This is a website dedicated to the Railways of the Forest of Dean (past and present - mostly past) in Gloucestershire, United Kingdom. A visitor to the area prior to the First World War would have found the Forest surrounded by railways on all sides and several penetrating the centre of it. At this time most of the Forest's major population centres were rail-served, and there were multiple sources of freight, mostly coal. The nature of the terrain of the area lead to some fairly impressive engineering structures, perhaps crowned by the bridge built over the River Severn to link Lydney with Sharpness and Berkeley on the east side of the river.
Locomotive-wise, a visitor would probably see mostly tank engines, with perhaps smaller tender engines on occasion (with the exception of the South Wales line passing to the south of the forest, which was main line). Possibly what they might not see is a forest, at least as we would see it today, mainly due to coal-mining activity, the results of which would have featured heavily on the landscape of the area.
The railways of the area began to decline after the First World War, mostly as a result of the decline of the area's industry, and perhaps the fact that the population of the area could not not support the railways as they stood. It perhaps says something that the Beeching Report in 1963 didn't have a great deal to say on the area, as several of the major lines had already been closed by the time of the publication and only the Grange Court to Hereford Line was thus recommended for closure. By 1970, the only open line into the forest was from Lydney Junction to Parkend, and that was for freight traffic only (perhaps the location of the Dean Forest Railway is a case of "Last Man Standing"). This is perhaps a pity as some of the other lines ran through some very attractive scenery, and might themselves have had tourist potential had they been kept open (the possibility of re-opening the southern part of the Wye Valley Line has been brought up on several occasions, but so far, nothing has come of this).
The site mainly covers the closed railways, and the Dean Forest Railway. At the moment I have not delved into the South Wales main line that still runs to the south and east of the forest, nor I have I featured the Perrygrove Railway, just south of Coleford, which is a modern tourist attraction. These may be remedied at future date.
A Personal Introduction
Being born in 1970 means that I was unfortunate to miss steam on the mainline railways (apart from special excursions). I blame my passion for railways on my father who grew up in the last days of steam and who introduced me to the delights of the preserved lines closest to my home in Evesham.
It was my parents who first took me to the Dean Forest Railway in the mid 1980's. Back then, the railway was in its infancy and wasn't even running to Lydney. I made one or two more trips during the early nineties after passing my driving test and the seeds of my love affair of the Dean Forest Railway, and the Forest of Dean itself, were planted.
However it wasn't until August 1996 that my relationship with the railway became serious. Myself and a group of friends travelled down to Norchard to see demonstration trains running to Parkend. By the end of the day something inside of me had clicked and I resolved to give this line more support. By the end of the year I had managed to borrow the three volumes of the Severn and Wye Railway history books and had enrolled as a member.
This site has grown from my interest in the railways of the area. Since 1996, I have visited the Dean Forest Railway on many occasions and have also attempted to find areas of the dismantled sections as well, with some success (this task has been made easier in recent years with the conversion of much of the Severn & Wye trackbed to cycle paths - good for cyclists, not necessarily good for possible DFR northern extensions). I often wish I could have seen (and photographed) the railways in their prime, though.
As of March 2015, I've made some changes to the site. I've updated some pages, added a few new items, and have moved the area diagram to this page instead of giving it its own. I've also put the GWR webring information onto this site, pending removal of the indexing page currently occupying the root URL. This is awaiting "Railways of the Vale of Evesham" being given its own domain name at some point in 2016 (personal circumstances forced the postponement of this from 2015), giving it independence from this domain.
Early 2016 has seen some reformatting of the site, with the link buttons being replaced by drop-down menus. These will hopefully be less cumbersome than the buttons and allow greater opportunities for the site to be expanded. A case in point occurred during September 2016, with the addition (long overdue) of a section relating to the Perrygrove Railway, just outside Coleford.
NOTE : The Forest of Dean Branch and The Dean Forest Railway are not the same line.
This site is not officially recognised by the Society; any opinions stated in this site are purely those of the author and should not be taken as official policy unless otherwise stated.