The Chippenham and Calne Line was a five mile long Great Western Railway built single track branch railway line that ran along the valley of the River Marden in Wiltshire, England, that ran from Chippenham railway station on the Great Western Main Line to Calne via two intermediate stations, Stanley Bridge Halt, and Black Dog Halt.
On 8 November 1859, the first meeting to discuss opening a branch line from the GWR at Chippenham to Calne was held. The Calne Railway Company was formed and Parliament granted the necessary Act on 15 May 1860. Built as a replacement for the overwhelmed Melksham Calne and Chippenham Branch of the Wiltshire and Berkshire Canal, the line was authorised on 15 May 1860 and opened to freight 29 October 1863. Calne opened to passengers on 3 November 1863 with a private halt at Black Dog Halt. Stanley Bridge Halt in 1905. The railway was originally brought to Calne by the inability of the once-prosperous Calne branch of the Wilts and Berks Canal to cope efficiently with the requirements of local industry. As demand grew across the country for products from the Harris Bacon Factory, Calne's main employer at the time, it became clear that a modern transport system was needed.
With no tunnels required, the construction of the line was simple following the left bank of the Marden and was built in the broad gauge of 7' 0½" opening to freight traffic on 29 October 1863. The line was then opened to passengers from 3 November 1863, an unofficial holiday in Calne. From the start the service was operated by the Great Western Railway on behalf of the Calne Railway Company.
Initially there were no intermediate stations on the line but a private station was opened at Black Dog Siding for Lord Lansdowne in 1863 to serve Bowood House and a halt was opened at Stanley Bridge in 1905 with the introduction of steam railcars onto the branch. A stationmaster''s house was built in 1874. In August 1874 the line was converted to standard gauge. The independent Calne Railway Company was absorbed into the GWR in 1892. Both fright and passenger traffic was good and continued to improve through the later years of the 19th century and in 1895 the terminus at Calne underwent extensive renovations and enlargement. Calne station was rebuilt in brick in 1893. The steam railcars were withdrawn from the branch in the mid 1930s.
The passenger station was used during WW2 to transport both 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. It also figured in WW1 (apparently there was a war cabinet meeting in carriages parked in the siding, guarded by a platoon of soldiers).
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 factory began to use the roads to transport more of its products, the railway began to see a drop in revenue. DMUs were brought onto the line in September 1958.
Black Dog Halt was privately owned from 1956, by Douglas Lovelock, & rented back to BR.
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 on 2 November 1964 and the end was inevitable with Calne finally losing its passenger service during the Beeching cuts closing on 18 September 1965. Most of 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 had been 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. Calne station was demolished after 1965, the bridge over the Bristol road in 1968.
Well worth reading: The Calne Branch by Colin G Maggs, published by Wild Swan Publications Ltd., 1-3 Hagbourne Road, Didcot, Ox. OX11 8DP ISBN 0 906867 89 4. There is an earlier book of the same name, but it's out of print.