter Morris is a historian and esoteric researcher.

Peter has studied history, metaphysics, spirituality and the paranormal for over 35 years. He has written articles for The Dursley Lantern, Gloucestershire Earth Mysteries/3rd Stone and Un-X Magazine.