A History of the Railway in Bradford on Avon, Whiltshire
|The view of the town showing the completed buildings, but without the track as it was painted by Mrs E.Tackle in 1850.|
The idea of a railway link between Bristol and London was promotedin 1832
by two engineers, William Brunton and Henry Habberly Price. The route
proposed was from Bristol, via Bath, Bradford and Trowbridge, then passing
near Devizes and through the Pewsey Vale to Hungerford, thence through
Newbury and Reading, Datchet, Colnbrook and Southall 'to a vacant site
within three or four hundred yards of Edgware Road, Oxford Street, and
the Paddington and City Road turnpike.This project was announced by a
circular headed 'Bristol and London Railway' and dated from 7th May 1832,
and repeated by another letter in the following month, but never materialised
due to lack of financial support.
|As a consequence
the S & D promoters were stirred into action, proposing a Basing and
Bath (B & B) line in July 1834. Considerable argument broke out
between the two camps, with S & D supporters criticising the GWR for
proposing a direct line to London rather than a junction with the L &
S and GWR supporters blaming the L & S for the failure of the GWR Bill.
The Basing and Bath prospectus of 1835 proposed a 106 mile line via Newbury, Devizes, Trowbridge, Bradford on Avon, and Bath with a westward extension to Frome, Taunton, and eventually further west. The opposing GWR was to go through Slough, Maidenhead, Reading, Swindon, Chippenham, and Bath. The revised GWR Bill of 1835 included branches to Bradford on Avon and Chippenham. The Commons accepted it against the Basing and Bath primarily on the grounds of its easier gradients.
Meanwhile, the London & Southampton, having obtained their Act, began another attack on the Great Western by promoting a 'narrow gauge' line from Basingstoke to Bristol via Newbury, Hungerford, Devizes, Trowbridge and Bradford. There was little support for the 'narrow gauge' scheme from either Bath or Bristol, and at a public meeting held in Bath in September by the London & Southampton, Brunel successfully demolished their arguments and the resolution was carried in the favour of the GWR. The London & Southampton, although rebuffed, was not put off by this result and proceeded with their Bill for the Basingstoke, Bath & Bristol Railway. The GWR, sensing that trouble could be looming with the proposed L&S line from Basingstoke, added a forked branch from Chippenham to Bradford and Trowbridge into their new Bill.
By the end of February 1835, the GWR was able to announce to the public that the whole of the 10,000 additional shares required by Parliament for the entire railway from London to Bristol, making, with the previous 10,000, a capital of £2 million, had been subscribed and that the petition for the Bill had been
Western Railway proposes a branch from Chippenham to Bradford on Avon and
However, with railway fever still holding Bristol in its grip, and with much discussion in the press and between influential commercial groups, other persons were quick to adopt the idea. Four successful businessmen started the ball rolling in the autumn of 1832, with the result that, by the end of the year a committee of prominent merchants and others representing the five corporate bodies of Bristol -Bristol Corporation, Society of Merchant Venturers, Bristol Dock Company, Bristol Chamber of Commerce and the Bristol & Gloucestershire Railway - was appointed to investigate the practicability of a railway to London. The first meeting was held on 21st January 1833, and the committee considered the matter generally and advertised for information. During the following month the constituent public bodies, having received favourable prospects for the intended line, provided funds for a preliminary survey and estimate, and this involved the selection of an engineer. On 7th March 1833, Isambard Kingdom Brunel was appointed to this important post at the age of 27. He, in company with W. H. Townsend, a land surveyor and valuer, set about surveying the country between Bristol and London. First, they inspected the route between Bath and Reading via Bradford, Devizes, the Pewsey Vale and Newbury, in the footsteps of the previous project, then the second route, north of the Marlborough Downs, via Chippenham, Swindon, the Vale of the White Horse and the Thames Valley. This latter being the route selected.
|1834 Act for constructing
a railway from London to Southampton, with a branch from Basingstoke to
Devizes, Trowbridge and Bradford on Avon to Bath. This was in opposition
to Great Western Railway
1835 The Great Western Railway was created by an Act of Parliament on the 31st August 1835 to provide a double tracked line from Bristol to London
Brunel commenced construction of the Great Western Railway on 3rd September.
Brunel's route for the Great Western had the greatest strategic value and
was also, for 83 of its 116 miles, over remarkably favourable terrain -
but only Brunel would have incurred such considerably extra costs in earthwork
to take advantage of the land to create as near as possible a straight-line,
level, railway-the fastest railway in the world. This choice of route and
levels was his first masterpiece, often overlooked because it is too big
He undertook the entire supervision of the construction. Every detail of locomotion, construction and administration
was decided by him. He prepared contracts and vetted tenders, designed tracklaying tools, negotiated with landowners and trustees of charities, turnpike roads and proprietors of waterways, issued instructions to subordinates, corrected their behaviour towards landowners and contractors. While the Great Western was building he became Engineer to the Cheltenham & Great Western Union railway and the Bristol & Exeter Railway and thereby trebled his comprehensive responsibilities.
|At long last, on 31st August 1835, the Bill received the Royal Assent, and the Great Western Railway was incorporated and empowered to make its line, the route being as follows: 'Commencing at or near a certain field called Temple Mead within the parish of Temple otherwise Holy Cross in the City and County of the City of Bristol, adjoining or near to the new cattle market there' and passing through specified parishes in the counties of Gloucester, Somerset, Wiltshire, Berkshire, Oxfordshire, Buckinghamshire, and Middlesex, 'and terminating by a junction with the London and Birmingham Railway in a certain field lying between the Paddington Canal and the Turnpike Road leading from London to Harrow on the western side of the General Cemetery in the Parish or Township of Hammersmith in the said County of Middlesex'. Also, a branch railway from near Thingley Farm, in the parish of Corsham, to a field near the Gas Works in the part of the parish of Trowbridge called Islington, with another branch thereout from the south western extremity of the village of Holt in the parish of Bradford, to the farmyard of Kingston Farm adjoining the town of Bradford. So at last the Great Western had succeeded where others had failed. It is interesting to note that the clauses in the Bill referring to the branches "from near Thingley Farm to Trowbridge" and "from Holt to Bradford" had been inserted especially to thwart the London & Southampton's ambition to construct a line from Basingstoke to Bristol. Once the Company had received Parliamentary authority it lost no time in making a start on the work, construction being commenced simultaneously at both the London and Bristol ends. The building of the original GWR main line has been well documented elsewhere, so for the purposes of this book we now return to Wiltshire and Somerset.|
of the line started in 1836 at two locations; between Bristol and Bath,
and Reading and London, eventually reducing the gap between them. In addition,
grand stations were built at Bristol - Temple Meads, and London - Paddington
together with numerous other designs such as a carriage and locomotive works
15th September Brunel announced his intention of using a wider gauge than normal ( 7 ft rather than 4ft 8 1/2 in between the rails).
1837 the Great Western also launched their first ship, appropriately named 'Great Western', as Bristol had direct access to the Atlantic and America. A few years later they produced the first completely iron steamship 'Great Britain' and her troublesome sister 'Great Eastern', all designed by Brunel
1838 The first section of twenty-four miles from Paddington to Maidenhead was completed in May 1838.
August railway between Bath and Bristol was opened
1841 Great Western Railway completed to Bristol in June . The whole route to Bridgewater was opened on 30th June. Branch to Bradford on Avon not built as insufficient money.
|1843 This year saw the completion of Swindon locomotive works and soon afterwards the first GWR designed engine, inevitably named 'Great Western'.|
July first meeting of Wilts & Somerset Railway was held at the Baths
Arms Inn ,Horningsham,Warminster with major land owner-Walter Long as
Chairman and I.K. Brunel as Company Engineer.
|1845 The Wiltshire and Somerset Railway was to leave the main GWR at Thingley, two miles west of Chippenham, and go to Salisbury, with a line branching off at Upton Scudamore for Yeovil and Weymouth. Branches were also to run to Bradford on Avon, Devizes, Radstock and Sherborne. Originally the Company had been proposed as the Wilts & Somerset only, Weymouth being added after the Bristol & Exeter had refused to take interest in the port. The clash between the gauges developed in 1845, when the mileage of the broad gauge system aggregated 274 miles, while the narrow-gauge rivals possessed over 1, 900 miles.|
|The narrow-gauge supporters claimed that as they owned a greater mileage, the later arrivals in the field should be those to convert. While the railway companies fervently debated the question, the public had to suffer considerable inconvenience arising from delays and changing over on to different lines at stations where the two gauges met. The outcry grew in intensity, until in 1845 a Royal Commission was set up to investigate the state of affairs and to draw up a report with suggestions as to how the conflict might best be settled. The inquiry lasted five months, and the commissioners found feeling strongly in favour of the retention of the narrow gauge and the abolition of the broad gauge.|
|Brunel was still convinced of the superiority of his track, and his Locomotive Superintendent, Daniel Gooch, put forward a practical means of testing the merits of the rival gauges. Gooch suggested that trains of equal weight should be run on journeys of equal distance over the different gauges. The first meeting of the WSWR directors after the Act had been passed was held at Trowbridge on 1 August 1845, Walter Long being appointed chairman and Sir John Wither Awdry, deputy chairman. I. K. Brunel was appointed the company's engineer, with Ward as resident engineer for the section Thingley-Salisbury-Frome-Radstock; and Peniston in the same capacity for the Frome-Weymouth section. Brunel reported that land was marked out from Thingley to Westbury for the immediate construction of the works.|
result of these tests, which were carried out under the supervision and
observation of the Commissioners, was definitely in favour of the broad
gauge. The figures showed that the trains on the broad gauge were capable
of far higher speeds and offered more safety to the traveller. But as the
advantages of through travel without change of train was considered more
important than high speed, the Commissioners recommended that the gauge
of 4 ft. 8-1/2 in. should be adopted in the construction of all future railways;
also, that no railway should change its gauge without official consent;
and, finally, that where the gauges met the broad gauge should give way.
The Wilts, Somerset and Weymouth Railway Company applied to Parliament in 1846 for an Act enabling it to compulsorily purchase land for the new railway which was eventually granted upon the strict condition that the short branch from Staverton to Bradford-on-Avon should be extended through Freshford and Limpley Stoke to a junction with the main line at Bathampton in order, in the words of the Act, "to effect a better line of communication with Bath and Bristol."
3rd August Act receives Royal assent. The Great Western Railway, which was supporting the nominally independent Wilts, Somerset and Weymouth, vehemently opposed this condition but was compelled to accept it in order to get the Bill passed.
|The Great Western Railway anticipated heavy traffic on the Wilts, Somerset and Weymouth from the ports of Southampton and Portsmouth destined for Bristol and, as their revenue was based upon mileage, they could expect substantially higher tolls from cargoes carried to Bristol via the roundabout Trowbridge - Chippenham - Bath route than from the shorter Trowbridge - Bradford-on-Avon - Bathampton route which Parliament and the Board of Trade insisted upon.|
|1847 Brunel reported a start would be made on the line between Thingley (near Chippenham) and Bradford. The Dundas Aqueduct under the Kennet & Avon Canal between Bradford and Bathampton was giving difficulty as the embankments proved to be very insecure when they were opened. The trouble was overcome, but not without interrupting the passage of canal traffic. Brunel said it was "a tedious and rather difficult operation." and was very expensive and involved a fixed penalty. He reported little progress in the six months ending December 31, 1847.|
|1848 The Railway Mania prevented the scheme coming to fruition. Calls were unpaid on a large proportion of shares, and the construction work - started promptly after the passing of the Act -had to be abandoned when ready money was exhausted. Only the first 14 miles, from Thingley Junction to Westbury, were finished and on the 28th August Gooch, assisted by Brunel made the trip from Chippenham to Westbury.|
|The Bath Chronicle
"On Saturday (2nd September) the directors, accompanied by numerous friends, made an experimental trip on the line from Thingley to Westbury, preparatory to the opening for general traffic. At twelve o'clock a special left this city, drawn by the Vulture engine, which was driven by Mr. Gooch, Superintendent of the Locomotive Department of the Great Western Railway, assisted by Mr. Brunel, Engineer. At Melksham the train was received with loud cheering from the assembled populace, flags waving and bands of music playing. At Trowbridge also there was a great assemblage of people, and salutes of cannon were fired from the iron foundry. At Westbury, the Mayor presented the directors with a congratulatory address, to which a suitable reply was returned by the Chairman of the board."
The line opened to public on 5th September. Work was finally completed at Avoncliff.
|The short branch to Bradford-on-Avon was almost complete by the summer of 1848; the embankments and cuttings were finished, the bridges over the River Avon near Bradford Great Wood and across the weir at Greenland Mill were built, Bradford Tunnel and the two road bridges immediately east of the station were ready, Bradford station was built and ready to receive passengers and some but not all of the rails to Bradford were laid. The Bradford branch could have opened as well but works for this were too heavy. Bradford on Avon station was completed in this year. Bath stone was used in the construction of the station buildings which were attractive architecturally, and, unlike some other stations, adorned both platforms. The old 2-road goods shed (again of Bath stone) remained undisturbed for most of its life although the track layout around it altered with the development of traffic. The remaining 120 authorized miles were left punctuated by earthworks and bridges in various stages of building. Some of the land was re-let. Due to cash shortage no lines were laid.|
|The branch from
Staverton (soon renamed Bradford Junction) north of Trowbridge, to Bradford,
however, was so nearly ready that it remains a mystery why it was not finished
and opened. Bradford station was waiting and little but laying the rails
remained to be done when labour was suddenly withdrawn, to the fury of the
town where the large woollen business was beginning to decline seriously.
It was nine years before a passenger train entered the station - nine long
years, during which much business was diverted to Trowbridge. The Wiltshire
woollen industry generally declined later than Devon's, particularly Exeter's.
Helped by the main line, Trowbridge succeeded in keeping its mills until
toward the end of the century, when it changed fairly painlessly into a
market and administrative centre. In 1847/8 came the depression. Loans were
almost unobtainable and calls on shares went unpaid. Many treailway schemes
were now in trouble and the WSWR itself ran out of money after completing
just under14 miles of double track from the junction with the GWR main line
at Thingley to Westbury. Stations were provided at melksham and TrowbridgeThis
section (the only one completed by the independentWS&W) was opened on
5tyh nSeptemner 1848,
1849 proprietors of WSWR told that the depression only minimal work was being carried out mainly from the Westbury to Frome section. Finances deteriorated during the year. By December the directors had sold the company to the Great Western railway.
1850 14th march the Wilts, Somerset & Weymouth Company absorbed by Great Western Railway.
Some of the land was re-let, much of it to the previous owners and the countryside for many miles along the route was punctuated with stretches of half-completed earthworks and bridges. The branch from Staverton to Bradford was completed and Bradford station built, but the rails were not laid on this section, much to the annoyance of the local populace! On 4th June 1849 the WS&W directors were advised by the Great Western to suspend all the workings of the line except the section from Westbury to Frome. In a report to the shareholders presented with the half-yearly accounts in January 1850, the GWR advised that the lines should not be extended for the present beyond Frome and Warminster.
Although the WS&W was a nominally independent concern it had always in reality been a creature of the GWR, the hope being entertained that a seemingly local company would make better progress with raising subscriptions. By now it was obvious that this was untrue, so the pretence was ended by the GWR taking over the WS&W and its unfinished line of railway on 14th March 1850. The GWR gave the shareholders of the now defunct company 4% guaranteed stock in lieu of their ordinary shares - a purely paper transaction since the GWR had, from the line's inception, guaranteed 4% on the capital and invested £545,000 in the project. Transfer of the former company to the GWR was confirmed by Parliament on 3rd July 1851, and the erstwhile Wilts, Somerset & Weymouth Company was dissolved 1851 the transfer to GWR was legalised.
Kennet & Avon Canal was bought by the Great Western railway for £210,415
The people of Bradford-on-Avon, who had seen their station completed in every detail apart from the laying of track, had good reason to be furious that no attempt was made to finish their part of the line. Indeed, there was a general disenchantment with the GWR throughout the district, and many towns -including Devizes, which was pressing for the completion of its branch, served Bills of Mandamus upon the GWR which culminated in a lawsuit at Somerset Assizes in the Michaelmas Term of 1852; a writ against the railway company being sought to compel them to complete and open the whole system. This action met with only limited success. The GWR, being able to prove that their financial position was far from strong, was successful in defeating many of the lawsuits, but Mandamus was made absolute for the Avon Valley section through Bradford-on-Avon to Bathampton. The GWR lodged an appeal against the order, but it was dismissed, with the Exchequer Chamber deciding that under the terms of the 1845 Act, the Company could be compelled to make the branch.
With land being purchased beyond Frome for the continuation of the line, and the company entering negotiations with various local bodies in order to obtain the capital for finishing the railway, the GWR, under an Act of 1852 made another attempt to stimulate local interest by floating a separate company under the title Trome, Yeovil & Weymouth Railway'. The Act contained a clause that the agreement with the GWR should be void unless the the whole capital was subscribed within three months, but this was not
1853 Proceedings were taken for writs of mandamus to compel the completion of all the lines. Naturally the GWR was made scapegoat for the district's economic troubles, but the Company proved that times were hard for it too, and was successful in its defence - except for the Bradford to Bathampton section. Mandamus for this was made absolute by the Queen's Bench in Michaelmas Term 1853 after a much publicized trial at Somerset Assizes, and an appeal was rejected.
|1854 The Company decided to renew powers for the extensions to Weymouth and Salisbury as well as Bathampton. The price of this move to protect the territory from the narrow gauge was the usual section inserted in the Act-of 31 July threatening the suspension of the Company's dividends if the works were not ready within two years. GWR is legally commanded to complete the Bathampton branch taking in Bradford. Compelled to complete the line, the Great Western Railway resumed negotiations with the property owners upon whom compulsory purchase orders had been served seven years earlier.|
|Due to the precarious future of the old Wilts, Somerset and Weymouth Railway many of these orders had not been acted upon, much of the land was yet to be acquired and much that had been taken had been leased back to the original owners when it seemed unlikely that the line would be built. In some cases the original owners had been allowed to continue in occupation of their properties by default without legal title.|
1855 Wiltshire Record office has a document relating to the sale by John William Yerbury of land at Belcombe to the Great Western Railway ( 686:22).In this year GWR had to raise more capital, to the sum of £1,325,000, to complete various works including Wilts, Somerset & Weymouth. In the shareholdsers report of 1856 it was revealed that £1,433,000 had already been spent on WS&W. At that time only 311/2 miles of the project were open to traffic.
1856 By 1856, the GWR had already spent £1,433,000 on the Wilts, Somerset & Weymouth; and the opening of the rest of the system, through thinly-peopled country, was expected to bring an operating loss. This was but one factor then contributing to the GWR'S difficulties and dissension on the Board.
Colonel Wynne made an inspection on behalf of the Board of Trade on 17 January 1856 and believed another three to four months was required for completion. The work which ruled the opening, was the tunnel under the Kennet & Avon Canal at Dundas Aqueduct. It had to be cut through material of a treacherous nature and the side walls were built in lengths not exceeding 10ft and each had to be built in a pit, the sides of which had to be shored up closely all round. It was impossible to drain the canal as it had to be kept open to traffic. 1857 Colonel Yolland inspected the Yeovil-Weymouth line on 15 January .
On July 21sy 1856 the Wiltshire Times reports:
An accident occurred here on Wednesday morning last, resulting in fearful consequence by the falling of a wall near the line of railway, which fell on two workmen, one of whom is dead and the other is not expected to survive.
|1857 The line opened to Weymouth on 20 January 1857. The first train, hauled by 2-4-0 Otho. Meanwhile Colonel Yolland inspected the line from Bradford to Bathampton on 16 January 1857. He found that the permanent way had only just been laid and was very rough. The station buildings and signalling were incomplete and he said it was not fit for opening to passenger traffic. After re-inspection a fortnight later, he granted a certificate. The branch joined the main G.W.R. line at a new station at Bathampton.|
|The line opened on 2 February 1857, the first train being hauled by 2-2-2 Fire Fly Class Mentor. A free special left Bradford for Weymouth. Engineering works were considerable, including seven viaducts and two aqueducts for the Kennet & Avon Canal.|
|On February 7 1857
The Wiltshire Times reports:
Opening of the railway to Bath
On Monday last the line between Trowbridge and Bath via Bradford was opened for traffic. The first train arrived here soon after 7.00 am and 10 trains are registered to run, viz 5 up and 5 down. Considerable excitement prevailed throughout the day, on the arrival of each train the railway station was besieged by hundreds of eager spectators. The celebrated Bradford brass band played lively airs at intervals during the day, and as often as might be heard the sound of the merry church bells. A good dinner was provided in the evening by Mr J,C. Neale of the Swan Hotel. We learn that the inhabitants of the town are not contented with the list of fares laid down by railway company; for a return ticket from Bradford to Bath a distance of 9 miles, a fare of 3/3d is demanded, whereas from Trowbridge to Frome, a similar distance, the price is only 1/6d.
The line curves away from the main about on mile from Trowbridge station through Bradford, Avoncliff, Freshford, Limpley Stoke to the junction at Bathampton where it joins the GWR to Bath etc., passing 3 times under the Kennet and Avon Canal and 6 bridges by extensive viaducts over the river Avon.
On June 27 1857 The Wiltshire Times reports:
On Monday 22nd this unusually quiet train was greatly enlivened by an excursion train which stopped at the Bradford station on its way to Weymouth. Here it was joined by the brass band belonging to the town, to whom great credit is due to for the very praise worthy way in which they enlivened the pleasure of the day. The weather was remarkably favourable but a goodly number of passenger (150-200). Found difficulty in obtaining seats and it would have been easier if rail carriages had been awaiting the train, and it would have been given greater satisfaction.
to Bradford 9d. (1st Class single) 1s. 2d. return
2nd Class single 6d. return 9d.
3rd Class 3 1/2d.
Trowbridge-Bath was (in order as above) 2s. 9d. 4s. 1s 10d. 2s. 9d 1s.
On July 25 1857
Excursion Train (Trowbridge)
Yesterday morning a monster train from Bristol, Bath and Bradford passed our station on its way to Salisbury. It consisted of about 30 carriages, propelled with two powerful engines. The train was a very heavy one and must have conveyed about 2,000 persons. Our neighbours at Bradford a short time ago expressed themselves to be annoyed with the accommodation. They received on an excursion to Weymouth on this occasion they have been preferred. However, many persons from Trowbridge we believe availed them selves of the privilege by obtaining tickets at Bradford.
The initial service of five trains per day each way was not generous, but no doubt adequate for the available traffic. In any case, the long stretches of single track, coupled to the heavy gradients on the southern section, made anything more ambitious impossible. The last section to be opened was, ironically, that for which the Assize Court had issued a writ of Mandamus back in 1852, namely the 9 1/2 mile Avon Valley line from Bradford Junction (north of Trowbridge) to Bathampton which opened on 2nd February 1857. The long suffering residents of Bradford-on-Avon, who had been waiting for over seven years for rails to reach their completed station, received some reward for their patience in the form of a free excursion train to Weymouth. Having regard to the time of year, most of those who availed themselves of this offer probably did so for the novelty of the journey rather than the appeal of visiting a cold seaside town out of season!
|Also in 1857, the 8-mile branch from Holt Junction to Devizes was opened on 1st July. The WS&W had only been operational as a through line from Westbury to Weymouth for a short time, when the Bridport Railway Company, incorporated on 5th May 1855, made connection with it at Maiden Newton.|
|The neat little
buildings following Elizabethan styling and known by Brunel as 'roadside'
stations. Stonework was much in evidence for the plinth, quoins and window
openings, while the steeply pitched roof was adorned with one of the ornate
chimney designs which were a Brunel hallmark. The roofs were of grey slates,
and the awning covered all sides. These awnings were one of several Brunei
designs, all of which avoided the use of supporting pillars and glass. Stout
timber beams were laid across the top of the walls, with their projecting
ends carried on decorative cast iron brackets. The awning was constructed
on the beams and dropped away from the roof eaves with a gentle slope. Its
underside was panelled with tongued and grooved boards, and the top was
covered with ridged metal sheets (probably lead).
In recent years the piecemeal demolition of waiting shelter and goods shed has served to detract from the effectiveness of Culham as a Brunellian survivor, for these buildings were also original and in matching style. As the Great Western system spread, so the design was adapted to suit local conditions and materials. The Culham design, for instance, re-appears in stone and with detail alterations at Brimscombe, a once important point on the Gloucester line. The same pattern of detailing was used at Melksham and Bradford-on-Avon where the buildings were larger, and built of local stone. The second familiar Brunel type was entirely different and followed the Italian Classical style, becoming popularly known as the 'chalet' type. Brunel tried to make them merger into their surroundings: take away the awnings and you have a lodge house at the gates of a gentleman's park. Shrivenham station soon after its opening in 1841. A print by an unknown artist. This style of building, personally designed by Brunei, can be termed typical. It is recognisably 'Brunelian' yet it also has a unique quality of its own. This was the art of Brunei. He drew up four or five basic designs and then, by varying the building material, or an awning, produced a building that was at once both standard and unique. He was able to create the impression that the line from Paddington to Bristol was furnished with 'one off buildings without incurring the expense of such a policy. In drawing up his designs Brunel had to contend with two masters, the London and Bristol Committees under whose jurisdiction the line was divided. These bodies had differing opinions as to the amount of money it was permissible to spend on fine stations and embellishments generally, the Bristol men being more generous than their London based colleagues. This, in part explains why the stations at the eastern end of the line were so lacking in style. There were
other reasons: the country traversed by the Bristol section was hilly and therefore lent itself to fine cuttings, bridges \and tunnels, there were a great number of wealthy land-\ owners in the area which gave further incentive to elegant \ design and construction, and last but not least, there was a Plentiful supply of best quality building stone with which to construct the stations and tunnel portals and to form the elegant cornices, balusters and other embellishments with which Brunei decorated his work.Brunel was an artist as well as an engineer and varied basic design slightly so that the succession of stations along the line did not appear monotonously the same. He used diamond shaped chimneys as shown in type 'A', or a stack carrying stone slabs as in type 'C'. The former is usually associated with type 'A' but the diamond shaped chimney could be used on any of the styles. Brunei built his chimneys in limestone but sulphur and rainwater corroded the stone and the Company had to rebuild most of the old chimneys in brick. Windows and doors could be 'square headed' or have slightly pointed arches, though in the case of type 'C',
Brunel would not have produced all the drawings necessary to build the line, for each bridge needed half a dozen plans, but he made sketches, sometimes in pencil, of every item on the line with the dimensions he required and handed these to one of a number of draughtsmen who would eventually produce a set of water-colour tinted drawings to be used at the site of construction. Besides these working drawings there had also to be made contract drawings which were included with each legal document drawn up detailing the agreement between the Company and the contractor carrying out the work. There were also Parliamentary plans to be made for the information of the various committees of the House which were investigating the claims of rival concerns to the Great Western, or perhaps a lawsuit. The outline of the figure, a tunnel portal or a bridge or station was drawn to scale complete with measurements, in Indian ink on cartridge paper, and was then shaded with colour wash in various tints to show light and shade thereby giving a three dimensional appearance to the plan; each nut, bolt and rivet had its highlight and shadow to give 'roundness' to what would otherwise have been a flat octagon or circle on the paper. His early plans were made very handsome, almost works of art, by this technique. Brunel was a clever worker in water-colours as his 'artist's impression' of his proposed suspension bridge over the Avon at Clifton shows, (see L.T.C. Rolt 'Isambard Kingdom Brunel'), he was also a very quick and dextrous worker to produce so many fine plans so perfectly. When the drawings-or paintings-were complete Brunel passed them for use by marking them with his elegant, rapidly done, signature.
|Most, if not all, of the drawings for the Great Western Railway between 1835 and 1841 bear his signature but then, as the volume of work increased when new railways were contemplated, his assistants, now well trained, drew and signed the plans for routine work leaving Brunel to concentrate of heavier matters.|
|1859 The death of Brunel in 1859 shocked the Great Western severely. His creative genius saw most of his work completely fulfilled except for the problems with the ship 'Great Eastern' and the Clifton Suspension bridge which would be finished in 1864 after 30 years construction. It was on the 'Great Eastern' that Brunel suffered a heart attack and died on the 15th of September. He was buried at Kensal Green cemetery in London, not far from his own Paddington station.|
|1874 The GWR'S 1870 agreement with coal-mine proprietors and the Bristol & North Somerset Railway was to provide the narrow gauge between Radstock and Salisbury. In view of this obligation the directors announced in February 1874 that they were 'of opinion that the convenience of the public will be best met, and the interest of the Proprietors best secured, by the alteration from Broad to Narrow Gauge of all the Lines in the district', at an estimated expense of £290,000 plus £70,000 for rolling stock.|
|The first figure included an allocation for doubling the rest of the track: Westbury-Frome and Bradford Junction-Bathampton, had now been doubled.|
|In 1874 the company decided to accept defeat and abandon the broad gauge and in just five days, between 18 and 22 June the entire length of the Bradford Junction to Bathampton branch was changed to standard gauge by simply slewing one rail on the existing cross sleepers and refitting the shoes. The GWR providing sheds for the men to sleep in and straw to sleep on, but they took little rest, working from dawn till dark-about 18 hours. Smoking and drinking spirits was prohibited. The Down line from Thingley Junction to Frome and the Up line from Bradford to Bradford Junction was converted first, a reduced service being maintained on the other line.|
On 18 June, each
station-master was required to sign a certificate that his station and
district was clear of broad gauge rolling stock, the last trains arriving
at Chippenham about midnight. Much of the stock was later broken up at
Swindon, though the locomotives were sold for conversion to stationary
boilers. On 21 June standard gauge rolling stock was brought on to the
WSWR, 9 long trains of empty carriages coming from Swindon. Train services
re-commenced on 22 June-the whole task of narrowing 110 route miles (about
30 miles of this being double).