Copyright © 2004-2021
Before the Weston, Clevedon & Portishead railway was built, branch lines to Weston, Clevedon (from Yatton) and Portishead (from Bristol) had already been built, but of course there was no direct railway access between the towns. See Maps
Weston was the first of the three towns to have a branch line. On the same day that the Bristol & Exeter Railway opened from Bristol to Bridgwater in June 1841, a single line branch was also opened to Weston, all in broad gauge (7 ft 01/4”). Coaches were slipped at Weston junction and hauled by three horses into Weston! The present-day loop to Weston was added in March 1884 but in standard gauge.
The branch line to Clevedon from the junction at Yatton was opened in July 1847 originally as part of the Bristol & Exeter Railway, and was laid in broad gauge 3.5 miles in length. It became part of the GWR in 1876. It was converted to standard gauge in 1879. A sharply curved loop line connected the GWR branch to the WC&PR at Clevedon, the two stations being very close – see map. The Clevedon GWR terminus station was alongside Kenn Road where the shopping precinct now stands. The branch line was closed to passengers on 3 October 1966. Remains of the line and bridges can still be seen.
The GWR branch line to Portishead from Bristol (Ashton) was opened on 18 April 1867 originally by the Bristol & Portishead Pier & Railway Company and was also laid in broad gauge but converted to standard gauge in 1880. It was operated by the Bristol & Exeter Railway but became part of the GWR in 1884. The main station (see photo on right) originally stood about where the new Primary School by the marina is now situated. At the end of the line there was a station by the pier, whose main redbrick building stood at the bottom of the steps leading down from the Royal Hotel until 2014 when it was demolished (photo below – click to enlarge). An RNLI lifeboat station now stands on the site. There was a connecting line between the WC&PR and the GWR line at Portishead, for transfer of goods – see map. The main GWR station was demolished in 1955 to enable access to the new Portishead B Power Station, and a new terminus station was built roughly where the Waitrose petrol station stands today. The branch line was closed to passengers on 7 September 1964 and to goods on 1 May 1967. The line was used for the GWR150 celebrations in 1985 but otherwise remained derelict.
After the Royal Portbury Dock (opened in 1978) became more established, it became viable to open the branch line again to enable cars to be transported from the docks. The line reopened in 2002 but only as far as the docks. The remaining old track still exists into Portishead (about 3 miles) and reopening is now expected in 2024. See the Portishead Railway Group website for more details.