Thornbury Railway and Station

May 30 2017
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THE railway line that ran from Thornbury to Yate, via Tytherington, was opened in 1872 after many delays and technical problems, not least Thornbury’s position at the bottom of a hill.

THE railway line that ran from Thornbury to Yate, via Tytherington, was opened in 1872 after many delays and technical problems, not least Thornbury’s position at the bottom of a hill.

It was eventually built with the station to the north of Thornbury Villa at the top of the town, near where Midland Way is now located.

But the line always seemed to struggle to be viable economically and it closed to passengers in 1944, subsequently ceasing coal and freight traffic on June 20, 1966.

One of the main entrances to the station for passengers was along the pathway that began next to what was then the last house in the High Street and part of the wall for the gateway to that path is still visible near this house, next to where the Tanners Court flats adjoin it.

A map shows clearly that on the far side of the railway line was a line of trees forming the southern boundary of the railway site.  These can still be seen along the side of the path when walking into the current Tesco store site. 

Meanwhile, the station platform was where a row of houses now stand in Midland Way - itself named after the Midland Railway Company that ran the line - and although there were sidings and a short stretch of double track as the line left the station, it soon narrowed to a single track, with the majority of the track always a single line.

There was also a large turntable where the line terminated in Thornbury, which allowed the locomotive to be turned around.

But there were no signals between Thornbury and Yate and the line was operated by using a gadget known as a train staff and key.

This was collected by the driver from the signal box at Yate and retained by him until his return - no driver was allowed to use the line without a staff so that accidents could not happen. This item is now in the possession of Thornbury Museum and can be seen there by prior arrangement.

For much of its existence as a passenger railway, Thornbury had its own station master and Cooper Road is another of the last vestiges of the town’s railway past, named after long serving Charles Radcliffe Cooper, the station master from 1889 to 1921.

Another reminder of the railway era is the road on the nearby trading estate which was named Short Way after engine driver, William Short.

The presence of the railway in Thornbury also meant there was a surprising bonus for the town as the water tower at the station also helped to supply local people with water.

Information and photographs courtesy of Thornbury and District Museum