Then & Now - Melksham Railway Station

Wiltshire Times:

Last week we took our first look at Melksham Railway Station in its heyday and how it is today.

This week, as thunderstorms hit west Wiltshire, we turn back the clock 71 years to see the station completely flooded after heavy storms. In its early history, the 1840s saw the fast growth of railways; one of the first was the Great Western, designed by Brunel, which went from London to Bristol, via Swindon and Chippenham.

It was completed by June 1841. This railway was seen to be very profitable and a committee was formed, chaired by Walter Long of Rood Ashton, to raise money to build a line from Chippenham to Salisbury via Melksham, with branch lines to Bath and Frome.

It was to be known as the Wilts and Somerset Railway, and cost £1m to be designed and built. On September 5, 1848, the line was opened to the public. Unfortunately previous monopolies prevented the line actually entering Chippenham and passengers had to alight at Thingley.

This problem was solved in 1850 by amalgamating the Wilts and Somerset Railway with The Great Western. Initially, the line was double tracked, and built to Brunel's broad gauge of 7'0.25" and was narrowed to the current 4'8.5" in around 1890 (Last week's archive photo did not feature the broad gauge as stated).

Melksham Station was closed as part of the Beeching cuts in 1966. The line, by now single, remained open as a useful diversion route, and was still served by a single (non-stop) train on summer Saturdays, running from the Midlands through to Weymouth.

In 1985, the station re-opened to provide a limited commuter service to Swindon, running mornings and evenings and from 2001, the service was increased to up to five trains each way daily. Our archive picture shows the station flooded after a heavy storm in June 1935, but today shows a much smaller station and platform.

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