Shropshire Railways History Past and present

                           Wellington to Craven Arms

The industrial revolution was in full swing in the Telford area during the late 18 th  and early 19 th  centuries, particularly with flourishing ironworks and collieries. However, there was increasing pressure to improve the transportation links to cope with the demands of local industry. In 1854 a freight line was built west of Shifnal via Madeley to Lightmoor and Coalbrookdale. The line also ran a passenger service, but this closed as early as 1925. The line later served Ironbridge Power Station with coal until it closed in November 2015. At the same time this line was being built the Wellington and Severn Junction Railway were authorised to build a line from Wellington to Lightmoor. A section of this stretch around Horsehay is now part of the preserved Telford Steam Railway. In 1857 freight services started to operate between Wellington and the Horsehay Ironworks. Four years later passenger services started to run between Wellington and Coalbrookdale. The largest intermediate station was Horsehay and Dawley boasting ten sidings, two of which served the Horsehay Ironworks. In 1864 the Albert Edward Bridge opened across the River Severn making a connection between Coalbrookdale and Buildwas, thus allowing direct trains to run from Wellington to Much Wenlock. The final stretch of 14 miles from Much Wenlock to Craven Arms was started in 1861, but wasn’t completed until 1867, due mainly to opposition from local landowners in the Presthope area. This opposition resulted in a change of route for the line which included a tunnel being constructed so that the railway could run on the Apedale side of Wenlock Edge; adding considerable cost to the project! The first section of this single track line opened in 1864 as far as Presthope; the second section to Marsh Farm near Craven Arms came three years later in 1867. The line was regarded as one of the most scenic routes in the country, its regular and steep gradients providing many elevated views of the Shropshire countryside. During the early 1900’s a number of extra halts opened up on the line in order to attract extra passenger numbers, a ploy undertaken on numerous other unprofitable lines across the country. Like many other railways the line suffered from road competition, in this case particularly on the Much Wenlock to Craven Arms section. Not surprisingly this was the first stretch of the line to be closed, the last passenger train running on 31 st   December 1951. Freight continued south as far as Longville, mainly to carry milk and other farm products; the most well- known being the ‘Mushroom Train’ as the locals liked to call it. There was also a regular parcel service operating on this section which surprisingly allowed passengers on board, hence extending the passenger service two years longer than the official closure. Eleven years later in 1962 the final curtain came down on the remainder of the line. Ironically the last day of trains at Much Wenlock saw its busiest day of operation! Thankfully there is still much to see when you explore the railway today, unlike some lines such as the Wellington to Nantwich route where there is disappointingly little left to view. The highlights include the two splendidly preserved stations at Longville and Rushbury, the tunnel on Wenlock Edge and the Telford Steam Railway at Horsehay.
The South Tunnel entrance on Wenlock Edge