Friday, 9 November 2012

Studley to Calne Along the Old Railway Line

Stanley Bridge over the old railway line.
Here we are, out walking along the old "Great Western" main railway line from Chippenham to Calne.  The line was five miles long, and was a single track branch line that ran along the valley of the river Marden, via two stations at Stanley Bridge Halt and Black Dog Halt.   Built as a replacement for the overwhelmed Melksham Calne and Chippenham Branch of the Wilts and Berks Canal, it opened for freight in October 1863.  Calne opened to passengers in November 1863, with a private stop at Black Dog Halt in 1905.  

With no tunnels required, the construction of the line was simple and was built in the broad gauge of 7' 0½" opening to freight traffic on October 29th 1863. The line was then opened to passengers from November 3rd 1863, an unofficial holiday in Calne. 

Black Dog Halt
The passenger station was used during WW2 to transport servicemen and equipment to the Royal Air Force bases at Compton Bassett and Yatesbury, and the goods station also saw increased trade with an increase in coal traffic, fuel for the RAF stations and animal feeds and grain for the local millers. The line had two near misses during German bombing raids in the Second World War, when bombs fell close to the station and the tracks.

The line was still producing a good profit in the 1950s. Figures for the year ending September 1952, showed an income of more than £150,000, with 300,000 passengers.  However, as the Harris sausage factory in Calne began to use the road transport to move its products, the railway began to see a drop in revenue.

 The decorative gates of a private house near Black Dog Halt.
Following the closures of the RAF stations at Yatesbury and Compton Bassett, passenger numbers diminished rapidly and by late 1963, freight services had been cut to one a weekday, while Sunday passenger services had been withdrawn.  Freight services were withdrawn in November 1964 and  Calne finally lost its passenger service during the Beeching cuts in 1965.
Most of the track was lifted between Easter and June 1967 leaving just a short section near the junction which was used as a siding.  By 1972 a section of the track was opened up to the public as the Marden Nature Trail, and today most of the 6 mile route between Chippenham and Calne is part of the National Cycle Network, and known as the Chippenham/Calne Railway Path.

 Chaveywell Bridge over the Calne Arm of the Wilts & Berks Canal
We walked via the Chaveywell Bridge over the Wilts & Berks Canal, to the "Lansdown Strand Hotel" in Calne, where we enjoyed a good lunch and drink, to end of a good walk, with good company, in good fresh air and no rain!


  1. Hello! Just wanted to say I popped by your blog by accident after looking for walks and places to run in Devizes. I have just come back from a lovely run up along Quakers Walk to the White Horse and back around again. I enjoy finding new places as I haven't lived in Devizes for long and I am still exploring.
    I shall add you to my blog list!
    Bye for now..Sam..(Illustrator and fairly new to Devizes !)

  2. Hello Sam, Devizes library and other info centres have local maps of the area, where you can run and enjoy the fresh air and beautiful landscape. I am cat sitting in Calne at the moment. I think "Tugger" would like a nice witches hat. regards, Vicki

  3. I remember Black Dog halt,when I was stationed for 6 weeks at RAF Compton Bassett in 1957, undertaking radar training. We used to travel on the line between Chippenham to Calne: the train was a steam hauled "push and pull" with a couple of very ancient open saloon carriages,which you boarded via the open platform at either end.