Cleobury Mortimer and Ditton Priors Light Railway
1912 proposed extensions
The CM&DPLR was built under the Light Railways Act of 1896. An order under the Act was granted in 1901 with construction eventually beginning late in 1906. The line opened for passenger traffic on 21 November 1908, although for the first six months the line speed was limited to 20mph rather than the 25mph permitted as a light railway while the track bed was allowed to consolidate.
Early plans for expansion
The greatest use of the line was for the transport of stone from the granite quarries on Titterstone Clee and Brown Clee which proved profitable from the first years of opening. An early scheme to bring coal traffic to the line was proposed under the title of the Stottesdon, Kinlet and Billingsley Railway; the two last named being Collieries served by the Severn Valley Railway. The Board was also interested in extending the railway northwards from Ditton Priors, with three possible schemes being considered in 1912. These were:
- An 8 mile connection to the GWR’s Severn Valley branch at Bridgnorth.
- A continuation to join the LNWR’s Coalport Branch at Coalport.
- A 6 mile continuation to join the GWR’s Much Wenlock branch at Presthope.
Decline and closure
Passenger numbers were never great and declined steadily after the First World War. As early as the 1920s some stations had effectively become request stops, and by the 1930s traffic had reduced to two ‘mixed’ trains per day. Passenger services ceased altogether in September 1938. However in 1941 the Royal Navy opened a Royal Naval Armaments Depot (RNAD) at the end of line at RNAD Ditton Priors, close to Brown Clee Hill. The line therefore remained open for both freight and military traffic, and locomotives using the line were fitted with spark arrestors.
The line became part of BR(W) under nationalisation in 1948 and continued in very limited use, sometimes with just one train per week. On 21 May 1955 the Stephenson Railway Society organised a ‘special’ from Birmingham via Kidderminster and Bewdley to Ditton Priors. Dean Goods No 2516 (now preserved at Steam in Swindon) hauled this to Cleobury Mortimer, where 0-6-0PT No 2144 (with spark arrestor) took over using CM&DPLR rolling stock. The ‘special’ travelled as far as Cleobury North Sidings, becoming the only passenger bogie-stock ever on the line.
Ownership of the line passed from BR to the Admiralty in May 1957, the occasional haulage by now being provided by the Ruston shunters. Navy use of the line continued until 1960, when the railway finally closed (some Admiralty equipment was moved from the Depot by rail thereafter).
The line was considered as a possible candidate for preservation in the early days of the Severn Valley Railway Society, but was deemed unsuitable because of its remoteness and the relatively light axle load limits.
At opening the Railway had two Manning Wardle 0-6-0 saddle tanks, works numbers 1734 Burwarton and 1735 Cleobury. The railway was absorbed into the GWR in May 1922, following which the locomotives were re-numbered as GWR 28 and 29; they were later rebuilt as pannier tanks at Swindon in 1930. They remained as the regular engines on the line, although other small GWR tank engines would appear on the line from time to time. During operation they were kept at a small shed at Cleobury Town, but were recorded as being at Kidderminster Shed between 1940 and 1945.
28 was placed into store at Kidderminster in 1949. 29, which acquired the nickname "the Gadget", was fitted with a spark arrester cowl in case working to the Admiralty Depot at Ditton Priors was required, and was then retained at Kidderminster for occasional shunting turns, her former duties having been taken over by Kidderminster-based GWR 2021 class locomotives, at least four of which (2034, 2051, 2101 and 2144) were also fitted with spark arrestors for this purpose.
The Admiralty Depot only used diesel locomotives. A Planet diesel locomotive is believed to have been used by the RNAD but its dates of arrival and departure are not known. Later, three 'flameproof' 165hp 0-4-0 diesel locomotives were supplied to RNAD Ditton Priors by Ruston and Hornsby of Lincoln in June 1952 (313390), March 1953 (319286) and May 1955. Locomotives 313390 (DP35) and 319286 are similar to the Ruston 165DMs present on the SVR, and survive in preservation.
Coaching stockSix-wheeled stock was prohibited from the CM&DPLR. The original coaching stock comprised four ex-North London Railway four-wheel coaches, formerly LNRW numbers 1033, 1034. 1041 and 1043. Following grouping in 1922 these were replaced by GWR four-wheeled gas-lit coaches, two with four compartments and two longer 3-compartment brake coaches.
- Price (1995) pp.7-11.
- Price (1995) pp.39-40.
- Barfield (1994) pp. 81-89.
- Turley (2005) p. 117.
- Some Early Lines – Cleobury Mortimer and Ditton Priors Light Railway, 6 November 2010 (a blog) (Retrieved 18 September 2018)
- Burton, Anthony and Scott-Morgan, John,'The Light Railways of Britain and Ireland', Moorland Press, 1985
- Price (1995), pp. 35-36.
- Leslie Oppitz (2004), Lost Railways of Shropshire
- Photo of No 29 after rebuilding
- Muckley, A., An MOD Ruston & Hornsby diesel shunter passes through Cleobury Town Station on 26 March 1965
- Cleobury Mortimer and Ditton Priors Light Railway on Wikipedia
- Minutes, correspondence, miscellaneous papers, stock and share records, letter books 1901-22, The National Archives