The idea for this Register originated back in March 2013 around the time of the 50th anniversary of the publication of the Reshaping of British Railways, otherwise known as The Beeching Report, in March 1963.
A discussion in my local with friends about the proportion of passenger railways closed under the two respective political parties holding office at the time of the Report's publication and its subsequent implementation led me to check some facts. I fully expected to find a comprehensive list of closures on a dedicated website but, much to my surprise, I was unable to do so.
Turning to existing printed publications I discovered they were not as comprehensive as I had hoped. Lack of mileage, for example and, in some cases, indices, hampered research. It struck me that a website would be an ideal medium in which to collate and present this information.
Out of curiosity, as much as anything else, I began to gather information on closed railways and record it on a spreadsheet. At this stage I had no clear plan what to do with it though I had an idea that whatever it might be would be a huge undertaking. Indeed it was - nearly seven years later the project finally came to fruition.
The initial research centred around existing publications, specifically Passengers No More, Register of Closed Railways 1948-1991 and Closed Passenger Lines of Great Britain 1827-1947 in conjunction with Cobb’s Historical Railway Atlas and, of course, the indispensable Baker's Rail Atlas of Great Britain. Later I came across Quick's Closed Passenger Stations of Great Britain, and also Branch Line News on the Branch Line Society's website that has a superb archive of newsletters recording closure dates and reopenings. The excellent Disused Stations website also proved to be invaluable.
Detailed cross-referencing then took place to make sure that each entry had at least two independent sources wherever possible. Not surprisingly, there were many contradictions and anomalies and these involved a great deal of research. Whilst most of the information was relatively easy to find, much was not and a lot of digging was required.
Inevitably there are still many unresolved details and this is where a website comes into its own in allowing a free flow of information and ideas, and it can be continually amended and updated as new information comes to light. To this end, I have highlighted entries where there are question marks, anomalies or where the information is simply lacking.
This last point has proved to be the most vexatious issue in respect of the decision of when to go live. How much outstanding work do I consider acceptable? Ideally all avenues of enquiry should have been exhausted beforehand, but it was obvious that if I had adopted this approach the website would never have seen the light of day.
So, there is still much to be done. In particular there is still some outstanding work relating to closures and reopenings in the '80s and '90s which I have recently been working on. Thanks again to the BLS archive and Railway Magazine.
I also recognise that coverage of the London Underground system is far from complete as, apart from outlying lines like Epping to Ongar, it tends to get overlooked. I will address this in due course.
I must add that I cannot guarantee that there will be no errors or omissions. I hope there will be many people out there who will have answers, observations (and opinions!) and so I would welcome any information, corrections, updates, suggestions etc. etc.
Finally, the scope of the register - why since 1901? This was determined by the fact that most closures in the 19thC were due to expansion and improvements, not retrenchment. Initially the register covered only to 1994 which reflected the scope of most publications on the subject available at the time. Recent acquisitions of Railway Magazine and access to the BLS archive have allowed me to bring the register more up-to-date. It is still incomplete so any information on later closures, especially post 2000, would be most welcome.
- Section of Line Closed to Passenger Services
The primary purpose of the Register is to record sections of line over which passenger services have been withdrawn, as opposed to the actual services operating, though the latter are recorded.
A Section of Line is defined as a distinct line of route physically separate from others and identifiable as such.
Naturally, as with most railway-related matters, there are grey areas. As a general rule, fast and slow lines are classed as one route, as are realignments, deviations, new tunnels etc., except where significant divergence occurs sufficient enough to consider them as separate lines. I have had to use my discretion here.
Likewise with station relocations, where it has been common practice to cut back lines at termini, usually to release otherwise valuable land for redevelopment (often with the railway passengers' interests least in mind!). Where the new station is sited independent of the original station or sometimes on a different alignment then this would be included (e.g. Bradford (Forster Square) and Bradford (Exchange/Interchange)). Where it is effectively a shortening of platforms it would not qualify (e.g. Ilkley and Windermere).
The direction is normally shown from the divergence point to the end of the line in the case of branch lines. On through lines normally the direction is Down i.e. away from the geographical centre/headquarters of the company (usually based on pre-Grouping ownership). Exceptions are where, for example, a service operated in one direction only.
Thus sections of line are identified by the points of divergence (wherever possible – there are exceptions). These fall into several definitions according to the local layout and are listed below.
Jct. – denotes the official (or actual) name of the junction according to various sources (SRS, RCH maps, Cobb Atlas etc.).
(Jct.) – denotes a physical junction or divergence point that is not officially named or identified as such but may, for example, fall within station limits.
(Divergence point) - denotes the point at which a section of line physically diverges but where there is no junction connection at this point. This occurs where a section of line may officially commence at a given station or junction but which then runs parallel with the 'main' line for several chains or even miles, effectively on the same formation or line of route, before physically diverging.
Station name only – denotes a section of line commencing or terminating at said station, i.e. at the end of a branch line or a former through route where the section of line beyond said station has previously closed.
Station name followed by (excl.) – denotes a section of line closed to passengers to/from that station but where said station remained open for passenger services elsewhere.
This also applies to sections of line where the service operated exclusively from a dedicated branch platform (and where the junction station remained open) and was confined to that section of line, i.e. where no services operated over the junction onto the main line. So the section of line would be defined as from the appropriate platform, not the junction, to the end of the line. Such instances are clarified in the Notes.
In addition to the foregoing, the following should be noted:-
Junction – written in full, denotes the actual name of the station bearing this suffix, as distinct from Jct. and (Jct.) above.
Location in [square brackets] – is used additionally to assist identification where a name may not bear any obvious clue as to actual location.
Station and junction names – usually shown as the name applicable at time of closure, bearing in mind that names, especially junction names often changed over time. Many junctions had two or more names concurrently, official and unofficial or local.
Station name (suffixes) – again usually as at closure and bracketed. However, there are exceptions to this and some suffixes are unbracketed where this was generally applied at time of closure and according to timetables and/or actual station name signs. Where there is a conflict bracketing is usually applied.
N.B. Where two or more sections of line are effectively part of the same route they are usually shown as one entry, (e.g. East Grinstead - Horsted Keynes (excl.) and Horsted Keynes Jct. - Culver Jct.), exceptions being where the entry would be as a consequence too unwieldy, (e.g. the former M&GNJR).
Track gauge - unless otherwise stated all lines are standard gauge (4ft. 8½in. or 1,435mm).
Mileage is given in miles and chains, reflecting past and present railway practice.
Unless otherwise stated, mileage is based on Signal Record Society (SRS) RailRef web page records. Other sources, such as Railway Clearing House (RCH) and Airey’s maps, are referenced accordingly. Where mileage is estimated, it is annotated as such and referenced to a source where applicable.
- Passenger Services
A Passenger Service is defined as a scheduled passenger carrying service which is advertised in a public timetable (be it a railway company, Bradshaw's, or local timetable in the case of certain private railways) and which is available for the use of any member of the public.
I have included, (or will be in time*), railways that were open to the public but which served a specific function or facility, such as the Whittingham Hospital Railway. Not included are lines that carried a passenger service purely for personnel, workers, contractors etc., an example being the Rosyth Dock line from Inverkeithing. Neither are lines built purely for leisure or tourist traffic.
(*This is another complex issue which is admirably dealt with in Quick's RPSGB p503-11. I have to confess that this is an outstanding facet of passenger railway operation I haven't yet fully addressed. Indeed, there is a whole debate to be had as to the definition of a railway as opposed to a tramway, and it isn't necessarily in the name. I have included, for example, the Glyn Valley Tramway which was in practice a railway. I have omitted the Burton & Ashby Light Railway which was, in practice, a tramway, though, to complicate matters further, it was operated by the Midland Railway! Forgive me if, for now, there are some inconsistencies in what lines are or are not included.)
Finally, not included are untimetabled special, excursion or workmens’ trains, or diverted services, planned or otherwise.
The Officially Recorded Closure Date (Official Closure Date or OCD) is usually the “closed on and from” date. That is normally the first day, after the last train ran, on which a service would have operated. The last day of service would usually be a Friday, Saturday or Sunday depending on the service operating at the time.
There are instances where the official closure date is recorded as a weekday. (This was often a consequence of the common practice up to the early 1920s of closures taking place on the first day of the month, regardless of the day of the week.) Where, for instance, the last train ran on a Tuesday, the closure is recorded on and from the Wednesday, as a service would have run on that day. By the same token, in some instances a Sunday is recorded as the official closure date where a Sunday service was operating at the time of closure, but the last train ran on the Saturday, the day before.
Unfortunately, there is no consistency with official records and it would appear that what was recorded was often down to the individuals doing the recording. Some companies had their own system. The Southern Railway, for example, were in the habit of recording Sunday as the OCD, regardless of whether or not a Sunday service was in operation at the time.
In some cases, the date recorded was the date of the last train. Similar inconsistencies exist in various publications and websites, often reflecting the official records. Consequently, I have decided to apply the foregoing “on and from” principle where it can be supported with, for example, timetable records. Inevitably, I have had to use some discretion where discrepancies occur between publications and sources that cannot be resolved through independent evidence. Where possible I have highlighted these contradictions in the Notes section.
Finally, an OCD could be purely for administrative purposes and apply some time, often years, after the last train ran (LTR) or the actual closure date (ACD) (see 5. Definition of Closure to Passenger Services below). This sometimes occurred following temporary closures due to wartime measures or industrial or fuel crises, for example. It also occurred in the 1980s when BR's interpretation of the provisions of the Transport Act 1962 relating to service withdrawals was somewhat liberal and often legally challenged. (See Wortley West Jct. - Wortley South Jct. for a shining example of this.) A subject in its own right!
So, you may well find that the dates recorded on this site do vary from other records and publications. Any new information to clarify this vexed issue is always very welcome!
- Definition of Closure to Passenger Services
Most lines closed to passenger services are straightforward, with closure involving the withdrawal of all passenger services, though not necessarily the complete closure of the line in question.
In some cases, local services were withdrawn earlier and the line continued to be used by through passenger trains. Provided these services meet with the definition in 3. Passenger Services above, the recorded closure date would be when the latter service was withdrawn. Wherever possible this is recorded in the Notes column. In some cases, it has not been possible to determine whether the continued usage after the withdrawal of local/regular passenger services meets the criteria. Again, this fact will be highlighted in the Notes column.
Some lines, inevitably, are not that straightforward. Many routes were deemed closed by virtue of the withdrawal of all local services but continued to be used, often intermittently over many years, by services such as seasonal dated trains. This is another problematic issue and it has been difficult to clarify in some instances.
(It is worth noting that some of these services appeared in the public timetables, others did not. In some instances they would appear one year and not the next, despite still running, or even in one region's timetable and not another. Many would appear only as footnotes, making them difficult to spot. So, short of checking every single printed timetable there will always be the potential for oversight.)
Consequently, some lines could be shown as closing several times. Usually this is initially with the withdrawal of local services and then the subsequent withdrawal of the seasonal dated services. In the latter case the date recorded is the last day of service operation (LTR), if no OCD is recorded.
Some services were curtailed prematurely due to various, often unforeseen, circumstances (e.g. flooding). In such circumstances OCD is used to record Official Closure Date (usually much later), in conjunction with ACD – Actual Closure Date; TCD – Temporary Closure Date or LTR – Last Train Ran. The distinction between these three definitions can be blurred, but essentially they reflect what happened in practice.
ACD would denote the recorded date of actual physical closure of the line, which may or may not be the day of the last passenger train but would usually be ratified by a subsequent OCD (an example would be a line severed by flooding followed by an official closure).
TCD would denote a usually planned temporary closure which would normally, but not exclusively, entail the reopening (RO) of the line at a later date (wartime economy measures or bomb damage were the most common).
LTR denotes the last date a passenger service operated and occurred in instances whereby some lines fell into, often unplanned, disuse and for which an OCD would be recorded at a later date. Another instance would be the cessation of seasonal dated trains.
(For an interesting and mercifully rare extreme example of the foregoing see Sessay Wood Jct. - Gilling Jct. - Scarborough Rd. Jct. - Malton East Jct.)
Finally, temporary closures for engineering works are not normally included, except for conversion to light rail or 'Metro'.
To sum up, unless otherwise stated the date recorded is the OCD.
(One issue intentionally omitted, for now, is the legal aspect of closures. Sections 54 and 56 of the Transport Act 1962 relate to procedures that must be adhered to when seeking permission to withdraw a passenger service. Mention is made in passing in some of the entries and, as ever, there are the inevitable contentious, grey areas - subject to 'interpretation'. I am conscious that it is very relevant to the definition of a closure and it is my intention to tackle this subject in due course. It may well be that certain sections of line, e.g. Northallerton - Eaglescliffe should not appear as they never legally closed even though there was a cessation of passenger services. For now, though, I'll stick to the criteria detailed above!)
- Stations Closed
This column lists all stations on the section of line closed, including those closed at an earlier date. Where no date is shown the station closed on the same day as the line of route. Earlier closure dates are shown in brackets.
Where a junction station closed at the same time as the route in question, this has been included for completeness.
I have linked those stations that feature in the excellent Disused Stations website where much more detailed information can be obtained.
Again, please note closed stations on lines of route that are still open to passenger services are not included on this website, except in cases where lines have been closed and subsequently reopened to passenger traffic.
- Service(s) Operated and Timetable Reference
The service operating at, or as near as possible to the time of closure is recorded.
Principle services are recorded covering originating and destination stations, not necessarily, of course, on the line in question being closed. Where a multiplicity of (usually) dated seasonal trains from/to a variety of stations were operating, for simplicity these may be summarised as “various”.
The timetable reference refers to the actual timetable from which the service is quoted. B refers to Bradshaws followed by the number of that particular edition and the date.
The maps used are primarily Railway Clearing House maps, mostly dating from the early 20thC. Where closures pre-date these maps and consequently stations or, in some cases, lines are not shown, I have annotated the RCH map accordingly. Where greater clarity is required I have produced my own maps.
I must apologise for the varying quality of the maps. Unfortunately, not all the copies are crystal clear due to camera shake whilst copying. A much better result is obtained by photocopying the maps rather than photographing them. (See Kirkham North Jct. - Blackpool South No.3 Jct. for an example of the "new" map.) There is much more consistency in size and angle, a serious flaw using a handheld camera. Not only is the quality of reproduction superior but it saves me an awful lot of work when it comes to "stitching" the map sections together.
The problem is that I need to either buy (rare and expensive) or borrow the maps in order to carry out this still enormous task. This could take a while so please bear with me.
A feature recently introduced is a zoom facility which allows the maps to be enlarged to full-page size.
It is my intention sometime in the near future to create a search facility on a UK railway network map which will allow the user to click on a section of line which will take them to the relevant entry.
Any matters of clarification, explanation, general interest etc. are included here.
In the longer term I hope to include photographs that are of particular interest and relevance. Last day of service photos would be of particular interest.
I also intend to include any articles of interest from publications such as Railway Magazine.
The following is a list of abbreviations used throughout the website:
ACD - actual closure date
B - Bradshaw's - followed by edition number and/or month & year
BLN - Branch Line News - newsletter of the Branch Line Society (BLS)
C - Clinker
CL - closed
CPLGB - Closed Passenger Lines of Great Britain
DRS - Directory of Railway Stations
DSW - Disused Stations website
LTR - last train ran
OCD - official closure date
OP - opened
PCD - permanent closure date (not necessarily actual or official!)
PNM - Passengers No More
PSUL - Passenger Train Services over Unusual Lines - Branch Line Society publications
RAoGB - Rail Atlas of Great Britain and Ireland
RCH - Railway Clearing House maps
CW - Central Wales
C&W - Cumberland & Westmorland
D&N - Derbyshire & Nottinghamshire
D - Durham
EE - East of England
E&G - Edinburgh & Glasgow
GC&P - Glasgow Coatbridge & Paisley
G&O - Gloucestershire & Oxfordshire
L&CD - Lancashire & Cheshire Districts
L - London
M&D - Manchester & District
NW - North Wales
SE - South of England
SW - South Wales
S&D - Staffordshire & District
WE - West of England
YN - Yorkshire North
YS - Yorkshire South
RHRGB - A Regional History of the Railways of Great Britain - David & Charles
RJD - Railway Junction Diagrams - RCH
RM - Railway Magazine
RMS - Railway Map of Scotland - Airey's
RO - reopened
RPSGB - Railway Passenger Stations of Great Britain
RR - SRS RailRef Line Codes
TCD - temporary closure date
Bradshaw's - numerous timetables referenced individually throughout.
Branch Line Society - website.
Closed Passenger Lines of Great Britain 1827-1947 - M. Greville & J. Spence; Railway & Canal Historical Society 1974.
David & Charles - numerous publications referenced individually throughout.
The Directory of Railway Stations - R. Butt; Patrick Stephens Ltd. 1995.
Disused Stations - website
Last Trains - C. Loft; Biteback 2013.
National Library of Scotland - website
National Railway Museum - Search Engine facility, NRM, York.
Oakwood Press - numerous publications referenced individually throughout.
Passengers No More - G. Daniels & L. Dench; Ian Allan 3rd Edition 1980.
Rail Atlas of Great Britain and Ireland - S. K. Baker; OPC Editions 1-15.
Railway Clearing House - maps and publications.
Railway Passenger Stations of Great Britain - M. Quick; Railway & Canal Historical Society 4th Edition 2009 (5th Edition available on-line through RCHS website).
Register of Closed Passenger Stations and Goods Depots in England Scotland and Wales - C. Clinker; Clinker June 1966 onwards.
Register of Closed Railways 1948-1991 - G. Hurst; Milepost 1992.
Scottish Branch Lines 1955 - 1965 - C. J. Gammell; OPC 1989.
Signalling Record Society - website
Finally, and by no means least, I must again thank Ffion Atkinson, webpage designer (ffionatkinson.co.uk), for her excellent work in building this website.