Forest of Dean Central Branch - Railways of the Forest of Dean

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Forest of Dean Central Branch
The Forest of Dean Central Branch Line had been a major omission from this  site since its inception; the reason being that its somewhat brief life  has meant that I've not been able to find out much about it until relatively  recently.   At the time of its conception in the mid-1800s, the middle of the  Forest of Dean was not rail-served and the idea behind the railway was a branch  from Awre Junction, just east of Blakeney, to Foxes Bridge Colliery, west of  Cinderford (there had been an attempt to build a railway from Foxes Bridge  Colliery to Purton in the early 1830s, but the plans met with major opposition  from various parties and Parliament refused to authorise the line, although some  construction work was done).   The line was opened to New Fancy Colliery on the  25th May, 1868, but in 1872 the Severn and Wye opened their Mineral Loop from  Whitecroft to Drybrook Road, which now served Foxes Bridge Colliery and rendered  the extension of the Central Branch surplus to requirements; worse still, the  Severn and Wye also put a connection into New Fancy, and rail traffic used this  line instead.  The Central Branch was now no longer needed; 1878 saw the line  cut back to Howbeach Sidings (serving Howbeach Colliery) and by 1921 back again  to Blakeney.   The line closed completely in 1959, but by this point had not  seen any real traffic for a decade.

The only station on the line was at Blakeney, and this was goods-only.    Passengers had to travel two miles to Severn Bridge Junction, and on poor roads  at that.  

Like the Forest of Dean Branch north of Drybrook, the Forest of Dean  Central Branch is an example of a railway that started out as a good idea, but  became a victim of circumstances, perhaps an example of the downside of the  Victorian "Railway Mania".   It's possible that if it had arrived earlier, it  might have been more successful; who knows.  Today, some traces of the railway  can be seen next to the Blakeney to Parkend Road.

The diagram below shows the (very) approximate route of the Forest of Dean  Central Branch.   At the moment, the mapping past Blakeney is really only an  "educated guess"; other than my 1919 map of the Forest of Dean (by which point  the railway was more or less out of use past Blakeney) I only have snippets of  maps to work from, and a century of forest growth has masked a lot of the  trackbed.   As usual, no right of public access is inferred by this map  (although some sections round Mallards Pike appear to be accessible).  
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