Merchant's Railway

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File:Verne Hill Portland Dorset.JPG
Verne Hill, showing the two remaining track layers where the Merchant's Railway transported stone along to Castletown

Merchant's Railway was a horse drawn and cable operated incline railway on the Isle of Portland, Dorset, England, built for the stone trade on the island. It was the earliest railway on Portland and in Dorset, opening in 1826. The railway ran two miles from many working quarries at the north of Tophill, along the edge of Verne Hill, to a pier at Castletown, from where the Portland stone was shipped. It was in operation from 1826 to 1939. Since becoming disused the original path of the railway has become a popular public footpath.

History

File:Priory Corner, Isle of Portland - geograph.org.uk - 942666.jpg
Priory Corner was the location where stone was transported so it could be transferred onto the Merchant's Railway.
File:View down incline towards Portland Harbour.jpg
The remaining Freeman's Incline section of the railway, leading from the Verne down to Castletown

The Merchant's Railway was formed by various quarry owners, who wanted to a railway to run from Tophill to Castletown's waterfront. From Priory Corner, stone would be transferred on horse-drawn carts, however this method was deemed as cruel on the animals. Therefore the Portland Railway Company was founded, and the railway was granted an Act of Parliament during 1825.[1] The following year saw the original railway track constructed.[2]

The route led from Priory Corner, through Old Hill, along the top of Tillycombe and then following the edge of Verne Hill to meet the head of the Freeman's Incline. From this point the stone would be taken to the sheltered stone piers situated on the east side of Portland Castle, from where stone would be shipped all over the world.[1] The railway opened during October 1826,[3] which in turn meant that the original stone shipping piers along the coastline of Portland, fell into disuse, such as King's Pier, Folly Pier and Durdle Pier.[4]

File:Track bed of the old Merchants Railway Portland - geograph.org.uk - 1334519.jpg
A Yeates Incline bridge, with the remaining track bed of the railway

To conquer the descend of the Freeman's Incline, a counterbalance method was used. A heavily loaded wagon of stone, once descending, would be counterbalanced by a sufficient number of empty wagons ascending.[5][1] In 1866 the railway had become increasingly in demand and so a second, upper track was cut into Verne Hill.[5][1] Yeates Incline was built as an addition to the main line to serve Withies Croft, Independent, and Inmosthay Quarries. For this incline four bridges were constructed, all of which are dated between 1875-82. Three of the bridges became Grade II Listed in 1978, and the fourth became Grade II Listed in 1993. All remain intact and in use today, either as part of a road or footpath.[6][7][8][9]

The traffic on the railway began to decline with the introduction of traction engines in the early 1890s. By the 1930s diesel lorries were also being used to transport stone by road, and this caused a further decline of the railway. During World War I, the stone industry temporarily ceased. Later on the outbreak of World War II, quarrying was again halted, and the Merchant's Railway became disused for good on 11 October 1939. The break house serving the Freeman's Incline was later demolished, and the rails removed.[1] It has been calculated that during the railway's use, approximately 704.93672 tons of stone travelled down the incline.[10]

References

  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 "Portlandbill.co.uk". Portlandbill.co.uk. 11 October 1939. Archived from the original on 29 November 2014. Retrieved 4 May 2014. Unknown parameter |deadurl= ignored (help)<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  2. Historic England. "Monument No. 868120". PastScape. Retrieved 3 October 2015.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  3. http://freepages.genealogy.rootsweb.ancestry.com/~pbtyc/Portland/PYB/Chronology.html
  4. Historic England. "Monument No. 1466569". PastScape. Retrieved 3 October 2015.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  5. 5.0 5.1 "Fortuneswell, Portland, Dorset". Geoffkirby.co.uk. Retrieved 4 May 2014.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  6. Historic England. "Details from listed building database (1203102)". National Heritage List for England. Retrieved 4 May 2014.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  7. Historic England. "Details from listed building database (1203122)". National Heritage List for England. Retrieved 4 May 2014.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  8. Historic England. "Details from listed building database (1205878)". National Heritage List for England. Retrieved 4 May 2014.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  9. Historic England. "Details from listed building database (1206274)". National Heritage List for England. Retrieved 4 May 2014.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  10. "Remembering island's railway (From Dorset Echo)". Dorsetecho.co.uk. 25 February 2014. Retrieved 4 May 2014.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>