Introduction to Telford Steam Railway
Horsehay and Dawley station fell victim to the ‘Beeching axe’, losing passenger services on 23rd July 1962 and withdrawal of freight services two years later. In its final years it had become a quiet rural little branch line backwater, giving little clue to its long and productive service extending back to 1859 and the opening of the first section of the Severn Junction Railway from Ketley to Horsehay.
Ketley to Horsehay
Horsehay had in fact a much earlier history, with the first Horsehay blast furnace in use by 1755 as part of the Coalbrookdale Company, and by 1769, the first cast iron plateway (replacing earlier wooden wagon-ways ), had been introduced to serve the various Coalbrookdale works and the interconnecting mines and other sources of raw materials essential to the operation of the largest iron works in the world.
In 1861 the Severn Junction Railway was leased for operation by the Great Western Railway, and within six years, the line had extended from Wellington to Craven Arms, giving an overall running length of 28 miles. By the late 19th century the Coalbrookdale Company was contracting, and with the Horsehay furnaces blown-out, the site was taken over by a new company, The Horsehay Company Limited. Established in 1886 the new company leveled the existing site and proceeded to fabricate bridges which were assembled, on-site before disassembly for transport to the furthermost corners of the British Empire. For the next 40 years, the yard at Horsehay, site of Telford Steam Railway, was a scene of intense activity with 10 sidings and works access lines with a capacity of over 200 wagons. As many of the products leaving the works were classified as ‘exceptional loads’, the yards would have hosted some of the more ‘exotic’ transporter wagons, making a mouth-watering site no doubt for contemporary train spotters!
The 1920’s and Onwards
By the late 1920’s, production was declining in the period of recession following the First World War, but once again the branch had a revival of fortune with the resumption of hostilities in 1939. Munitions and armaments trains would pass through en-route to one of the many undisclosed ‘somewhere in England’ destinations referred to in the War-time Pathe News broadcasts in the build up to D-Day.
Branch lines such as ours were important arteries in those black days of the early 1940’s, enabling crucial supplies to snake their way around the country, bypassing the main lines that would have been targeted for attention by enemy bombers.
Post-war, with the expansion in road building, bus transport and changes in population and employment patterns, our branch, in company with countless others around the country, succumbed to the new climate of economic rationalisation.
Telford Steam Railway, then called Telford Horsehay Steam Trust “THST” was formed in 1976, using as its base the 1860 goods transhipment shed ( now our loco shed ) which had originally permitted the transfer of goods from the Severn Junction Railway to the Coalbrook Company’s narrow gauge plateway system. Much has been accomplished by a small band of enthusiasts, relaying sidings and a ‘main line’ as far as Heath Hill Tunnel. The ‘branch’ was extended to Cheshire Cheese Bridge in 1997, and a further extension to the site of the former Doseley Halt is in progress.
More volunteers are always needed and made welcome, so if YOU have any specialist expertise or simply a love of railways, become a member of Telford Steam Railway and help the Trust achieve its aims, to preserve our local heritage for future generations to enjoy. Membership applications are available in the loco shed, or Contact Us and we will be pleased to send you one.
Telford Horsehay Steam Trust (THST)
The origins of the Telford Horsehay Steam Trust (THST) can be traced back to mid 1972 when as part of the Spring Village landscaping scheme, Telford Development Corporation TDC formulated the idea of purchasing and restoring a steam locomotive for display in the former Horsehay Companies loco shed.
It took until 1976 for the chain of events to take place that led to the formation of Telford Horsehay Steam Trust. The aims of THST were some what different to that of the original TDC idea.
Work soon started on restoring 5619 to working order. 5619 was first steamed in 1981 making the THST the smallest railway to restore a ex-Barry locomotive. 5619 was steamed at several open days held at the loco shed. When BR closed it’s rail link to the adjoining AB Cranes factory, TDC purchased the line from Lightmoor to Horsehay leasing half the half mile Horsehay to Heath Hill section to THST. The steam railway was opened to the public in 1984. Since then THST has changed its name to Telford Steam Railway and consolidated its site adding more rolling stock, a narrow gauge tramway, model railway and many site improvements.